Joe Dibee’s 12 years on the lam came to an end last August, when Cuban authorities detained the 50-year-old environmental activist during a layover in Havana and turned him over to the United States.
More than a decade earlier, police and FBI agents had arrested a dozen of Dibee’s associates in the Animal Liberation Front and Earth Liberation Front within the span of a few months. They were charged with conspiring to burn down factories that slaughtered animals for meat, timber mills that disrupted sensitive ecosystems, government facilities that penned wild horses, and a ski resort perched on a pristine mountaintop. Dibee, a former Microsoft software tester known for his ingenuity, had slipped away in the midst of it all.
While the arsons, which never hurt or killed anyone, largely took place in the late 1990s, the wave of arrests known as the “Green Scare” came in the post-9/11 era, when terrorism was the FBI’s prevailing obsession. The fur and biomedical industries had spent years lobbying the Justice Department and lawmakers to go after eco-activists, who had damaged their property, held audacious demonstrations decrying their business activities, and cost them millions of dollars. When the planes hit the twin towers, industry groups seized on the opportunity to push legislation, and federal law enforcement ramped up pursuit of radical activists in the name of counterterrorism.