| Media Go to Him for Analysis|
Of Environmental Violence
The FBI Hasn't Spotted
By Bob Ortega
The Wall Street Journal
(Copyright (c) 1999, Dow Jones & Company, Inc.)
EUREKA, Calif. -- From an old logging-company office deep in redwood
country here, Barry R. Clausen runs the investigations that he says
have made him America's leading authority on "eco-terrorists."
"We've documented 2,000" cases of violent environmentalism over the
past decade, Mr. Clausen says. "But I'd estimate it's closer to 4,000."
By his own account, Mr. Clausen has infiltrated radical
environmental groups, staked out logging protests and helped bust a drug ring. He
has testified before Congress about a rising tide of eco-terror, has
been quoted scores of times in the national and international press and has
appeared, he reckons, on 150 talk radio shows. Last fall, when a group calling
itself the Earth Liberation Front took credit for torching some ski-resort
buildings in Vail, Colo., on behalf of the lynx, CBS News had Mr. Clausen on
three times in a day.
"I get calls every day from people wanting information, including
the feds," Mr. Clausen says. "I feel good about what I've done."
Not everyone does, though, and that has made Mr. Clausen a
controversial figure in the endless battles between environmentalists and
industry, particularly in the West. The Federal Bureau of Investigation and
many other law enforcers don't see any sign of the surging eco-terror Mr.
Clausen describes. Pressed, he acknowledges that his list of documented
terror incidents includes graffiti and pie-throwings. Even some supporters
say he sometimes stretches the truth.
"I've chewed him out about that," says Bill Pickel, head of the
Washington Contract Loggers Association, which helped fund Mr. Clausen 's
infiltration of the activist group Earth First! -- and eventually pulled the plug on
him because, Mr. Pickel says, "he wasn't getting anywhere."
How Mr. Clausen became the man the media turn to on eco-terrorism is
a tale almost as rich as any of his adventures as a gumshoe. It says
something about how the media operate, too.
Mr. Clausen tells of a troubled childhood in Seattle, where as a
16-year-old he was arrested for car theft. Later, he worked for 14 years as a
railroad engineer in Montana. In 1985, he moved to Dallas to sell computers.
he says, he stumbled across a cocaine ring. "I was fascinated by
work," he says, so he began working as an informant for the U.S.
Enforcement Administration. His tips helped "convict several guys --
caught one with 12 kilos of cocaine in his car," he says.
But in a 1992 deposition in a civil lawsuit in Montana state court,
Clausen said he never worked for the DEA. Asked about that, Mr.
clarifies, "I worked with them, not for them." DEA officials
declined to say
whether Mr. Clausen ever assisted the agency.
The Montana civil lawsuit stemmed from a scrape in 1987. Mr. Clausen
been charged in a criminal case with stealing a rancher's assault
turning it into a fully automatic weapon. Mr. Clausen denies any
and says he was acting as an informant. Charges later were dropped.
Clausen won an out-of-court settlement in the civil lawsuit he
filed against his accusers.
He hooked onto the environmental movement while maintaining trails
U.S. Forest Service. After hearing complaints of vandalism that
blamed on Earth First!, Mr. Clausen offered to go undercover for
Mr. Clausen didn't get anyone arrested, but did produce "Walking on
Edge," a 306-page book about his year infiltrating the group. The
mostly details demonstrations and one "tree sitting." His marital
were also prominently featured. Mr. Pickel of the Washington
Loggers Association says it published about 5,000 copies, but it
blockbuster. "We got 2,000 left," he says. "You want one?"
Mr. Clausen won national attention in 1995 when he told reporters he
connect Theodore Kaczynski, the Unabomber, to Earth First! He
a Montana law officer leaked to him documents showing that Mr.
attended a 1994 environmental gathering with Earth First! members,
two Unabomber victims were on a corporate "hit list" in an extremist
publication. Scores of news outlets picked up the allegations,
Clausen in the national media Rolodex.
As it turns out, the "hit list" named sponsors of a conference of
mining and ranching interests and called for boycotts, graffiti and
but not violence. The environmental gathering, meanwhile, was
forestry conference attended by the U.S. Forest Service,
and Louisiana-Pacific Corp., among others. Conference organizers say
Kaczynski wasn't there, and federal investigators never verified his
Earth First! denies any connection to the Unabomber. Mr. Clausen
that, to protect his source, he won't disclose his proof. "There's
in my mind that the Unabomber was there," he says.
Mr. Clausen cultivates his press contacts through frequent barrages
tips. But his thousands of eco-terror incidents include mostly
nonviolent protests and similar actions. As for pies flung in faces
executives and politicians, "that's assault," Mr. Clausen says. The
attributes to eco-terrorists many incidents that law-enforcement
they don't know who committed, such as the arson at a U.S. Bureau of
Management building in Nevada in 1993. A lot of federal officials
was just as likely the work of antigovernment right-wing types.
Serious episodes do happen, such as the Vail arson, which caused an
estimated $12 million in damage and thrust Mr. Clausen into the
spotlight again. In addition to CBS, the New York Times, National
Radio, the Associated Press and many other news outlets featured
general, they now say they didn't know much about Mr. Clausen 's
background, or his terror list. Most say they found him through news
databases or Internet searches that turned up previous Clausen
"He seemed very credible," says Paulette Brown, a "CBS This Morning"
producer who booked Mr. Clausen on that show. Joe Garner, a reporter
the Rocky Mountain News, says that he wasn't familiar with Mr.
history, but that the man was hard to miss when the subject was
eco-terrorism. "Everybody gets his phone number," says Mr. Garner.
Agents at the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms
acknowledge knowing Mr. Clausen , but won't comment on the
his work. Neither agency sees eco-terror as a spreading scourge.
Williamson, chief of domestic terrorism analysis for the FBI, says
have not seen a dramatic increase in the numbers of these
ATF spokesman says there have been "maybe four or five" eco-related
bombings or arsons in the last few years, nothing "widespread." A
spokesman for the National Association of Attorneys General's task
terrorism says the issue of eco-terrorism "hasn't come up."
Mr. Clausen presses on, sometimes thanklessly. Timber-industry
provide his office and computers, but, "basically, I'm broke," he
He can still raise a ruckus, though. Just last week, he spotted an
Earth First!'s magazine criticizing California wineries for lopping
down old oak
trees. Mr. Clausen saw it as a threat by the group to conduct
indeed, the article's last words mused about the possibility that
someone might sneak in and tear up vineyards planted where old oaks
Mr. Clausen fired off warnings to wineries and the California Farm
that violence might be imminent. Somewhere along the line, his
misinterpreted as a direct threat from Earth First! itself, and the
local paper in
Santa Rosa, Calif., ran a story last week about possible pending
Earth First! against wineries. The AP picked up the story.
The muddle was straightened out two days later, and the farm bureau
others now say the threat was overblown. Earth First!'s Darryl
denounces the whole affair as a scare tactic and calls Mr. Clausen a
"It was a mix-up," concedes Mr. Clausen . But he still sees the need
vigilance. "I think people are waking up to the truth."
Copyright © 1999 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
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