AR-News: Arsons believed to be work of ELF

jim robertson wolfcrest at
Thu Apr 22 19:32:41 EDT 2004

Arsons believed to be work of ELF
No proof, but signs point to eco-terror organization


The words "Earth Liberation Front" -- called a top domestic terrorism threat 
by the FBI -- were signed on a note found amid an array of unexploded 
firebombs this week at a home-construction site in Snohomish County.

Just a few hours after the note was found in a driveway at Cedars Crossing 
near Maltby three similar devices -- modified Molotov cocktails with 
slow-acting fuses -- were discovered in three homes under construction at 
Storm Lake Heights north of Monroe. The fuses burned out before they could 
ignite a bomb, officials said yesterday.

But incendiary devices did work in Snohomish County on Tuesday, destroying 
two homes and damaging a third at a subdivision east of Snohomish. A 
firebomb that didn't ignite was found in a fourth home. All the houses were 

The possible involvement of the Earth Liberation Front prompted the FBI's 
local Joint Terrorism Task Force to join in the investigation with the 
Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and local investigators, 
said a federal agent on the task force. The agent said it is likely that all 
three incidents are related.

ATF Special Agent in Charge Kelvin Crenshaw said his agents focused on the 
site of the fires east of Snohomish, retrieving forensic evidence including 
the unexploded incendiary device, and are sending it to a government lab for 

"Right now, there is no definite link between the three crime scenes," 
Crenshaw said.

The task force agent acknowledged the possibility that a copycat criminal 
without eco-terrorist motivations might be responsible for one or all of the 
incidents. But the agent also said, "In my gut, I think it's ELF."

ELF has not claimed credit for the Snohomish County fires.

The agent said ELF was mentioned in the note and that it expressed 
opposition to development encroaching upon forests. That view is consistent 
with notes left at the sites of other ELF vandalism and arson in the United 
States targeting urban sprawl.

The firebombing, if the work of ELF, represents an escalation in Washington 
of its crusade of arson and vandalism against growth and development. ELF 
has never claimed responsibility for destroying a house in Washington. 
However, numerous other arsons against homes elsewhere in the United States 
have been committed in the name of ELF.

The most notorious local act linked to ELF was the 2001 firebombing of the 
Center for Urban Horticulture at the University of Washington.

No one has ever been prosecuted for the CUH fire.

To date the FBI has cracked few cases involving ELF or the closely related 
Animal Liberation Front.

ELF is not an organization or group in the usual sense of those words. There 
is no leader, no hierarchy. Rather ELF is an amorphous collection of people 
who communicate in anonymity over the Internet.

ELF's lack of structure and anonymity is why it has been so hard for federal 
agents to make arrests in ecoterrorism cases.

"Individuals who choose to do actions under the banner of the ELF are driven 
only by their personal conscience or decisions taken by their cell while 
adhering to the stated guidelines," says the ELF Web site. "Any direct 
action to halt the destruction of the environment and adhering to the strict 
non-violence guidelines, listed below, can be considered an ELF action.

"Economic sabotage and property destruction fall within these guidelines:

"To inflict economic damage on those profiting from the destruction and 
exploitation of the natural environment.

"To reveal and educate the public on the atrocities committed against the 
Earth and all species that populate it.

"To take all necessary precautions against harming any animal, human and 

And this week, Peter Lance's subdivision may have met those conditions for 

Lance, the developer of Storm Lake Heights, remained astonished yesterday by 
the targeting of his upscale subdivision with Craftsman-style homes, ponds, 
an equestrian tract and a 15-foot-high fountain at its front entrance.

Lance said he bought the forestland in about 1990, logged it and has been 
selling off lots since then. Although he acknowledged that the property is 
no longer forest, "there was no midnight rape of the land. People still need 
a place to live."

Lance said he held up developing the property to take advantage of what he 
called a new, environmentally sensitive Snohomish County ordinance that 
allows clustering homes on smaller lots to preserve more wetlands and trees. 
And he said he connected the 100-acre plot to municipal water lines to avoid 
sinking wells that would draw down the aquifer and drain streams.

Virgil Welch, Lance's night watchman and landscaper, was making his rounds 
about 10 p.m. Tuesday at about the time he believes the arsonists planted 
their failed incendiary devices.

"One of the neighbors thought they heard something about 10," he said. "I'm 
thinking that when I went to the upper cul-de-sac, they shot out the bottom. 
They probably saw the lights of my trucks and just got out."

Joe Cadiz, a contractor working there, told KOMO/4 television that he 
arrived yesterday morning and was summoned inside an unfinished house, where 
he saw what looked like a gasoline bomb that hadn't gone off. They checked 
and found similar bottles with slow-burning fuses inside two other 
unfinished homes.

"There were a couple of them lit, but it looks like they just dudded out," 
he said. "They didn't do anything."

Jan Jorgensen, spokeswoman for the Snohomish County Sheriff's Office, said 
deputies did step up patrols at building sites after Tuesday morning's 
arsons. But she noted the remote location of Storm Lake Heights, which is so 
new the address doesn't yet appear on maps.


The Earth Liberation Front has claimed responsibility for hundreds of 
illegal activities over the past few years. Here are some of the more recent 

Feb. 7, 2004 -- Charlottesville, Va. Vandals set a bulldozer on fire and 
damaged other equipment at a 30-acre site in Charlottesville. The site had 
been cleared to make way for apartments. The vandals left behind a banner 
that read: "Your Construction = Long-Term Destruction -- ELF

January 2004 -- Fayetteville, Ark. The Earth Liberation Front took credit 
for vandalism that occurred over several weeks in Fayetteville. Vandals 
damaged Hummers, slashing tires and writing "Glutton" and "ELF" on them with 
spray paint.

Sept. 23, 2003 -- Mecosta County, Mich. The Earth Liberation Front claimed 
to have left incendiary devices at a pumping station for a water-bottling 
plant owned by Nestle Waters North America.

Sept. 19, 2003 -- San Diego. The Earth Liberation Front claimed 
responsibility for torching four houses under construction and left a banner 
reading "Development destruction. Stop raping nature."

Sept. 6, 2003 -- Santa Fe, N.M. The Earth Liberation Front claimed to have 
spray-painted a third of the SUVs at a Land Rover dealership with such words 
as "avarice" and "gluttony."

Aug. 22, 2003 -- Earth Liberation Front actions in Southern California 
including in Arcadia at Mercedes-Benz dealer. Ten SUVs were spray-painted 
with "terrorist," "killer" and "ELF." In Duarte, a Mitsubishi dealership had 
its building and 20 of its vehicles painted with "ELF" and the phrases 
"gross polluter" and "We (heart) pollution." In West Covina, there was a 
fire at a GM dealership, destroying and damaging several SUVs, including 
several Hummers. A fire also destroyed a warehouse at the dealership. 
Messages left there included "I (heart) Pollution," "American Wastefulness" 
and "ELF.

Aug.1, 2003 -- San Diego. The Earth Liberation Front accepted responsibility 
for what it called the "largest act of environmental sabotage in U.S. 
history." Fire caused $50 million in damage to a five-story condominium 

P-I reporter Paul Shukovsky can be reached at 206-448-8072 or 
paulshukovsky at P-I reporter Jennifer Langston contributed to 
this report.

Our task must be to free ourselves by widening our circle of compassion to 
embrace all living creatures.            Albert Einstein

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