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Earth First! Under FBI Attack
I'm sure the FBI would have liked to just drop the case at that point, but right then there was this huge outpouring of public support. All these people were writing letters from literally around the world, demanding an investigation
[... I think that my activities came at the intersection of the timber industry's campaign to stop this activism against them, and the FBI's campaign to isolate and discredit Earth First! ...]

NEW SETTLER: Talk more about the bogus investigation, Judi.

JUDI: Well, for eight weeks after the bombing, the FBI said that not only were we suspects, but we were the only suspects. And the only investigation of the bombing consisted of raiding our houses and confiscating materials and trying to match them to the bomb. And despite all of the headlines about matching nails -- which turned out not to match. Nothing matched. They could find nothing in our possession to connect us to the bomb.

(And by the way, that's the reason I think the FBI didn't bomb me. If the FBI had access to the bomb components, they could have planted them in my house. That's another reason I think they did not directly bomb me.)

And a reason why I think somebody from the FBI did -- acting independently, in rogue fashion -- is because there was one piece of information in the Lord's Avenger letter that was only available in the then-secret FBI report -- the diameter of the pipe bomb left at the Cloverdale mill. The Sonoma county sheriff's report and the press had another dimension ...

JUDI: But that turned out to be a false lead. It turned out that the FBI and the Lord's Avenger were right and the Sonoma county police were wrong. Because I saw the actual bomb.

But it doesn't make a difference who was right and who was wrong. The only place the information occurred at the time the Lord's Avenger letter was sent was in the FBI document.

JUDI: But, the real bomber would have known that information, too. Before, when I thought the information was false, it definitely linked it to the FBI. But it turned out the information was true: that it was an inch and a half bomb.

But you're saying the real bomber did not write the letter ...

JUDI: I don't think they did. But I can't prove it by that information, as I could have if the information was wrong.

At any rate, when they were unable to connect the bombs to us, finally, after three tries in court and eight weeks of vilification of us as the only suspects, the Alameda county District Attorney refused to press charges against us for lack of evidence. So at that point, the FBI was left in an awkward position. And I'm sure they would have liked to just drop the case at that point, but right then -- to show how important public support is -- there was this huge outpouring of public support. All these people were writing letters from literally around the world, demanding an investigation, demanding that the FBI find the bomber. Pressure was being put on Congress. A coalition of mainstream groups was demanding an investigation.

Newspapers give the FBI their letters to the editor
Under the glare of this pressure, William Sessions ordered the San Francisco office to begin an investigation to broaden the pool of suspects and to provide weekly reports proving that they were investigating this case. So at that point, the FBI was forced to embark on some sort of an investigation.

They only spent a couple of months up here, Stockton Buck being the lead agent. They came up here and conducted what was supposed to look like an investigation of the bombing, but they never investigated the bombing -- as demonstrated with your Lord's Avenger lead -- they ignored all leads that could have reasonably led to the bomber...

And when they left, hastily, their excuse was: "Well, the Iraqis may be infiltrating through the Mexican border. We have to go down there."

JUDI: And: "The environmentalists wouldn't cooperate" -- which is also not true. All Betty Ball said, for instance, was, "I want a lawyer here." She didn't say, "I won't talk." When she tried to set up an appointment with a lawyer present, they canceled the appointment.

What they did was: instead of investigating the bombing, they used the bombing as a pretext to conduct a broad surveillance campaign on Earth First! and the environmental movement, first locally, and then nationally. (Early in the 1980s, the FBI was caught and chastised for doing this to CISPES and the Central American movement: that they had collected names and information of the thousands of people who did nothing but go to meetings).

Well, in Earth First!'s case you didn't even have to go to a meeting. What they did was, they came up here and began to collect names of activists. Mostly, they just made a data base. In some cases, they went further. And this was any activist -- hemp activists, Civil Liberties Monitoring Project folks. One of the methods was: they sent a letter to all the local newspapers and they said: "The FBI is looking for the Lord's Avenger. We want to look through your letters to the editor for letters that resemble it on abortion and redwood timber issues." (When they got out into the field, they forgot about the abortion letters and only looked for the redwood timber ones.)

The Press Democrat wrote them back and said: "No this is a violation of freedom of the press and confidentiality of sources; and think of the chilling effect on our letter writers if they knew we were turning over the letters to the FBI."

