Rod's Experience with Government Harrassment
As animal liberationists, it is important to recognize that, in
society's eyes, we support terrorism. Of course our actions and those of the
A.L.F. have never resulted in even one injury let alone death, yet the
Department of Justice labels the A.L.F. as a domestic terrorist organization.
The laws of the land have decided that private property shall take precedence
over life and, as such, any actions to preserve life are likely to be deemed
This is not something unique to the animal liberation movement.
Ploughshares activists, many of whom are Catholic priests, for many years have
attacked the equipment of the U.S. military death machine whose sole intent is
killing people and, as a result, have served long prison sentences. Earth First!
activists, whose only targets were ski-lifts and powerlines serving mines and
pump stations, were infiltrated for two years by an FBI agent who then busted
them in the act of cutting down a powerline in Arizona in 1989.
All of this means that the nonviolent actions we participate in
and support are likely to be viewed by the federal government as the work of
extremists who may employ terrorism to achieve their goals. Of course, this same
charge has historically applied to America's colonialist, anti-slavery
advocates, African American community organizers, American Indian Movement
members, anti-Vietnam war activists and now us. And, as proven in 1973 in
Wounded Knee, South Dakota, the U.S. federal law enforcement community and
military forces are prepared and willing to use deadly force to stop their own
citizens they deemed as enemies of the state. Now, we can argue till we're blue
in the face that we're not real terrorists and those in the labs,
slaughterhouses, fur farms, hunting blinds, factory farms, military and police
forces are; but our voices matter little to the big money interests who place
politicians, the police and judges in power - those who just so happen to be the
very same people we oppose. The pharmaceutical, medical, agricultural/"food,"
military, timber, mining and petrol chemical industries control the courts,
Congress and the media, so it's best if we just recognize the likelihood of our
beliefs being criminalized and prepare for the government repression which has
My first encounter with the FBI was in 1988 after the A.L.F. and
Animal Rights Militia (ARM) had firebombed a veal processor, a slaughterhouse, a
poultry plant and a butcher shop in Santa Clara County, California. FBI agents
wanted to speak with me because of the obvious escalation in illegal animal
liberation activities, my history with Sea Shepherd and my arrest in Canada for
A.L.F. smash attacks.
My first mistake was just talking to the FBI. I felt I had
nothing to hide. The agent was cordial and simply asked if I had been approached
by the A.L.F. or ARM, asking to be recruited or to be their spokesperson. I said
no. But, as I was willing to talk, his calls persisted. Finally, he asked me to
come down to his office and tell him about Sea Shepherd's 1986 raid on the
Icelandic whaling industry - an action for which I had accepted personal
The FBI agent said that Iceland was soon to file an extradition
application and that it would be in my best interest to cooperate. He asserted
that if I didn't cooperate, the FBI would be forced to arrest me if the
extradition order was granted. The agent also said that if I made a signed
statement, it would help to show the courts that I was cooperative, which would
help me should I be officially charged.
I called his bluff and refused and never heard from him again. I
now realize that, had I made the official statement he was requesting, it would
have been used against me in the grand jury proceedings when federal prosecutors
were trying to convince jurors that I was a criminal. What might appear as a
harmless confirmation of a publicly known fact can easily haunt you in the
future as a sworn statement made to a federal agent. That is why we should never
speak to the FBI.
In 1989, I was contacted again by the FBI who asked me
point-blank what I knew about the A.L.F.. I told the agent to either present a
subpoena or a warrant. He asked where I could be served a subpoena; I gave him
my address and never heard from him again.
When you know your right to remain silent, you make the FBI's
job ten times harder. In 1990 the FBI approached my parents. They were
accompanied by a man who my mom said "looked just like one of your friends, with
long hair and a beard." The agents showed my mother photos of activists and
asked if she had seen any of them hanging around with me. The FBI said the
activists were suspects in the firebombing of an army recruitment center. They
asked that I contact them, which I did in the hopes that by seeing the photos, I
could then warn the activists that they were under surveillance.
When I realized it was a stupid idea to try to beat the FBI at
their own game, I canceled my meeting with them. Likewise, no activists should
feel they can gain information by talking with the FBI. The moment you begin
talking to the FBI, the more they will approach you, knowing you will talk.
