…a multitude of conspiracies contend in the night. Clandestinism is not the usage of a handful of rogues, it is a formalized practice of an entire class in which a thousand hands spontaneously join. Conspiracy is the normal continuation of normal politics by normal means.
—Carl Oglesby, The Yankee and Cowboy War
The events in Black Mariah are based on the real events. I began the book before the bombing and it was largely completed by five years after the bombing. All the players are as identified except for the activists. Robert Devine is based on my life but isn’t me. Vera, Isaac, Hannah are based on more than a single person. This is fiction in the micro and history in the macro.
There was a bombing in the book. This website is a forum for finding who are the likely suspects in the real-life bombing.
Start with the FBI.
In Black Mariah two people are arrested for the car bombing of Vera and Isaac: Vera and Isaac. In 1990 the real victims, Judi Bari and Darryl Cherney, were also arrested and charged. Their homes were searched. Nails were drawn from the walls in a search for evidence. Entire theories were invented by the FBI to make the evidence prove their case, that the bombing victims weren’t victims at all, but were in possession of and transporting an explosive device.
In fact, it was none other than Special Agent “Boyle,” the Eureka bomb school instructor, who was in charge of the Oakland crime scene. “Boyle” stated that the position of the bomb was behind the front seat and declared that two bags of nails were taped to the bomb to provide shrapnel. Officers on the scene quoted “Boyle” as saying, “I’ve been looking at bomb scenes for 20 years, and I’m looking at this one, and I’m telling you you can rely on it. This bomb was visible to the people who loaded the back seat of this car.”
It took three years and a court order for the victims to gain access to the FBI’s evidence and crime scene photos that clearly indicated that the bomb was not behind the front seat, but hidden beneath it. Analysis by Supervisory Special Agent David R. Williams, the FBI’s chief bomb expert, also proved that the bomb was armed with a motion sensor and a timer and that it had not exploded accidentally. When the victims announced a press conference to release the photos and the expert analysis, the FBI agent in charge of the case, Richard W. Held, retired.
Was this a cover-up? If so, why the cover-up? Who was the FBI protecting?
My guess is that the author of the The Lord’s Avenger letter was the bomber and Special Agent Richard W. Held, in charge of the San Francisco FBI Office from 1985–1993, discouraged his team from following that lead. (More on The Lord’s Avenger later.)
Let’s take a look at Richard W. Held for a moment. His career began in Los Angeles in 1968 where he was the lead agent in matters involving “black extremists.” One year later, the L.A. Black Panther Party leader Elmer Gerard Pratt, aka Geronimo, was arrested for murder. The key witness was FBI informant Julius Butler and Held was his control agent. Geronimo spent twenty-five years in jail before a judge overturned the conviction based on “prosecutorial misconduct.”
Held’s next important field assignment was the Pine Ridge Reservation, the “framing” of Leonard Peltier and the cover-up of FBI operations.
Held began his upper-level FBI career in 1979 in Puerto Rico as Special Agent-in-Charge of the San Juan office. The Puerto Rican Independence movement was in full swing and Held oversaw the counterintelligence program that created files on 74,000 activists, plus conducted raids on offices, destruction of private property and arrests.
Throughout Held’s professional career, his oversight consistently operated within the FBI’s Counter Intelligence Program (COINTELPRO), the purpose of which was “protecting national security, preventing violence, and maintaining the existing social and political order.” According to FBI records, 85% of COINTELPRO targets were groups and individuals considered subversive. These included Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr., nearly every group protesting the war in Vietnam, many organizations involved with women’s rights, The National Lawyer’s Guild, the American Indian Movement and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.
When Held left Puerto Rico in 1985, his next posting was San Francisco. Coincidentally, in the year prior to the car bombing, an extensive counterintelligence campaign was waged against Earth First!, with over thirty death threats delivered to members in the spring of 1990 and significant quantities of fake Earth First! communications advocating violence and sabotage released to communities and the press. Given Held’s history, one could say, if it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, then it must be COINTELPRO.
