As a Nation Struggles, Domestic Terrorists Brag, by Tom Randall

They proudly take credit for striking in the night, often torching homes, schools and workplaces. Even now, as the nation struggles back from the vicious attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, they continue to boast of their assaults, recruit others to join them and offer training in how to use arson and elude the authorities.

They call themselves ELF. On their web site,, they take credit for over 30 acts of terrorism over the last six years, inflicting millions of dollars in damage.1

ELF stands for the Earth Liberation Front, which, along with its sister organization, the Animal Liberation Front (ALF), commits its crimes in the name of “environmentalism.”

Their most recent attack claimed by ELF came on September 8, just three days before terrorists slammed planes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. ELF and ALF are suspected of burning a McDonald’s restaurant in Tucson, Arizona and spray painting “ELF” and “ALF” on it.2

This prompted what police are calling a copycat vandalism attack on a Ronald McDonald House for seriously ill children in Tucson, just seven days after the Trade Center and Pentagon carnage, according to the Ronald McDonald House’s spokesperson, Denisa Casement. There, swastikas, “ELF,” “ALF” and anti-fast food graffiti were scrawled on a life-size statue of Ronald McDonald.

Casement said she now lives in fear for the safety of the unfortunate families who stay at the house while their children are undergoing treatment for life-threatening diseases. “These people [ELF and ALF] have to understand,” Casement said, “that they set the example for others and are just as responsible as if they had done this themselves.”3

On its website ELF directly encourages others to participate in terrorism.

The ELF website offers several publications. “Setting Fires With Electrical Timers – An Earth Liberation Front Guide” is one. They say it provides “the politics and practicalities of arson. Down-to-earth advice and how-tos about devices, fuel requirements, timers, security and more.”

“If an Agent Knocks” is another publication offered by ELF. ELF advertises it as “What to do if a federal agent tries to question you, the scoop on agencies that gather political intelligence, how the feds infiltrate political organizations and much more.” In this context, “political organizations” appears to mean terrorist organizations like ELF.

While these terrorists are small-time compared to the terrorists who struck the World Trade Center and the Pentagon and are not known to have killed anyone as yet, they appear to be intent on expanding their violence and putting American lives at risk.

Earlier this year, ELF claimed to have expanded its operations to enable it to strike two targets in a single night. The group claimed that on May 21, “The research office of Toby Bradshaw was reduced to smoke and ashes. We attacked his office at the University of Washington while at the same time another group set fire to a related target [an office and 13 trucks burned at the Jefferson Poplar Farms] in Clatskanie, Oregon.”4

Over the years, the frequency of attacks ELF has taken credit for has dramatically increased from just two in 1996 to nine last year, including attacks in Rhinelander, Wisconsin, Shoals, Indiana, Niwot, Colorado and three in Bloomington, Indiana. Then they moved to the state of New York to hit Middle Island, Miller Place and Mount Sinai to wrap up the year on December 30. Six of the nine attacks were arsons.5

The organization has claimed credit for seven attacks already this year.

ELF first gained national attention in 1998 with a $12 million dollar arson blaze at a ski resort under construction near Vail, Colorado.6

FBI sources say under current law the maximum penalty for these crimes is only a $10,000 fine – a penalty so light as to make investigation and prosecution almost a waste of time.

Representative George Nethercutt of Washington is now seeking to change that. He has revised and reintroduced his Agroterrorism Prevention Bill, H.R. 2795, which stiffens the minimum penalty to five years and provides for the death penalty when acts of ecoterrorism cause loss of life.7

A Nethercutt aide said the congressman might succeed in attaching his bill to the broader international terrorism bill now being drafted.

This kind of legislation would be a welcome advance in fighting home grown terrorists as the nation goes to war with those from overseas.


Tom Randall is Director of The National Center for Public Policy Research’s John P. McGovern, MD Center for Environmental and Regulatory Affairs. 


1 “Earth Liberation Front Profile,” Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise, Bellevue, WA, downloaded from on June 22, 2001; Bryan Denson, “Eco-Terrorist Group Prolific,” The Oregonian, January 11, 2001 and Earth Liberation Front web site downloaded from on September 25, 2001.
2 Michael LaFleur, “Ronald ‘attacked,'” downloaded from the Tucson Citizen online at on September 21, 2001.
3 Interview of Ronald McDonald House employee Denisa Casement by Tom Randall, September 20, 2001.
4 Statement downloaded from on September 25, 2001.
5 “Earth Liberation Front Profile.”
6 Denson.
7 “Agroterrorism Protection Act of 2001 (Introduced in the U.S. House),” downloaded from on September 20, 2001.

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