“We may not want them marrying our daughters…But anyone who is willing to drive a plane into a building to kill Jews is alright by me.”
Those are the words of Billy Roper, deputy membership coordinator of the neo-Nazi National Alliance, celebrating the murder of more than 3,000 fellow Americans on Sept. 11, 2001.
Surprised that an American white supremacist leader would support an attack on his fellow citizens by foreign Islamic fundamentalists? Don’t be. Al Qaeda and the National Alliance have a common goal: the destruction of the United States as you now know it.
And they are not alone. It seems a quaint idea now, but before 9/11, the leading culprits for launching major terror attacks on American soil were hate groups and other domestic terrorists. Today, the fear of such homegrown killers takes a distant backseat to Al Qaeda. But we forget these people at our own risk because they are flat dangerous, especially to law enforcement officers who might get in their way.
The FBI defines terrorism as “the unlawful use of force or violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives.” It restricts domestic terrorism to U.S. citizens who reside in the United States, who are not acting on behalf of a foreign power, and who may be conducting criminal activities in support of terrorist objectives.
You Are The Enemy
That last part is why the average police officer should be wary of domestic terror activities. A number of officers have been wounded and even killed when making traffic stops or responding to crimes in progress that involve hate groups and other American extremists. The thing to remember is that these people are motivated, dedicated, usually heavily armed, and you represent the government and the status quo that they abhor.
In other words, it isn’t for nothing that the FBI and other law enforcement agencies tend to view some of our more extreme-minded folks as terrorists.
Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Dep. Murray Simpkins with the Terrorism Early Warning group notes that domestic terrorist groups may be regional, national, or isolated, with numbers as large as several hundred or as few as four or five. Their memberships may ebb and flow, depending upon the political and legal pressures brought to bear upon them. They may up and disappear, or resurrect themselves anew. But numbers aren’t the primary concern here, for the deeply committed mindset of a single person can pose a disproportionate threat to large numbers of people.
Whether they are Eco Raiders, one of the first organized group of clandestine environmental extremists to function in the United States, or sovereign citizens, domestic terrorists have some things in common: they are disinclined to identify themselves as “terrorists” and they see the government as the enemy or, in the case of environmental and animal rights activists, a willing ally of the enemy. And you as a uniform-wearing, badge-carrying law enforcement officer are an instrument of the enemy.
Make no mistake, the threat that these groups pose to law enforcement is considerable. While federal law enforcement officials bear the brunt of their rhetoric, particularly the FBI, ATF, IRS, and FEMA, they have been known to target uniformed patrol officers, as well. Terrorists are also likely to engage officers in firefights at traffic stops or during crimes in progress. As some of these groups fund their activities through bank robberies, the possibility of their involvement in such incidents must be considered.
They are also not above attempting to infiltrate police organizations, either through recruiting sympathizers or by becoming reserve members. And they may be watching you. Some domestic terrorists have publicized officers’ home addresses in their literature and on their Websites. Others have used active surveillance techniques to track officers’ routine patrol functions.
The unfortunate reality is that too little about terrorist threats is communicated to the street cop, yet a majority of high-profile arrests involving these domestic “bin Ladens” are made by vigilant street cops and border agents.
Consider that despite the expenditure of many federal man hours, it was 21-year-old rookie cop Jeff Postell who finally took down suspected Atlanta Olympics bomber Eric Randolph. And it was State Trooper Charlie Hanger who arrested Murrah Federal Buiding bomber Tim McVeigh following a routine traffic stop.
Know Thy Enemy
Despite the lack of recent publicity, the number of domestic terrorist attacks is almost double the number of international acts of terrorism. It would therefore behoove us as law enforcement personnel to understand these groups, their motives, and their modus operandi. Domestic terrorism is divided into subclasses: left wing, right wing, and loosely affiliated extremists. The individuals among these groups enjoy advantages, for whether or not they support American culture or its politics, they are immersed in each. They know their First Amendment and Second Amendment rights. They know how American government works (or doesn’t) and enjoy the relative anonymity of blending in with the population.
One of the most active domestic terrorist groups is the Animal Liberation Front (ALF). This clandestine and decentralized group has claimed credit for attacks on meat packing plants, furriers, and research labs.
Founded in England in 1976, ALF’s influence spread to the United States in 1982. The succeeding two decades have seen the group cause millions of dollars in damages and medical research setbacks through its acts of vandalism, arson, and the “liberation” of laboratory animals. ALF has not as yet claimed responsibility for killing any individual. While ALF reportedly takes great pains to not harm people in its attacks, another animal rights group, Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC), believes that people who make animals “suffer” should be made to suffer themselves.
SHAC was organized in England to harass Huntingdon Life Sciences, one of the world’s largest animal testing and animal research companies. Because Huntingdon has U.S.-based facilities, the group’s activities have crossed the pond.
SHAC’s methods vary. It vandalizes the homes of Huntingdon employees, harasses the employees of companies that do business with Huntingdon, makes death threats, carries out violent attacks, and sends letter bombs to people labeled as “collaborators with animal torture.” If ALF is bad and SHAC dangerous, a newer animal rights group, called the “Justice Department” is just plain mean. Justice Department likes to send nasty little surprises to people it calls “animal killing scum.” Justice Department envelopes have been sent to researchers and hunting guides in the United States and Canada enclosing razor blades dipped in rat poison that were positioned in such a way that they would cut the fingers of anyone opening them without a letter opener. A letter inside reads: “Hope we sliced your finger wide open and that you now die from the rat poison we smeared on the razor blade.”
It is believed by many experts that Justice Department and maybe SHAC are actually splinter groups of ALF. Since ALF has no centralized control (see “Leaderless Resistance” on page 48), the group can claim it has no control over its more zealous members. Also, ALF uses a nifty little catch-22 to distance itself from the more violent activities of its members. It refuses to claim any activity that results in injury to a person.
The Black Panther Party for Self-Defense, a black militant group commonly known as just the Black Panthers, was established in 1966, during the racial turmoil of the Days of Rage. This militant group appealed to young blacks because of its willingness to confront police, and it quickly became national in scope with chapters in major cities across the United States. The original Panthers basically ceased to exist around 1982.
Today, a newly reconstituted Black Panther Party for Self-Defense has been organized, and it qualifies as a hate group. These contemporary Panthers are heavily armed, advocate violence against whites, and like their 1960’s predecessors, see cops as the enemy. They have been very active since the mid-1990’s torture killing of a black man in Jasper, Texas.
The FBI declared last year that eco-terrorists were one of the greatest internal threats to America and that the Environmental Liberation Front (ELF) takes the dubious honor of being America’s most-active domestic terrorists. According to the FBI, ELF was responsible for more than $43 million in property damage from 1996 to 2002.
Both ELF and the Animal Liberation Front have origins in the same seminal group of 1980’s eco-radicals, Earth First! But where Earth First! was content with limiting its illegal activity to “monkey wrenching” (sugaring gas tanks of logging equipment and spiking trees), for ELF and ALF the MO is arson.
ELF has taken credit for burning down a ski lodge near Vail, Colo.; a U.S. Forest Service ranger station in Eugene, Ore.; a cotton gin in Visalia, Calif.; and homes in Indiana, Michigan, and New York, among other crimes. Like ALF, ELF claims no central leadership (although it does have “spokespeople”), relying upon independent groups of people to take actions under its aegis to save the environment. Small cells of ELF members usually make attacks on property and leave graffiti that says things like, “ELF! No Sprawl!”