VIOLENCE IN THE
NAME OF THE ENVIRONMENT
The Case of the Calculating Eco-terrorist
In the small hours of
August 22, 2003, 125 sport utility vehicles at auto dealerships and neighborhoods
near Los Angeles were firebombed with molotov cocktails and spray-painted
with Earth Liberation Front (ELF) messages – including an inscrutable
mathematical equation on the side of an SUV: eiπ+1=0.
That's Euler's Formula,
an equation that provides a powerful connection between analysis, trigonometry,
and the five most fundamental numbers in mathematics – not exactly
your everyday terrorist calling card.
And that's not all. One
of these "eco-terrorists" followed up with an e-mail (using a fictitious
name and e-mail address) to the Los Angeles Times. He claimed responsibility
for the arsons and vandalism and explained that he had painted the Euler's
Formula on the SUV to identify himself and his co-conspirators. At the time
that he sent the e-mail, the details of what was written on the vehicles
had not been publicly released.
The FBI traced
the e-mail to a physics graduate student at a nearby university.
Following a joint investigation
by the West Covina Police Department, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms,
and Explosives and the FBI's Los Angeles Office, the student was arrested,
and charged with conspiracy, arson and using a destructive device. He goes
on trial next month. If found guilty of all the charges, he faces at least
35 years in prison. His accomplices are believed to have fled the country.
eco-terrorist attacks are on the rise in the United States. Environmental
and animal rights extremists committed 46 acts of domestic terrorism in
2000 and 59 in 2003. ELF has even boasted on its website that its members
racked up some $55 million dollars in damages in 2003 through illegal anti-development
and SUV dealership attacks.
Richard Garcia, head of
our LA office, says this on the subject: "Environmental activists who
engage in violent acts such as arson are misguided zealots. The FBI respects,
encourages and protects people who peacefully exercise their right
to free speech. But we will relentlessly investigate and bring to justice
extremists who commit violent acts, which put the lives of innocent citizens
Just as we are doing here
in the case of the Calculating Eco-Terrorist.
LA Office press release | U.S.
Attorney Central District of California press release