By Jared Chausow
By Katie Toth
By Elizabeth Flock
By Albert Samaha
By Anna Merlan
By Jon Campbell
By Jon Campbell
By Albert Samaha
The story goes like this: On the morning of May 24, 1990, a pipe bomb exploded directly under the driver's seat, shattering Bari's pelvis and lower backbone and leaving her permanently disabled. Cherney suffered minor injuries. The two were on a tour to recruit students for Redwood Summer, a series of protests against corporate logging. Bari awoke 12 hours later to policemen telling her she was under arrest for possessing explosives. They, of course, had not bothered even to question her. Bari had received death threats in the weeks before, but the FBI never followed up.
In the beginning, the cops claimed Bari and Cherney had themselves put the bomb in the back seat, where it accidentally went off. However, files released during the court proceedings revealed that when supervisory special agent David R. Williamsthe FBI crime lab's top explosives expertinspected the car, he pointed out to special agent Frank Doyle evidence clearly showing the device had been stowed under the driver's seat. Yet Doyle continued to tell the press that Bari and Cherney were the only suspects.
Throughout their sworn testimony, the FBI agents repeatedly said that they never heard of Bari or Cherney before the bombing, and that they were not investigating Earth First!, to which the activists belonged.
But an FBI field report, written minutes after the bomb exploded, states that Bari and Cherney were "the subjects of an FBI investigation in the terrorist department." Cherney-Bari lawyers used these facts to argue that the FBI agents lied in their sworn testimony before the court.
The history of the FBI's involvement with Earth First! is lengthy and disgusting. Before Bari's car blew up, the Bureau was in the final phases of Thermcon, an Arizona sting that involved 50 agents and was aimed at casting Dave Foreman, co-founder of the group, as a terrorist who made use of explosives. The FBI managed to infiltrate a small chapter of Earth First!, and having successfully planted an agent inside, tried to push the environmentalists into using thermite to take out a power line. But, as the alternative Albion Monitor relates the story: "The activists declined the infiltrator's offer of explosives, and he settled for providing them with a cutting torch instead. The agent provided the equipment, trained the activists to use it, chose the target, and drove them to the site, then joined an FBI strike team in busting them in the act on May 31, 1989. The case ended in plea bargaining with two activistsnot Foremangoing to jail.
Several of the agents involved in Thermcon also worked on the Bari bombing, reports the Albion Monitor. FBI records obtained through the Freedom of Information Act indicate that the FBI had been spying on Earth First! since the group started in 1981. The paper reports that "heavily censored" FBI documents made available through Bari's suit detail weekly meetings in 1990 between an agent and informant in California.
Local law enforcement has been just as invasive. In his deposition, Oakland Police Department intelligence chief Kevin Griswold revealed that the cops maintain files on 300 political organizations and individuals. He said the Oakland cops had been spying on Earth First! ever since 1984.
Additional reporting: Cassandra Lewis, Gabrielle Jackson, Joshua Hersh, and Caroline Ragon