[FROM Congressional Quarterly]
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) does not list right-wing domestic terrorists and terrorist groups on a document that appears to be an internal list of threats to the nation’s security.
According to the list – part of a draft planning document obtained by CQ Homeland Security – between now and 2011 DHS expects to contend primarily with adversaries such as al Qaeda and other foreign entities affiliated with the Islamic Jihad movement, as well as domestic radical Islamist groups.
It also lists left-wing domestic groups, such as the Animal Liberation Front (ALF) and the Earth Liberation Front (ELF), as terrorist threats, but it does not mention anti-government groups, white supremacists and other radical right-wing movements, which have staged numerous terrorist attacks that have killed scores of Americans. Recent attacks on cars, businesses and property in Virginia, Oregon and California have been attributed to ELF.
DHS did not respond to repeated requests for comment or confirmation of the document’s authenticity.
The conspirators behind the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, which killed 168 people and wounded more than 500, were inspired by radical right-wing movements. Eric Rudolph, the man charged with carrying out the 1996 Olympic Park bombing in Atlanta, which killed one woman and injured more than 100, was a member of the radical anti-abortion group Army of God. Initially, Rudolph was the object of a massive North Carolina manhunt in connection with a Birmingham, Ala., abortion-clinic bombing that killed a police officer and seriously maimed a nurse.
Another Army of God member, James Kopp, was convicted in the 1998 shooting of a doctor who performed abortions.
Individuals affiliated with such groups have also been involved in many smaller terrorist acts, including mailing hundreds of bogus anthrax letters to abortion clinics, and in plots to obtain and use conventional, chemical and nuclear weapons against civilians. In 2003, for instance, a Texas man prosecutors say was a white supremacist and anti-government radical pleaded guilty to charges of possessing a weapon of mass destruction. Authorities had discovered enough sodium cyanide bombs to kill hundreds of people; machine guns and several hundred thousand rounds of ammunition; 60 pipe bombs; and remote-control explosive devices disguised as briefcases in a storage space he rented. The man, William J. Krar, was sentenced to 11 years in federal prison.
‘Still a Threat’
Domestic terror experts were surprised the department did not include right-wing groups on their list of adversaries.
“They are still a threat, and they will continue to be a threat,” said Mike German, a 16-year undercover agent for the FBI who spent most of his career infiltrating radical right-wing groups. “If for some reason the government no longer considers them a threat, I think they will regret that,” said German, who left the FBI last year. “Hopefully it’s an oversight.”
James O. Ellis III, a senior terror researcher for the National Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism (MIPT), said in a telephone interview Friday that whereas left-wing groups, which have been more active recently, have focused mainly on the destruction of property, right-wing groups have a much deadlier and more violent record and should be on the list. “The nature of the history of terrorism is that you will see acts in the name of [right-wing] causes in the future.”
Focusing on Left-Wing Movements
Last year, following arson and vandalism sprees on both coasts attributed to radical left-wing groups such as ALF and ELF, the FBI made those movements its top domestic terror priority. But right-wing groups remained a concern, according to one FBI official.
“That doesn’t de-emphasize our interest in other domestic terror groups,” stressed the official, who would not be named discussing the bureau’s counterterror strategy, during a phone interview Friday. “For us, the right-wing patriot movement remains a continuing threat.” (The FBI considers militias, tax protesters, and anti-government groups part of the right-wing movement, the official said; the bureau considers violent anti-abortion extremists a separate movement.)
The DHS document, entitled “Integrated Planning Guidance, Fiscal Years 2005-2011,” is dated January 2005. Its pages are marked “Sensitive – Do Not Distribute Outside the Department of Homeland Security – Draft.” Each paragraph in the document is marked “(U/FOUO),” which typically indicates it has been reviewed by a government censor and determined to be unclassified, but “for official use only.”
Under a section marked “Threat and Vulnerability Assessment,” the document asks and answers the question “Who are the adversaries?”
First and foremost, the draft document says, are al Qaeda and its affiliates.
Second are new radical Islamist groups that arise overseas amid the rubble of the old al Qaeda organization. These organizations “could try to supplant” al Qaeda and “would see a Homeland attack as a way to attain that goal,” the document states.
Domestic radical Islamic groups concern the department, because of their potential to support al Qaeda operations within the country, or to serve as a “recruiting pool” for the movement.
“However,” the document reads, “we are not convinced that any of these organizations acting alone would pursue a major attack against the Homeland.”
As a final item, the list notes the threat of eco-terrorists, who “will continue to focus their attacks on property damage in an effort to change policy.” The document notes that although “publicly ALF and ELF promote nonviolence toward human life . . . some members may escalate their attacks.”
The document lists several groups or sources of radical violence that DHS does not consider threats to the homeland.
Lebanese Hizballah and various Palestinian groups, including Hamas and Palestine Islamic Jihad, are unlikely to attack the United States, the report’s authors conclude.
Several high-profile terror prosecutions, including cases against the Texas-based Holy Land Foundation and Florida professor Sami al-Arian, rest on their connection to such groups.
“Why are we expending so many resources targeting people who have allegedly provided support to groups that don’t threaten us?” asked David Cole, a professor of law at Georgetown University and a frequent critic of the U.S. government’s war on terror. “How does that make us safer?”
State-sponsored terrorism also is not an immediate concern to the department, according to the document. “In the post 9/11 environment, countries do not appear to be facilitating or supporting terrorist groups intent on striking the U.S. homeland,” it reads. In fact, of all the countries designated state sponsors of terrorism, only Iran “appears to have the possible future motivation” to use terrorist groups to plot against the United States.
In the past few years, according to MIPT researcher Ellis, left-wing violence has overtaken right-wing violence as the primary form of domestic terror. “When a conservative government comes to power, you see more activity from the opposite side of the spectrum,” he explained. At the same time, the membership and activity of right-wing groups has suffered since the bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, and the broadcasting of images of the children who died in the building’s second-floor day care center.
“A lot of people said, ‘I’m fighting against the Zionist Occupied Government, I’m not here to kill children,” Ellis explained.
Still, Ellis warned, the movements remain worthy of the government’s concern. Last October, the FBI arrested a man in Tennessee who tried to buy sarin nerve gas and C-4 explosive to attack a government building. The man, Demetrius “Van” Crocker, had also inquired about obtaining nuclear waste or other nuclear material, according to the FBI.
And in 2003, a Pennsylvania man was convicted of mailing hundreds of letters containing fake anthrax to abortion clinics around the United States.
Although their activities appear to be decreasing, such groups are still dangerous, said Ellis. “We don’t have the luxury of ignoring threats from either side of the political spectrum.”