Animal Protection > ALF Foes
How the FBI Monitored Crusty Punks, 'Anarchist Hangouts,' and an Organic Farmers' Market Under the Guise of Combating Terrorism

The FBI conducted a three-year investigation, dubbed "Seizing
Thunder," into a animal-rights and environmental "terrorists" in the
Pacific Northwest that devolved into widespread--and seemingly
pointless--surveillance of activists for no apparent reason aside from
the fact that they were anarchists, or protested the war in Iraq, or
were "militant feminists." Here's the file.

I first came across the name "Seizing Thunder" several years ago while
rifling through the FBI's investigative files on the Animal Liberation
Front. The ALF records obliquely referenced the evocatively named
investigation, which I requested via the Freedom of Information Act
just for kicks. Last month--after three years--the FBI returned nearly
500 pages (it held back 784).

It turns out that Seizing Thunder, which was based out of the bureau's
Portland field office, was one of several investigations into animal
rights and environmental activists nationwide that the FBI eventually
merged into Operation Backfire, a wide-ranging probe of ALF and the
Earth Liberation Front. Backfire concluded in 2006 with the
indictments of 11 activists for arson and other "acts of domestic
terrorism," including a notorious 1998 destruction of a $12 million
ski lodge in Vail, Colo. The Portland portion seemed to focus
primarily on gathering general intelligence on activists who used
tree-sitting and other monkey-wrench tactics to fight old-growth
logging in the Pacific Northwest.

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