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When Americans think of terrorists after Sept. 11, 2001, images of Arab men motivated by a perverted version of Islam inevitably come to mind. In contrast, the moniker “environmentalist” conjures up visions of granola-eating, tree-hugging, peace-loving hippies. Yet, just as a small number of radical Muslims are sullying a great religion, a new breed of ecoterrorists is poisoning the once pure environmental movement. A rising tide of ecoterror is rapidly spreading across America. The FBI has declared the Earth Liberation Front and the Animal Liberation Front to be domestic terrorist groups. In a Feb. 12, 2002, Associated Press report, James F. Jarboe, then the FBI’s domestic terrorism section chief, said that since 1996, ELF and ALF have caused “$43 million in damage through more than 600 attacks, ranging from spray-painting buildings to firebombing fur farms, research centers and a ski resort.” For example, The Baton Rouge Advocatereported what it described as a “history” of attacks on research labs for which ELF took credit, including an attack on a laboratory at the University of Minnesota that delayed research on a cancer vaccine. According to an Associated Press report in October, ELF took credit for an arson attack at a Vail, Colo., ski resort. (A lynx habitat had been at issue.) In 1999, Newhouse News Service reported that a man claiming to be a spokesman for ELF announced that ELF took credit for breaking into a mink ranch in Mount Angel, Ore., and freeing more than 12,000 minks, causing what was believed to the largest animal release in U.S. history. The danger of ecoterrorism is hardly confined to America. The European news agency Novum reported that the damage caused by animal rights activists in Europe in the last 20 years totals $60 million. While these acts of ecoterror are clearly illegal, few people realize that the money used to commit many of these crimes may have been illegally laundered through tax-exempt organizations whose donors – individuals and nonprofit foundations unaware of the laundering – receive tax deductions. IRS Should Take a Closer Look Public Interest Watch on Sept. 22 filed a letter with the Internal Revenue Service requesting an investigation. The group also had testified before a congressional subcommittee at a hearing on ecoterrorism in February 2002. The watchdog group has stated that it examined financial records of a number of nonprofit organizations. Public Interest Watch alleged to the IRS that Greenpeace Fund Inc., an environmental organization designated by the IRS as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, has been transferring funds to nonexempt groups (such as 501(c)(4) nonprofits), which then use the money to fund nontax-exempt acts that, it claims, interfere with military and other government and private-sector activities by means of blockades and other protests. Such wholesale transfers from more tax-restrictive organizations to less-restrictive organizations would be illegal on their face because there would be no way to be sure that commingled funds were not used for nonexempt purposes. Legal activities for 501(c)(3) groups are, for example, charitable, religious, educational or scientific. In a report entitled “Green-Peace, Dirty Money: Tax Violations in the World of Non-Profits,” submitted as part of the IRS letter, Public Interest Watch alleged that Greenpeace Fund Inc. is a mere clearinghouse, used for transferring millions of dollars to other Greenpeace entities that have, in turn, earned a reputation for “civil disobedience” that includes illegal acts. For example, AFX News reported in March that the Greenpeace ship “Rainbow Warrior” staged a blockade at the joint Spanish and U.S. naval base Rota in southern Spain. In January, the Associated Press reported that more than 30 Greenpeace antinuclear protesters broke into a central control building of the Sizewell B nuclear power station in England; 12 protesters were arrested. (This followed an incident in October 2002 when 100 Greenpeace protesters broke into the same plant.) In May, the New Zealand Heraldreported that a Greenpeace boat collided with an America’s Cup yacht, damaging its hull, during an antinuclear protest in France. (Greenpeace insists it was an accident.) Greenpeace Charm Wearing Thin The U.S. Department of Justice is not amused by these antics. In April 2002, Greenpeace activists forcibly boarded a cargo ship in Florida that carried Brazilian wood. According to a New York Timesreport, two protesters spent the weekend in custody and were released. But 15 months later, Greenpeace Inc. was indicted in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida. The government has alleged that Greenpeace itself authorized the illegal boarding. Prosecuting ecoterrorists has proved difficult; they have a “cell” structure and lack centralized leaderships or membership rosters. But this is precisely why it is critically important that the IRS does its part to immobilize ecoterror groups by investigating how moneys flow through tax-exempt organizations to affiliates. Levin is an appellate lawyer in Austin, president of the American Freedom Center and associate editor of theAustin Review . He can be reached at [email protected] .

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