U.S. Senate Committee on Environment & Public Works
U.S. Senate Committee on Environment & Public Works
Hearing Statements
Date:   05/18/2005
 
Statement of Senator James M. Jeffords
Oversight on Eco-terrorism specifically examining the Earth Liberation Front (“ELF”) and the Animal Liberation Front (“ALF”)

Radical extremist groups, whether eco-terrorists, abortion clinic bombers or white supremacists, have no role in our democratic society. No one on this Committee supports violent, criminal action, regardless of the motivation. I strongly condemn the actions claimed on behalf of the Animal Liberation Front and the Earth Liberation Front.

Fortunately, our nation’s law enforcement agencies appear to be successfully countering the threat posed by radical extremist groups. Robert Mueller, director of the FBI, testified in February that serious incidents of animal rights and eco-terrorism decreased in 2004, largely due to law enforcement successes.

As we discuss eco-terrorism, it is important to make clear that there is no evidence that any mainstream environmental organization supports the criminal activities of the Earth Liberation Front (ELF). In fact, I’d like to submit for the record a letter signed by all of the major environmental groups which “strongly condemns all acts of violence, including those committed in the name of environmental causes.”

Timothy McVeigh’s membership in the National Rifle Association did not make the NRA responsible for the Oklahoma City bombing.

I’ve also been asked to submit for the record a statement from the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) since they were unable to attend this hearing.

Similarly, I request that the hearing record remain open as the Humane Society of the US has requested the opportunity to respond to the charges in Mr. Marosko’s testimony.

I am puzzled why the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee is examining the issue of animal rights and eco-terrorism since the Committee lacks jurisdiction over criminal law enforcement issues. Such matters are more appropriately addressed by the Judiciary or Homeland Security Committees. Nevertheless, I look forward to learning what the Environment Committee can do to address the problems posed by domestic terrorism.

For that reason, I am extremely disappointed that Congressman Bennie Thompson, the ranking member of the House of Representatives Homeland Security Committee, has not been allowed to testify today. This violates basic congressional courtesy and Senate tradition. Moreover, based on his position as ranking on the Homeland Security Committee, his testimony would certainly have been relevant to this hearing on terrorism.

I’d like to submit for the record a report Congressman Thompson prepared, entitled - quote - “Ten Years After the Oklahoma City Bombing, the Department of Homeland Security Must Do More to Fight Right-Wing Domestic Terrorists.” The report highlights the apparent failure of DHS to assess the threat posed by right-wing domestic terrorist groups in the Department’s five-year budget planning document. I share his concern that the Department of Homeland Security needs to protect us from all terrorist threats and should not focus on eco-terrorism at the expense of other domestic terrorist groups, such as the KKK, right wing militias, abortion bombers and skin heads.

While the Environment Committee has no jurisdiction over criminal law enforcement, we do have responsibility to protect our communities from terrorists who target industrial facilities in hopes of creating massive environmental releases that could cause widespread havoc and countless deaths.

Chemical plants, for example, have been called “pre-positioned weapons of mass destruction” since there are over one hundred facilities across the nation that have the potential to threaten over one million people.

Congress also needs to build on last year’s bi-partisan nuclear security legislation that would require the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the Department of Homeland Security to address the vulnerabilities at nuclear power plants and waste storage facilities.

Finally, Congress should act now to reduce the risks posed by the roughly 16,000 wastewater treatment facilities nationwide that still threaten their communities through the use of potentially deadly chlorine gas.

In sum, Congress can’t do much about individual extremists committing crimes in the name of ELF or ALF, but we can act to significantly enhance the safety of communities across the nation. ELF and ALF may threaten dozens of people each year, but an incident at a chemical, nuclear or wastewater facility would threaten tens of thousands.

To truly protect our homeland security, I pledge to work with my colleagues to ensure that DHS assesses all domestic terrorist threats and to enact meaningful chemical, nuclear and wastewater security legislation.

Thank you.