Shortly after he was first indicted as a domestic eco-terrorist in November 2005, Oregonian Joe Dibee left his native United States, federal authorities believe. He dodged them until they got help from an unlikely source last week — their counterparts in Cuba.
That’s why Dibee’s back in federal custody, facing charges in three federal court jurisdictions: the District of Oregon (conspiracy to commit arson, conspiracy to commit arson, and destruction of an energy facility, arson); Western District of Washington (conspiracy to commit arson, possession of an unregistered firearm, possession of a destructive device in furtherance of a crime of violence); and the Eastern District of California (conspiracy to commit arson, arson of a government building, possession of a destructive device in furtherance of a crime of violence).
“Every act of violence comes with a choice — a choice to do harm,” FBI Special Agent in Charge Renn Cannon said. “A choice to do what may be irreparable damage to a family, a business, or a researcher’s life work. A choice to risk the lives of the firefighters who will respond to an incident. Most of the defendants in the FBI’s long-running Operation Backfire investigation have answered for those decisions they made with significant prison sentences and millions of dollars in fines. Mr. Dibee, who traveled the world to avoid capture, will now, finally, have to answer to the allegations of violence he faces.”
Most of the actions that the indictments credit to Dibee, 50, and his cohorts — the Oregon indictment includes 12 others — supposedly took place for the Earth Liberation Front (ELF) or the Animal Liberation Front (ALF) and spin-off organizations such as Equine and Zebra Liberation Front.
For example, the District of Oregon indictment describes Dibee drilling holes in the Cavel West slaughterhouse walls through which fuel was poured. Then, the indictment accuses Dibee of helping set up the “time-delayed incendiary devices” that eventually set the slaughterhouse ablaze.
A month later, Nov. 30, 1997, somebody let all the horses and burros loose from the Wild Horse and Burro Facility in Harney County, Oregon, before burning down the horse house. In a communique put out by the Liberation Collective, the ELF and ALF took credit.
In the years since these and other incidents they’re accused of pulling off, the ELF and ALF members faced their legal charges, except for Dibee and Josephine Sunshine Overaker.
They made the FBI’s list of wanted domestic terrorists. They just didn’t make enough mistakes or a big enough single mistake to get caught.
But, recently, the Department of Justice said, federal law enforcement heard Dibee was in Central America and planning to head for Russia after a stop in Cuba.
After enlisting the help of several U.S. agencies, as well as a couple of Cuban ministries, the Justice Department said, “the FBI arranged for Cuban authorities to detain Dibee before he boarded a plane bound for Russia, and return him to the United States.”
Now, only Overaker remains on the run. Her FBI wanted poster describes her as 5-3, 130 pounds, bilingual (English and Spanish), and possibly seeking “employment as a firefighter, midwife, sheep tender, or masseuse.”
A reward of up to $50,000 is offered for tips that lead to her arrest.