Sunday, February 01, 2004

Domestic terror in perspective

Well, the Associated Press has finally picked up on the Texas cyanide bomb case. Its version of the story has appeared in numerous papers, and on the CNN Web site.

For Orcinus readers -- or, for that matter, readers of the New York Times, Los Angeles Times [and Seattle Times] or Christian Science Monitor -- this story will be old hat. There's very little in the way of fresh detail here.

However, the AP reporter, Lisa Falkenberg, overall did a nice job of putting together the basic facts of the case. She properly emphasizes its domestic-terror aspects, particularly the pure-luck aspects of the known arrests so far, and how that fact does not particularly reflect well upon the investigation. She also interviews Dan Levitas and gets in his perspective, which is important to keep in mind:
"I have no doubt whatsoever that had these men been affiliated with al-Qaida, we would have heard more," said Daniel Levitas, author of the book "The Terrorist Next Door: The Militia Movement and the Radical Right." "There is something of a blind spot within the Justice Department in Washington, D.C., when it comes to the violent potential of America's own homegrown version of al-Qaida."

But the story is also notable for what it misses. It concludes thus:
[U.S. Attirney Brit] Featherston said hundreds of subpoenas were issued and the Texas case was investigated just as thoroughly as foreign cases.

"There's international terrorism and domestic terrorism, but they're all terrorism," he said. "I don't care which one it is or what color their skin is. If their intention is to do harm to the citizens of this country, then all the resources necessary from the local level to the federal level will be put into the case."

Featherston's protests seem reasonable, except that there are demonstrable problems with it. There is substantial evidence, in fact, that the investigation has fallen far short of a vigorous one.

Recall, if you will, the revelation that, eight months into the investigation, the FBI failed to communicate with its own offices in locales where these bomb-building extremists supposedly met:
The list in Krar's car included Winchester and Roanoke; Harrisburg and Scranton, Pa.; Chattanooga, Bristol, and Knoxville, Tenn.; Jackson, Miss.; and Shreveport, La.

One year later, local law enforcement officials are in the dark.

"I have received no information from anyone prior to this that Winchester was a designated meeting area for terrorists," city Police Chief Gary W. Reynolds said on Thursday. "This particular incident, if true, certainly needs to be fixed."

? The FBI office in Dallas led the investigation, said Lawrence Barry, chief division counsel for the Richmond Division of the FBI.

Though his division did not handle the investigation, information-sharing among law enforcement is supposed to have become standard practice since Sept. 11, 2001, Barry said.

The AP report also had the virtue of finally catching the attention of Glenn Reynolds, whose first reaction was that of someone encountering this story for the first time.

Perhaps this is why Reynolds, somewhat predictably, uses the story to springboard into his two favorite themes when it comes to right-wing extremists: A) they might form an alliance with Islamist extresmists! and B) they might form an alliance with left-wing extremists! These are his two favorite themes, of course, because the root of all evil in Reynoldsland are the twin threads of dark-skinned Muslims and left-wing antiwar liberals. Associating right-wing extremists with these two factions is much easier for someone like Glenn than associating them with a perhaps more logical faction, like, for instance, right-wingers. Ah well.

There is some truth, in fact, to the possibility that American right-wing extremists and Muslim extremists have been forming alliances. However, these alliances are superficial at best, and at this point any associations are nascent. Most of these associations have been through anti-Semitic activism, fomenting hatred of Jews, and Holocaust denial. The most recent example of this was the appearance of former neo-Nazi Bill Baker on the fundamentalist Muslim speaking circuit.

There has, in other words, been very little association with Muslim terrorists. Moreover, American right-wing terrorists are not terribly likely to actually form these alliances, since most of them are in fact Klan-type racists who have even less tolerance for brown-skinned people than your average white conservative Republican apologist.

But Reynolds really goes off the deep end when he links to this post by Justin Katz, which postulates the following:
The scary thought to which this led me is that these extremists will realize that the Z.O.G. has already reached the highest tiers of our government (hint: the name with which they disguise themselves starts with "neo"). When they figure that out, the right-wing nuts will find that they have common cause with the left-wing nuts, who have common cause with the "diverse" "third-world" nuts, who already have common cause with the sort of people who have maps to bomb shelters and weapons caches tattooed on the soles of their feet.