COINTELPRO actions in San Fransisco explain the withholding of evidence as a propaganda move to paint the bombing and Earth First! as black dogs of domestic terrorism, but it doesn’t explain The Lord’s Avenger letter. The letter clearly sucks the life out of COINTELPRO’s Earth First! – domestic terrorism story and places the blame on a psychotic, Bible-obsessed, seemingly lone wolf. The letter’s content and the acts described do qualify for domestic terrorism.
Let’s take a look at this letter.
After the bombing, the first event was the arrest of the victims. The second was The Lord’s Avenger’s letter claiming responsibility for and providing detailed descriptions of the car bomb and the Louisiana-Pacific’s Cloverdale Mill bomb. The letter was mailed in the North Bay region while the bombing victims were still in custody and the contents indicate that it was written in its entirety after the bombing or edited within days for the results of the bombing. It was mailed four days after the bomb according to the date stamp on the envelope.
I put the bomb in her car. And the Bomb was Hidden and the hour hand Moved and the bomb was Armed and administered Divine Justice. But it did not kill! I had wanted that she should be cut Down quickly like a diseased horse that must be put down but the Lord Willed that she should Live on in Pain
Now, twenty-four years after the bombing, The Lord’s Avenger is still a mysterious felon. Putting a bomb into a car intending to kill or maim is a federal and state crime. Why hasn’t any law enforcement agency made any public effort to identify the author of the letter bearing that name, although DNA was found on the letter and stored.
Let’s look more closely at The Lord’s Avenger. From the Bible quotations, he obviously sees himself as a religious fanatic of the Christian variety.
I was His Avenger. The demon must be struck down. The Light filled me and my Faith was impregnable. Great joy Filled me as I set to work.
The righteous shall rejoice when he seeth the vengeance: he shall wash his feet in the blood of the wicked. Psalms 58:10
The Lord’s Avenger is also, demonstrably, a militant fundamentalist of the worst variety.
I built with these Hands the bomb that I placed in the car of Judi Bari. I come forward now emboldened by the Spirit of the Lord to spread the Message spoken by the bomb so that All will hear it and take it into their hearts. This woman is possessed of the Devil. No natural Woman created of our Lord spews Forth the Lies, Calumnies and Poisons that she does with such Evil Power. The Lord cleared my Vision and revealed this unto me outside the Baby-Killing Clinic when Judi Bari smote with Satan’s words the humble and Faithful servants of the Lord who had come there to make witness against Abortion.
His god is a god of vengeance, who is also a lazy god. When the lazy god does not strike vengeance as required by the actions of Bari, The Lord’s Avenger must act on behalf of god. That is his claim.
My Spirit ached as her Paganism festered before mine Eyes. I felt the Power of the Lord stir within my Heart and I knew I had been Chosen to strike down this Demon.
There have been other similar crimes by other militant fundamentalists, the largest number involving racism. But beginning around the time of The Lord’s Avenger bombing, militant fundamentalists began to burn abortion clinics and kill abortion doctors. When captured, they used a “defense of necessity” similar to The Lord’s Avenger’s lazy god defense. The Lord’s Avenger is very specifically interested in Bari’s actions at the 1988 abortion rally held in Willits. In the first paragraph of the letter, he writes:
The Lord cleared my Vision and revealed this unto me outside the Baby-Killing Clinic when Judi Bari smote with Satan’s words the humble and Faithful servants of the Lord who had come there to make witness against Abortion.
The late 1980s was a special time in anti-abortion history. Operation Rescue West, a conservative Christian group, was formed in California by individuals who also supported the lazy god defense. A key slogan used by the group was, ”If you believe abortion is murder, act like it’s murder.” While Operation Rescue initially used non-violent sit-in tactics, it is believed to be a feeder organization to the Army of God, which is most definitely interested in violence to stop what they claim is violence. The group is associated with murders of abortion providers and is also handy with the lazy god defense:
We the undersigned, declare the justice of taking all Godly action necessary, including the use of force, to defend innocent human life (born and unborn).
