On the surface, she blended in very well. With a skull tattooed on her shoulder, a black-and-white keffiyeh around her neck, a shock of bright pink hair and her standard-issue dress of camouflage skirt and heavy boots, the energetic 17-year-old looked every bit the radical eco-activist she worked so hard to imitate.
But “Anna”, as she called herself, was no ordinary eco-protester. Really, she wasn’t one at all. She was an FBI informant under instructions to infiltrate fringe green groups and anti-capitalist networks and report back on their activities to the US government.
Now “Anna”, in her role at the center of a high-profile prosecution of alleged eco-terrorists in 2006-7, has been put under the spotlight following the embarrassing admission by the US department of justice that it failed to disclose crucial documents to defense attorneys at trial.
On Thursday, Eric McDavid, a radical green activist aged 37, was allowed to walk free after having served nine years of a 19-year federal prison sentence. Prosecutors had alleged that he was the ring-leader in a small cell of eco-terrorists connected to the Earth Liberation Front (ELF) conspiring to bomb the Nimbus Dam in California, cell phone towers, science labs and other targets.
Last week’s dramatic scenes in a courtroom in Sacramento, California, have focused attention on the FBI’s use of undercover informants and prompted claims that the agency lured unsuspecting activists into criminal activity through blatant entrapment.
But last November, the US attorney’s office in the eastern district of California admitted that it had “inadvertently” failed to disclose numerous documents that went to the very heart of the case. Crucially, those previously undisclosed files included correspondence between “Anna” and McDavid that suggests that, far from being the neutral intelligence-gatherer portrayed by prosecutors, she might have entrapped her prey by encouraging him to behave conspiratorially in the hope of romantic fulfillment.