On December 7, the feds announced the arrest of 6 people suspected of eco-terrorism crimes. Shortly after, they announced that a seventh person had been indicted, though not arrested. Now, apparently, the seventh arrest has been made and that person identified. He — Darren Thurston — is a long time activist from Canada, who was arrested on immigration charges (he allegedly used a fake green card).
An Animal Liberation Front saboteur from Canada who emerged as a seminal figure in a wave of North American eco-sabotage nearly two decades ago was indicted Wednesday in Portland by a federal grand jury for allegedly carrying a phony green card.
Darren Thurston was arrested last week in Northwest Portland with an Oregon woman suspected of taking part in a series of arson and vandalism in the Pacific Northwest dating to 1998. Thurston's entree into the case throws an international twist into the United States' most extensive eco-sabotage bust.
There's quite a bit written on Mr. Thurston, who seems not to be a very nice soul. Perhaps the most complete and well-documented article is to be found on the Fur Commission's web site, which reports that Mr. Thurston joined forces with David Barbarash, another Animal Liberationist.
Evidently, Mr. Thurston firebombed three trucks in 1991; in 1992 he and Barbarash "liberated" animals from the University of Alberta, a crime for which he spent three months in jail; in 1995, having rejoined Mr. Barbarash, the two joined Bear Watch, an organization opposing bear hunting, from which they were kicked out for being too radical; in 1995 the RCMP suspected Thurston and Barbarash of mailing pipe bombs to various targets; and in 1996, they were suspected of mailing letters laced with razor blades to members of the media and to hunting guides and outfitters.
Brian Carnell points to an article in which police officers reportedly secretly opened a locker rented by Thurston and Barbarash, and marked envelopes containing razor blades with ultraviolet ink. Those envelopes were later to be received by guides and outfitters, and at least by one paper. Although charges were filed against both Thurston and Barbarash, they were subsequently dropped. As Carnell put it:
So why are the charges being dropped? According to the police, because the Canadian intelligence service was also investigating Thurston in connection with a series of pipe bomb attacks he was a suspect in. The police decided to cooperate with the intelligence agency investigation. Under Canadian law, however, since the police coordinated their efforts with the intelligence agency, everything about the intelligence agency's investigation has to be disclosed in order for the case to proceed -- a move which the intelligence agency has blocked for national security reasons despite the police desire to move forward with the case."
Back to today's report, which continues to become interestinger and interestinger. It seems that Mr. Thurston was connected to Chelsea Gerlach, one of the six other people arrested by the feds, and a person who is a suspect in the notorious Vail Colorado arson that caused $12 million in damages.
Thurston and Chelsea Gerlach were arrested as they stepped out of a 1995 Toyota Corolla at Northwest 18th Avenue and Flanders Street. But the government has remained silent about how Thurston and Gerlach came to know each other and whether Thurston figures in the sabotage in Oregon and Washington.
"I couldn't comment," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen Peifer, who has taken the lead on prosecuting domestic terrorism in Oregon dating to cases against anti-abortion extremists in the early 1990s.
The charges against Thurston accuse him of possessing a phony green card, an identification document that allows foreigners to stay or remain employed in the United States. That card, as well as a phony Social Security card, bore the name Kevin Gregory Barske, according to the indictment.
Although Gerlach is a relative unknown in the radical environmental underground, Thurston -- an anarchist dubbed the "Mad Bomber" in high school, according to Canadian press accounts -- remains a key figure in the eco-underground.
Heh . . . the "Mad Bomber."
It seems Mr. Thurston is well-matched with Mr. Barbarash . . . they were reportedly kicked out of Bear Watch for being a tad over the top: "Barbarash was a little out of control," said a spokesman. "We didn't like what they were doing. That's why they're no longer with Bear Watch." (op cit).
The 35-year-old activist was convicted of setting fire to fish trucks in 1991 in Edmonton, Alberta, according to Canadian news accounts. The following year, Thurston and close friend David Barbarash, another key figure in the underground movement, burglarized a University of Alberta laboratory, stealing 29 cats set for medical experimentation.
During an interview with No Compromise, Mr. Thurston expressed his annoyance at a fellow liberationist (or, former liberationist?) who ended up walking after she provided the authorities with information about the cat theft. In Mr. Thurston's words, that person "was immediately disowned by the animal liberation community in which she was active, she has been labeled a traitor and informant in Canada."
Barbarash, an anarchist and punk rocker from Toronto, began traveling the American West by van in 1989, protesting at the Bonneville Dam and blocking a logging operation in Oregon's Kalmiopsis Wilderness before his 1994 arrest in Northern California. When police pulled him over near Santa Cruz, Barbarash was carrying phony identification and a map of U.S. power plants. He would later become the above-ground spokesman for the Animal Liberation Front from his home in Courtenay, B.C.
In 1998, Canadian authorities charged Barbarash and Thurston with mailing letters booby-trapped with razors to hunting guides and fur industry officials. Royal Canadian Mounted Police investigators traced the men to a storage locker in Vancouver, B.C., where they found materials that they reported were linked to the crimes.
Those charges were dropped in late 2000, according to news accounts in Canada, because RCMP investigators refused to disclose to their government the identity of informants in their case, which they said might compromise an investigation in another country.
Thurston is being held in a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention facility in Tacoma.
Gerlach was among seven men and women charged last week in five arsons and the toppling of a high-voltage tower near Bend. The Earth Liberation Front and Animal Liberation Front, classified by the FBI as the nation's leading domestic terrorist threats, claimed responsibility for the fires, but no one stepped forward in the tower vandalism.
Gerlach, 28, also was identified in a Eugene courtroom this week as a suspect in the Oct. 19, 1998, arson of a ski resort in Vail, Colo., which caused $12 million damage. The conflagration stood for nearly five years as the most destructive act of eco-sabotage on U.S. soil.
Gerlach has not been indicted in the Vail arson. She was charged with conspiring to topple the high-voltage tower near Bend on Dec. 30, 1999, and she was cited in a criminal complaint with acting as a lookout in the Mother's Day 1999 arson of Childer's Meat Co. in Eugene on behalf of the Animal Liberation Front.
A federal prosecutor in Eugene, Assistant U.S. Attorney Kirk Engdahl, said Tuesday during a bail hearing that Gerlach was a suspect in several other firebombings, including fires at timber company sites in Medford, Monmouth and Clatskanie, as well as a multimillion-dollar arson at the University of Washington's urban horticulture school in Seattle.
This story just keeps developing.