Domestic Terrorism: Oklahoma City to Anthrax and Beyond
Domestic Terrorism: Oklahoma City to Anthraxand Beyond
Numerous domestic terror groups are currently active in the United States. Some of these groups harbor an intense hatred and suspicion of the American government, while others follow both racist and hate based ideologies. Other groups subscribe to special interests, including animal liberation rights and anti-abortionist views. Many of these extremist groups are not only willing, but also prepared to use violence in order to achieve their radical goals. Domestic terror attacks have resulted in the disruption of social and political processes, caused widespread fear and panic, and resulted in numerous casualties
- Since September 11 and the subsequent mailing of anthrax-contaminated letters, federal authorities have set in place a number of stringent domestic security measures designed to prevent further attacks. Many of these security measures may ironically serve to inflame domestic extremist groups and lead to an increase in levels of violence from this dangerous segment of American society.
- Adherents to left-wing ideologies desire to affect change in the American system through revolutionary activities, rather than through the political system, which they believe is a product of the capitalist and imperialist system they are fighting against.
- One of the most well known and active categories of terrorist groups in the United States is the extreme right. Members of the extreme right support a variety of anti-government, racist, and conspiracy theory related ideologies.
• Special interest terrorism is different from both the extreme right-wing and left-wing movements in that the motivation behind special interest extremism is not to affect widespread social or political change, but rather to affect change on a specific interest or topic.
On October 2, 2001, a photo editor with American Media Inc. in Boca Raton, Florida, Robert Stevens, was admitted to the hospital with severe flu like symptoms. Diagnosed with a fatal case of inhalation anthrax, Stevens dies on October 5 as a result of the deadly disease. He is the first known person in the United States to die from inhaled anthrax since 1976. Within days more individuals tested positive for exposure to anthrax, setting off a tragic chain of events that ultimately paralyzed the country, causing disproportionate psychological effects amongst the nation's citizens, including hysteria, fear, and panic. Tragically, five people died as a result of the deadly terrorist attack.
The attempt to assign responsibility for the anthrax-contaminated letters has led to intense speculation from federal authorities and terrorism analysts alike as to the identity of the perpetrator(s) of the attack. Are they the work of an international terrorist organization harboring an intense hatred of the United States? Or is it perhaps the work of a domestic terrorist with equally nefarious motivations? To date, the investigation, dubbed Amerithrax, has not resulted in the definite identification of a culprit, either international or domestic. Many people were quick to assume that the September 11 terrorists, or other affiliates of the al-Qaeda terrorist organization, were responsible for these attacks against the United States. Keep in mind the first reported death from anthrax, on October 5, 2001, was less than a month after the September terrorist attacks, and many of the hijackers either lived or received flight training in Florida, where the first anthrax case was reported.
While at first it appeared as if international terrorists were responsible for the mailing of anthrax-contaminated letters that paralyzed the U.S. postal service and the federal government, after a preliminary investigation and analysis of existing evidence, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) released a statement saying that it had found no direct link to organized terrorism. Linguistic and behavioral assessments of the person responsible for mailing the anthrax-laden letters indicated that it was a single individual. This led to the instant speculation that the anthrax attacks were the result of domestic terrorism, and possibly the work of a lone American.
It comes as little surprise that the person responsible for the anthrax attacks could be an American citizen. Hundreds of different domestic terror groups are currently active in the United States. Some of these groups harbor an intense hatred and suspicion of the American government, while others follow both racist and hate based ideologies. Other groups subscribe to special interests, including animal liberation rights and anti-abortionist views.
Why should the American public be concerned about such domestic terror groups? Many of these extremist groups are not only willing, but also prepared to use violence in order to achieve their radical goals. Not unlike many international terrorist organizations, adherents to these beliefs are no strangers to mass casualty terrorism, as Timothy James McVeigh and Terry Lynn Nichols so brutally demonstrated in Oklahoma City in April 1995. Even if it turns out that an American citizen is not responsible for the anthrax attacks, the overall threat from domestic terrorism is too great a danger to ignore.
What is Domestic Terrorism?
While there is no single, universally accepted definition of terrorism, in the United States the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) breaks terrorism down into two different categories, international and domestic. According to the FBI in Terrorism in the United States, 1999 (p. ii), domestic terrorism is
the unlawful use, or threatened use, of force or violence by a group or individual based and operating entirely within the United States or its territories without foreign direction committed against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives.
