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Support Coordinator for Informant Darren Thurston, Megan Adam, Disrupted at Under the Volcano

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Megan Adam was scheduled to speak at this year's 20th anniversary and final Under the Volcano Festival in North Vancouver, Aug 8 2010. She was to speak about the last 20 years of resistance at a panel in the afternoon, but was interrupted by me. The workshop was shut down, and she was prevented from speaking as Darren Thurston stood in the crowd.

Darren Thurston is a cooperating defendant in the US investigation of sabotage actions against environmental and animal rights abusers in the late 1990’s called ‘Operation Backfire.’

“At the end of 2005, the FBI opened a new phase of its assault on earth and animal liberation movements with the arrests and indictments of several current and former activists. This offensive, dubbed Operation Backfire, was intended to obtain convictions for many of the unsolved Earth Liberation Front arsons of the preceding ten years. Of those subpoenaed and charged, eight ultimately cooperated with the government and informed on others in hopes of reduced sentences: Stanislas Meyerhoff, Kevin Tubbs, Chelsea Dawn Gerlach, Suzanne Savoie, Kendall Tankersley, Jennifer Kolar, Lacey Phillabaum, and Darren Thurston. Four held out through a terrifying year, during which it seemed certain they would end up serving decades in prison, until they were able to broker plea deals in which they could claim responsibility for their actions without providing information about others: Daniel McGowan, Jonathan Paul, Exile (aka Nathan Block), and Sadie (aka Joyanna Zacher). Briana Waters is [in custody appealing the results of her trial], while Joseph Dibee, Josephine Overaker, Rebecca Rubin, have been charged but not found and Justin Solondz [was recently arrested in China]. One more defendant, William Rodgers (aka Avalon), tragically passed away in an alleged suicide while in custody shortly after his arrest.” --crimethink (circa 2007)

I became engaged with this situation as the publisher of a small magazine wii’nimkiikaa and also as part of Native Youth Movement Vancouver. Wii’nimkiikaa and NYM had websites on the server. The support website for Thurston was hosted by, and also, there was overlap in the membership of the collective and Thurston’s support committee.

When it became proof apparent that Thurston was in fact informing on his co-defendants wii’nimkiikaa and NYM challenged to remove Thurston’s support site and stop publicly supporting him as a political prisoner. refused to remove Thurston’s site, and further, issued a statement as a collective defending their support of him and, denouncing their critics as doing the work of the FBI:

“We also will continue to host his support site most of all on the principle that we see this kind of divisive in-fighting, demanding that everyone denounce and abandon Darren, as simply playing into a well-documented tactic used by the FBI and other state agencies: to breed distrust and fear, to ensure the division and isolation of our support, to encourage us to blame and fight each other rather than focus on them. It's what motivates them to cut deals and strive for confession or collaboration in political cases. We do not believe that our hosting of Darren's support site damages radical social movements; we do believe that engaging in and validating this kind of divisive in-fighting does.” --A Statement From the Resist! Collective, 2007

Both wii’nimkiikaa and Vancouver NYM had been engaged in support for John Graham, who was being framed with the murder of Anna Mae Pictou Aquash –a case that was contrived entirely on hearsay evidence from informant submissions. Also, Leonard Peltier, imprisoned for the last 30 years for the shooting deaths of two FBI agents was convicted on the false testimony of an informant. Indigenous resistance has suffered greatly due to the presence of undercover agent informants, and members of the movement who turn state’s agent. Neither group could in good conscious continue being associated with an organization that supported a known and self admitted informant. Wii’nimkiikaa and Vancouver NYM pulled their sites from and issued statements condemning Thurston and continued support of him and other snitches.

