Nearly six years after the Earth Liberation Front set off its first firebomb in the United States, the feds may have gotten their first break in figuring out who runs this dangerous eco-terrorist group.
In congressional testimony last month, Richard Berman, of the Center for Consumer Freedom, produced a tax return from the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). It turns out PETA isn't just funding anti-milk and anti-fur organizations.
It's funding arsonists.
On April 20, 2001, PETA donated $1,500 to the North American Earth Liberation Front to "support their [sic] program activities."
One need look no further than ELF's Web site to see what those activities are: The page features a building engulfed in flames.
According to James Jarboe, domestic-terrorism chief of the FBI's Counter-terrorism Division, ELF is "the largest and most active U.S.-based terrorist group" and has already caused more than $43 million in damage since 1996.
The discovery of the donation is crucial not only because it sheds more light on PETA's misguided sympathies, but also because it could lead to the names of individuals connected to ELF — names that have so far eluded authorities.
This is not the first time PETA has been linked with domestic terrorists. PETA served as "spokesgroup" for the Animal Liberation Front, ELF's close counterpart, from 1989 to 1990.
And while scouring PETA's financials, Berman's folks also found that:
It donated $70,200 to the defense of Rodney Coronado, an ALF member convicted of a fire-bombing at Michigan State University. He pleaded guilty to similar crimes at Oregon and Washington State universities.
In 1999, PETA gave $2,000 to David Wilson, an ALF activist who once bragged about the movement's expansion into "wildlife actions."
In 2000, PETA gave $5,000 to the "Josh Harper Support Committee." Harper is an ALF member arrested on numerous occasions.
PETA's tarnished image
PETA's cuddly image has also been tarnished by its own staff. Spokesman Bruce Friedrich sounded more like an active ELF member than a crusader for animal rights when he said, "It would be great if all the fast-food outlets, slaughterhouses, these laboratories and the banks who fund them exploded tomorrow."
PETA's board of directors later had to censure him.
As for the donation to ELF, PETA President Ingrid Newkirk admits giving the money, but claims it was an honest mistake, that the money was supposed to go toward "public education about destruction of habitat."
Maybe, maybe not.
But in a letter to Newkirk, Rep. Scott McInnis (R.-Colo.) poses seven questions, including why PETA made the donation and if it intends to donate again. And, most important: "Whose signature appeared on the returned check that PETA gave ELF?"
If the feds can get that name, it might be able to bust this ring of eco-terrorists wide open.
Now, PETA claims to be a peaceful animal-rights group opposed to illegal activities. If that's true, Newkirk will answer McInnis' questions.
So far, she's not saying what she'll do. But if she doesn't talk, there may be dire consequences for PETA.
Monday, the Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise, a Bellvue, Wash., -based group that tracks criminal attacks against businesses, sent a complaint to the IRS, asking that PETA's tax-exempt status be stripped because there is "information [that] strongly suggests that PETA induces or encourages the commission of unlawful acts."
Certainly, time is of the essence. As McInnis says, if ELF is not brought to heel, "it's just a matter of time before a human life is taken."
This article was republished with the permission of the New York Post