There will always be two agents, as one is trained in asking questions while the
other will evaluate your body language for subliminal messages as to which
subjects you are comfortable discussing and which ones trouble you. So even
though you may say nothing, the FBI are still able to gather
Narcs Among Us
In 1990, the Earth Night Action Group toppled powerlines from a
coal-fired power plant and the FBI was swarming Northern California. They were
successful in pressuring the former girlfriend of an animal rights activist into
being wired with a recording device to try to gather information from other
activists about the sabotage. That is why activists should never openly
speculate as to who might have done what action both in person or on the phone,
as we are only doing the FBI's job for them.
Once the FBI has associated a particular illegal act with a
political idealism or cause, then the way is paved for surveillance, wire-taps,
grand jury subpoenas and other forms of governmental repression of the
individuals or groups associated with that cause. Once again, we can be outraged
at this and scream bloody murder that our civil rights are being violated but,
in doing so, it's not going to change a damn thing.
We either can accept that the A.L.F., animal liberation and
earth defense in general, are major targets for police repression and act
accordingly, or we can go back to supporting only the ineffective tactics
controlled and allowed by our opposition. But, there is no room in any
legitimate, illegal, direct action struggle for those who want to be seen as
militants who talk the talk but don't walk the walk. Those are the people who
bring down the heat yet can't stand the fire. Prove to the animals and the earth
where your heart lies and to no other.
Later in 1990, two Earth First! organizers were the targets of a
car-bomb. Following the assassination attempt, the two victims themselves were
accused of transporting explosives and, while the real bombers went free, myself
and many other Northern California activists began to be questioned and put
under police surveillance. During this time, Santa Cruz County was seen in the
government's eyes as "a breeding ground for eco-terrorists."
A sympathetic reporter even told us of seeing "an
eco-terrorist's flow chart" in the Sheriff's Department, listing as
"eco-terrorists," any activists who had been arrested for civil disobedience. No
evidence of actual criminal involvement was necessary; just the willingness to
get arrested for earth defense and animal liberation was enough for you to be
seen as a potential terrorist. There is every reason to believe that when
investigating A.L.F. activities, the FBI first surveys activists with CD arrest
The FBI sees it as a logical progression that one will first
protest, do CD and then commit illegal direct action. I have seen A.L.F.
activists who never had any encounters with law enforcement officials nor even
had their names mentioned by the FBI, all because they never went to demos and
never did CD.
In 1991, A.L.F. actions moved to the Northwest and with them the
FBI's focus on animal liberation investigations. Grand juries were convened in
Oregon and Washington to investigate arson attacks on fur industry targets. At
this time, the Coalition Against Fur Farms (CAFF) and PETA were the only
organizations speaking out in defense of the A.L.F. and, as a result, made easy
targets for the FBI. The FBI repression of the animal rights movement from 1987
to 1991 had the chilling effect of silencing previously vocal supporters of the
In this way, the A.L.F. was abandoned by all but a few. Where in
the past it had become popular to support the A.L.F. - now, with the price of
that support being FBI harassment, the A.L.F. was left with few to defend their
actions to the movement and media.
What frustrated me the most during this time (while I both
participated in A.L.F. actions and publicly defended them), was the fact that
other activists would whisper to me their support yet were afraid to pen an
article about the A.L.F. and their anti-fur farm raids, let alone participate or
offer physical or financial support.
It must be said that, for all the criticisms I've heard about
PETA, they at least were not afraid to voice public support for the A.L.F. and
report A.L.F. raids in their newsletters and to the media. And, when activists
were subpoenaed to the grand juries, PETA offered financial and legal support
where others had failed.
As the coordinator for CAFF, I wrote numerous articles for the
Animal's Voice and the Earth First! Journal about the A.L.F.'s
recent raids. I also gave media interviews much in the same fashion as SOAR and
CAFT now does.
Following these actions, the FBI's focus shifted to me. Had a
wider body of vocal and visible support been evident for the A.L.F. during 1991,
I might have been able to last longer as an A.L.F. activist. Had more activists
been aware of their rights and not been afraid of the FBI, especially when they
themselves were not even guilty of any crimes, the government would have seen
widespread support for the A.L.F. and not known where to begin its
I'll be the first to admit that, as an A.L.F. activist, I should
have been the last person to publicly defend them and their actions. But with
the evidence we had gathered over the last year of fur farm animal abuse and
with A.L.F. attacks on that same industry, I felt it was necessary for someone
to explain the A.L.F.'s actions and not miss an opportunity to strike an
additional blow to the fur industry through the media.
