[Pnews] Targeting Earth First! - Dave Foreman and the First Green Scare Case

Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Fri Sep 27 16:58:00 EDT 2013

September 27-29, 2013

Targeting Earth First!

  Dave Foreman and the First Green Scare Case


Dave Foreman, co-founder of Earth First!, awoke at five in the morning 
on May 30, 1989 to the sound of three FBI agents shouting his name in 
his Tucson, Arizona home. Foreman's wife Nancy answered the door 
frantically and was shoved aside by brawny FBI agents as they raced 
toward their master bedroom where her husband was sound asleep, naked 
under the sheets, with plugs jammed in his ears to drown out the noise 
of their neighbor's barking Doberman pincher. By the time Foreman came 
to, the agents were surrounding his bed, touting bulletproof vests and 
.357 Magnums.

He immediately thought of the murder of Fred Hampton in Chicago, 
expecting to be shot in cold blood. But as Foreman put it, "Being a 
nice, middle-class honky male, they can't get away with that stuff quite 
as easily as they could with Fred, or with all the native people on the 
Pine Ridge Reservation back in the early 70s."

So instead of firing off a few rounds, they jerked a dazed Foreman from 
his slumber, let him pull on a pair of shorts, and hauled him outside 
where they threw him in the back of an unmarked vehicle. It took over 
six hours before Foreman even knew why he had been accosted by Federal 

Foreman's arrest was the culmination of three years and two million tax 
dollars spent in an attempt to frame a few Earth First! activists for 
conspiring to damage government and private property. The FBI 
infiltrated Earth First! groups in several states with informants and 
undercover agent-provocateurs. Over 500 hours of tape recordings of 
meetings, events and casual conversation had been amassed. Phones had 
been tapped and homes broken in to. The FBI was doing their best to 
intimidate radical environmentalists across the country, marking them as 
potential threat to national security.

It was the FBI's first case of Green Scare.

The day before Foreman was yanked from bed and lugged in to the warm 
Arizona morning, two so-called co-conspirators, biologist Marc Baker and 
antinuclear activist Mark Davis, were arrested by some 50 agents on 
horseback and on foot, with a helicopter hovering above as the activists 
stood at the base of a power line tower in the middle of desert country 
in Wenden, Arizona, 200 miles northwest of Foreman's home. The next day 
Peg Millet, a self-described "redneck woman for wilderness," was 
arrested at a nearby Planned Parenthood where she worked. Millet earlier 
evaded the FBI's dragnet.

Driven to the site by an undercover FBI agent, the entire episode, as 
Foreman put it, was the agent's conception. Foreman, described by the 
bureau as the guru and financier of the operation, was also pegged for 
having thought up the whole elaborate scheme, despite the fact that 
their evidence was thin.

Back in the 1970s the FBI issued a memo to their field offices stating 
that when attempting to break up dissident groups, the most effective 
route was to forget about hard intelligence or annoying facts. Simply 
make a few arrests and hold a public press conference. Charges could 
later be dropped. It didn't matter; by the time the news hit the 
airwaves and was printed up in the local newspapers, the damage had 
already been done.

It was the FBI's assertion that the action stopped by the arrests under 
that Arizona power line in late May, 1989, was to be a test run for a 
much grander plot involving Davis, Baker, Millet, and the group's 
leader, Dave Foreman. The FBI charged the four with the intent to damage 
electrical transmission lines that lead to the Rocky Flats nuclear 
weapons facility in Colorado.

"The big lie that the FBI pushed at their press conference the day after 
the arrests was that we were a bunch of terrorists conspiring to cut the 
power lines into the Palo Verde and Diablo Canyon nuclear facilities in 
order to cause a nuclear meltdown and threaten public health and 
safety," explained Foreman.

In the late 1980s the FBI launched operation THERMCON in response to an 
act of sabotage of the Arizona Snowbowl ski lift near Flagstaff, Arizona 
that occurred in October 1987, allegedly by Davis, Millet and Baker. 
Acting under the quirky name, Evan Mecham Eco-Terrorist International 
Conspiracy (EMETIC) --- the eco-saboteurs wrecked several of the 
company's ski lifts, claiming that structures were cutting in to areas 
of significant biological importance.

This was not the first act the group claimed responsibility for. A year 
prior EMETIC sent a letter declaring they were responsible for the 
damage at the Fairfield Snow Bowl near Flagstaff. The group's letter 
also included a jovial threat to "chain the Fairfield CEO to a tree at 
the 10,000-foot level and feed him shrubs and roots until he understands 
the suicidal folly of treating the planet primarily as a tool for making 

The group used an acetylene torch to cut bolts from several of the 
lift's support towers, making them inoperable. Upon receiving the 
letter, the Arizona ski resort was forced to shut down the lift in order 
to repair the damages, which rang up to over $50,000.