Daniel McGowen, a non-cooperating defendant also issued a statement about Thurston and “Recently, has come out in support of Darren … Whether this is a deeply held position or his ex Megan's asking for favors for her ex is unknown. Either way, it's pathetic to think a so-called radical tech collective would publicly support and provide web-space (which they always say is so limited) to a snitch. In light of this, I think now is the time to pull ALL support from including your email accounts and websites (such as Wii'nimkiikaa and Orion from Alberta already have) ...” –Daniel McGowen, 2007

 * * *
Part of a Bigger Picture:

Operation Backfire was part of a larger scale operation that spanned multiple cases and states, known as the 'Green Scare.' Dozens of animal rights and environmental activists were rounded up, arrested, subpoenaed to grand juries, and many eventually convicted and imprisoned. Including, Rod Coronado, the SHAC 7 (Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty), Peter Young, Tre Arrow, and Eric McDavid, and some people who refused to cooperate with the Grand Jury.

The Green Scare is a significant part of the historic developments of anarchism in North America. It was the first large scale wave of legal repression of anarchists since the 1930’s. It was the result of intensive investigation that took a decade to break anarchist organizing security. For the most part --almost entirely-- the state relied on informants to build it’s cases.

The Green Scare, in turn,  is part of a larger trend of increasing repression of resistance over the last decade. A number of US legal cases occurred around the same time as the Green Scare and all had to do with militant action –including the case against John Graham, the San Francisco 8 and Joseph Pannell/Gary Freeman. While the Green Scare had to do with more recent militant activity, the others involved decades old cases. Graham –and other AIM associated people, were charged with the 1975/6 murder of Anna Mae Pictou Aquash. The San Francisco 8 –community activists and Black Panthers, were charged with the 1971 killing of a San Francisco cop. Joseph Pannell/Gary Freeman – a Toronto librarian, was charged with the shooting injury of a Chicago cop from 1969. His case was associated with the Black Panthers, though Pannell/Freeman has stated that he respects the Black Panthers, he was not a member. Both Graham and Pannell/Freeman were extradited from Canada under new extradition agreements between Canada and the US, basically allowing the rubber stamping of any extradition application by the US.  John Graham, as a member of AIM, and the San Francisco 8 as members of the Black Panthers, were subject to the FBI counter insurgency operation COINTEL-PRO in the 1970’s that targeted militant groups resulting in the deaths and imprisonment of hundreds of people. Though COINTEL-PRO was dissolved in the early 1970’s these cases are clearly continuations of similar policing operations.

Taking an overall view of these cases gives a frightening picture at the state’s invigorated efforts to suppress resistance movements through legal prosecution and infiltration.

* * *
Megan Adam had been scheduled to speak on a panel with Sid Tan, Billie Pierre, and Bill Lightbown titled: ‘People’s History Of Kanada Chapter 3: Communiqués from 20 years of Resistance in B.C.’ Indigenous land defenders and anti-colonialists have considered Under the Volcano an important resource and meeting place over the past two decades, but in this instance,  UTV organizers displayed ignorance and insulting negligence in placing Megan Adam in a panel with Indigenous Land Defenders Billie Pierre and elder Bill Lightbown. Pierre spoke about NYM and repression of AIM, including the dire consequences faced by AIM due to informants. Bill Lightbown was scheduled to speak after Adam, but the workshop was shutdown by the facilitator because Adam would not be allowed to speak. During the disruption, Pierre stated that she was not comfortable speaking on a panel with Adam. After the panel, she stated that the Under the Volcano organizers did not inform her or Bill Lightbown of Adam’s presence on the panel.

It’s also disturbing that Adam was chosen to speak on this panel, given that her contribution to one of the major occurrences over the last 20 years –this massive and growing repression and police state activity that generated the Green Scare and renewed COINTEL-pro cases, was as the coordinator for the support campaign of Darren Thurston -a known and self admitted informant who was present in the audience that day.

