Eco-Terror's Growing Threat
Nov. 10, 2005
(CBS) Despite racking up over $100 million in damages using arson and sabotage, environmental and animal rights extremists still haven’t stopped Americans from driving gas-guzzling SUVs, developing pristine land or conducting animal research.
Now, some of the extremists say it’s time to start killing people to make their point. 60 Minutes correspondent Ed Bradley reports on extremist groups collectively known as eco-terrorists, which the FBI says are now the biggest domestic terror threat, this Sunday, Nov. 13, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.
A spokesman for extreme animal rights groups believes killing humans is justified. "I think people who torture innocent beings should be stopped," says Dr. Jerry Vlasak, a California trauma surgeon. "If they won’t stop when you ask them nicely, they don’t stop when you demonstrate to them what they’re doing is wrong, then they should be stopped using whatever means are necessary."
Though Vlasak wouldn’t kill any researchers himself, he hopes others will use "whatever means necessary" to stop the use of animals in experiments.
The FBI thinks that scenario is possible. "There have been multiple statements made regarding assassinations and or killing of individuals involved in…biomedical research and that kind of thing," says John E. Lewis, deputy assistant director for counter terrorism at the FBI.
The bureau is actively investigating more than 150 crimes claimed by groups like the Animal Liberation Front or its spin-off, the Earth Liberation Front.
Individuals claiming to represent these groups have incinerated SUVS, fire-bombed buildings and released lab animals, destroying decades of invaluable research over the last 15 years. In its largest act, the ELF burned down a nearly-completed $23 million apartment complex near San Diego to protest urban sprawl.
The question of violence is causing a rift in the movement. ALF and ELF members who use arson claim to be non-violent, saying they are simply destroying property. Rod Coronado, a former ALF cell leader who served jail time for arson, says, "For every arson that I’ve carried out, there’s probably three or four not carried out for that fear of injuring someone." Dr. Valsak disagrees, saying the use of arson while espousing a no-harm-to-humans rule is "disingenuous." "We have to look at what works," he tells Bradley.
The FBI is afraid that a "lone wolf" member of these loosely-organized groups will do something to up the ante.
They have identified one suspect who may be just such a threat. Daniel Andreas San Diego, a 27-year-old fugitive from San Rafael, Calif., is suspected of planting three bombs late at night near two companies targeted by animal rights groups. In the first case, a second bomb was deliberately set to go off an hour after the first – a method used to kill or injure first responders like police, firemen and medics. The third bomb, detonated a few weeks later, was strapped with nails.
Asks the FBI’s Lewis, "Why does someone build an improvised explosive device with shrapnel if they are not intending to cause someone grievous harm, if not worse?"