But the big allegations heaved at these eco-saboteurs wasn't for 
dislodging a few bolts at a quaint ski resort in the heart of the 
Arizona mountains, or for inconveniencing a few ski bums from their 
daily excursions. No, the big charges were levied at the group for 
allegedly plotting to disrupt the functions of the Rocky Flats nuclear 
facility hundreds of miles away. Ironically, at the moment of their 
arrests, the FBI was simultaneously looking into public health concerns 
due to an illegal radioactive waste leak at the nuclear power site, 
which led Earth First! activist Mike Roselle to quip, " [the FBI] would 
have discharged its duty better by assisting in a conspiracy to cut 
power to Rocky Flats, instead of trying to stop one."


Gerry Spence climbed into his private jet in Jackson, Wyoming estate 
almost immediately after he heard about the FBI arrest of Dave Foreman 
in Arizona. Spence had made a name for himself among environmental 
activists in the late-1970s for his case against energy company 
Kerr-McGee, when he provided legal services to the family of former 
employee Karen Silkwood, who died suspiciously after she challenged the 
company of environmental abuses at one of their most productive nuclear 
facilities. Silkwood, who made plutonium pellets for nuclear reactors, 
had been assigned by her union to investigate health and safety concerns 
at a Kerr-McGee plant near Crescent, Oklahoma. In her monitoring of the 
facility Silkwood found dozens of evident regulatory violations, 
including faulty respiratory equipment as well as many cases of workers 
being exposed to radioactive material.

Silkwood went public after the company seemingly ignored her and her 
union's concerns, even going as far as to testify to the Atomic Energy 
Commission (AEC) about the issues, claiming that regulations were 
sidestepped in an attempt to up the speed of production. She also 
claimed that workers had been mishandling nuclear fuel rods, but the 
company has covered up the incidences by falsifying inspection reports.

On the night of November 13, 1974, Silkwood left a union meeting in 
Crescent with documents in hand to drive to Oklahoma City where she was 
to meet and discuss Kerr-McGee's alleged violations with a union 
official and two New York Times reporters. She never made it. Silkwood's 
body was found the next day in the driver's seat of her car on the side 
of the road, stuck in a culvert. She was pronounced dead on the scene 
and no documents were found in her car.

An independent private investigation revealed that Silkwood was in full 
control of her vehicle when it was struck from behind and forced off to 
the side of the road. According to the private investigators, the 
steering wheel of her car was bent in a manner that showed conclusively 
that Silkwood was prepared for the blow of the accident as it occurred. 
She had not been asleep at the wheel as investigators initially thought. 
The coroner concluded she had not died as a result of the accident, but 
possibly from suffocation.

No arrests or charges were ever made. Silkwood's children and father 
filed a lawsuit against Kerr-McGee on behalf of her estate. Gerry Spence 
was their lead attorney. An autopsy of Silkwood's body showed extremely 
high levels of plutonium contamination. Lawyers for Kerr-McGee argued 
first that the levels found were normal, but after damning evidence to 
the contrary, they were forced to argue that Silkwood had likely 
poisoned herself.

Spence had been victorious. Kerr-McGee's defense was caught in a series 
of unavoidable contradictions. Silkwood's body was laden with poison as 
result of her work at the nuclear facility. In her death Spence 
vindicated her well-documented claims. The initial jury verdict was for 
the company to pay $505,000 in damages and $10,000,000 in punitive 
damages. Kerr-McGee appealed and drastically reduced the jury's verdict, 
but the initial ruling was later upheld by the Supreme Court. On the way 
to a retrial the company agreed to pay $1.38 million to the Silkwood estate.

Gerry Spence was not cowed by the antics of the Kerr-McGee Corporation, 
and when he agreed to take on Dave Foreman's case pro-bono, justice 
seemed to be on the horizon for the Earth First! activists as well.

"Picture a little guy out there hacking at a dead steel pole, an 
inanimate object, with a blowtorch. He's considered a criminal," said 
Spence, explaining how he planned to steer the narrative of Foreman's 
pending trial. "Now see the image of a beautiful, living, 
400-year-old-tree, with an inanimate object hacking away at it. This 
non-living thing is corporate America, but the corporate executives are 
not considered criminals at all."

Like so many of the FBI charges brought against radical activists 
throughout the years, the case against Dave Foreman was less exciting 
than the investigation that led up to his arrest. The bureau had done 
its best to make Foreman and Earth First! out to be the most threatening 
activists in America.

Spence was not impressed and in fact argued as much, stating the scope 
of the FBI's operation THERMCON was "very similar to the procedures the 
FBI used during the 1960s against dissident groups." No doubt Spence was 
right. Similar to the movement disruption exemplified by COINTELPRO 
against Martin Luther King Jr., the Black Panthers and the American 
Indian Movement, the FBI's crackdown of Earth First! in the late 1980s 
had many alarming parallels to the agency of old.

