March 10, 2008
It began 16 years ago with a meeting of disaffected environmentalists in Brighton. Today the radical organisation they created – the Earth Liberation Front – is described as a decentralised al-Qaeda-style network and America’s No 1 domestic terrorism threat. It even provided inspiration for the villains in Michael Crichton’s 2004 thriller State of Fear.
In a week in which one alleged member of the ELF was convicted of helping to destroy a $7 million (£3.5 million) University of Washington research facility, and others were accused of firebombing the Street of Dreams – a development of luxury eco-mansions in Seattle worth $7 million – concerns are rising that the US could eventually face a greater threat from radical anti-global-warming activists than from radical Islamists.
Others say that the threat is overblown and designed to tarnish mainstream environmental groups that find themselves campaigning against what they regard as America’s profligate consumption of resources.
According to the FBI, the ELF – the members of which are known unofficially as the Elves – has been responsible for more than 1,200 criminal acts in the US, with the cost of their “ecotage” close to $100 million. Some estimates put the figure at twice that amount.
The ELF seemed to have gone quiet since its last spate of attacks, which included a $5 million campaign of Hummer-bombings on the West Coast in 2003; a $50 million arson attack on a newly built apartment building in San Diego in the same year; and the $12 million firebombing of the upmarket Vail ski resort in Colorado in 1998. Now they are back, just as concern over climate change and the consumption of natural resources has become almost a mass hysteria.
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