Within the United States, there are numerous types of active terrorist groups, representing diverse social, political, religious, and ideological perspectives. In general these groups can be broken down into three broad categories: the extreme left-wing, the extreme right-wing, and special interest.
The Extreme Left
One of the categories of domestic terrorism, as identified by the FBI, is what is known as the extreme left. Left-wing terrorist groups generally "profess a revolutionary socialist doctrine and view themselves as protectors of the people against the dehumanizing effects of capitalism and imperialism" (Terrorism in the United States 1999, p. 19). Adherents to left-wing ideologies desire to affect change in the American system through revolutionary activities, rather than through the political system, which they believe is a product of the capitalist and imperialist system they are fighting against.
From the 1960s until mid to late 1980s, left-wing extremism was the most prominent type of terrorism in the United States. To further their radical socialist ideologies, left-wing extremists in the continental United States and Puerto Rico planned and carried out numerous violent terrorist activities, including bombings, that claimed a number of lives and caused millions of dollars in damage. According to the FBI, from 1980-85, of 184 recorded terrorist and suspected terrorist incidents, 86 were attributed to left-wing extremists. A combination of factors in the late 1980s and early 1990s, including the collapse of the Soviet Union and infiltration of known and active groups by law enforcement officials, led to the overall decline of left-wing terrorism. In the early 1990s the extreme right-wing became the most prominent domestic terrorist threat.
The Extreme Right
By far, one of the most well known and active categories in which terrorist groups in the United States can be placed is what is known as the extreme right. Members of the extreme right support a variety of anti-government, racist, and conspiracy theory related ideologies. The most active and widely recognized subgroups in the extreme right include: Christian Identity, white supremacist, the militia movement, patriot movement, tax protest movement, and common law activists/sovereign citizens. Among the extreme right it is not uncommon for a member of one group to belong to, or subscribe to the beliefs, of another group. Some members of various militia groups in the United States, for example, adhere to the Christian Identity ideology, while also supporting various tax protest and white supremacist doctrines.
Christian Identity. Descending from British Israelism (belief that white Europeans are the descendents of the ten lost tribes of Israel), the modern American Christian Identity movement is an ideology that asserts that the white Aryan race is God's chosen race. Using the Bible to justify their hate-filled, racist-driven goals, Christian Identity followers believe that the Second Coming of Jesus Christ will lead to a violent and bloody race war between Good (white races) and Evil (Jews and non-whites). More extreme followers of the religion encourage violence against non-whites to achieve their goals. Followers of the Christian Identity movement, which is the most common unifying theology among the right-wing movement, stem from a number of diverse groups, including militias, patriot groups, and white supremacist groups.
White Supremacist. The cornerstone of the white supremacist movement is the belief in the dominance of the white race. While there are a variety of groups with different levels of belief in the movement, the more extreme followers are typically violent racists who support the establishment of a white homeland in order to maintain the purity of the white race. Traditional targets of white supremacist activity have been black Americans and Jews, although in recent years the number of hate crimes carried out against gays and lesbians and other minority and ethnic groups have been growing.
Militia Movement. Rising to prominence in the early to mid 1990s, the militia movement is based on the belief that Americans should form armed, paramilitary groups in order to protect themselves from the tyrannical and oppressive U.S. government. Some militia group members also subscribe to elaborate conspiracy theories, including the belief that the American government is a puppet to the New World Order. Catalysts for the militia movement stem from a number of high profile events in the early to mid 1990s, including the passage of the 1993 Brady Law (requiring a waiting period for gun purchases), fear over gun confiscation, the standoffs at Waco and Ruby Ridge, and erroneous media reports directly linking the militia movement to the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah federal building in Oklahoma City. While the majority of active militia groups around the United States do not engage in illegal or violent activities, a small number of groups and individuals have planned and carried out violent crimes and have been responsible for a number of deadly acts of terrorism.
Patriot Movement. The patriot movement is the name given to a group of individuals or organizations who share similar societal and political beliefs. As their name suggests, followers of the patriot movement are generally united by the common conviction that the United States is not governed the way it was intended to be when it was founded, and therefore many of the local, state, and federal laws are without foundation. Many members of the patriot movement belong to other groups, including the militia movement, the common-law movement, and the white supremacist movement.
