SABOTAGING THE SABOTEURS

NEED SOME HELP CUTTING DOWN THOSE POWER LINES? CALL THE FBI.

Such sneering bravado from Earth First! appealed to streetwise people who didn't care for the globally warming world they lived in but who had no use for the Birkenstock-wearing and Volvo-driving members of the Sierra Club either. The smart-alecky defiance of Earth First! appealed to the guy on the stool at the end of the bar, the out-of-work carpenter whose tee shirt shows a hawk diving steeply with its deadly talons outstretched, about to snatch a mouse, a mouse who, even in this extreme situation, has raised its rodent fist and extended the middle finger in final and fatal salute.

What made Earth First! ominous was that landfill operators, ranchers on public lands, bureaucrats, toxic-waste generators and big-business CEOs were now confronted by an entirely different breed of environmentalist, green-power freaks who had no respect for lawsuits or silk suits. Some of these activists were thoughtful and some just flat wanted to destroy something.

Earth First!'s puissant refusal to knuckle under to progress, its willingness to punch back and smirk, was also seductive to serious environmentalists who dreamed of a simpler, cleaner countryside and who lusted for a good belly laugh to boot.

Of course, all humor, even environmental humor, has its dark side.
With Earth First!, the moodier aspect of its jibes took the form of vandalism, or as it is known in greener circles, monkey-wrenching.

Earth First! has never been shy about its belief in selective property damage. Dave Foreman even published a field manual that outlined a number of creative ways to decommission a bulldozer or to delay development by uprooting surveyors' stakes.

Not that any of these costly and destructive acts could actually stop a major project. But the very idea of being able to read all of Foreman's hyperventilated suggestions--my God, it was an outraged environmentalist's equivalent of reading Playboy magazine. You couldn't help but fantasize.

Some people's pornographic fantasies, of course, are wilder than others'. Mark Davis, for instance, had a dream as audacious as it was singular.

Although Mark Davis was indicted for the costly EMETIC prank in Flagstaff as well as some monkey- wrenching of a uranium mine at the Grand Canyon, nuclear power is his Moby Dick.

He wanted to humiliate the nuclear-energy industry by cutting down its power lines.

That was the big-picture fantasy.
The small-picture reality was that Mark Davis was too untethered to Planet Earth, too poor and probably too guileless to sabotage a nuke plant.

The FBI's agents had to put the deal together for Mark Davis, and because their real target was Dave Foreman, the feds had to link these two.

An FBI agent who had infiltrated Davis' circle encouraged the use of the co-founder of Earth First! as a possible source of cash. The same agent then drove Mark Davis to the Tucson residence of Dave Foreman to get the money. Davis returned to the FBI truck with approximately $500 in cash in an envelope. Not exactly a war chest but certainly more than spare change.

Upon their return to Prescott, Davis spaced out the envelope, leaving it in FBI agent Mike Fain's glove compartment.

When Davis finally remembered to retrieve this envelope, he promptly turned the cash over to a second FBI operative, giving him the entire $500. This FBI plant, Ron Frazier, had nurtured Davis' fantasy of toppling nuclear-power transmission lines. Frazier fed the dream by claiming that he could actually supply Davis with the forbidden fruit, thermite grenades. Frazier, who had access to nothing more incendiary than his imagination, took the $500 and then took a powder.

With no operating funds and no cash evidence tied directly to Dave Foreman, FBI agent Fain dashed back to Tucson, where he conferred with Earth First!'s co-founder again, went to the group's yard sale and finally picked up $100 more from a colleague of Foreman's.

Rushing back to Mark Davis in Prescott, the FBI agent gave him the cash.
Still, problems persisted if the FBI's terrorists were actually going to attack a nuclear-plant transmission line.

Mark Davis had no car.
The FBI agent agreed to use his vehicle. He also volunteered to be the driver who took the group to the target.

Mark Davis had no gas.
The FBI agent agreed to supply the fuel.
With the sort of diligent effort one likes to see in a federal official, the FBI agent was finally able to help Mark Davis realize one of his fantasies.

On May 30, 1988, Special Agent Michael Fain, posing as environmental provocateur Mike Tait, ferried three Prescott Earth First! supporters out to a remote power line in western Arizona. As Davis fired up his cutting torch, law enforcement officials swept in.

As it turned out, the power line was not connected to a nuclear plant.
Davis had wanted to practice on Central Arizona Project transmission lines used in the state's water-transfer system before tackling the white whale of nuclear power.

FBI agent Fain was so alarmed by this plan to hit anything other than a nuke plant that on his last trip to Tucson he tried to get Foreman to pressure Davis into forgetting about the CAP and to go after the big enchilada, the Palo Verde generating station.

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