By fall of 1991, the FBI had returned to my parents home and
work, accusing me of being an A.L.F. member and telling them that I was working
with explosives. The FBI tried to intimidate my family into cooperating by
telling them that I needed to be stopped before someone was injured or killed.
By this time, the FBI had realized that I myself would not talk with them. They
began to focus pressure on my family, friends, and former
By the beginning of 1992, the FBI upgraded its A.L.F.
investigations when a package, containing stolen records from a mink research
lab that had been torched, was intercepted. The package was addressed to the
house of a former PETA employee. When a search warrant was executed night-vision
goggles, radios, balaclavas and maps of labs in Louisiana were
It had always been known that if the FBI could make a connection
between the A.L.F. and PETA, they could be destroyed by Racketeer Influenced
Corrupt Orginazations (RICO) laws. The government was already planning on
charging the A.L.F. under the RICO law as it also covers arson, interstate
transportation and organizing the committing of a crime. This was and probably
still is one of the goals of the FBI.
While I watched as friends and other activists were served
subpoenas, and PETA was targeted for their alleged association with the A.L.F.,
the rest of the animal rights movement began to waver. Individuals and groups
saw what was happening to vocal supporters of the A.L.F. and chose to remain
One individual who was subpoenaed to the grand jury told me that
the questions asked were solely about me. One by one, CAFF activists were
harassed and subpoenaed, as well as former roommates, journalists who had
interviewed me and Earth First! activists. Certain activists were threatened
with having their children taken from them by the FBI and, in southern Oregon, a
former home of mine was raided with a helicopter by the FBI and ATF, despite the
fact that the Feds had been saying that I was only a "person of interest" and
not the subject of an arrest warrant. An activist who had purchased my car was
subpoenaed and harassed and the marine mammal protection ship, "Sea Shepherd,"
was raided by the FBI and ATF and twice by U.S. Customs when it was suspected I
The Pressure Mounts
Far from what happened to me, what was most despicable was the
treatment of activists' parents and families who were targets of grand
What angered the FBI most was the stubbornness of people they
tried to question. Individual activists' families and friends complicated the
FBI's job by refusing to answer any questions without a subpoena. My parents
were targeted by a particularly vile agent who stopped by their house to show
them my wanted poster and to tell them that, if they really loved me, they would
tell him where I was before some fur farmer or local cop shot me.
Another time, the FBI arrested a Guatamalan refugee who worked
for my family, handcuffing him and dragging him downtown. When my father
protested, the FBI released him, apologizing that they had mistakenly thought he
was me. Later it was discovered that when my parents were away on vacation,
their house was broken into and a floor plan was drawn up for future
Finally, when my mother was served with a subpoena to the grand
jury, she answered her door telling the agent she wouldn't talk to him because
she was already taking medication for the stress they were causing. The agent
replied, "This ought to help your stress," and handed her a
By tracing phone records from calls I had made with a credit
card, one by one, the FBI questioned everyone with whom I had come in contact.
Of course, the attention directed on me was in a large part due to the fact that
I was the subject of a grand jury investigation, rather than someone subpoenaed
To this day, I have never been questioned by the FBI or a grand
jury. Those who were called to testify either answered a few simple questions
and were granted immunity from prosecution or refused to testify. By the time of
my arrest in 1994, four people had spent between five and six months in jail for
refusing to testify. Meanwhile I avoided more close calls with the
In one particularly chilling incident, activists visited me in
one of my hideouts. I had instructed them not to drive their own vehicle for
fear that a satellite tracking device might be placed on the vehicle, as one
activist was a known acquaintance of mine.
The activists met me at a previously agreed location, driving
their own vehicle. We left the vehicle 30 miles from where I was staying, my
anger overtaken by my joy at seeing a friend. When we picked up the vehicle a
few days later, I instructed the driver to follow me at a distance and maintain
an open channel on our radios.
