FBI Searches Caltech Computers in SUV Arson Probe

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FBI agents seeking a self-proclaimed arsonist searched computers at the California Institute of Technology (search) for clues into fires set at four Southern California car dealerships.

The agents were hoping to uncover the identity of man claiming to be a member of the eco-terrorist group Earth Liberation Front (search), who told the Los Angeles Times he was involved in the attacks.

The man contacted the newspaper this week by telephone as well as through e-mails, which appeared to have come from computers at Caltech or Pasadena City College (search).

FBI spokeswoman Cheryl Mimura confirmed that agents visited the Caltech campus Friday but would not provide details, citing bureau policy not to comment on ongoing investigations.

A source close to the investigation told the Times that FBI agents recovered hard-drive data from computers at the school's Fairchild Library.

"The FBI is conducting an investigation and they have been at Caltech, and we're cooperating with them completely," Caltech spokeswoman Jill Perry said Saturday.

Perry said she believed Caltech was "very much on the periphery of this investigation" but would not comment further on the case.

Calls by The Associated Press to the city college Saturday were not immediately returned.

City college officials said Friday that agents visited the campus Thursday night to look for the computers used to send the messages. Campus officials said e-mails could have been sent from the library or the school's career center, which are both open to the public.

Caltech students said individuals must have an account issued by campus officials to log onto their school's computer network.

Earlier in the week, a man provided details to the Times about the $1 million arson and vandalism attack that authorities said would be known only to investigators and those involved in the incident. The man said he wanted to draw attention to pollution created by SUVs.

He also said he contacted the paper to ensure that an anti-war protester arrested last week in the case, and released Monday, would not be charged in the attacks.

Authorities said Josh Connole (search) of Pomona remains a suspect. Connole, 25, has denied any involvement in the attacks and has denounced the ELF actions since his release.