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Homegrown terrorism imperils farms

Farmers, ranchers, researchers and any facility that uses animals for testing or works with bio-engineered plants are on notice to be vigilant about security — but not necessarily from Al Quaeda, Iraq or any other foreign-based terrorist organization.

Enough homegrown, made in the U.S.A, self-righteous organizations whose main missions appear to consist of doing away with anything not “natural,” provide ample cause for concern, according to two federal law enforcement agents on hand at a recent small grains seminar in Abilene, Texas.

Mark Huber, FBI, and Larry Enmon, FDA office of criminal investigation, said two organizations, the Animal Liberation Front and the Earth Liberation Front (ALF and ELF) engage in vandalism, theft, animal releases (which they refer to as “rescues”), arson, laboratory raids, and genetic crop destruction.

“We haven't seen a lot of activity in Texas yet,” said Huber. “California, Oregon, Minnesota and Michigan have been hot spots. We have seen some general activity, mostly protests, demonstrations and some animal releases in Texas.

“We've also seen some genetically engineered crop plots destroyed. Most activity in Texas has occurred in the southern part of the state.”

“We have no intelligence of that activity in north or central Texas,” Enmon says.

Enmon says the organizations rarely claim credit immediately for destructive activities, usually waiting until they're certain no person was injured. Huber says the loose-knit characteristic of the organizations makes infiltration difficult. Few members know details of operations.

“They keep things pretty close to the vest,” he said, “so it's hard for law enforcement to know what's being planned. Often, ALF and ELF will combine efforts.”

Huber said the organizations began inauspiciously from 1979 through 1984.

“From 1984 through 1992, they concentrated on growth and developed a grassroots movement from 1992 through 1996. Since than, ALF and ELF have worked in cooperation in various criminal activities, including arson and laboratory raids.”

Within each organization, Huber said, are “extremist cells, consistent with any terrorist group. These cells keep information close.”

He said the trend is to begin with overt activities conducted in public and then move on to violent, covert actions.”

The difficulty law enforcement faces is the apparent lack of organization. “It's not a hierarchical body,” Enmon said. “Local groups have a certain amount of autonomy and can create serious economical hardships.”

Huber and Enmon agreed that underestimating the capabilities and commitment of the leadership of these “extremist organizations would be a mistake.”

“Don't write them off as nutcases,” Enmon said. “They may be, but they are well-organized fanatics.”

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