Tax Protest Movement. The tax protest movement is an anti-government movement opposed to paying federal income tax. Originating in the 1950s, tax protestors have interpreted the law in such a way that they believe that tax laws are illegitimate and therefore argue that they have both a moral and legal right not to pay taxes. In general, tax protestors believe that filing taxes violates Fifth Amendment rights, that the Sixteenth Amendment was not ratified correctly, and that paying tax on income should be on a voluntary basis only. The Fifth Amendment, which protects against disclosing information that could be used in or lead to criminal prosecution, is claimed by those tax extremists to support their disinclination to file their income taxes. The Sixteenth Amendment gives Congress the power to lay and collect taxes on income from any source. Although the tax protest movement has not been responsible for many violent crimes or acts of terrorism, adherents to the movement also participate in the wide spectrum of other domestic groups, including militias and white supremacist groups, which have also engaged in domestic terror activities.
Sovereign Citizen. Originating in the 1970s and 1980s, sovereign citizens, also known as common law activists, are individuals who adhere to the belief that nearly all government in the United States is illegitimate, and therefore, American citizens are only subject to what they call the common law. Under common law, citizens have absolute control over their land and property, are not required to pay most taxes, and are not subject to a variety of government regulations, ordinances, and laws. Along these lines, adherents to this belief do not recognize the authority of the government and often refuse to have a social security card, a passport, or even a driver's license. Sovereign citizens have engaged in a variety of criminal activities, from minor legal offenses including fraud, to violent armed robberies and standoffs with federal authorities.
Special Interest Terrorism
The third and final category of domestic terrorism in the United States is what is known as special interest terrorism. Special interest terrorism is different from both the extreme right-wing and left-wing movements in that the motivation behind special interest extremism is not to affect widespread social or political change, but rather to affect change on a specific interest or topic. In an effort to achieve their select goals, more radical fringes of the movement attempt to force segments of society, including the general public, companies, and the government, to change their viewpoints on the issue the group is fighting for.
Some of the more prominent issues extreme special interest groups fight for include the environment, animal liberation rights, and anti-abortionism. In some cases, special interest terrorists have resorted to criminal activity including tree spiking, vandalism, bombings, killings, and in the case of some anti-abortion extremists, widespread mailing of anthrax-hoax threat letters. Special interest extremist activities have been on the rise in the past few years, with terrorist groups including the Animal Liberation Front, the Earth Liberation Front, and the Army of God planning and carrying out a number of terrorist acts in the United States.
Terrorism in the Twentieth Century
Terrorism is not a new phenomenon. Contrary to many perceptions, terrorist related activities can be traced back to ancient societies when individuals and groups struggled for land ownership, leadership rights, natural resources, and other related social and political concerns. While many of the tools of terrorism have changed over time, the results in society have remained constant. Acts of terrorism result in widespread fear, panic, violence, social and political disruption, and even death.
The most prominent roots of terrorism in the United States can be traced back to the overtly racist activities of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK). Founded shortly after the Civil War (1861-65) in the mid-1860s during the Reconstruction Era, the first wave of Klan activity was relatively short-lived. Supporting virulently racist ideals, members tormented, intimidated, attacked, and murdered African Americans, predominantly in southern U.S. states. After five years of aggressive terrorist activities, around 1870 many of the active Klan chapters disbanded. From 1915 until the end of the 1920s the KKK experienced a nationwide revival, and as membership in the Klan increased, so too did the level of violent attacks.
As aggressive terror tactics against blacks increased, including mob lynching and vigilante style killings, Klan activities received nationwide press coverage. A number of high profile scandals, public condemnation of the violent racists attacks attributed to Klan members, and the onset of the Great Depression (1929-39) led to the disintegration of many Klan chapters and the overall collapse of the KKK. While Klan activity continues to persist in the United States, it is limited to a small number of independent groups and individuals who are largely inactive. After the breakup of the KKK domestic terror activities remained limited and small in scale until the emergence of the tax-protest movement in the 1950s and the rise of left-wing extremism in the early 1960s.
The modern era of terrorism, which began in the late 1960s, has undeniably been the most destructive in history. Technological advances, coupled with the emergence of mass casualty and weapons of mass destruction terrorism, have only exacerbated this trend. From 1968-99 the FBI recorded more than 14,000 international terrorist attacks, resulting in over 10,000 deaths. While the number of domestic attacks have been far fewer, they have resulted in the disruption of social and political processes, caused widespread fear and panic, resulted in numerous casualties, and forced Americans to accept domestic terrorism as an unfortunate aspect of modern-day society. Between 1980-2000 the FBI recorded 247 incidents or suspected incidents of terrorism perpetrated by domestic terrorists, and from 1980-99, 83 domestic terrorist plots were thwarted by law enforcement officials.
