Why are the DOJ, FBI, and ATF making so much noise about “eco-terrorism”?

FBI deputy assistant John Lewis said, “The No. 1 domestic terrorism threat is the eco-terrorism, animal-rights movement.”

Put aside for a moment the conspicuous running together of two different movements. By no reasonable metric would eco-terrorism and animal-rights direct action combined be judged the premiere domestic threat of our times. The number of lives taken and property damaged by organized crime swamps anything done by the ELF, even if we accept every claim made on its behalf. Drugs, prostitution, smuggling, piracy — all kill more and damage more property. Hell, white collar crime makes the $23-million-over-10-years attributed to “eco-terrorism” look like a laughable rounding error.

In terms of lives and lucre, there are manifold forms of crime under the FBI’s jurisdiction that do more damage. Other than its status as “terrorism,” as determined on the sole authority of the executive branch, what marks “eco-terrorism” worthy of the enormous time and resources being devoted to it?

Especially since, as we were all recently reminded, Osama bin Laden is still very much alive, and radical Islamic terror has already done more than $23 million in damage — in one day, you might recall.

The cynical among us might suggest that it is to the executive branch’s great benefit at the moment to be seen securing high-profile victories over terrorism, however defined or identified. It is also to this administration’s advantage to associate environmentalism — a source of vocal and embarrassing bi-partisan and international criticism — with violence and extremism. If the ELF didn’t exist, the Bush administration would have to invent it.

So say the cynics. Dirty, no-good cynics!