Face of eco-terrorism
Our Friend Craig Rosebraugh feted in the Oregonian and LA Hollywood
Once the 'Face of Eco-Terrorism,' former Portlander Craig Rosebraugh is now lawyer, filmmaker
Bryan Denson, The Oregonian By Bryan Denson, The Oregonian
on March 03, 2013 at 12:02 PM, updated March 03, 2013 at 9:07 PM
rosebraugh1.JPG View full size Craig Rosebraugh (center), with Leslie James Pickering and Elaine Close, returned to their Portland home after the FBI served search warrants there in April 2001, hauling off computers and other electronic gear for the second time in a year. The Oregonian
The man once dubbed "The Face of Eco-Terrorism," who cheered tree-hugging arsonists and thwarted FBI efforts to catch them -- stubbornly taking the Fifth before federal grand juries and an extremely annoyed congressional panel -- is now a red-blooded American lawyer.
Craig Rosebraugh, having spent his late 20s in Portland as the official spokesman for the Earth Liberation Front, earned his sheepskin at the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law at Arizona State University in May 2011.
But instead of taking the bar exam, he has continued his activism by finishing a movie about global warming, set for release this week.
Rosebraugh doesn't see any irony in his dramatic transformation from government antagonist to -- soon, he hopes -- attorney at law.
"I consider it consistent with just my own development as someone that's trying to make a positive difference in the world," he told The Oregonian in one of several recent interviews. "Every single thing I did has been along the lines of trying to fight against the injustices out there, to make the world a better place for all."
Rosebraugh's first feature-length film, a four-year documentary project provocatively titled "Greedy Lying Bastards," is scheduled to open Friday on more than 50 screens from Honolulu to Toronto, including two in Portland.
Directed, co-written and narrated by Rosebraugh, and backed by executive producer (and environmental activist) Daryl Hannah, the movie offers a scorching critique of what Rosebraugh describes as the scoundrels who shill for the petroleum industry by denying the existence of global warming.
"Greedy Lying Bastards" (PG-13, running time 89 minutes) will open at two Portland theaters Friday:
Century 16 Eastport Plaza, 4040 S.E. 82nd Ave., Portland. (503) 772-1111
Living Room Theaters, 341 S.W. 10th Ave., Portland. (971) 222-2010
"In making the film," Rosebraugh said by email, "I sought to answer the question of why, when the science proving human-caused climate change is real, do we continue to have little political activity addressing the problem."
If you knew Rosebraugh when he was pumping out press releases about the Earth Liberation Front's latest firebombings, you'd be astonished by a few of the scenes in the movie. There are many shots of last summer's Waldo Canyon fire in Colorado Springs, Colo., as it licks across hillsides to destroy luxury homes. Rosebraugh sits with homeowners, nodding in commiseration as they tell stories about losing their dwellings to the blaze, which the film attributes to global warming.
Yet back in the day, Rosebraugh advocated the torching of such sprawling homes.
Rosebraugh's journey as a public activist began in earnest in the late 1990s inside the Old Town office of the Liberation Collective, a kind of catch-all group for people working to protect the rights of humans, animals and the natural world -- not necessarily in that order.
Over the next dozen years, he would do press for the Earth Liberation Front, earn a master's degree from Vermont's Goddard College, write three books, run a wholesale vegan sandwich business, win a lawsuit against Portland police for breaking his arm in a street protest, open and close a vegetarian restaurant, remodel homes and go to law school.
He's 40 years old now, awaiting the arrival of his first child, a daughter. His fiancée is due in May, and they plan to get married in the fall, he said. They live in Los Angeles.
"I love the weather," Rosebraugh said. "You really understand how the weather impacts you when you move to a sunny place."
Rosebraugh is no longer the gaunt-is-great vegan of his youth; he's a vegetarian now and has filled out about 40 pounds. The hair he once sheared to stubble has grown out a bit. On camera in his film, he wears the dressed-down wardrobe of a national TV correspondent reporting from the boonies.
rosebraugh2.jpg View full size Craig Rosebraugh, director and co-writer of 'Greedy Lying Bastards,'€ was joined by executive producer Daryl Hannah at last yearâ€™s United Nations Film Festival in Palo Alto, Calif. One Earth Productions
Back in the day, Rosebraugh received anonymous "communiques" from the Earth Liberation Front's saboteurs -- sometimes by encrypted email -- then issued laudatory press releases about their attacks on luxury-home development, SUVs, logging, biomedical research, mink ranching and genetic modification of living things.
This lasted nearly three years -- beginning in October 1998 with a $12 million arson of a ski resort expansion in Vail, Colo., and concluding with the simultaneous firebombings of a poplar farm and a university research center in May 2001. The underground culprits had chosen him to serve as their public face, and he was often vilified.
Two months after the Vail arson, The New York Times Magazine profiled Rosebraugh under the headline, "The Face of Eco-Terrorism." Barbara Walters would later declare on national TV, "I find him absolutely chilling."
Federal agents investigating the Earth Liberation Front viewed Rosebraugh as a good lead. They served search warrants on his home, work and car. Federal prosecutors summoned him before several grand juries. A U.S. House subcommittee subpoenaed him to appear at a hearing on "Eco-Terrorism and Lawlessness on the National Forests."
Rosebraugh snubbed the FBI, and he invoked his Fifth Amendment privilege not to incriminate himself before grand juries. But his moment of maximum impact occurred during the February 2002 congressional hearing, where the FBI's domestic terrorism chief testified that the Earth Liberation Front and its allied Animal Liberation Front had caused $43 million in damage on U.S. soil. He took the Fifth 54 times.
Nine months earlier, he had stepped down as spokesman for the saboteurs, disillusioned by their crimes.
The turning point, he said recently, was when the Earth Liberation Front mounted its first simultaneous attack in separate states. They hit the Jefferson Poplar Farm, near Clatskanie, and the University of Washington's Center for Urban Horticulture.
The attacks were aimed at the genetic modification of trees. But the Jefferson Poplar Farm grew its trees traditionally, and only one researcher at the Seattle horticulture center was doing genetic work.
"I think that was a huge backfire," Rosebraugh said. "Somebody could have very easily been hurt."
Rosebraugh never publicized another Earth Liberation Front crime.
He claimed then -- and still claims -- that he never knew the identities of those behind any of the attacks until after they were captured by a massive, FBI-run task force in December 2005 and January 2006. A government sentencing memo, however, suggests he met with culprits after the Clatskanie-Seattle fires, who called him down for correcting misinformation in their communique.
Either way, he lost faith in arson as a successful tool of eco-revolution.
"Unfortunately the tactics were so extreme that there was a bit of a backlash," he said. "It caused a big rift in the environmental movement. ... I wasn't involved in this stuff. I was a mouthpiece. But as time went on -- and I received more communications -- more and more, it didn't sit right with me."
Eventually Rosebraugh began asking himself whether the tactic of burning down slaughterhouses and Forest Service buildings and SUVs was ever going to work. Eventually, he said, the answer was clear: "It wasn't."
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