The language used by both The Lord’s Avenger and the Army of God have what is called Dominionist tendencies. Dominionism is a Christian nationalism theory that states Christians are entitled to earthly dominion and should seek leadership positions to ensure that God-given mandate. And God blessed [Adam and Eve], and God said unto them, “Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it:
and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.” In Eureka the Gospel Outreach Church (also known as the Lighthouse Ranch) was one organization close to the scene spreading Dominion Theology. Ex-President of Guatemala and convicted mass murderer General Efraín Ríos Montt was a Lighthouse Ranch member, resident and lay pastor.
In 1990 those who tried to find the author of The Lord’s Avenger letter were told that his political theology and biblical quotes did not fit easily into organized religion. What was missed at the time were the Dominionists. In the following passage, The Lord’s Avenger stakes his Dominionist claim to use the earth as his bible mandates. It was the statement of a terrorist.
All of it is God’s Gift for us to Take and use so that we can build our Civilization in the Image of the Creator. The devil is sorely displeased by our Godly Dominion and he sends his demons to sow Confusion and Doubt in our numbers. This possessed demon Judi Bari spread her Poison to tell the Multitude that trees were not God’s Gift to Man but the Trees were themselves gods and it was a Sin to cut them. My Spirit ached as her Paganism festered before mine Eyes. I felt the Power of the Lord stir within my Heart and I knew I had been Chosen to strike down this Demon …Now all who would come to the forests and worship trees like gilded Idols have been Warned. They have seen the Fate that awaits them.
The timber corporations were not to be left out of this violent stew. In 1988, the first conference of the Wise Use movement was held in Reno, Nevada. The movement’s ideology includes decidedly Dominionist language, that human use of the environment is “stewardship of the land, the water and the air” for the benefit of human beings. Ron Arnold, founder of the movement, claims that environmentalists act “to reduce or eliminate industrial civilization and human population in varying degrees” and that environmentalism, as a movement, is “the excess baggage of anti-technology, of anti-civilization, of anti-humanity, and of institutionalized lust for political power.” Wise Use is an amalgam of different groups, including loggers, miners, farmers, off-road vehicle users and resource extraction industries like Amoco, British Petroleum, Chevron, Exxon/Mobile, the American Farm Bureau, Dupont, Yamaha, General Electric, General Motors, National Cattlemen’s Association, the National Rifle Association and the timber firms Georgia Pacific, Louisiana-Pacific and Pacific Lumber. Their mandate was clear: to destroy the environmentalist movement by infiltration and destruction from within, for “Failure to reform environmentalism from within will invite regulation from without…”
In 1987, when a representative from Pacific Lumber met with the public relations firm Hill & Knowlton (now Hill+Knowlton Strategies), Wise Use was an integral part of the strategy to combat the Redwood Summer movement, as Bari and Cherney’s legacy is known. Hill & Knowlton already had an impressive backlist of dirty tricks PR, including the 1953 campaign by Big Tobacco to prove that cigarette smoking did not lead to lung cancer. Faking Earth First! flyers were right up their alley. The combination of grass roots lumber worker groups and infiltration allowed the firm to create a ready-to-use narrative that includes both Dominionist and anti-communist themes. They made their opponents out to be anti-god and anti-American. Framing they called it. Ironically they managed to frame Bari and Cherney who then sued the FBI and the Oakland PD for collaborating in this framing. The case was settled out of court, after a trial, for $4.4 million, although Bari had passed by then from breast cancer.
When Black Mariah ends, the public relations corporations defeated a state-wide initiative to limit over-logging and watershed destruction. They did so using the bombing as proof that the proponents were terrorists. They also defeated three local Humboldt County initiatives using a mailing with a photo of Vera’s car on the side of the road after the bomb had ripped it apart. The bombing was very useful to the Wise Use movement and its members. It was months after the election before the victims were freed as suspects.