Non-cooperating defendants of Operation Backfire have issued statements condemning the support of the cooperating defendants –informants- and their supporters:

“…it has come to our attention that perhaps through naiveté and perhaps through the deliberate spreading of misinformation, there has been some confusion over who amongst the indictees is worthy of prisoner support; meaning to us: who has NOT made statements implicating others, as the purpose of such statements is the further prosecution and imprisonment of others. Let us make this clear: all those amongst the indictees who have been apprehended, other than Ms. Waters, Mr. McGowen, Mr. Paul, obviously the authors of this piece; … Ms. Zacher and Mr. Block, and sadly Mr. Rodgers, have dishonored themselves, their families and the very lineage of struggle which they themselves were once an integral part of, by becoming vicious traitors and handmaids of the state. To actively support these indictees who have been apprehended but not aforementioned is to support not only our incarceration but to wish that same fate upon many others currently living as fugitives or being sought similarly. If there are those amongst you reading this who feel the need to make excuses for those responsible for our imprisonment, we would ask you to refrain from offering a Janus-faced ‘support’ to us also, as it is completely antithetical to the reasons for our captivity.” -- Sadie and Exile, 2007

Me quoting Me:
"Darren Thurston ceased to be worthy of support as a political prisoner the moment he chose his self over the well being and freedom of others. His deliberate choice to snitch on others resulted in imprisonment of people who once considered him a friend and comrade and unknown future legal consequences for those still at large or those who could be implicated and arrested at later dates.

"Even under the assertion that all prisoners are political, and that all prisons should be abolished  Thurston, as a rat and a snitch, severed his merit as worthy of anything at all by providing the state with information that can and has led to the imprisonment of others in order to save himself.

"If individuals chose to maintain a friendship with Darren Thurston, that’s their own personal problem. But their inability to distinguish between their loyalty to their friend and loyalty to people whose lives have been damaged by their friend, should not allow Darren Thurston to continue to have access to, or participate in activist or resistance activity.  He should not be allowed to jeopardize wider resistance movements by having access to activist social circles and organization, or to sensitive resources and infrastructure. In addition, Megan Adam has made emphatic efforts to support Thurston's re-integration into activist scenes and resistance activity despite obvious concerns about security and ethics from other people --concerns that are so serious, it prevents us from accessing vital resources and disrupts the ability of overlapping communities to maintain healthy networks.  Informants and snitches harm social movements. It is a matter of self defense to keep them away." Lyn Highway 2010

* * *

!NOTE: report from Under the Volcano organizer is that Megan Adam did not speak on the mainstage, as this article previously stated.

Also the passage that read:
"Under the Volcano organizers exercised extreme ignorance and insulting negligence in placing Megan Adam in a panel with Indigenous Land Defenders Billie Pierre and elder Bill Lightbown."

Now reads:
"Indigenous land defenders and anti-colonialists have considered Under the Volcano an important resource and meeting place over the past two decades, but in this instance,  UTV organizers displayed ignorance and insulting negligence in placing Megan Adam in a panel with Indigenous Land Defenders Billie Pierre and elder Bill Lightbown."



Green Scared? Preliminary Lessons of the Green Scare

On Darren Thurston’s Statement, “Fired Back”

An Open Letter Reflecting on the Recent Green Scare Hearings
Megan Adam
(also as a comment: A Statement From the Resist! Collective)

Wii'nimkiikaa Pulls Its Site From

Daniel McGowan on Darren Thurston's cooperation with Green Scare

Free the San Francisco Eight!

The eight were arrested January 23, 2007 in California, New York, and Florida on charges related to the 1971 killing of a San Francisco police officer. Similar charges were brought in 1975, but a California judge tossed out the charges, finding that they were based on statements made by three of the men after police in New Orleans tortured them for several days employing electric shock, cattle prods, beatings, sensory deprivation, plastic bags and hot, wet blankets for asphyxiation.

Joseph Pannell/Gary Freeman, 'Toronto librarian gets 30 days for shooting U.S. cop'

John Graham Defense Committee


* * *
Background on Operation Backfire

"Operation Backfire" is the name given by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to the ten year old investigation and indictment of fifteen individuals accused of several arsons in the Pacific Northwest between 1996 and 2001 claimed by the Earth Liberation Front (ELF) or the Animal Liberation Front (ALF). It is because of these arrests and the fervor that federal agencies are seeking to impose severe sentences under the statutes of "anti-terrorism" that the term, "Green Scare" has resurfaced and is being used to describe the draconian measures taken against environmental activists in the same way that alleged communists were targeted in the McCarthy-era Red Scare.

