Informant used in ecoterrorism investigation |

Informant used in ecoterrorism investigation

Jeff Barnard

GRANTS PASS, Ore. (AP) – An undercover informant helped investigators tape a conversation with one of the seven alleged radical environmentalists accused in a series of arson attacks and other crimes in the Pacific Northwest between 1998 and 2001.Existence of the informant was disclosed last week by an investigator in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn, N.Y., during a bail hearing for Daniel McGowan, 31, who faces indictments that he and another man firebombed the office of a wood products mill and the truck shop of a tree farm.The Earth Liberation Front, an underground group that advocates economic sabotage to stop environmental destruction, took credit for the two fires. The FBI describes the group as one of the nation’s leading domestic terrorist organizations.ELF also claimed responsibility for the arson attack on Vail Mountain in October, 1998, which destroyed the Two Elk building and damaged several chairlifts. So far, no connection between the recent arrests and the Vail fire has been reported.

McGowan is being held without bail pending transport by U.S. Marshals to Oregon, said defense attorney Martin Stolar.Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen Peifer, who attended the hearing, said Eugene police Detective Greg Harvey testified he made the tape from a body wire worn by an informant who talked to McGowan at a convention in New York in April 2005. On the tape, McGowan talks about going to British Columbia in 2001.Peifer characterized the trip as hiding out after the arsons, both of which occurred earlier that year.Stolar and McGowan’s sister, Lisa McGowan, the vice president of a packaging company in New York, characterized the trip as a visit to a couple of friends and their new baby outside Vancouver, B.C. He crossed the border using his own passport and his family knew where he was, his sister said. He later went back to Eugene for awhile before moving to New York in 2001.

“If anybody was looking for him, Danny was not a hard person to find,” Lisa McGowan said.He took part in protests during the Republican National Convention in New York in 2004, was included, under an assumed name, in a Rolling Stone article on those protests, and was working for the Women’s Law Initiative in Brooklyn, which helps abused women, at the time of his arrest, his sister said.Lisa McGowan said her brother knew the person wearing the hidden microphone from his days as a political activist in Eugene, where he had lived a few years before moving back to New York four years ago.Lisa McGowan said her brother worked in a cafe frequented by political activists while living in Eugene, and was regularly confronted by police who knew him by name, often while he was riding his bicycle.

“Being an activist doesn’t mean you are a criminal,” Lisa McGowan said. “My brother has his beliefs. We are proud of the things he fights for.The youngest of five children of a retired New York City transit police patrolman and a housewife, McGowan was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., but grew up in Rockaway Beach, Queens, N.Y., where he ran track at Christ the King High School, Lisa McGowan said.He graduated from State University of New York at Buffalo with degrees in history and business, and traveled after college to Thailand. Later he lived in San Francisco, then Eugene, before moving back to New York City, where he lives in the East Village.Vail, Colorado

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