So, what have we got? There’s the FBI agenda and their cover-up; Operation Rescue, Gospel Outreach Church and Dominionist rhetoric; there’s the timber industry working with the saboteurs of Wise Use and Hill & Knowlton; there’s even the statistical possibility that Vera’s ex-husband was responsible.
And, there’s The Lord’s Avenger, who not only described in detail the two bombs, but had a vendetta against Judi for her pro-choice politics, her environmentalism and her uppity femaleness.
It looks like a perfect storm of multiple characters bent on the destruction of what Judi Bari stood for. But someone put that bomb in the car, someone is responsible.
Domestic terrorism, as it is called, is the violence powerful corporations wield to destroy the aspirations of any competitor or detractor. The Northcoast of California is not the first place domestic terrorism was used to defeat environmentalists. Nor was this the first time opponents of extractive corporations were abused. Victims of tobacco, pesticides, nuclear dumping, deforestation and landslides, oil patch madness or any other endeavor of the capitalist corporate world are all treated similarly. There are always Lord’s Avengers and they are everywhere corporations need them to be.
Law enforcement could have found The Lord’s Avenger if they wished to do so. Judi Bari is famous for saying the FBI should find the bomber and fire him. The timber corporations could have condemned the bombing, if they wished to do so. Who knows? Maybe Black Mariah will serve the purpose of exposing The Lord’s Avenger. A solution to this crime might help Vera, Isaac, Candy, John and Robert’s friends and community live in peace.
History is the memory of humanity. There is the notion that the Lord’s Avenger, the author of the letter, still lives, that other people know who he is. The memory of humanity is the memory of all of together. Black Mariah is my contribution to this memory. Each of us may have something to offer in the effort. If you are one you are in the right place.
I would like to thank the many people who contributed to Black Mariah. A great number of them are family and friends, plus some neighbors from Humboldt and Mendocino Counties. I especially want to thank editor Heather Shaw, whose patience exceeded mine.
October 19, 2014
COINTELPRO or Counter Intelligence Program is a nation-wide effort of the FBI and the large urban police departments to infiltrate groups attempting to overthrow the government but was used to infiltrate and destroy any group that worked counter to corporate goals. It was revealed to the public in the 1970s. The FBI has infiltrated organizations such as the American Indian Movement, the United Farm Workers, as well as communist organizations. When the Soviet Union dissolved it turned its focus to environmental groups. Groups that advocated peace in Central America during the 70s and 80s received the same treatment.
“Final Report of the Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations With Respect to Intelligence Activities, Book III, Supplementary Detailed Staff Reports on Intelligence Activities and the Rights of Americans”; Final Report, S. Rep. No. 94-755; 1976.
Earth First! is not an organization. It is a statement used by many to express their common goal. People began using EF! In the early 80’s and in Humboldt County it began with the effort to save a coastal redwoods grove that overlooked the Pacific Ocean above the Sinkyone Wilderness. By 1985 the radical nature of its “members” actions were commonly known. By the time of the bomb some of its members were called terrorists.
Abortion: Between Freedom and Necessity by Janet Hadley; Temple University Press; 1996.
A Wolf in the Garden : The Land Rights Movement and the New Environmental Debate, edited by Philip D. Brick and R. McGreggor Cawley; Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.; 1996
“Overcoming Ideology” by Ron Arnold; http://www.cdfe.org/center-projects/wise-use/
Hill & Knowlton are now a paid consultant in the PR campaign to influence decisions on the process of gas extraction known as fracking.
“The Bari Bombing: Pen Names, Pyrotechnics, and Paranoia in the Timber Wars” by Don Foster; Anderson Valley Advertiser; http://www.theava.com/bari/foster.html
“Who’s Bombing Her Now?” by Bruce Anderson; Mendocino County Today; AVA News Service; 2 January 2013. http://theava.com/archives/19384