Sunday, April 29, 2007

The other kind of terror

-- by Dave

An arrest was made yesterday in the apparent attempt by an Austin man to terrorize a local abortion clinic by placing a nearly complete bomb outside its doors earlier this week:
A 27-year-old Austin man was arrested on Friday and charged with placing an unexploded bomb containing some 2,000 nails outside an abortion clinic in the state's capital.

The explosive device also included a propane tank and a mechanism "akin to a rocket," Austin Police Commander David Carter said.

The device was discovered on Wednesday in the parking lot of the Austin Women's Health Center, police said.

The Texas Joint Terrorism Task Force -- made up of federal, state and local law enforcement authorities -- arrested Paul Ross Evans, who authorities said was on parole for an unspecified crime.

As both zuzu at Feministe and Carpetbagger Report observe, this is a fairly clear-cut case of domestic terrorism. (Kevins Woodshed also has more.) Certainly, it's well within the tradition of domestic terrorists like Eric Rudolph and various other abortion-clinic bombers.

But remember: The FBI has de-emphasized right-wing extremist crimes and displaced them with an emphasis on "eco terror" as far as its chief domestic-terror concern. This is in no small part because this administration is being run by people who don't consider bombings and arson against abortion clinics to be terrorism.

Because of the nature of the ordnance in this case, there's also a connection to previous acts of terrorism -- particularly the appearance both of a nail bomb and a propane-tank device. These same devices appeared in the case of the Spokane-based "Phineas Priests" who believed they were avengers of God who engaged in a six-month spree of bank robberies in the Northwest in 1996.

I describe this gang in some detail in Chapter 6 of my book In God's Country: The Patriot Movement and the Pacific Northwest, and was struck by the similarity of the devices in the Austin case to those used by this gang, particularly in their second attack:
The bomb went off again in Spokane, just a little more than a hundred days after the first explosion: on July 12. It was a duplicate of the first crime: set off a pipe bomb, then rob a bank. In fact, it was even the same bank.

The bomb went off at a new target this time, one nearly as logical as the newspaper: the Planned Parenthood clinic out in the Spokane Valley. What didn't make it quite logical is that, unlike other PP facilities, only birth control and advice are dispensed there -- no abortions are performed. And the clinic was closed at the time.

Still, two men wearing black ski masks and camouflage ponchos drove up in a white Chevy van at about 1:30 in the afternoon, broke out a glass door, tossed in a pipe bomb, ran to the van and screeched away. A witness saw a driver with a white beard, as in the first attack. Moments later, the blast rocked the neighborhood. It blew out the clinic’s windows and ripped up its interior. A piece of the pipe from the device flew out of the clinic, over a two-story building and four busy lanes of traffic, and finally landed harmlessly in a restaurant parking lot.

Within minutes the bombers were in familiar territory: back at the U.S. Bank on East Sprague Street, a few miles away from the clinic. This time, three men with masks and ponchos walked in with automatic weapons raised and demanded money. One of them carried what appeared to be a propane tank with some wires rigged to its top, perhaps a large bomb, and set it down on the floor while the other two collected cash.

Bank employees knew the drill. They kept their hands up and handed over the money. Even the customers were familiar with the scene. One of them, Dale McElliott, had been at the bank when it was robbed the first time, and when he pulled into the space at the drive-up window and looked inside and saw arms raised in the air, he knew what was up again. He crept out of his car on his hands and knees and up the line to the other drivers waiting behind him, asking them for a cellular phone to call the police with. One of them did. Another witness, meanwhile, dialed 911 from a nearby pay phone.

It was too late. The bandits shortly emerged from the bank, cool as cucumbers, with the propane tank-bomb and jumped into the car. One witness saw a second car pull up behind the van and follow it away down the arterial, its driver speaking into a cellular phone. The van was found later, abandoned this time in the parking garage of a mall. Again, it was loaded with a device that appeared to be meant to detonate and destroy the van, but which the Spokane bomb squad, thanks to a robot, soon found was not functioning. When police moved inside, they found the other propane device the men had carried into the bank as well.

The target, a women's clinic the bombers apparently believed was committing abortion, was a new twist. There were other differences: Three men instead of two rushed the bank. There was no bomb set off at the bank this time. And, it appeared, there was no note left behind at either location.

Or so it seemed. As they scoured through the rubble of the Planned Parenthood clinic's doorway, where a two-foot crater had been blasted into the concrete and sheetrock was scattered like paper and beebees from the bomb itself rolled around on the floor, investigators found a matchbook with some words scrawled on it in pen, adapted from Psalms 139: "Surely thou wilt slay the wicked, O God: depart from me therefore, ye bloody men. For they speak against thee wickedly, and thine enemies take thy name in vain. Do not I hate them, O Lord, that hate thee? And am not I grieved with those that rise up against thee?"

One of this gang's other bomb devices featured nails rather than beebees as the intended shrapnel material. They were eventually busted outside of Yakima after attempting to rob a Portland bank.

You have to be struck by the recent reappearance of the Phineas myth [Phineas was an Old Testament figure who slew an intertribal couple, an example cited by white supremacists as evidence of God's disapproval of race-mixing] in a speech by Tony Perkins of the Family Resource Council, a thinly disguised Reconstructionist operation opposed to abortion, and wonder about its influence in the recent Austin case. It's not terribly likely that Paul Ross Evans was acting on Perkins' signal, but the resemblance may prove more than coincidental.

But even more disturbing is how the case has been treated in the media -- which is to say, it's essentially been buried. Moreover, as zuzu notes, no one is calling it what it clearly is: domestic terrorism.

That similarly was the case with the recent arrests of six militiamen in Alabama for building an armament of pipe bombs and other devices:
Federal and state agents arrested six men and seized an arsenal of homemade hand grenades and firearms in raids Thursday, including one that forced the shutdown of a school.

The men, members of the self-styled "Alabama Free Militia," had no apparent plans to use the weapons, but the leader was described as a federal fugitive, federal authorities said.

"They just have a beef with the government, and they stockpile munitions," U.S. Attorney Alice Martin said at a news conference in Fort Payne.

Agents recovered 130 hand grenades, a grenade launcher, about 70 hand grenades rigged to be fired from a rifle, a machine gun, a short-barrel shotgun, 2,500 rounds of ammunition, explosives components, stolen fireworks and other items, said Jim Cavanaugh, regional head of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Charged in federal court with conspiracy to make a firearm were Raymond Kirk Dillard, 46; believed to be the group's leader; Adam Lynn Cunningham, 41; Bonnell Hughes, 57; Randall Garrett Cole, 22; and James Ray McElroy, 20. Michael Wayne Bobo, 30, was charged with being a drug user in possession of a firearm.

I might have some sympathy for the defense attorneys' contention that these arrests were overblown, given that there is no clear evidence that they actually had formulated any kind of plan to use them.

But the evidence is pretty unassailable that these men, at least some of them, were building bombs. It's difficult to believe that one would build such a device without the intent of eventually putting it to some kind of use. That's why there's a federal law against building them.

It's not as egregious a case as the Austin bomber, but what both of them suggest is a trend toward more domestic terrorism. And despite the misguided rantings of the Debbie Schlussels and Michelle Malkins of the world, the hard reality is that you are far more likely to be blown up by a homegrown terrorist than one from the Middle East.

Of course, acknowledging that this is the case would require a major readjustment of the media's constructed narrative about the "war on terror." So it continues to turn a blind eye, and in the process it profoundly misinforms the public.

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