"Essentially what we need to understand is that the Federal Bureau of 
Investigation, which was formed during the Palmer Raids in 1921, was set 
up from the very beginning to inhibit internal political dissent. They 
rarely go after criminals. They're a thought police," said Foreman of 
the FBI's motives for targeting environmentalists. "Let's face it, 
that's what the whole government is. Foreman's first law of government 
reads that the purpose of the state, and all its constituent elements, 
is the defense of an entrenched economic elite and philosophical 
orthodoxy. Thankfully, there's a corollary to that law---they aren't 
always very smart and competent in carrying out their plans."

The man who was paid to infiltrate Earth First! under the guise of 
THERMCON was anything but competent. Special agent Michael A. Fain, 
stationed in the FBI's Phoenix office, befriended Peg Millet and begun 
attending Earth First! meetings in the area. Fain, who went by alias, 
Mike Tait, posed as a Vietnam vet who dabbled in construction and gave 
up booze after his military service. On more than one occasion, while 
wearing a wire, Fain had tried to entice members of Earth First! in 
different acts of vandalism. They repeatedly refused.

During pre-trial evidence discovery the defense was allowed to listen to 
hours of Fain's wire-tapings, when they found that the not-so-careful 
agent inadvertently forgot to turn off his recorder. Fain, while having 
a conversation with two other agents at a Burger King after a brief 
meeting with Foreman, spoke about the status of his investigation, 
exclaiming, "I don't really look for them to be doing a lot of hurting 
people... [Dave Foreman] isn't really the guy we need to pop --- I mean 
in terms of an actual perpetrator. This is the guy we need to pop to 
send a message. And that's all we're really doing... Uh-oh! We don't 
need that on tape! Hoo boy!"

Here the FBI was, acting as if these Earth First!ers were, publicly 
vilifying them, while privately admitting that they posed no real 
threat. "[The agency is acting] as if [its] dealing with the most 
dangerous, violent terrorists that the country's ever known," explained 
Spence at the time. "And what we are really dealing with is ordinary, 
decent human beings who are trying to call the attention of America to 
the fact that the Earth is dying."

The FBI's rationale for targeting Foreman was purely political as he was 
one of the most prominent and well-spoken radical environmentalists of 
the time. Despite their claims that they were not directly targeting 
Earth First! or Foreman, and were instead investigating threats of 
sabotage of power lines that led to a nuclear power plant --- their 
public indictment painted quite a different story.

"Mr. Foreman is the worst of the group," Assistant U.S. Attorney Roger 
Dokken announced to the court. "He sneaks around in the background ... I 
don't like to use the analogy of a Mafia boss, but they never do 
anything either. They just sent their munchkins out to do it."

But agent Michael Fain's on-tape gaffes were simply too much for the 
prosecution to manage, and the case against Foreman, having been 
deferred almost seven years, was finally reduced in 1996 to a single 
misdemeanor and a meager $250 in fines. The $2 million the FBI wasted 
tracking Earth First! over the latter part of the 1980s had only been 
nominally successful. Yet the alleged ring-leader was still free. 
Unfortunately, the FBI may have gotten exactly what they wanted all 
along. Dave Foreman later stepped down as spokesman to Earth First! and 
inherited quite a different role in the environmental movement --- one 
of invisibility and near silence.

Peg Millet, Mark Davis and Marc Baker were all sentenced separately in 
1991 for their involvement in their group EMETIC's acts of ecotage 
against the expansion of Arizona Snowbowl. Davis got 6 years and $19,821 
in restitution. Millet only 3 years, with the same fine, while Baker 
only received 6 months and a $5,000 fine.

Little did these activists know that there capture and subsequent 
arraignments were only the beginning. THERMCON's crackdown of Earth 
First! would prove to be a dry-run for the Federal Bureau of Investigations.

/*Joshua Frank* is author of Left Out! How Liberals Helped Reelect 
George W. Bush 
<http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1567513107/counterpunchmaga> (Common 
Courage Press, 2005), and along with Jeffrey St. Clair, the editor of 
Red State Rebels: Tales of Grassroots Resistance in the Heartland 
and /of Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion 
published by AK Press. Hopeless is now available in Kindle format 
/ He can be reached at brickburner at gmail.com 
<mailto:brickburner at gmail.com>./

/*Jeffrey St. Clair's* latest books are Born Under a Bad Sky and 
Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion 
published by AK Press. Hopeless is now available in Kindle format 
<http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B007X497NM/counterpunchmaga>.  He can 
be reached at: sitka at comcast.net <mailto:sitka at comcast.net>/

Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 415 
863.9977 www.freedomarchives.org
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