Friday, May 14, 2004

Taking terrorism seriously

I've been critical on more than one occasion of the failure of the Bush administration generally and Ashcroft's Justice Department particularly to take domestic terrorism seriously. So it's only appropriate to take note when it's clear that this is not always so.

In Florida, where a right-wing extremist with Ranger training was preparing to launch an Eric Rudolphesque terror rampage, prosecutors are not shying away at all from calling the case one of "domestic terrorism":
Feds ask judge to sentence clinic-bomb plot suspect as terrorist

Federal prosecutors are asking a judge to sentence a deeply religious former Army Ranger as a terrorist for planning an abortion clinic bombing spree.

Stephen John Jordi, 35, a father of four who lived in a trailer park in Coconut Creek, pleaded guilty to a single count of attempted arson in February.

But the charge doesn't reflect the nationwide campaign of terror Jordi planned to unleash to force abortion clinics out of business, prosecutors John Schlesinger and Gerald Greenberg said in court papers.

They are asking U.S. District Judge James I. Cohn to send Jordi to prison for more than the mandatory minimum term of five years dictated by federal sentencing guidelines. The prosecutors plan to announce the specific sentence they're seeking at a June 11 hearing in Fort Lauderdale.

It's worth noting that the prosecution is occurring under the aegis of the anti-terrorism law that was passed in 1996 in the wake of the Oklahoma City bombing and the mounting attacks on abortion clinics.

Most of all, it's worth noting both the scope of Jordi's plans and the likelihood he was fully capable of carrying them out:
Jordi scouted several potential bombing targets last summer in Fort Lauderdale, the court papers state. Talking about his mission to save the lives of unborn children, Jordi told the informant: "Yep, there's a war going on, with casualties." He said he planned to carry out clinic bombings "for the next 30-40 years, or at least until I get caught."

On the tapes, Jordi spoke of being a disciple of Paul Hill, who was executed in September for the 1994 murder of a Pensacola doctor who performed abortions. Jordi wrote to Hill on Death Row, and Hill wrote back thanking him for his support, according to court records.

The informant accompanied Jordi to Hill's execution in Starke. During a demonstration outside the prison, Jordi was photographed with leaders of the Children of God, described in court papers as an underground group that thinks violence is justified to end abortion.

But unlike Hill, Jordi said he wasn't interested in killing doctors.

"I don't have the means to hunt them down, to do surveillance and shoot them down," he told the informant. "But I do have the means to take out abortion clinics, which is more monetary and still very frightening." A few moments later, he added, "Right now Planned Parenthood has been bombed so much that they cannot have insurance. ... They have to provide their own insurance."

Court records indicate Jordi was motivated by Hill's execution as well as the capture of serial bomber Eric Rudolph a year ago. Rudolph, accused of orchestrating bombings of abortion clinics, gay bars and Atlanta's Olympic Park, disappeared into the Appalachian Mountains for five years before he was apprehended. He is awaiting a federal trial in Alabama.

We're very fortunate this man was caught before he had a chance to carry out those plans. This is mostly due to the man's relatives alerting authorities; but, once alerted, the FBI did a superb job of investigating the man and short-circuiting his planned bloodbath. The Justice Department's prosecution so far is consonant with that work.

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