Monkeywrenching And Ecotage: The Earth Liberation Front

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The Earth Liberation Front (ELF) is a collective name given to the autonomous, covert cells of individuals who commit acts of terrorism aimed to stop the exploitation of the environment. ELF has experienced many incarnations, including the Environmental Life Force in 1977 and the Earth First! movement (Balleck, 2018). In England in 1992, Earth First! members established ELF because they were frustrated by their organization’s denouncement of illegal tactics (Joosse, 2007). ELF was developed as a commitment to extremism to defend the environment against environmentally harmful corporate actions by using various forms of economic sabotage. This economic sabotage is also known as “ecotage” or “monkeywrenching;” it is nonviolent and only aimed at inanimate objects, such as property. The primary motivating concepts behind ELF include biocentrism, which is the belief that all organisms are equal and consequently deserve the same moral rights, and deep ecology, which favors the rollback of industrialization to preserve the environment (Leader & Probst, 2003). With the current global warming debate and climate changes abounding, ELF’s goals likely resonate with more people than ever.

By 2001, the FBI classified ELF as “ecoterrorists” and was considered the top domestic threat in the United States. As a whole, ELF does not believe in engaging in acts of terrorism by the usual definition. Therefore, we believe we must introduce an altered definition to encompass our organization’s goals, which include emphasizing the importance of educating the public, taking precautionary actions against harming any living beings, and inflicting economic damage on those profiting from environmental exploitation (Joosse, 2012). We define terrorism as the deliberate employment of acts specifically designed to psychologically and/or physically impact a population of people, aiming to intimidate civilians and to influence the policies of either the government or a private company. A target population, which may be specific or random, feels the immediate impact of these acts. The aftereffects of these tactics are intended to continue impacting the targeted population as well as those outside of the initial target area. Intimidation, coercion, or media exposure are the three primary end goals of terrorist activities. 

To increase our future success, we believe that ELF’s previous strategy of “leaderless resistance,” wherein new cells are spontaneously formed due to inspiration from other cells’ actions, is integral (Joosse, 2012). Ideological clashes are avoided by allowing adherents to determine ELF’s name in a way that suits their beliefs, thus creating a consensus among individuals with vastly different ideological orientations (Joosse, 2007). Furthermore, this method is effective in preventing detection and prosecution by government agencies. Yet, because cells are independent and anonymous, members lack the ability to communicate directly. Instead, ELF relies on spokespeople to broadcast their message, therefore allowing underground cells to communicate with each other by publicly sharing their actions via credit claims (Brown, 2017). These credit-claiming communications serve many functions including establishing a collective identity, recruiting new members, setting agendas for future actions, and enforcing operational and behavioral standards for the organization’s actions, such as the emphasis on non-injurious property destruction. Recruitment may occur via a pyramid model wherein the higher levels are associated with increased radicalization and the base includes those who sympathize with the terrorists’ goals (McCauley & Moskalenko, 2008). By emphasizing the goals of the group through their terrorist attacks, the upper levels of the pyramid of individuals already within ELF cells may motivate sympathizers to establish their own clandestine cells and participate in furthering ELF’s objectives.

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To comply with ELF’s goals, our terrorist cell intends to attack the new Amazon buildings in Crystal City, Virginia. We chose Amazon as our target because it is a large corporation that benefits from exploiting the environment; the company contributes to environmental deterioration with its fast shipping policies and packing methods. In our attack, we plan to employ a demolition expert to implode the new Amazon buildings. Implosion was chosen to confine the destruction to one area and to show an escalation from former tactics. Previous ELF cells were funded by a number of sympathetic and allied organizations, as well as by wealthy benefactors; similar contributions will allow us to purchase the necessary materials and hire any personnel whose expertise we desire. For surveillance, I will learn the routine of the construction personnel working on the Amazon buildings, through both video and photography, so that we may enter undetected and place the necessary demolition materials. Before demolition is initiated, we will wait until construction is nearing completion, but before the site is fully functional. This timing should allow us to avoid the security measures that would be implemented once Amazon employees move in, while also garnering the most public attention.

Avoiding detection and apprehension is another reason the Crystal City buildings were chosen; our cell discussed various possible targets and concluded it would be easier to wait and attack a building that has yet to install security measures than to target Amazon HQ in Seattle and risk injuring security personnel. After all, terrorist operations are typically designed to minimize risk while achieving the highest probability of success (Forst, 2009). Our attack will take place in the middle of the night, around 3:00 am, because that is when most police officers are switching shifts. Furthermore, there are unlikely to be any people inside the buildings or in the surrounding area at that time. To ensure human safety, we will scan the building with a heat sensor so that we may then evacuate any people still inside by pulling a fire alarm. Demolition will be triggered remotely, so that no one is injured in the blast and to prevent our apprehension. After the demolition occurs, we will immediately hack Amazon’s website; anyone attempting to view the website will be redirected to an ELF promotional video claiming credit for the attack and emphasizing our beliefs to increase recruitment for future attacks.

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