Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Reminder in a Vial: Many Terror Threats Are Homegrown ; Chicago Arrest of Man Carrying Cyanide Shows US Citizens Still Represent a Source of Terrorist Threats

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Reminder in a Vial: Many Terror Threats Are Homegrown ; Chicago Arrest of Man Carrying Cyanide Shows US Citizens Still Represent a Source of Terrorist Threats

Article excerpt

- Joseph Konopka has no reported links to Islamic fundamentalists. He comes from Wisconsin, not the Middle East. But when police arrested him last Saturday in a utility tunnel next to Chicago's subway, they say he was carrying a vial of cyanide.

And they say they quickly discovered Mr. Konopka had stashed more than a pound of similar material in an underground storage area. While no one was harmed and his intentions aren't clear, experts say the material could be used to create a highly toxic cloud of gas in a confined area. It's a timely reminder that, for all the attention now directed to international terrorism, the threat from domestic groups and individuals remains as potent as ever.

Perhaps more so.

Already responsible for most of the terrorist incidents in America, home-grown extremist groups appear to be growing in number, says a new report. And at least one watch-dog group says they may be forming links with Islamic extremists. Thus, federal authorities shouldn't get so wrapped up in battling Al Qaeda that they miss threats closer to home, terrorism experts say.

"If we are not careful, we could open up a little slice of heaven for these guys," California's new homeland security chief, George Vinson, warned high-tech executives in December.

Consider:

* Until Sept. 11, the biggest terrorist attack came from domestic extremist Timothy McVeigh, whose bomb killed 168 in Oklahoma City.

* Between 1980 and 2000, three-quarters of the nation's 335 suspected terrorist incidents came from domestic groups, not foreign ones, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

* In the current anthrax investigation, authorities are increasingly focusing on domestic scientists rather than foreign operatives as the prime suspects.

Domestic right-wing groups are conducting the most visible activities. Despite America's hardening attitude toward terrorism, for example, two neo-Nazi leaders in the US lauded the Islamic terrorists in the World Trade Center, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), a hate-group watchdog based in Montgomery, Ala.

Earlier this month, the SPLC issued a new report showing that 676 extremist groups operated in the US last year, a 12 percent increase from the year before, which had also seen a similar jump. …

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