Many of the terrorist activities that took place in the United States from the 1960s to the 1980s were planned and carried out by left-wing extremist groups including the Weather Underground, the Black Liberation Army, the Symbionese Liberation Army, the United Freedom Front, and the Armed Forces of Puerto Rico Liberation Front (FALN). Fighting for revolutionary socialist changes to American society, or in the case of the FALN and other separatist groups, independence from the United States, these left-wing groups carried out bombings and other attacks in the United States, primarily in New York City.
From the 1970s to the 1980s
On February 4, 1974, the Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA), a revolutionary extremist group whose motto was "Death to the fascist insect that preys upon the life of the people," kidnapped 19-year old newspaper heiress Patty Hearst from her Berkley, California, apartment. After a number of weeks in forced confinement by her captors, Hearst became a member of the radical leftist group, actively participating in bank robberies and other felonies the extremist group carried out in support of their revolutionary goals. In January 2001 she received full presidential pardon for her actions.
Other prominent left-wing terrorist activities during this time included a fire lit by the Jewish Defense League in Brooklyn, New York, on April 5, 1982, which resulted in one death and seven injuries. On September 16, 1983 Los Macheteros (Popular Puerto Rican Army) stole 7.2 million from a Wells-Fargo armored car, and on November 7, 1983, left-wing extremists bombed the U.S. Capitol. While many of the bombings and other terrorist attacks carried out at this time did not often result in high numbers of fatalities, they caused widespread disruption to American society
The first recorded terrorist incident perpetrated by a right-wing anti-government group occurred on February 13, 1983, in Medina, North Dakota, when Gordon Kahl, a member of the Christian Identity movement and a leader of the Sheriff's Posse Comitatus, shot and killed two law enforcement officers and injured four others. The Posse Comitatus was a loosely formed, anti-government group that began in California and Oregon around 1970. Believing in an elaborate conspiracy theory whereby the legitimate American government had been replaced by an illegitimate, tyrannical one, adherents to the ideology believed in the right to bear arms and the use of force in order to protect citizens from the government. By the end of the 1980s the movement had largely died out, but the radical belief in conspiracy theories and virulent anti-government ideologies still persist in active terrorist groups, and in some aspects, heralded the rise in the right-wing and virulent anti-government extremism that currently exist in the United States.
In the late 1980s the threat from domestic terrorists came from extreme right-wing, anti-government, and white supremacist groups. One Aryan Nation affiliated organization, The Order, carried out bank robberies, armored car robberies, bombings, and murders in furtherance of their objectives. According to the FBI, in 1986 affiliates of the Aryan Nations carried out five of the eight-recorded terrorist attacks in the United States.
Ruby Ridge and Waco
The early 1990s were marked by a significant decrease in the number of terrorist incidents, but saw the growth of anti-government extremism in the formation of both organized militias and patriot groups. A series of tragic and highly publicized events, including the siege at Ruby Ridge, Idaho, and the standoff near Waco, Texas, acted as catalysts to this explosion of right-wing extremism. In August 1992 federal authorities attempted to arrest white supremacist Randy Weaver on weapons charges at his rural homestead in Ruby Ridge, Idaho, where he lived with his wife, teenage son, and infant child. Weaver's fourteen-year-old son and a federal agent were killed when gunfire was exchanged when federal agents arrived on the homestead.
When Weaver refused to surrender to the authorities, more federal agents arrived, beginning a standoff that lasted eleven days. Once news of the "siege" became known, hundreds of right-wing extremists, including white supremacists and Nazi Skinheads, arrived at the scene, angrily protesting the actions taken by the federal authorities. During the siege Weaver's wife was killed by a federal sniper while Weaver and a friend were wounded. Even though Weaver was later acquitted of all charges against him stemming from the standoff, the incident became a galvanizing force among the extreme right, fueling their paranoia and anti-government convictions.