We gassed up at different gas stations. But, as we were leaving
a small town, I noticed a late-model American car in perfect condition but with
mud splattered all over it. The car was backed into a road bank; I recognized it
as one of the few cars to have passed us in the small town where we had gassed
up. I radioed my friend about it and instructed them to meet us at a
pre-arranged destination. When they did ,they were frantic because they had
surprised that same car who had pulled off the road at another location, with
the lights off.
The area where we met was very remote and, as we talked, we
could see the approaching headlights of the car behind us; the lights went off
before the car reached us. It is my conclusion that, with the aid of a satellite
tracking device, the FBI were using my friend as bait to lead them to me while I
was on the run.
Two things are required by any movement sincere about its
attempts to sustain an underground resistance. The first is a structure to
support those warriors who choose to live life in the underground away from all
above-ground politics and who can be supported financially and morally by their
legal counterparts. Every legitimate revolutionary struggle has this
The other requirement is the uniform recognition by above-ground
supporters that one must refuse to speak about other activists to any law
enforcement agency. Of equal importance is an understanding and acceptance to
never speculate over the phone or computer as to who might be an A.L.F. member
or how you heard so-and-so talking to so-and-so about how he or she wanted to
strike a particular animal abuse target.
We must remember that the consequences of such actions could
easily result in your own subpoenaing to a grand jury or, even worse, your
targeting by the grand jury, as well as endangering other activists. Speaking
with law enforcement officials can provide investigators with enough information
to obtain search warrants and authorization for phone- and wire-taps. All these
things are made much easier to obtain in light of President Clinton's recent
signing of "anti-terrorism" legislation.
A grand jury will be convened to gather information with the
hopes of presenting enough evidence to issue an indictment. In the case of
A.L.F. actions, a grand jury will attempt to prove a suspect's association with
animal rights and then, hopefully, use testimony from various sources to prove
that there is reasonable cause to believe an individual committed a crime.
Articles, letters, press releases and statements all can be used against you. It
is your job to prove your innocence rather than their responsibility to prove
your guilt. Standard statements of support of A.L.F. actions can be seen by the
usual conservative grand jurors as incriminating. All this should not intimidate
you away from supporting or joining the A.L.F. - just be careful of what you say
and be even more careful about what you do.
My own situation may seem grim, but considering that after five
Federal grand juries that lasted over four years, subpoenaed over 70 individuals
and investigated six major A.L.F. raids, the fact that I was the only activist
indicted and only received four and one-half years - I believe it shows that we
did pretty good. And my indictment would have not been possible had it not been
for preventible mistakes I made which resulted in providing the Feds with
If you are to be a vocal A.L.F. supporter, turn the tables on
interviewers or editors. When doing interviews or writing letters to the editor,
refuse to acknowledge A.L.F. actions as violent or terrorist. I often respond
with the question that if the media and police are so concerned with violence
and terrorism, why not ask the same questions to those who operate in the light
of day with human blood on their hands like the ATF, FBI, U.S. military, police
and arms manufacturers. That usually shuts them up.
We cannot let the FBI or anyone else intimidate us away from
supporting actions which cause no harm, yet save countless lives. All that is
necessary is that we educate ourselves with the intimidation tactics of our
opposition and familiarize ourselves with what few rights we have left. Remember
that there is nothing illegal about opposing government and police repression of
our movement or any other that fights for peace and justice.
The Bill of Rights guarantees our obligation to overthrow any
government of our own that no longer respects the rights of its citizens. It is
important that we learn the lessons that our counterparts in Britain have
learned. Despite major police repression, the A.L.F. continues to be a force to
be reckoned with in the U.K. All that prevents us from creating the same in the
U.S. is our degree of willingness to take greater personal responsibility,
overcome our fears and sacrifice a little bit of our own comfort and
Just remember: whatever we go through, and I say this even as
someone who must sit in prison for four years, that whatever we as First World
human beings go through in courts, jails or prisons, it is little compared to
what political activists in other countries endure to fight for their beliefs.
It is also nothing compared to the animals whose freedom lies in our own
The FBI, ATF, police and corporations are the ones with blood on
their hands and they try to intimidate us with harassment, injury, imprisonment
or death. What is most fearful is doing nothing as our one earth and her animal
children are ruthlessly exploited and destroyed. Remember that and good