Whither Domestic Terrorists?
Gips, Michael A., Security Management
While U.S. troops were scouring Iraq in vain for weapons of mass destruction, federal authorities stumbled on the genuine article in the United States itself. Amid white-supremacist and antigovernment literature found in a home in Tyler, Texas, the FBI discovered a sodium-cyanide bomb capable of killing thousands, more than 100 explosives, 500,000 rounds of ammunition, and scores of illegal weapons. In connection with this discovery, in November William J. Krar pleaded guilty to charges of possession of a weapon of mass destruction.
Since 9-11, government and media have focused attention on foreign terrorists, but this incident and others suggest that some of that attention should be turned back onto domestic groups that once garnered headlines.
"I think that the Krar case shows that domestic terrorism is alive and well," says Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks domestic hate and extremist groups. Mark Pitcavage, director of the fact-finding department at the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), notes that domestic extremists on both ends of the political spectrum are involved in "a pretty high level of activity." For example, racist skinheads in the west have murdered immigrants, gays, and homeless people in the last couple of years, while two Southern California law enforcement officers were recently ambushed by antigovernment extremists.
One of the most significant threats is virulent hate groups, says Potok, who notes that they now number about 750 and their ranks are on the rise. "We're monitoring more hate groups than ever before," he says. Another top threat is environmental extremists, notes Stefan Leader, a terrorism analyst for Mantech Integrated Data Systems who works with a government task force on combating terrorism. …