On February 28, 1993, federal agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) attempted to execute arrest and search warrants against David Koresh and the Branch Davidian religious compound in Mount Carmel, near Waco, Texas, where they believed members had stockpiled a large cache of weapons. The raid resulted in a shootout in which four ATF agents and five members of the religious group were killed. This was followed by a takeover of the operation by the FBI Hostage Rescue Team and a 51-day standoff. On April 19 the standoff came to an end when the FBI attempted to insert tear gas canisters into the compound to force Branch Davidian members to emerge from their buildings. This effort was completely unsuccessful when heavy winds ejected the tear gas from the compound as quickly as the FBI could insert them. Just hours after the failed tear gas attack, Branch Davidian members lit a number of buildings on the compound on fire, killing nearly 80 men, women, and children who became trapped inside.
The 51-day standoff at the Branch Davidian compound, which came to be referred to as the Waco standoff, made national headlines and caused outrage among the radical right. The siege at Ruby Ridge and the passage of the 1993 Brady Bill, which requires waiting periods on gun purchases, only exacerbated the perceived injustices perpetrated against American citizens by the United States government. This extreme anti-government dogma, coupled with a belief in conspiracy theories and a number of other factors led to the most destructive incident of domestic terrorism in the history of the United States, the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah federal building in Oklahoma City.
At approximately 9:02 A.M., on the morning of April 19, 1995, an improvised explosive device made out of nearly 4,000 pounds of ammonium nitrate and diesel fuel exploded outside of the Alfred P. Murrah federal building in Oklahoma City. Placed in a rental truck, the improvised bomb destroyed the building and caused the deaths of 168 people and injured over five hundred more. Within minutes emergency crews and law enforcement officials arrived on the scene, and within eight hours of the explosion, President Bill Clinton (1993-2001) signed an Emergency Declaration, granting the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) primary federal responsibility for the incident. Law enforcement officials immediately began searching for the perpetrators of the attack, and on April 20, Attorney General Janet Reno offered a $2 million reward for the arrest and conviction of the individuals behind the bombing.
While the country was reeling from the impact of the devastating attack in Oklahoma City, on April 19, just hours after the truck bomb exploded outside of the Alfred P. Murrah federal building, an Oklahoma Highway Patrolman pulled a car off the road for driving without a valid license plate. The driver of the vehicle, arrested for vehicle and weapons violations, was Timothy James McVeigh. On April 21, shortly before he was to make bail for the weapons and vehicle violations, authorities arrested McVeigh, charging him with maliciously damaging and destroying a federal building by mean of explosives. Terry Lynn Nichols, McVeigh's co-conspirator in the bombing, surrendered to federal authorities shortly after McVeigh was arrested and was formally charged with the same violations as McVeigh.
On August 10, 1995, a federal grand jury for the Western District of Oklahoma returned an indictment charging both men with one count of Conspiracy to Use a Weapon of Mass Destruction, one count to Use a Weapon of Mass Destruction, one count of Malicious Destruction by Explosives of Federal Property, and eight counts of First Degree Murder for the death of eight law enforcement officers. On June 2, 1997, Timothy McVeigh, who parked the truck bomb directly outside the Alfred P. Murrah federal building and was responsible for the ensuing explosion, was found guilty of all counts against him and sentenced to death by lethal injection. For his part in the terrorist attack, on December 23, 1997, Terry Lynn Nichols was convicted of conspiracy and involuntary manslaughter, and was sentenced to life imprisonment, as well as eight, six-year terms, one for each of the law enforcement officers who died in the bomb blast. A third, lesser known accomplice, Michael Fortier, who turned witness for the government, was sentenced to 12 years imprisonment for failing to warn authorities of the impending plot to blow up the building.
What motivated Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols to willfully and maliciously cause the deaths of 168 innocent Americans? Why should the American public be concerned about such domestic terrorists? Although not directly affiliated with any known terrorist organization, McVeigh and Nichols both believed in various anti-government and conspiracy theory related ideologies. It was these beliefs that led them to orchestrate the worst domestic terror attack ever to occur on American soil.
Born in 1968, in Lockport, New York, Timothy McVeigh first became interested in right-wing ideologies in his teen years when he began collecting guns and reading pro-militia and survivalist literature, including the infamous anti-semantic and conspiratorial based Turner Diaries. After dropping out of college, McVeigh enlisted in the U.S. Army where he sharpened his shooting and survivalist skills, and in early 1990, served in the Gulf War (1991). Following the Gulf War, where he received a number of commendations for his superior service, he tried out for an elite special forces unit but was unable to successfully complete the rigorous battery of tests demanded of him. It was shortly after this that McVeigh dropped out of the army, bitter with his failure to make the special forces and disillusioned by his combat experience and what he believed were government improprieties in the Gulf War, and began traveling throughout the United States, selling anti-government literature and other survivalist paraphernalia at gun shows.
