The prosecution of Daniel McGowan and the Earth Liberation Front.

If we do live in a post 9-11 world, where the never-ending global war continues, targeting "terrorism" all over the planet, it might be worth remembering that white nationalist terrorism was not the first domestic group to be identified as a threat to U.S. democracy. Before 9-11, the target was radical environmental groups.

For the first twenty years of the dominance of the logics of homeland security and domestic counter-terrorism in foreign and domestic policy, local and global law enforcement, some of whom espoused white nationalist ideas, "ignored the rising danger of far-right extremism. In the atmosphere of willful indifference, a virulent movement has grown and metastasized."

In the context of this organized and theorized willful ignorance of white supremacist terrorism, the first group targeted for persecution and prosecution was the Earth Liberation Front (ELF), specifically Daniel McGowan in 2005, as the FBI had named them "America's 'number one domestic terrorism threat.'"

"For years, the ELF—operating in separate anonymous cells without any central leadership—had launched spectacular arsons against dozens of businesses they accused of destroying the environment: timber companies, SUV dealerships, wild horse slaughterhouses, and a $12 million ski lodge at Vail, Colorado.

With the arrest of Daniel and thirteen others, the government had cracked what was probably the largest ELF cell in America and brought down the group responsible for the very first ELF arsons in this country.

Part coming-of-age tale, part cops-and-robbers thriller, the film interweaves a verite chronicle of Daniel on house arrest as he faces life in prison, with a dramatic recounting of the events that led to his involvement with the group. And along the way, it asks hard questions about environmentalism, activism, and the way we define terrorism.

Drawing from striking archival footage — much of it never before seen — and intimate interviews with ELF members and with the prosecutor and detective who were chasing them, IF A TREE FALLS explores the tumultuous period from 1995 until early 2001 when environmentalists were clashing with timber companies and law enforcement, and the word "terrorism" had not yet been altered by 9/11."

You can check out the trailer here and the film here.