The Earth First!

They don't have a prayer, I thought. Magistrate Sitver seemed impressed by Dokken's rhetoric.

But the hearing dragged on more than three hours.
Through most of it, FBI agent Lori Bailey was on the witness stand.
She testified that undercover agent Michael Tait had infiltrated Earth First!. He gained members' confidence and was able to record secretly 35 separate tapes of their conversations.

It is from these tapes, the FBI says, it learned of the Earth First! plans to damage Palo Verde and the Central Arizona Project.

Since the undercover agent was involved in the plans from day-to-day, the FBI was waiting at the scene when the group attempted to destroy a tower carrying power from Palo Verde to the Central Arizona Project.

It must have been quite a scene. The FBI, according to reports, brought forty agents and more than a dozen vehicles. Some carried automatic weapons. A few had night-vision field glasses. There was even a helicopter.

The Earth First! members weren't even armed. Since the undercover man was in on the planning of the Earth First! raid, the FBI had to know this going in. And there were just three of them. Marc Baker, Mark Davis, and Margaret Millett, all Prescott residents.

Foreman allegedly supplied $580 for the operation. But he was against taking part and remained in Tucson.

The two men in the operation, Davis and Baker, wore towels wrapped around their feet to prevent their footprints from being identified. This precaution, of course, gave them no chance to escape on foot.

Millett took no such precaution. So she managed to escape. She made her way through the woods to the highway and then walked back to Prescott. She was arrested the following day while working at her job in the Planned Parenthood clinic.

If this all sounds more to you like the gang that couldn't shoot straight rather than a legitimate terrorist cell, then you are beginning to get the idea.

However, if the case goes to trial and prosecutor Dokken is allowed to spout off about the China syndrome, it will turn out badly. A jury, reacting to memories of Three Mile Island and Chernobyl, might side readily with the prosecution. It was a strange hearing and it lasted three hours. It was marked only by memorable small incidents.

The marshals were particularly grim-faced and self-righteous throughout. They made a great show of serious police work as they directed the prisoners to the defense table. They also turned the removal of the handcuffs into a ceremony.

"We'll need this front row," one of the marshals growled, looking around pointedly at the spectators already seated in that row.

It wasn't until this moment that I realized the audience was made up mostly of Foreman's followers and the friends and relatives of the other defendants, who all lived in Prescott.

Perhaps the marshal was a devotee of John Wayne Westerns. But, of course, this little piece of business was also an amplification of the prosecutor's thesis: We have criminals of intergalactic status here. They must be heavily guarded or else the entire citizenry is at risk.

The government's case came only through the testimony of FBI agent Bailey. The undercover man who infiltrated the group was not brought into court.

He succeeded, we were told, in creating 35 tapes which the government contends will be an important part of the case.

The confrontation with the informer will be saved for the trial. But the undercover man had been debriefed by agent Bailey and she merely recounted his story.

Bailey said the group admitted they had vandalized transmission towers at Palo Verde in 1986 and the ski-lift towers at Fairfield Snowbowl outside Flagstaff. They also downed electrical lines to three uranium mines near Grand Canyon National Park.

This was done, Bailey testified, by the group of three from Prescott: Davis, Millett, and Baker, who call themselves EMETIC. This stands for the Ev Mecham Eco-Terrorist International Conspiracy. I thought it was a nice journalistic gaucherie on the part of the Arizona Republic to give former Governor Mecham an opportunity to say he was innocent of consorting with this group.

Agent Bailey said one thing that should be taken and studied by the people who run the Department of Defense in Washington at a cost of billions.

Foreman reportedly gave the EMETIC group $580 to finance the sabotaging not only of Palo Verde but also of the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Generating Station near San Luis Obispo, California, and the Rocky Flats nuclear-weapons plant near Boulder, Colorado.

If Foreman and EMETIC can get all these things done for as little as $580, the charges against them should be dropped at once. The four of them should immediately be recruited by the government to run the Pentagon.

What would Abbey think of all this?
He would at first roar with laughter. Then he would grow outraged at the stupidity of the FBI and the bureaucrats who run the federal building in Phoenix as if it were their own private club.

Nothing can tell us more about a man than the way he chooses to die. Edward Hoagland told of Abbey's death in a piece written for the New York Times Book Review.

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