These indictments have become the subject of much debate since they were based primarily on the testimony of a heroin addicted self-professed serial arsonist, whose name apparently came up in a grand jury inquisition of a bitter ex-girlfriend. Despite this shaky "evidence," the potential sentences were unprecedented for non-violent incidents. Some of the charges carried mandatory minimum sentences of 30 years and some of the indictees were facing mandatory minimum sentences of life in prison if convicted of all charges. The FBI's reasoning for the severity of the charges is their assertion that the accused are "terrorists," though the charges leveled against them are not terror related and the crimes of which they are accused harmed no one. The most severe of the charges are arson-related. The median sentence for arson in the United States is 5 years, murder is 15 years, sex abuse less than 3½ years, and assault is 16 months. Yet some people in this case were facing up to life plus 335 years!

To escape the possibility of life in prison, all but four of the defendants turned police informant in July 2006 and cooperated fully with prosecutors agreeing to testify against co-defendants in exchange for leniency. On November 9, 2006, the remaining four defendants - Daniel McGowan, Jonathon Paul, Joyanna Zacher, and Nathan Block - struck a deal with prosecutors where they admitted their responsibility, but would not inculpate any other individual, whether they be informant, fugitive, or deceased. Offering "global resolution" to the case, these arrestees (except Jonathan Paul) were facing life in prison, but received downward departures similar to those who cooperated with the prosecution.

Sentencing was passed down in June of 2007. Many of the defendants received Terrorism Enhancements (TE) when Judge Aiken decided that certain actions were intended to coerce the federal government. These Enhancements raise the base criminal level of the defendant and will be taken into consideration by the Bureau of Prisons when assigning the inmates security levels in federal correctional facilities. In short, although none of the arsons of Operation Backfire resulted in injury or death, the defendants could be assigned to maximum or "supermax" facilities with violent offenders. For more information on Terrorism Enhancements, see

The sentences the defendants received were:

· Cooperating Defendant Stanislas Meyerhoff - 13 years (+TE)

· Cooperating Defendant Kevin Tubbs - 12 years 7 months (+TE)

· Cooperating Defendant Chelsea Gerlach - 9 years (+TE)

· Cooperating Defendant Kendall Tankersley - 3 years 10 months

· Cooperating Defendant Suzanne Savoie - 4 years 3 months (+TE)

· Cooperating Defendant Darren Thurston - 3 years 1 month

· Non-Cooperating Defendant Daniel McGowan - 7 years (+TE)

· Non-Cooperating Defendant Jonathan Paul - Sentencing in abeyance

· Non-Cooperating Defendant Joyanna Zacher - 7 years 8 months (+TE)

· Non-Cooperating Defendant Nathan Block - 7 years 8 months (+TE)

Lacey Philabaum and Jennifer Kolar have also been indicted and pled guilty after turning police informant in both the Oregon and Washington cases. They have not been sentenced yet and will most likely be sentenced in Washington after Brianna Waters' trial. The first informant, Jacob Ferguson - a self-professed serial arsonist and longtime heroin addict - is as yet unindicted, and according to his own admission has been granted immunity and has been paid at least $50,000 for his cooperation from federal prosecutors despite playing an aggravating role in nearly every indicted arson.

In addition to the years long sentences with Terrorism Enhancements, there has also been one casualty of "Operation Backfire." Bill Rodgers of Prescott, Arizona, was found dead in his cell two weeks after his arrest in an apparent suicide.

There are support sites for some of the defendants and aid is appreciated by those serving their sentences. Our resources are limited, however, and should be focused on those who are not cooperating with the authorities in this bogus investigation. It is known from court transcripts that those who took pleas were offered their pleas (and downward departures of sentences) because they have "fully cooperated, named names, and stuck their necks out."

For a more detailed synopsis of the Operation Backfire cases, see the Civil Liberties Defense Center update from May 15, 2007.


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