I'm not sure if I've encountered anything as laughably convoluted and ludicrous in the blogosphere before, but this post sets a new low watermark. World O'Crap gives it a proper thumping:
Yeah, because, as we all know, "neocon" is code for "Jew," and the left-wing nuts hate the neocons. So, as soon as the white-supremacist/militiaist nuts like Krar (who already hate the government and the non-Aryans, but never realized that Jews were running things) figure this out, they will join up with the left-wing nuts who denounce Feith, Perle, Wolfowitz, etc., for being too warlike -- and then both groups will team up with the Arabs (who also hate the Jews), and their combined forces will DESTROY AMERICA.

Reality check: There are instances of right-wing extremists circulating belief systems (notably currency and "constitutional law" scams) among left-wing extremists, and they definitely share conspiracy theories (the "contrails are poisoning us" theory is popular with both sets, for example). However, right-wing extremists loathe the far left almost as much as they do brown people, and there have been no known associations of their violent factions whatsoever.

At least Reynolds' own musings are better grounded, if well short of the mark:
Though domestic extremists are a different breed, and often seem to view the accretion of huge arsenals as an end in itself -- they're waiting for some future date when war breaks out against the "Zionist Occupation Government." That provides only limited comfort, however, as one can never be sure when they'll decide that the time has arrived.

Actually, the problem posed by domestic terrorists like William Krar goes well beyond this. As I pointed out some time back:
It is important to keep in mind that the same folks who brought us Oklahoma City are still out there, still looking for opportunities to strike. And they have explicitly recognized that the post-Sept. 11 environment is ripe for taking action that benefits them.

After all, their agenda is to create as much social chaos as possible -- to so disrupt society, and divide it, and create as much terror and fear as possible, that eventually people come to believe (as they do) that democracy is a failure, that it cannot keep them secure; and so, they believe, eventually the white populace will swarm to their authoritarian agenda when that becomes clear. That has been their agenda for some time, and was the driving purpose of Oklahoma City.

They clearly see the chance now to piggyback off the Al Qaeda and anthrax attacks as prime opportunities for creating serious chaos. Consider, if you will, one of the last radio addresses made by the late William Pierce, author of The Turner Diaries, remarking on the post-9/11 environment:

"Things are a bit brittle now. A few dozen more anthrax cases, another truck bomb in a well chosen location, and substantial changes could take place in a hurry: a stock market panic, martial law measures by the Bush government, and a sharpening of the debate as to how we got ourselves into this mess in the first place."

This is one of the reasons the focus, from both the media and from the upper levels of government, on international terrorism generally and Al Qaeda particularly is terribly short-sighted.

What Sept. 11 -- especially viewed in conjunction with Oklahoma City -- demonstrated irrevocably is that the threat of terrorism to America's well-being is not merely substantial but multi-faceted. Trying to tackle the problem on only one front merely leaves another exposed.

Domestic terrorists matter not because of whatever alliances they may seek with international terrorists, but because they themselves represent a distinct threat. More to the point, they are highly opportunistic, and will only see the current environment increasingly as giving them an opening. The levels of fear that have been stirred up not only by Islamist terrorists but by our own government -- waving "orange alerts" in our faces that only underscore their incompetence and the unlikelihood of keeping us secure, putting the vice president on national television to warn us that terrorists are likely to strike at any time -- only enhance this environment.

Any domestic terrorist -- like, say, the anthrax killer -- already knows that, in this milieu, he can strike with relative impunity, and rest assured that law enforcement and media attention will operate primarily for the first few days and even weeks on the presumption that any attack was perpetrated by Islamists -- giving them more than enough time to ensure the trail will grow cold, and enhancing the likelihood they'll get away with it. So far, the anthrax killer has.

And if William Krar indeed has associates out there with cyanide bombs he constructed -- well, so far, so have they.

Link note: For anyone wanting quick licks to this site's coverage of the Krar case, you can find them -- in more or less chronological order, here:

The wrong kind of terrorist

Why domestic terrorism matters

Cyanide bombers: an update

Levitas weighs in

Armed to the teeth

Missing the threat

Marketing terror

More on Tyler

The Tyler case

Missing the connections

Cyanide bombs

'The American Taliban

No comments: