In this article in the Slingshot, Judi Bari updates readers on the lawsuit she and Darryl Cherney brought against the FBI and the Oakland Police Department after a bomb exploded in their car, almost killing them, on May 24, 1990 while they were organizing for Redwood Summer. The police arrested them after the bombing, and it is Bari and Cherney's contention that the police knew they were victims but used the explosion to launch a smear campaign against them, Redwood Summer, and Earth First!
For the past 3 1/2 years, the lawsuit has been in the "discovery" phase, during which we have gotten access to 7,000 pages of FBI and police files, viewed the physical evidence, and compiled 6,000 pages of sworn testimony from FBI, Oakland Police Department and other witnesses. Here are some of the latest things to come to light:
In 1996 one of our accomplishments was to win a court order forcing the FBI to turn over their long-withheld San Francisco field office file on the Arizona Earth First! FBI sting operation. This operation, which lasted from 1988-1990, was a classic COINTELPRO-style campaign, in which the FBI infiltrated the Arizona Earth First! group with agent provocateurs.
These provocateurs, including Undercover Agent Michael Fain and paid FBI informant Ron Frazier, won the trust of a small group of activists over a period of two years, then convince them to cut down a power line. The FBI agent bought the tools, taught the activists how to use them, chose the site, drove the activists there, and of course, busted them in the act.
The FBI claimed that the Arizona EF! case had nothing to do with us. [This was a change because when Bari and Cherney were arrested for bombing themselves, the police labeled them "radical activists" connected to Earth First! and the Santa Cruz power pole sabotage, linked to a federal case of attempted destruction of nuclear power plant lines in Arizona."] We claim that the case is key to ours, because it shows that, at the time of the bombing, Earth First! was an active target of an FBI COINTELPRO operation designed (in the classic words of J. Edgar Hoover) to misdirect, discredit, and neutralize us.
Even more important, the FBI's plan in Arizona was to misdirect and discredit EF! by associating us with explosives. The FBI's code name for the Arizona EF! case was "Thermcon", an acronym for Thermite Conspiracy. This name is very revealing of the FBI's motives, since there was not thermite, or any other explosive, used in any EF! action, ever. But, as shown in the file, the two provocateurs spent years telling the EF!ers they could get them thermite, and trying to convince them to use thermite. Eventually the FBI had to settle for getting the activists to cut down the power pole with an acetylene torch, as they were unable to convince them to use explosives. But it is important to note that operation Thermcon did not consist of the FBI infiltrating EF! to break up a thermite conspiracy. It consisted of the FBI using provocateurs to infiltrate EF! and try to CREATE a thermite conspiracy for them to bust.
It is in the context of this ongoing COINTELPRO operation against EF!--this attempt to discredit us by linking us with explosives--that the FBI terrorist squad moved in after I was bombed in Oakland and declared Darryl and me to be the bombers.
One man named Mark Berry, who lived in Marin and was not a EF!er or even an activist, was placed under total surveillance by the FBI because he was visited by EF!er Mark Davis, the central target of the Arizona sting. Davis and Berry were old friends who used to work together in a cabinet-making shop. Even though there was no evidence of Berry being involved in any crimes ever, the FBI placed a phone and mail cover on him, had agents parked outside his house following his every move, and flew surveillance planes over him. They even sent a pregnant FBI agenda and a man FBI agent to check out Berry's cabinet shop, posing as husband and wife shopping for furniture for baby.
The Thermcon file pages that we have seen do not specifically show them surveilling Darryl or me, but much of the file is blacked out and there are pages missing. The file does show that the FBI was conducting undercover operations against Earth First! in Mendocino County where I live, as early as 1988. And, although the Thermcon case was closed in January 1990, the San Francisco FBI continued to put local reports in the file in March 1990 which show that an undercover FBI informant was meeting with an undercover agent once a week, somewhere in Northern California. We can't tell the subject or content of these meetings because the document is heavily blacked out. I was bombed only two months later.