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Full Version: FBI and HS target Eco-Activists, 'branding' them 'terrorists'!
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"Operation Backfire" is the name given by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to the ten year old investigation and indictment of fifteen individuals accused of several arsons in the Pacific Northwest between 1996 and 2001 claimed by the Earth Liberation Front (ELF) or the Animal Liberation Front (ALF). It is because of these arrests and the fervor that federal agencies are seeking to impose severe sentences under the statutes of "anti-terrorism" that the term, "Green Scare" has resurfaced and is being used to describe the draconian measures taken against environmental activists in the same way that alleged communists were targeted in the McCarthy-era Red Scare.

These indictments have become the subject of much debate since they were based primarily on the testimony of a heroin addicted self-professed serial arsonist, whose name apparently came up in a grand jury inquisition of a bitter ex-girlfriend. Despite this shaky "evidence," the potential sentences were unprecedented for non-violent incidents. Some of the charges carried mandatory minimum sentences of 30 years and some of the indictees were facing mandatory minimum sentences of life in prison if convicted of all charges. The FBI's reasoning for the severity of the charges is their assertion that the accused are "terrorists," though the charges leveled against them are not terror related and the crimes of which they are accused harmed no one. The most severe of the charges are arson-related. The median sentence for arson in the United States is 5 years, murder is 15 years, sex abuse less than 3½ years, and assault is 16 months. Yet some people in this case were facing up to life plus 335 years!

To escape the possibility of life in prison, all but four of the defendants turned police informant in July 2006 and cooperated fully with prosecutors agreeing to testify against co-defendants in exchange for leniency. On November 9, 2006, the remaining four defendants - Daniel McGowan, Jonathon Paul, Joyanna Zacher, and Nathan Block - struck a deal with prosecutors where they admitted their responsibility, but would not inculpate any other individual, whether they be informant, fugitive, or deceased. Offering "global resolution" to the case, these arrestees (except Jonathan Paul) were facing life in prison, but received downward departures similar to those who cooperated with the prosecution.

Sentencing was passed down in June of 2007. Many of the defendants received Terrorism Enhancements (TE) when Judge Aiken decided that certain actions were intended to coerce the federal government. These Enhancements raise the base criminal level of the defendant and will be taken into consideration by the Bureau of Prisons when assigning the inmates security levels in federal correctional facilities. In short, although none of the arsons of Operation Backfire resulted in injury or death, the defendants could be assigned to maximum or "supermax" facilities with violent offenders. For more information on Terrorism Enhancements, see

The sentences the defendants received were:
· Cooperating Defendant Stanislas Meyerhoff - 13 years (+TE)
· Cooperating Defendant Kevin Tubbs - 12 years 7 months (+TE)
· Cooperating Defendant Chelsea Gerlach - 9 years (+TE)
· Cooperating Defendant Kendall Tankersley - 3 years 10 months
· Cooperating Defendant Suzanne Savoie - 4 years 3 months (+TE)
· Cooperating Defendant Darren Thurston - 3 years 1 month
· Non-Cooperating Defendant Daniel McGowan - 7 years (+TE)
· Non-Cooperating Defendant Jonathan Paul - Sentencing in abeyance
· Non-Cooperating Defendant Joyanna Zacher - 7 years 8 months (+TE)
· Non-Cooperating Defendant Nathan Block - 7 years 8 months (+TE)

Lacey Philabaum and Jennifer Kolar have also been indicted and pled guilty after turning police informant in both the Oregon and Washington cases. They have not been sentenced yet and will most likely be sentenced in Washington after Brianna Waters' trial. The first informant, Jacob Ferguson - a self-professed serial arsonist and longtime heroin addict - is as yet unindicted, and according to his own admission has been granted immunity and has been paid at least $50,000 for his cooperation from federal prosecutors despite playing an aggravating role in nearly every indicted arson.

In addition to the years long sentences with Terrorism Enhancements, there has also been one casualty of "Operation Backfire." Bill Rodgers of Prescott, Arizona, was found dead in his cell two weeks after his arrest in an apparent suicide.

There are support sites for some of the defendants and aid is appreciated by those serving their sentences. Our resources are limited, however, and should be focused on those who are not cooperating with the authorities in this bogus investigation. It is known from court transcripts that those who took pleas were offered their pleas (and downward departures of sentences) because they have "fully cooperated, named names, and stuck their necks out."

For a more detailed synopsis of the Operation Backfire cases, see the American Civil Liberties Defense Center update from May 15, 2007.
I don't know if we are talking about the same group of people,but I know one activist was recently released after about 7 or 8 years from a supermax for the hideous crime of torching a couple of SUVs' on a local car dealership.Now that's terrorism you can believe in.