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Environmentalist invokes Fifth Amendment

By SCOTT R. BURNELL, UPI Science News   |   Feb. 12, 2002 at 7:49 PM   |   Comments

WASHINGTON, Feb. 12 (UPI) -- The former spokesman for the radical environmental group, Earth Liberation Front, invoked his Fifth Amendment right to protect himself from self-incrimination in refusing to testify before a House committee examining the growing use of violence in environmental efforts.

The House Resources Subcommittee on Forests and Forests Health subpoenaed Craig Rosebraugh to appear and discuss activities of both ELF and the Animal Liberation Front. The groups have claimed responsibility for tens of millions of dollars of damage to industries such as logging, medical research and housing construction.

Committee member Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., also took to the witness table to describe his constituents' experiences with the group's activities. The physical and financial damage will inevitably lead to injuries and death for innocent people, he and other representatives said.

"Let's call ELF and ALF for what they truly are -- terrorist organizations," Walden said. "Their combatants wear no uniform, they destroy private and government property, they teach others how to conduct dangerous and illegal acts."

Rosebraugh's attempts to defy the committee's information-gathering were somewhat negated by his providing a lengthy written testimony. His 11-page, single-spaced document wandered between a personal history, concerns for U.S. political prisoners and overuse of natural resources, and condemnation of various American geopolitical and military activities since 1950.

He concluded with a strident call for revolution, violent if necessary, to create "a resemblance of a true democracy."

The paper contrasted with Rosebraugh's, "I'll take the Fifth," response to questions, including a request to acknowledge a direct quote. Committee members said the written testimony constituted a reasonable waiver of Fifth Amendment claims against self-incrimination.

The hearing examined the state of ecoterrorism on both sides of the political spectrum. Several committee members noted government workers in the West have been harassed and assaulted by individuals and groups unhappy with policies aimed at preserving the environment. The issue is emotionally charged enough to have prompted hearing staff to eject at least one disruptive member of the public, staff members said.

Eco-violence also extends to the theft of valuable public timber, said Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., ranking member of the full Resources Committee. Robbing future citizens of "millions of dollars" worth of forestland and other resources counts as terrorism, he said.

The committee heard two legislative proposals for dealing with domestic ecoterrorism. H.R. 2795, the Agroterrorism Prevention Act of 2001, is sponsored by committee member Rep. George Nethercutt, R-Wash., who joined Walden at the witness table.

"The best way to deal with the ecoterrorists is to use the same tactics we're using in our current war on terrorism," Nethercutt said. "Improve our intelligence, free the hands of law enforcement, isolate terrorists from allies and assistance and cut off their funding."

The bill would extend federal protection of research efforts to cover all plant science, including genetic approaches, as well as commercial and academic programs using plants or animals, Nethercutt said. It also would give the FBI authority to investigate ecoterror incidents under anti-racketeering procedures and create an information clearinghouse to aid efforts in connecting fragmentary evidence at scattered crime scenes, he said.

Similar goals are put forward in H.R. 2583, the Environmental Terrorism Reduction Act, sponsored by Walden and Rep. Darlene Hooley, D-Ore. The bill would also require a clearinghouse for data, Hooley said, as well as define a "high-intensity environmental terrorism area" that would trigger additional federal funding, similar to current efforts against drug trafficking.

© 2002 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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