By William Fisher
Ten years after the Oklahoma City bombing left 168 people dead, one U.S. national security agency believes the domestic radical right does not pose a substantial threat to Americans while another labels white supremacists as “terrorists” – along with anti-war groups, affirmative action organizations and animal rights activists.
The apparent inconsistencies arise from documents recently made public from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
A draft internal document from the DHS obtained by The Congressional Quarterly lists the only serious domestic terrorist threats as radical animal rights and environmental groups like the Animal Liberation Front and the Earth Liberation Front.
But, according to an FBI report released to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) last week, neo-Nazi groups such as the Michigan Militia and the Aryan World Church are lumped together as potential terrorists with organizations such as the Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, Integration and Immigrant Rights and Fight for Equality by Any Means Necessary (BAMN) -- a national civil rights and affirmative action organization – and the antiwar group Direct Action, along with the East Lansing Animal Rights Movement.
The FBI report was prepared by a counterintelligence agent at the agency’s Detroit field office for a Domestic Terrorism Symposium hosted by the Michigan State Police. Inexplicably, the FBI report acknowledges that BAMN’s demonstrations were peaceful.
The anti-war group Direct Action and the East Lansing Animal Rights Movement are also listed in the report for taking part in a Lansing protest that targeted the FBI. The ACLU in response to a Freedom of Information lawsuit on behalf of nine organizations and individuals in Michigan obtained the report.
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), a research and advocacy organization that tracks hate crimes, “But for all the property damage they have wreaked, eco-radicals have killed no one — something that most definitely cannot be said of the white supremacists and others who people the American radical right.”
Linking BAMN with white supremacists or to terrorism is "absolutely outrageous," a BAMN spokesman told The Detroit News. "The American people are going to be outraged that their government is spying on groups standing up for affirmative action and education," he said.
Brian J. Foley, a professor at Florida Coastal School of Law in Jacksonville, cautions that “Police should focus on groups that use violence, period. One of the great things about the US is that we are supposed to be able to believe and espouse whatever views we want, without government intervention or censorship. Groups should be included on "terror lists" only if they use violence, not simply because police and politicians find their views distasteful or challenging to the status quo.”
In a new publication, “Ten Years of Terror”, the SPLC says that close to 60 right-wing domestic terrorist plots have been uncovered since the April 19, 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
These have included plans to bomb or burn government buildings, banks, refineries, utilities, clinics, synagogues, mosques, memorials and bridges; to assassinate police officers, judges, politicians, civil rights figures and others; to rob banks, armored cars and other criminals; and to amass illegal machine guns, missiles, explosives, and biological and chemical weapons.
In July 1995, an antigovernment extremist was arrested after trying to purchase a machine gun from an undercover police officer, and is later indicted by a federal grand jury for plotting to blow up the Internal Revenue Service building in Austin, Texas.
In November of the same year, a leader of the Oklahoma Constitutional Militia leader, his wife and another man, were arrested as they prepared explosives to bomb numerous targets, including the Southern Poverty Law Center, gay bars and abortion clinics.
The following year, apparently inspired by his reading of a neo-Nazi tract, a white supremacist killed one black man and wounded seven other people, including a reporter, during a racist shooting spree in a black neighborhood in Jackson, Miss. A search of his home found 17 long guns, 20,000 rounds of ammunition, several knives and countless military manuals.
In 1997, police raided the home of an alleged Ku Klux Klan member, discovering 35,000 rounds of heavy ammunition, armor piercing shells, smoke and tear gas grenades, live shells for grenade launchers, artillery shells and other military gear.
Later that year, three Ku Klux Klan members were arrested in a plot to blow up a natural gas refinery outside Fort Worth, Texas, after a local Klan leader got cold feet and went to the FBI. The three, along with a fourth arrested later, expected to kill a huge number of people with the blast — authorities later say as many as 30,000 might have died.
In 1998, a South Carolina militia member was charged with weapons, explosives and drug violations after allegedly trying to trade drugs for a machine gun and enough C-4 plastic explosive to demolish a five-room house. The following year, he plead guilty to an array of charges, including threatening to kill then Attorney General Janet Reno and FBI Director Louis Freeh.
In 2003, Federal agents charged the national leader of the neo-Nazi World Church of the Creator (WCOTC), soliciting the murder of federal judge Joan Humphrey Lefkow, whose mother and husband were later murdered by another person.
Last year alone, the Department of Justice prosecuted four domestic terrorism crimes. A Neo-Nazi skinhead videotaped himself as he firebombed an Oklahoma City synagogue. A former National Guardsman was arrested after checking into a mental health facility and telling counselors about plans to blow up a synagogue and a National Guard armory. FBI agents in Tennessee arrested a farmhand after he allegedly tried to purchase ingredients for deadly sarin nerve gas and C-4 plastic explosives from an undercover agent. And officials in New Jersey arrested two men they say asked a police informant to build them a bomb.
Timothy McVeigh, a former member of the armed forces, was executed for the Oklahoma City bombing. One of his accomplices, Terry Nichols, has been sentenced to life in prison without parole.