But the other papers -- nearly all of them in this region -- these rural papers, the editors, flattered by the attention, said: "Sure, come right in." And they let them leaf through their files; the FBI said: "Give us some names," and they suggested names. The Laytonville Observer said: "Well, Louis Korn works at the Environmental Center" -- just completely extraneous stuff -- and they went through and they picked out letters, and the letters were nearly universally from environmentalists: things like "on healing the earth" by Forest Featherwalker -- none of which had any apparent connection to the bombing.

They weren't really trying to find the Lord's Avenger at all. They used it as a pretext
They claimed that they were looking for a similar typewriter, but the documents they gave me shows a very dirty typewriter: it looks like its been xeroxed fifteen times (and a lot of the FBI documents look like that), but I know this was the document they were bringing around, because when they went to the Willits News, they say: "Okay, lets look at this typewriter. It's an old typewriter. See, it's really dirty. blah, blah, blah."

Well the real Lord's Avenger letter is not typed on an old typewriter. It's typed on a new one...

How can you tell that?

JUDI: I know that because I went to Mike Geniella... Two years after this bombing. I've been looking at these "old Royal typewriter" samples that we got from the FBI, and it suddenly occurred to me that I could get something closer to the original if I went to Mike Geniella. So I went to Mike and I said, "By the way, before you turned that letter over to the FBI, did you xerox it?"

He said, "Yeah."

I said, "Can I see your xerox?"

He showed it to me, and to my surprise, it was crisp and clean. It was not dirty at all. The FBI xeroxed this over and over so many times as to change the character of it. And they went around with this letter that did not resemble the Lord's Avenger letter and confiscated Letters To The Editor written on old typewriters.

So they weren't really trying to find the Lord's Avenger at all. They used it as a pretext and they used it to look through Letters-To-The-Editor files, and they compiled these letters. In most cases, they did nothing with them. But in one case, a letter to the southern Humboldt Life and Times, for no discernible reason, they decided this guy was a suspect, and they sent his letter to the FBI fingerprint lab and behavior analysis lab. -- They refused to do that with the death threats, by the way. The death threats to me -- we turned over the originals of the death threats, and they never finger printed them, they never analyzed them. I've seen them. They still have them.

Right-wing paramilitary group sponsored and promoted and funded by the FBI

Some of those death threats use the same language that you see in the Sahara Club newsletters, Judi.

JUDI: And they came from southern California. I believe the Sahara Club put out what we call the "Mail Merge Death Threat", and it was addressed to everybody on the Earth First! contact list in the Earth First! Journal. All of us received them. And there were two versions: one for men, one for women, and it said Dear Judi -- or Dear Pam, or Dear Betty -- We know that you are an Earth First! lesbian whose favorite pastime is to eat box lunches in pajamas. We know that you live at -- and they had the mail merge insert the right address -- and we know that your phone number is:" and it's signed by The Committee for the Death of Earth First! And those letters certainly seem to come from the Sahara Club.

What do you know about the Sahara Club.

JUDI: The Sahara Club is an organized hate group. It's an anti-environmental hate group. It's based in southern California, and they publish a paper called The Sahara Club Newsletter that uses very boorish and incendiary language. They target individual Earth First!ers. They go around and they do surveillance on us; they collect our license plate numbers and publish them.

Do you think this is for real? That these are really rednecks doing this?

JUDI: Some of them, of course, are. But I don't think the group itself is. I think the Sahara Club shows signs of being an FBI construct.

What do you mean by that?

JUDI: For example, take Richard Held, who was in charge of my case. In the early 1970s, there was a group that appeared under his watch in the San Diego area, and it was called The Secret Army Organization. It was a right-wing paramilitary group, similar to the right-wing paramilitary group that is rising up in Fort Bragg these days. What this group did was: it spied on anti-war activists in the Student Movement. It burned down a Black community theater. It wrote death threats to various activists to try to intimidate them. And eventually, it tried to assassinate an activist graduate student named Peter Bohmer at San Diego State. They shot into his house, but they missed him and hit an associate of his named Paula Thorpe.

I've met Peter Bohmer, and he's given me the death threats that he got, and one of the things I found out was that the Secret Army Organization symbol was a rifle scope and cross-hairs -- that's the symbol on their death threats, and that's what was used on me.

