A Book Review by Fur Commission USA
Rodney Coronado and his rap sheet have generated thousands of column inches over the years, so what more is there left to say? But Dean Kuipers’ new book, Operation Bite Back: Rod Coronado’s War to Save American Wilderness, does reveal a few new tidbits for those following the crime sector called eco-terrorism.
In a surprising turn of events, we learn Coronado started out life hunting with his Dad, became an extreme vegan vigilante, but has now come full circle. No longer vegan, he even broke with his mentor, Sea Shepherd’s Paul Watson, over the Makah’s treaty right to hunt up their own animal protein via a sustainable take of whales off their coast.
Rodney Coronado: Omnivore? Conservationist?
Coronado’s Criminal History
Kuipers relates how, “As part of his plea, [Coronado] was privately deposed by U.S. attorneys and admitted his role in all of the Bite Back crimes” – a multi-million-dollar crime spree complete with eco-terror threats targeting researchers and farmers in multiple states. Kuipers explains that Rodney “never mentioned accomplices or anything that could be used against anyone else. This information was sealed and has never been released, but it did alleviate the need for continued exhaustive federal investigations into his role in these crimes. In return, he would not be prosecuted for them.”
Maybe it’s time to open the plea deal to the public as Coronado is now talking. To Kuipers.
Until Kuipers’ book, Coronado lied – in public at least – by sticking to his story that he was simply a courier for research documents stolen when others torched 32 years’ worth of research in the February 1992 Michigan State University arson. The stolen documents he admitted were delivered to PeTA, as prearranged. But now, in Operation Bite Back, Coronado admits he sat in a hotel room and made incendiaries and, with the assistance of a team, personally trashed and torched the lab.
We also learned that Coronado’s prints were all over documents held offsite by PeTA, in the basement of a Bolivian immigrant named Maria Blanton. Kuipers reported, “Now the FBI knew for sure that Rod had been snooping around the Tulane facility in the swamp in early 1990. It just didn’t know he’d been all over the inside of it night after night.”
This break-in at Tulane was part of a PeTA plan to later steal lab animals and who knows what else.
Ties to “Charities”
For the bulk of the book, Coronado travels the world aboard the Sea Shepherd boat, enjoys illegal drugs, engages in an active sex life, harasses hunters, commits a pile of crimes, writes lots of threatening “communiqués” by night and pens scathing rants by day for publication by eco-anarchist zines such as the EarthFirst! Journal, No Compromise and others.
Except for the “green” sheen, it’s pretty shabby stuff.
Coronado seldom interacts with the for-profit tax-paying world except when he attacks it. He was the recipient of funds from tax-exempt charities such as Sea Shepherd, Fund for Animals, PeTA, Friends of Animals, the Earth First! Journaland more. Kuipers did not connect the dots that Coronado worked for PeTA from 1987 to 1990 infiltrating research labs, the same time he was trashing them. “It was the easiest time I had,” Coronado has said, remarking on the regularity of his wages.(1)
Mentors figure in the story: Fund for Animals’ Cleveland Amory and Sea Shepherd’s Paul Watson (which received funding from Fund for Animals, now part of the Humane Society of the United States). There is no mention of anyone directing Coronado to a peaceful path, to a life that builds rather than destroys.
His mentors appeared well aware of how far they could go legally. They were happy to support young Coronado and seemed to turn a blind eye when it was obvious he was crossing the legal line and throwing away years of his life to certain jail time.
Some were happy to help him break the law. Kuipers reveals that one of Coronado’s 1987 crimes was actually Cleveland Amory’s idea. Advised by his lawyers that he could not be directly involved, Amory “threw some money to Coronado and told him to ‘go for it anyway’,” which Coronado did. There is no evidence that Amory or his lawyers at Fund for Animals contacted the police after the crime occurred.
With support and financial assistance, Coronado engineered a multi-million dollar, multi-national crime wave in Canada, the Faroe Islands, Iceland, the UK and multiple US states.
