Law enforcement officials focus on a different kind of terrorism

By Tim Scordato

Eco-terrorism is a term not heard often among the general public, but it is the center of controversy for animal rights activists and the FBI.

In his speech to the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works in May, John E. Lewis, Deputy Assistant Director of Counterterrorism Division for the FBI, said “From January 1990 to June 2004, animal and environmental rights extremists have claimed credit for more than 1,200 criminal incidents, resulting in millions of dollars in damage and monetary loss.”

He also said he has a growing concern for the increased violence of animal rights activists.

Harassing phone calls and mild vandalism have escalated to personal threats and the use of explosive devices, Lewis said.

One of the more extreme threats was witnessed earlier this decade in Chicago.

Frank Bochte, special agent spokesman for the FBI, said the case for the vandalism to Supreme Lobster and Seafood Co. delivery trucks in February 2003 is still on trial.

Brake lines and refrigeration systems on 48 trucks were cut and “ALF-No Brakes” was written on the building, Bochte said.

ALF (Animal Liberation Front) and ELF (Earth Liberation Front) are two of the many animal rights groups that are led by an unclear governing body.

The growth of eco-terrorism has grown so rapidly, Bochte said, that “Domestic terrorism is the top priority of the FBI.”

Despite the lack of a clear governing system, many animal rights activists attended the final trial in Madison, Wis. of 28-year-old Peter Young, who was accused of domestic terrorism.

The Peter Young Support Committee said more than 50 people from across the country attended his trial on Nov. 8.

According to, Young and his accomplice Justin Samuel were pulled over in Sheboygan County, Wis., in October 1997 when mink farmers grew suspicious of their presence around their barns.

Young pled guilty to the release of 7,000 minks from four Midwestern fur farms.

The two were indicted in September 1998 in Madison for four counts of extortion and two counts of animal enterprise terrorism that carried an 82-year prison sentence.

Samuel and Young went underground and fled their indictments, but both were caught in 1999.

Samuel was picked up in Belgium and Young was arrested in San Jose, Calif., at a Starbucks for stealing CDs.

The Peter Young Support committee said the courts dropped the 82-year sentence because of a Supreme Court ruling that protects political activists against extortion charges.

Young’s final sentence accumulated to 360 hours of community service to a charity that only benefits humans, $254,000 restitution, and two years in a federal prison with a one-year probation.