Another thing is the language. The language of the SAO death threats is very similar to the language of the Sahara Club death threats -- and the methodology: they spy on them, they get their license plates, they publish them. They publish your home phone number. They encourage people to call you up and harass you. They encourage people to beat you up.

And then I discovered another thing: I have these old SAO memos, and they have these little quotes. They say something like: "Those who will sacrifice vigilance for liberty deserve neither." It's a quote from Benjamin Franklin. I find the same, exact quote in the Sahara Club papers! There's another one also. Two quotes that are the same...

But why do you think this is an FBI construct?

JUDI: First I wanted to point out the similarities in methodology and language between the SAO from the early 1970s and the Sahara Club today. What happened was: after they did this drive-by and attempted to shoot Peter Bohmer, the whole operation was exposed. The driver of the car was a man named Howard Godfrey, and it turned out he was an employee of the FBI working under Richard Held. That Godfrey was the number 2 man in the SAO, and that the SAO was armed, and basically, given immunity from prosecution by the FBI.

You're saying some one from the FBI was running this organization?

JUDI: When he was caught the FBI "fired" him. He's a "rogue element." Eventually, he went public with this information, and a long story was published in the Los Angeles Times, which is why I know this. But although he was "fired" by the FBI, he was actually given a bureaucratic transfer, and he became the "bomb expert" in charge of bomb investigations for the State of California, stationed in Sacramento. Up until 1990.

Was he fired in 1990?

JUDI: In 1990, he went crazy. His girlfriend broke up with him and he began planting pipe bombs around his girlfriend, and then rescuing her from them. And he was caught placing these pipe bombs, and then responding to them. He actually went to jail for a little while -- a very short while. And he was removed from his position on a "psychological disability."

Was he available to bomb you that day in May that you were bombed?

JUDI: He was in jail the time that I was bombed. He was out of jail at the time of the Cloverdale bomb. I don't think he's the bomber, but it's not off the scale. There are so many places you can go with leads, it can make you crazy.

But the point of it is: that the SAO (the Secret Army Organization) appeared to be an independent right-wing paramilitary group. But was revealed eventually to have been sponsored and promoted and funded by the FBI.

An August 1990 dirty tricks workshop in which they taught people how to use COINTELPRO tactics to harass and discredit Earth First!
I'll give you another example: the Goons in the reign of terror at Pine Ridge during the American Indian Movement. GOONS stood for Guardians Of the Oglala Nation, and they were a right-wing thug group of native people, and they worked under Richard Wilson, this reactionary tribal chief. And it turned out they were also funded and armed and given immunity from prosecution by the FBI. They attacked 300 AIM associates, and they killed 69 of them before AIM picked up the gun to defend themselves. That's another example.

Well, I think the Sahara Club certainly shows many signs of being an FBI construct. The people in Arizona came to the same conclusion completely separately from me. And one of the reasons they decided this was because the Sahara Club began harassing them also, and they noticed the timing of it: that they had also never received death threats before, and all of a sudden, they began to, and the timing of the beginning of the Sahara Club's activities against Earth First! corresponded precisely with the time they later found out that the FBI began Operation Thermcon against them.

I don't know if the Sahara Club is an FBI construct. I don't know whether they are or not. I know the Sahara Club serves that role. They're definitely connected with the timber industry. They've come up here. They've conducted dirty tricks workshops in Humboldt county.

Candy Boak, who works with MAXXAM and with the Wise Use Movement up there, and Paula Languager, (who works with We Care and the Wise Use Movement up there) co-sponsored, along with the Sahara Club, a dirty tricks workshop in August of 1990, in which they taught people how to use COINTELPRO tactics to harass and discredit Earth First!. A day after this workshop, a man was actually arrested (because Karen Pickett chased him into a bar) planting a fake bomb in the Arcata Action Center. And he was bailed out of jail by Candy Boak and said he was affiliated with the Sahara Club.

Also the day after the dirty tricks workshop, Candy Boak and friends held a press conference in which they released these "road spikes" and "tree spikes" allegedly from Earth First! during Redwood Summer. And yet, we have photographs of them doing the same press conference in southern California with what appears to be the same road spikes and tree spikes accusing another environmental group down there. And there was no road spiking, no tree spiking during Redwood Summer.

