"(The ELF) is a very difficult group to infiltrate," says FBI Special Agent David Szady, who is in charge of the work.
"However, people said we couldn't infiltrate the Mob the KGB. We did in both instances and I think we're going to be able to infiltrate these people," says Szady.
The underground group has claimed responsibility for more than 30 acts of economic sabotage against companies, researchers, even individuals it believes are harming the environment. So far none of its members has been identified or caught.
"These are sophisticated people," says Szady. "So they'll figure out: 'We're going to attack it at night, with night-vision goggles, put socks over our shoes, leave nothing behind to create a crime scene that law enforcement can tie us in with.'"
Its targets, many destroyed using homemade and highly efficient fire bombs, include lumber company offices, buildings at the Vail Ski Resort and recently, suburban home construction sites, which it says contribute to urban sprawl. The ELF claimed responsibility for burning three half-built luxury homes on Long Island, N.Y., and the Glendale, Ore., offices of the Superior Lumber Company crimes committed in the last few weeks.
The ELF claims responsibility for its crimes through 28-year-old Craig Rosebraugh of Portland, Ore. Rosebraugh denies being or knowing a member of the group and says it contacts him via anonymous email messages. Rosebraugh doesn't consider the ELF a violent group.
"(The ELF is) is using illegal direct action to try and stop the continued destruction of our natural environment. They're not threatening individuals. They're threatening individuals' property," he says. So far, no one has been hurt, though several firefighters nearly died when a roof collapsed during a fire set by the ELF.
Szady can't believe Rosebraugh's claim to not know the group or his attitude toward it.
"I believe he knows the membership," says Szady. "How do you look the American people in the eye and say 'We're not going to hurt anybody, we're just going to burn down your buildings?' That's absurd."
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