Seattle Times Article Raising Questions About “ELF” Arsons, Potter Quoted

by Will Potter on March 19, 2008

in Terrorism Court Cases

Seattle TimesYesterday’s Seattle Times article by Jonathan Martin and Mike Carter raises some good points about the recent arsons outside of Seattle, arsons that the FBI and industry groups like the National Association of Home Builders have rushed to label as not only an Earth Liberation Front action, but “eco-terrorism.”

Some highlights:

“This could be insurance fraud; it could be something to do with the housing market,” said Charles Frahm, the FBI’s deputy assistant director for counterterrorism operations in Washington, D.C.

At the Street of Dreams, a bedsheet painted with “ELF” and a message rejecting “green” building practices was left. Although such signs are an “ELF” calling card, federal agents are not assuming there is an active ELF cell in the area, Frahm said.

So at this stage, they can’t rule out any possibility, including “that ELF is being used in an attempt to misdirect the investigation,” said David Gomez, the FBI Assistant Special Agent in Charge.

[That’s an interesting change in tone from what federal law enforcement was saying immediately after the blaze.]

Thanks to Jonathan Martin for the critical article, and for interviewing me:

Will Potter, a freelance journalist in Washington, D.C., who has covered the fringe environmental movement since 1999, said it may be a mistake to take the lack of communiqués as a sign that ELF isn’t alive and well. In fact, the silence may represent an evolution in the group.

In the past, prosecutors used the news releases and manifestos to argue for boosted prison sentences under terrorism laws, Potter said.

“Activists may be realizing it’s just one more fingerprint tying them to the crime,” he said.

“Or it means there it is not an ELF action.”


They’re not going to be motivated by their fear; they’re motivated by the ideology,” Potter said.

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