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The Enemies Within

You don’t have to look overseas or at foreign residents to find terrorists threats to America.

September 01, 2003  |  by - Also by this author


While many within the pro-life, anti-abortion movement work within the system, employing moral persuasion, lobbying, protests, and similar legal and peaceful means to achieve their goals, some groups adopt more egregious methods. One of these groups is a very active terrorist organization called the Army of God. Abortion clinics and their staffs are common Army of God targets, with zealots committing crimes, ranging from arson, to assault, to assassination. Like many domestic terrorist groups, Army of God practices leaderless resistance with no set structure, membership, or command chain. Members learn of potential targets on the Web and through other anonymous sources.

Army of God and other terrorist groups targeting abortion clinics are extremely dangerous to law enforcement personnel. Law enforcement officers working security for clinics on- and off-duty have been injured and even killed in pro-life terrorist attacks.

White Supremacists

One of the oldest American terrorist organizations is the Ku Klux Klan. Formed by Confederate veterans following the Civil War, the goal of the original Klan was to terrorize freed blacks and exert political influence over the Reconstruction South. This original Klan went into decline in the late 1870s. It was revitalized in the early 1900s as a national organization dedicated to the supremacy of white Protestant Americans over not only blacks, but also Jews, immigrants, and Catholics.

Today, FBI investigations, lawsuits by organizations like the Montgomery, Ala.-based Southern Poverty Law Center, and defections to other white supremacist organizations have taken their toll on national Klan membership. But the Klan is still out there. Members of local and regional Klan groups have been blamed for church burnings, intimidation and harassment of minorities and minority advocates, and other crimes.

What’s really hurt the Klan is the fact that many white power terrorists have gravitated to para-military neo-nazi organizations. These organizations and their associated Skinhead gangs represent one of the greatest terrorist threats to local law enforcement.

The American neo-Nazi movement was launched by self-proclaimed American führer George Lincoln Rockwell in the late 1950s. Today, Rockwell’s influence is still felt in the Nazi ranks. Rockwell disciple William Pierce published “The Turner Diaries,” the bible of the modern American neo-Nazi, under the name Andrew MacDonald in 1978. The lurid novel tells the story of a war against the government and the triumph of white supremacists in a race war. It was the favorite book of Oklahoma City bomber Tim McVeigh.

If all Pierce had done was write “Turner” then he would be a linchpin of contemporary domestic terrorism, but the former physics professor also founded the National Alliance, one of America’s largest paramilitary neo-Nazi organizations. Pierce died last year, but the 346-acre West Virginia compound of the National Alliance still bustles with his followers. The actions of some of Pierce’s followers underscore the challenge that neo-Nazis present to law enforcement. In the mid-1980s, a violent splinter group of the National Alliance called The Order robbed armored cars in the Pacific Northwest and gunned down a radio talk show host in Denver. The Order was decapitated when its leader Robert Matthews was killed by police during an armored car robbery in Ukiah, Calif. Other members of the group were also arrested and sentenced to long prison terms for robbery and murder.

Another major neo-Nazi group that law enforcement should be aware of is the Aryan Nations. Not to be confused with the prison-based Aryan Brotherhood, the Aryan Nations, also known as the Church of Jesus Christ Christian, was established in the 1970s by former engineer Richard Butler.

As a result of a highly publicized lawsuit in 2000, Butler lost his Hayden Lake, Idaho, compound, which was the site of annual congresses for white supremacists from throughout the United States. Despite the loss of its primary host site, the Aryan Nations continues to maintain small chapters and contact points in various regions of the country.

Combating Terror

Many of these groups participate in a variety of illegal activities, crimes that are designed to send messages or fund their extracurricular activities. Many domestic terrorists, while critical of the government they oppose, are not above exploiting its levers to their own ends. They may prefer “biblical money” (gold and silver) to standard currency, but are not above using identity theft and robberies to fund their missions.

The saving grace to dealing with domestic terrorism groups is their notorious lack of shyness. Some are even brazen enough to make their political platforms available via the Internet. The Green Anarchy Tour 2002’s Web page is particularly edifying. Among the more restrained rhetoric to be found on their site is a declaration that police are “the fascist force we are up against.”

Such declarations notwithstanding, obtaining successful convictions of suspected terrorists is a formidable challenge. FBI Supervisory Special Agent Phil Celestini notes that we have to be mindful of possible violations of First Amendment rights when we start talking about postings on the Internet and their relationship to criminal acts.

The Internet is unfortunately part of the problem. Terrorist-friendly Websites provide extremists with a wealth of information about the manufacturing of low-cost, high-yield bombs. Recipes for Ricin, Phosgene, and other toxins are also readily available.

Fortunately, computers and the Web have also been useful in tracking and prosecuting terrorists. A computer program called AUTOTRACK XP can track people, businesses, etc. The National Insurance Crime Bureau can run a check on any insurance claims to find out where the payments are made from. Also, Global Positioning System (GPS) technology can be used by investigators to establish probable cause and arrests of suspects.

Computers aside, however, it is the street cop who must continue to be vigilant for terrorist threats, be they of domestic or foreign origin. Patrol officers must continue to educate themselves about the terrorists and their missions, their implements, and “kitchen sink technologies.” They must continue to look beyond the identity theft cases and recognize when such crimes are being exploited to fund other, more sinister, endeavors.

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