On February 12, the U.S. Congress held a hearing on eco-terrorism — that ugly homegrown branch of the environmental and animal rights movements.

Called to testify was Craig Rosebraugh, former spokesman for the Earth Liberation Front (ELF), which took credit for 137 attacks in 2001 — many of them coming after September 11. Asked about the terrorist operations of ELF, Rosebraugh pled the Fifth Amendment over 50 times.

While hiding behind the Constitution, he also attacked it, refusing to affirm that it represents the law of our nation. In written testimony, Rosebraugh declared: “Long live all the sparks attempting to ignite the Revolution. Sooner or later the sparks will turn into a flame!”

ELF complained that the government was harassing Rosebraugh simply “for expressing his opinion.” But ELF’s methods of expressing its opinion would make Osama bin Laden proud.

The group was labeled a domestic terrorist group by then-FBI Director Louis Freeh last year. FBI Special Agent David Szady (now U.S. counterintelligence czar) has said “by any sense or any definition, [ELF] is a true domestic-terrorism group.”

In a “communiqué” in January, ELF took credit “for the setting of incendiary devices” at the University of Minnesota, smugly noting the “action against biotechnology research… caused extensive damage” to a crop research facility.

ELF guerillas have taken such actions before. On New Year’s Eve 1999, ELF set fire to the office of Michigan State University researcher Catherine Ives, who was developing disease-resistant crops to help feed people in Africa. “I lost basically my entire professional life,” Ives said of the attack, which caused $1 million in damages.

On ELF’s website, which opens with a picture of an ELF-torched building aflame, readers can download a manual on “Setting Fires with Electrical Timers” — building crude bombs.

And David Barbarash of the Animal Liberation Front (ALF), ELF’s sister group, sells books online that teach “blockading tactics,” “thievery and trespassing,” “covert direct action,” and even sinking ships. The groups openly brag that they have caused $45 million in damages since 1997.

While Rosebraugh was being questioned in Washington, some of his “sparks” turned out in the streets in major cities, sparked by a movement call to take “direct action by any means necessary.”

Congress has started to shine harsh light on these brothers-in-arms with America’s worst enemies. The next step is for Americans to examine where they get their funding. Many of these domestic terrorists are funded by organizations unknowing citizens may support.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) gave over $45,000 to the legal defense fund of ALF terrorist Rodney Coronado, and even directly gave $1,500 to the “North American Earth Liberation Front.” But not all the funding is so overt.

PETA also established a foundation to funnel over $590,000 to a group called Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM). Far from the independent medical organization it pretends to be, PCRM is an animal rights front group.

PCRM’s Neal Barnard recently engineered a letter-writing campaign with Kevin Jonas of the violent animal rights group SHAC — and a former spokesman for ALF.

“Aboveground” groups like PETA and PCRM deny they are linked to terrorists. PETA spokesman Bruce Friedrich defensively points out that he’s worked in homeless shelters and soup kitchens.

But Friedrich also said last year: “It would be great if all the fast-food outlets, slaughterhouses, these laboratories and the banks who fund them exploded tomorrow… I think it’s perfectly appropriate for people to take bricks and toss them through the windows… Hallelujah to the people who are willing to do it.”

When “the people” toss the bricks (and the bombs), it’s fair to ask who encouraged them. And they’ve already started.

A prelude to February’s “direct action” took place during the recent World Economic Forum meetings in New York. The home of an investor in Huntingdon Life Sciences (HLS), a medical research group, was “smashed up” by radicals as “retribution for his investment,” a “communiqué” reported.

The action was called “the first stop” in a series of actions by the “Animal and Earth Liberation Bloc.” The activist who sent it reported a similar attack in January with this conclusion: “There won’t always be riot police on their doorsteps… we can and will show up for demonstrations at any time… We’ll be back.”

The motive of the February 12 hearing was to expose these terrorists before someone gets hurt. But it’s too late: One activist assaulted a medical research employee in Little Rock in January. And Europe’s experiences could foreshadow future eco-terror here: A McDonald’s employee in France died in a bombing in 2000.

And in 1999, a British journalist was kidnapped at gunpoint and had the letters “ALF,” four inches high, were burned into his back with a branding iron — all because he dared make a documentary critical of ALF.

Americans must pay attention. As Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) put it on September 12: ELF and ALF pose a threat “no less heinous than what we saw occur yesterday here in Washington and in New York.”