So its these methods of both scaring us and discrediting us that are taught in these dirty tricks workshops. And they go around the country; they are very incendiary. This year they put out a manifesto of techniques that they want to use against us. They include not only surveilling us, getting our phone numbers, printing them; they also tell people to call up talk shows and pretend that you are one of those environmentalist and say the craziest, most rabid thing you can think of. They actually put this in writing: these instructions for people to do.

One of the results to being on the receiving end of dire threats to your life is the feeling, well, if I can die any minute I might as well take the next radical step to stop this corporate killer culture (this 'corporate death culture' as it is known) from going any further. What did you find within yourself?

JUDI: It really changed me. I've never been a Gandhian; I'm not pious enough to be a Gandhian. I believed that non-violence was the only appropriate tactic in this context, but I never really felt it was a moral issue. For instance, monkeywrenching -- industrial sabotage -- is a standard tactic in the labor movement, so to apply it to environmental struggles didn't seem illogical to me at all, because I had learned these techniques in labor organizing. But I began to realize (even just from working in the community) that it wasn't an appropriate tactic here -- including bulldozer dismantling -- because the way the timber industry is set up, the corporations don't own the bulldozers. Small logging company owners who are our neighbors, whose children go to school with our children, that's who own the bulldozers, and we're targeting the wrong people. So I quickly learned from experience that it wasn't an appropriate tactic here. Yet the idea was not untoward.

When the death threats became frequent, I never thought of responding to the death threats with violence. People kept telling me to get a gun: "Why don't you have a gun to protect yourself?"

And I said, "I don't feel that will protect."

I thought that lack of political isolation was more important than a gun to protect me. I thought that being very public, being very principled, refusing to stoop to these techniques, that was the only thing that I thought would be protective.

We responded with absolute principle: we didn't go away; we didn't fail to demonstrate; we stood up, and we stood up with non-violence; and we stood up without hatred
But again, these were strategy considerations. And I always did, and still do, support armed struggles of revolutionary people. I support the Zapatistas. I support the FMLN. But that doesn't mean that those tactics are appropriate here. But it does mean that a point must come where those tactics are appropriate. Like if they had done to my children what they did to me, maybe I would feel differently. I know the Mothers of the Disappeared in El Salvador feel pretty strongly. I'm not arrogant enough to impose my privileged perspective on them, and to judge anybody for picking up a gun.

But after I was bombed, the level of violence, the way that it felt, it made me very aware that the violence itself was wrong. That I don't think we will ever change things that way. That part of what is wrong with the society that is destroying the earth and destroying the people is the violence itself. That there is something to being subjected to such an unspeakably horrible thing, as the bombing was that has made me realize that nobody should do this to anybody. That in the act of doing it, you have to be so dehumanized to do this to somebody else -- the level of violence that has to be inside you to commit that -- I think that that is part of the problem itself. And I think its part of our relationship to the earth and our relationship to other humans.

I now think -- as I didn't think the last time you interviewed me -- that the violence itself is part of the problem. And I'm not saying, that in some cases, in revolutionary situations, part of the solution might not be picking up a gun to defend yourself -- I don't think that is appropriate here. I want to make that very clear. I do not think that is appropriate here. And I think we have really demonstrated that. I think that our reaction to the bombing -- it certainly would have been emotionally understandable if people had reacted to the bombing by saying: "Well then, the hell with this non-violence! Let's go out and monkeywrench everything. If they're going to bomb us, we're going to trash their machines."

That would have been an emotionally justifiable response, even though, I think, an incorrect one. But our response was so principled. I think that we should be so proud of ourselves for what we did. We stood up to lethal force -- not only without violence, but without hatred. We did not respond with hatred to the timber workers -- and even though I don't think the timber workers were responsible for the violence, I think that part of this was to drive a further wedge, to make environmentalists distrust timber workers and timber workers distrust environmentalists.

And we didn't respond that way. We responded with absolute principle: we didn't go away; we didn't fail to demonstrate; we stood up, and we stood up with non-violence; and we stood up without hatred.

NEXT: The FBI's Single-Minded Pursuit
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Albion Monitor January 13, 1997 (

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