During his travels McVeigh spent time with two former army colleagues, Terry Lynn Nichols and Michael Fortier, both who shared his anti-government sentiments. In 1993 McVeigh traveled to Waco, Texas, to protest the federal siege of the Branch Davidian compound, becoming more enraged by what he perceived as government abuses of power and gross injustices against American citizens. Following plans set forth in the Turner Diaries, a book he carried with him and quoted from on numerous occasions, he began planning the Oklahoma City bombing—to take place on the anniversary of the Waco tragedy—as a platform for his extreme anti-government message. McVeigh believed that a high number of casualties in Oklahoma would be the best way to deliver his anti-government message.
Like Timothy McVeigh, Terry Lynn Nichols, the co-conspirator in the fatal bombing in Oklahoma City, also espoused anti-government, right-wing ideologies. Born in 1955 in Michigan, he first became interested in the survivalist movement in the early 1980s. He enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1988, where he met McVeigh. With similar interests in weapons, survivalist beliefs, and other right-wing dogma, the two became fast friends. Granted a hardship discharge in 1989 so he could look after his six-year old son, Nichols quickly became embittered with the American government when he had difficulty getting immigration clearance for his Filipino wife. His growing anti-government beliefs were further reinforced when his older brother attempted to renounce his American citizenship.
Subscribing to sovereign citizen ideologies, Nichols attempted to renounce his citizenship twice, destroyed his drivers license, voter registration card, and passport. He refused to use a license plate on his vehicle, had difficulty holding work, and fell quickly into debt. In Spring 1993 McVeigh and Nichols's, along with Nichols brother, formed their own paramilitary organization they dubbed the Patriots. In 1994 Nichols moved to Kansas where he worked as a farm hand until late August of that year when McVeigh arrived at the farm. In late September the two men left Kansas together and proceeded to carry out plans for the Oklahoma City bombing.
The Oklahoma City bombing forced many Americans to accept the unthinkable. It was the first ever mass-casualty attack against Americans in the United States, perpetrated not by foreign terrorist groups, but by domestic extremists. "Nothing compares to the Oklahoma City bombing—the senseless horror and the unnecessary loss of lives. It was not a random act of nature, but a deliberate act of man" ("One Year Later: James Lee Witt Reflects on Oklahoma City," April 19, 1996). The deadly bombing in Oklahoma City tragically exposed the vulnerability of American society to mass-casualty attack, raising the possibility of future attacks by domestic extremists. The chance that there are disaffected Americans who harbor intense hatred for their own government, who subscribe to elaborate conspiracy theories, and who are both capable and willing to express this hatred in the form of violence against national targets is too great a risk to ignore.
Special Interest Terrorism and the Army of God
While domestic terrorists who subscribe to radical anti-government beliefs are some of the most well-known extremists in the United States, there also exists a serious threat to national security from a no less dangerous quarter—special interest extremists. The motivation behind this brand of extremism is to create change in regards to a specific interest or topic that the group feels is of particular importance.
In an effort to achieve their select goals, the more radical fringes of the special interest groups attempt to force segments of society to change their viewpoints on the issue, often times through the use of violence. One of the first cases of special interest terrorism occurred on April 16, 1987, when a member of the Animal Liberation Front (ALF) carried out an arson fire in Davis, California. Since 1987 special interest terrorism has been on the rise, with animal rights, environmental, and anti-abortion groups dominating the scene. Three highly active groups include the ALF, the Earth Liberation Front (ELF), and the Army Of God.
Army of God
Since the early 1980s a number of violent events including arsons, kidnappings, bombings, murders, and anthrax-hoax threat letters have been carried out against abortion providers in the United States. Many of these attacks have been attributed to a group known as the Army of God. A loose affiliation of violent anti-abortion extremists, the Army of God has hundreds of self-proclaimed members across the United States who believe that killing abortion providers is not murder, but rather justifiable homicide. Even though it is not identified as an official terrorist organization, self-proclaimed Army of God followers, including Eric Robert Rudolph and Clayton Lee Waagner, have been responsible for a number of violent terrorist attacks across the country.