There are a few key details missing from the book. There is no mention that Coronado violated parole when he worked at the EarthFirst! Journal after his release from federal prison. No mention of Coronado’s first arrest – it was in the Faroe Islands in 1985 while crewing for Sea Shepherd. Local lore has it that Coronado pulled a knife on a police officer on the dock, which resulted in a Scandinavia-wide expulsion order which Coronado ignored by returning to the Faroes for more confrontation. “I got to shoot flares and a fire hose at the same Faroese cop who had beaten and arrested me,” crowed Coronado. “Very empowering stuff.” How did the cop miss Coronado among the crew when the police eventually boarded the vessel? Perhaps he was hidden in a stowaway compartment in which case the entire crew was complicit in another crime.
There is no mention that Coronado worked illegally in the UK while planning crimes to be committed in Iceland – making up “a batch of paint-filled light bulbs” and riding out on “bikes to redecorate London fur shops,” no mention that he worked illegally in Iceland before attacking the fishermen/whalers’ property.
The book does not mention how Coronado used the Sea Shepherd boat to travel up and down the California coast, all the way into Vancouver, Canada, coming ashore for crime sprees that included arson, theft and vandalism. Ignoring their civic duty, no one from Sea Shepherd reported the obvious crime wave that followed in the vessel’s wake.
While Kuipers comments on Sea Shepherd harassing eastern tropical Pacific tuna boats, he neglects to mention that its victims were US boats fishing legally with government observers onboard from the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS). While to the shame of the state of Oregon, Sea Shepherd retains its charitable status there,(2) it has had its vessel registration revoked by the UK, Belize, Liberia and Canada, and has been rejected by the Cayman Islands. And in 1986 it was banned permanently from attending meetings of the International Whaling Commission – the only non-governmental organization to wear that badge of dishonor.
Kuipers does not mention the Unabomber murders, two of which were of people selected for targeting on an EarthFirst! hit list,(3) but does detail the 1990 pipe bomb that severely injured activist Judi Bari on her way to Coronado’s house in Santa Cruz. There is no mention that Judi Bari condemned tree-spiking, a dangerous tactic which Sea Shepherd’s Paul Watson claims to have invented and has defended publicly.(4)
And although the information was supplied to him, Kuipers makes no mention of the loaded, high-powered rifle among Coronado’s possessions(5) when he was arrested in 1994 for the Michigan State University arson and other acts. At the time he was living on a reservation just above the Mexican border under the alias Martin Rubio, and securing a new identity as Russell David Martinez.(6) Also supplied to Kuipers but overlooked was the letter of recommendation from FBI fugitive Joseph Mahmoud Dibee that was tucked into Coronado’s court files back in 1995.(7)
Since it took us many hours to assist Kuipers in his research, we were pleased to see that the book includes a note of thanks at the end “to Teresa Platt of Fur Commission USA, for outstanding help with context and documents, and deep gratitude to Ron Arnold [of the Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise], for intellectual rigor and positively straight shooting.”
While better than some of Kuipers’ previous attempts to transform the lives of eco-anarchist thugs into daring tales of green-tinged heroes, Operation Bite Back remains out-of-focus, the work of a writer who refuses to remove his left-wing blinders and green-tinted glasses.
One out of three stars.
Bloomsbury Publishing, June 2009. ISBN13: 9781596914582; ISBN10: 1596914580
(2) Complaints about Sea Shepherd’s charitable status (corporate EIN 93-0792021), and requests for an investigation to be opened, can be lodged with the Oregon Department of Justice here.
(3) See “Animal liberation is not lethal? May the myth rest in peace,” FCUSA commentary, Sept. 1, 2008.
(6) Documents found in a store in Missoula, Montana included a US passport and a Washington State driver’s license in the name of Rodney Coronado; Iowa drivers’ licenses with Coronado’s picture in the names of James Corrigan and Frank Garcia; and a California birth certificate in the name of Russell David Martinez. Exhibits 1-3, pp 22-24, Bond hearing, pretrial, Dec. 8-9, 1994, Federal Building, Kalamazoo, Michigan, Docket No. 1:93:CR:116.
(7) For breaking news on manhunt for Joseph Dibee, see “Fugitive still licensed to fly by the F.A.A.,” New York Times, Aug. 18, 2009.