One of the prosecutors who helped convict Timothy McVeigh, the Oklahoma City bomber, says militias like the Hutaree are most dangerous when they create lone wolf terrorists.
A former federal prosecutor who helped convict Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh suggests that the great risk of America's growing militia movement is not necessarily in the militias themselves, but in their capacity to spark rogue actors like Mr. McVeigh, whose 1995 attack on the Murrah Federal Building killed 168 people.
Aitan Goelman was a member of the Department of Justice team that helped win convictions against McVeigh and Terry Nichols in the Oklahoma case. Speaking two days after nine members of the Hutaree milita in Michigan were indicted on charges of conspiring to attack police officers and "levy war" on the United States, he says that there are parallels between 1995 and now.
Who is David Brian Stone, leader of the Hutaree militia?
Then, as now, the president was a Democrat seen to be liberal (President Clinton versus President Obama). Then, as now, he had recently pushed though a controversial piece of legislation (the federal assault weapons ban versus healthcare reform). And then, as now, an extremist fringe was warning of a pending government takeover.
"On the edges" of political discourse today, Mr. Goelman argues, "you have rhetoric that carries over to extreme factions."
Indeed, the number of armed militia groups has tripled since Mr. Obama took office, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). In 2008, there were 42. In 2009, there were 127.
The rogue actor
Yet the primary danger, Goelman says, is not necessarily when militias spread antigovernment rhetoric, but when they attract outsiders to the group who may be convinced to act on their own.
"Anytime you have group-think and this churning of ridiculous ideas back and forth, eventually you'll get someone like McVeigh who's going to say 'I'm going to take the mantle of leadership and fire the shot heard around the world and start the second American revolution,' " says Goelman. …