A virulently anti-abortion and anti-government activist, Eric Robert Rudolph is one of the most well-known, self-proclaimed members of the underground Army of God movement. One of the FBI's ten most wanted fugitives, Rudolph has been charged with the July 27, 1996, fatal bombing at Atlanta's Centennial Olympic Park in Georgia, which killed one person and wounded more than 100 others; as well as the double bombings at the Sandy Springs Professional Building in Atlanta on January 16, 1997; the double bombings at the Otherside Lounge in midtown Atlanta on February 21, 1997; and the January 29, 1998 fatal bombing at the New Woman All Women Health Care Clinic in Birmingham, Alabama. Letters from the Army of God, which authorities believe were written by Rudolph, claimed responsibility for all but the Atlanta Centennial Olympic Park bombing.
On May 5, 1998, the FBI announced a million dollar reward for information directly leading to the arrest of Rudolph, stating that the "bombings represent grave incidents of domestic terrorism. The FBI seeks to ensure that justice is served and that others are deterred from carrying out such senseless violence against the public." The FBI continues to search for Rudolph, but the longer that he remains at large, the more likely that he will commit another deadly terrorist attack against domestic targets.
During 2001 a second self-proclaimed member of the Army of God, Clayton Lee Waagner, was involved in a number of terrorist related activities in the United States. Believing that he was "anointed by God," in February 2001 Waagner had escaped from a county jail in Illinois where he was awaiting sentencing for a number of charges, including the unlawful possession of a firearm and the transport of a stolen vehicle across state lines. While on the run Waagner committed a number of crimes, including bank robberies in West Virginia and Pennsylvania, and frequently posted email messages condoning the killing of abortion providers on an Army of God website run by Virginian Donald Spitz. Waagner claimed responsibility for over 550 anthrax hoax threat letters that were sent to reproductive health care clinics in October and November 2001. He also claims to have compiled a list with the names, addresses, and photographs of 42 employees of abortion providers he planned on killing. After a nearly ten-month, nationwide manhunt, Waagner was arrested on December 5, 2001 by federal authorities.
Recent History and the Future
Even though domestic terror related activities have been of little focus in recent news, terrorist related activities continue to be a threat to national security. On March 18, 2002, two letters claiming to be from the Army of God were found in North Carolina at the Andrews Journal newspaper and at Roper's Boots, a shoe store where Rudolph once shopped. Each letter contained a message supporting Eric Robert Rudolph, who remains at large.
Other types of special interest terrorism are also on the rise. The FBI estimates that the ALF/ELF have committed more than 600 criminal acts in the United States since 1996, and in 2000, seven terrorist incidents occurring in the United States were attributed to special interest terrorism. In the past few years left-wing terrorism has also seen an up-swing with the emergence of anarchist groups. In November and December 1999 many individuals and groups supporting anarchist ideologies publicly demonstrated against the World Trade Organization Ministerial Meeting in Seattle, Washington, causing damage to numerous buildings and businesses in the downtown area.
Since September 11 and the subsequent mailing of anthrax-contaminated letters, federal authorities have set in place a number of stringent domestic security measures designed to prevent further attacks. The Maryland General Assembly, for example, is negotiating nine different bills aimed at improving preparedness in the event of a terrorist attack. While the bills will give the state the broad emergency powers many believe necessary to combat a terrorist attack, several of the bills provisions curtail personal freedoms and support the expansion of, among other things, police powers to plant wiretaps.
Many of these security measures may ironically serve to inflame domestic extremist groups and lead to an increase in levels of violence from this dangerous segment of American society. The anthrax attacks serve to remind us of the possibility that a disaffected American with virulent left-wing, right-wing, or special interest beliefs may not only be willing, but also prepared to use violence in order to achieve their radical goals. Without a doubt, the threat from domestic terrorism is a possibility we dare not ignore.
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Cheryl A. Loeb
February 4, 1974 The Symbionese Liberation Army kidnaps newspaper heiress Patty Hearst from her Berkley, California, apartment.
May 1980 The first FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force is established.
February 13, 1983 A member of Sheriff's Posse Comitatus kills two law enforcement officers in a shoot-out. This is the first recorded terrorist incident perpetrated by a right-wing anti-government terrorist group.
April 16, 1987 A member of Animal Liberation Front (ALF) carries out an arson fire in Davis, California. This is the first recorded special interest terrorism incident perpetrated by ALF.
August 1992 Federal authorities attempt to arrest white supremacist Randy Weaver at his rural Ruby Ridge, Idaho, home. An eleven day siege ensues, resulting in the deaths of Weaver's teenage son, his wife, and a federal officer.
