By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
Doyle would later testify that there had been no investigation of Bari and Cherney that would have led him to portray either one as a terrorist, but in fact there were, and famously. Bari's name came up as someone affiliated with Earth First! in government documents about the allegedly "terrorist" downing of power lines in Santa Cruz in April 1990. I'd already written about the 1989 FBI Arizona operation called "THERMCON" (for "Thermite Conspiracy"), in which FBI Agent Michael Fain infiltrated Earth First! and led a sting operation, coaxing activists to use explosives to fell high-tension power lines (which they refused to do). The documents, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, show THERMCON was still an active file during the Oakland bombing, and documents from February through May of 1990 were marked "missing from the file."
THE CRIMINAL CASE AGAINST BARI AND CHERNEY MOVED fast. As Bari underwent emergency surgery hours after the bombing, the police filed papers arresting them on suspicion of possessing explosives. The Oakland police and the FBI issued a series of press releases heralding the arrest, drilling home the Earth First!bomb connection. This went on for months, with both agencies going public with each shred of evidence against Bari and Cherney, all of which turned out to be false. Local and national papers printed everything they said.
In the meantime, the feds ransacked both Earth First! and the Bay Area environmentalist community. Agents stormed the Seeds of Peace house, as activists sat on the lawn in handcuffs and watched their computers, notes and address books being carted off. Phone records led agents to more than 500 people who had made inquiries into Redwood Summer organizing, including the media.
On the scene of the bombing, the FBI fed Oakland police two false theories that the agencies used to obtain search warrants. One was that Bari had hidden the bomb with her guitar in the rear foot well. The other was that two bags of nails found in the car "matched" those in the bomb. The jury found that the agencies knew both theories to be wrong, leading to illegal warrants and false arrests. The theories were disproved in part by the FBI's own experts, and Doyle, in particular, was shown to be lying. Months after the bombing, FBI agents obtained a second search warrant for Bari's house and found finishing nails that they claimed, in another dramatic press release, had come from the same batch of only "200 to 1,000 nails" found on the bomb. In court, it was revealed that the batch consisted of several million nails and were not a match at all.
WHILE STILL IN THE HOSPITAL, BOTH BARI AND CHERNEY gave the FBI and Oakland police the names of people and a right-wing vigilante group they believed to be behind the death threats. They were never investigated. Seven weeks after the bombing, the Alameda County District Attorney's Office dropped all charges against the pair, citing lack of evidence, and Bari sued.
The FBI, it seems, achieved its purpose long ago: Agents connected Earth First! and Judi Bari with the bombing in the minds of the public. This was later cited as a key to the narrow defeat of Prop. 130. Now, many years later, a jury finds that the FBI violated Bari and Cherney's First Amendment rights by destroying them in the press, and violated the Fourth Amendment by embarking on a course of illegal searches and false arrests. What popular domestic issue will be silenced next -- perhaps in the name of homeland security? Judi Bari's bomber remains at large.