February 28, 1993 Federal agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms attempt to execute arrest and search warrants against David Koresh and the Branch Davidian religious compound in Waco, Texas.
April 19, 1993 A 51-day standoff comes to an end inWaco when nearly 80 Branch Davidian members are killed in a fire when buildings on the compound are set ablaze.
April 19, 1995 A truck bomb destroys the Alfred P.Murrah federal building in Oklahoma City, killing 168 people and injuring nearly 500 more.
August 10, 1995 A federal grand jury for the WesternDistrict of Oklahoma returns an indictment charging Timothy James McVeigh and Terry Lynn Nichols with the April 19, 1995 terrorist attack.
July 27, 1996 A fatal bombing occurs in CentennialOlympic Park in Atlanta, Georgia. The bombing is later attributed to Army of God activist Eric Robert Rudolph.
June 11, 2001 Timothy James McVeigh is executed by lethal injection in a federal prison in Terre Haute, Indiana.
October 5, 2001 Robert Stevens, photo editor at American Media, Inc. in Boca Raton, Florida, dies from inhalation anthrax.
December 5, 2001 Army of God member Clayton LeeWaagner is arrested by federal authorities after a ten-month nationwide manhunt.
New World Order Conspiracy Theory
The New World Order is a vast global conspiracy theory rooted in the belief that in the imminent future the United Nations (UN) will lead a military coup against the nations of the world in order to establish a One World Government. The UN troops, made up of foreign nationals who, according to the theory, are not averse to killing Americans, will arrive in unmarked Black Helicopters and after a hostile military campaign, will impose a despotic rule over the United States.
Under the rule of the One World Government the U.S. Constitution will be replaced by the UN charter. American citizens will lose their right to private property and their right to own firearms, all elections will be abolished, and only UN sanctioned One World Religion churches will be allowed to operate. All individuals who oppose the many oppressive measures of the One World Government will be interned in concentration camps held throughout the United States. In some versions of the New World Order conspiracy theory, it is not the United Nations which is the invading force, but Jews, communists, and other groups.
The Turner Diaries
Published in 1978 by William Pierce (under the pseudonym Andrew Macdonald), leader of the neo-Nazi National Alliance, the Turner Diaries is a fictional novel detailing a violent overthrow of the U.S. federal government by white supremacists. Set in the 1990s during a vicious race war, the Turner Diaries chronicles the story of Earl Turner, a member of an underground white supremacist army known as the Organization, who wages a guerilla war against the System, which is made up of federal government and other leading social institutions.
In his battle against the corrupt government and unjust society run by Jews, Turner becomes a hero to the white race after he detonates a truck bomb filled with cases of dynamite and ammonium nitrate fertilizer outside of the FBI headquarters in Washington, DC, killing 700 people. As the race war between the Organization and the System grows more violent, Turner becomes a martyr to the people when he flies a plane equipped with a warhead into the Pentagon, causing massive damage to the center of the Systems' military and strategic operations. Due to his heroic act the Organization is able to defeat the enemy and global white domination is eventually achieved.
The Turner Diaries is one of the most revered and widely read books among right-wing anti-government extremists. Events in the book are chillingly familiar to real life terrorist attacks, including the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.
Army of God Letter
The bombing's [sic] in Sandy Spring's and midtown were carried-out by units of the Army of God.
The abortion was the target of the first device. The murder of 3.5 million children every year will not be "tolerated." Those who participate in anyway in the murder of children may be targeted for attack. The attack therefore serves as a warning: any-one in or around facilities that murder children may become victims of retribution. The next facility targeted may not be empty.
The second device was aimed at agent of the so-called federal government i.e. A.T.F. F.B.I. Marshall's e.t.c. We declare and will wage total war on the ungodly communist regime in New York and your legaslative [sic]—bureaucratic lackey's in Washington. It is you who are responsible and preside over the murder of children and issue the policy of ungodly preversion [sic] thats destroying our people. We will target all facilities and personnell [sic] of the federal government.
The attack in midtown was aimed at the sodomite bar (the Otherside). We will target sodomites, there [sic] organizations, and all those who push there [sic] agenda.
"Death to the New World Order" Eric Robert Rudolph. "The Army of God Letter." Available online at http://www.fbi.gov/majcases/rudolph/letters.htm (cited April 12, 2002).