IPS – April 27, 2005
Domestic terrorists seen as viable U.S. threat
By William Fisher
NEW YORK, Apr 27 2005 (IPS) - Domestic terrorism remains a clear and present danger to the United States, rights groups and government agencies warn amid a number of fresh reminders of homegrown terrorism's toll on the U.S. public.
In recent weeks, people throughout the country have witnessed Eric Rudolph's sentencing to four life sentences without parole for the deadly 1996 Olympic park bombing in Atlanta and attacks at two abortion clinics and a gay nightclub.
They also marked the tenth anniversary of the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. In May 2001, Timothy McVeigh was executed for the bombing and his accomplice, Terry Nichols, is serving a life sentence without possibility of parole.
April also is the month in which the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), an advocacy organization focusing primarily on anti-Semitism, says that U.S. extremist groups step up activity in commemoration of Adolf Hitler's birthday. Key groups involved include the neo-Nazi National Alliance and local chapters of the white supremacist Ku Klux Klan, according to the ADL.
Homegrown terrorism appears to be resurging as extremists have added Islam to their list of targets. Since the Sep. 11, 2001 attacks on New York and Washington, Justice Department reports a dramatic increase in hate crimes directed against people perceived to be Arabs. Sikhs and Hindus frequently are attacked because to their attackers, they look like they might be of Middle Eastern descent.
Additionally, religious fundamentalism is on the rise in the United States, making likely targets of homosexuals, abortion clinics and those who work in them, and judges denounced by conservative groups as ''activist.'' White supremacist Matthew Hale faces 40 years in a federal prison after a judge gave him the maximum sentence for plotting to assassinate a federal judge.
Law-enforcement analysts said known individual membership of militant right-wing groups and paramilitary organizations had fallen since the Oklahoma City bombing -- from some 20,000 to perhaps a few thousand now -- but the remaining members of these groups appear even more intensely committed to violence.
'Lone Wolf' domestic terrorists like McVeigh, Nichols, and Rudolph now are seen as the primary domestic threats although they have been overshadowed by the threat of an attack by al-Qaeda.
Since the 9/11 attacks, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Department of Justice (DOJ) and Department Homeland Security (DHS) have devoted massive resources to Islamic terrorism. The agencies say they have done so without any slackening in the investigation and prosecution of hate crimes, whether directed against Muslims or anyone else.
The FBI, which is responsible for investigating hate crimes, reports that nearly 7,500 incidents were classified as hate crimes in the United States in 2003, the last year for which complete data is available.
The non-governmental Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), however, said that FBI and DOJ data are based on reports voluntarily submitted by local law enforcement authorities, who do not always track or report hate crime statistics. SPLC estimates that there are probably 50,000 more hate crimes than the FBI has tallied.
More than half the crimes were motivated by racial prejudice. Reported hate crimes included 14 murders but intimidation and vandalism were the most frequently cited problems. Six of the murders were among more than 1,200 incidents of hate based on sexual orientation.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) said it received reports of 1,019 anti-Muslim incidents during 2003, a nearly 70 percent increase from the previous year and the highest number of civil-rights complaints from those of the Islamic faith in the nine years the group has been tracking them.
CAIR, in a report, said hate crimes against Arabs, Muslims, Sikhs, and South Asian Americans perceived to be Muslims jumped 121 percent that same year.
Daniel Levitas, author of the book ''The Terrorist Next Door,'' which describes indigenous U.S. terrorist movements, said the contrasting treatment of two recent cases illustrates the priority given to foreign terrorism and a double standard at play among government agencies.
In 2002, federal agents arrested Jose Padilla, a U.S. citizen, and said he was an al-Qaeda operative planning to explode a low-grade nuclear bomb. He was officially declared an enemy combatant and was held virtually incommunicado in a naval jail although the U.S. Supreme Court ruled he should be charged or released.
A few months later, federal agents in Texas arrested William Krar, who was found to have a bomb like the one used in Oklahoma City, as well as some 500,000 rounds of ammunition. Krar is serving an 11-year prison term.
Padilla had no record of militant activity and had no weapon when he was arrested. Krar was known as a right-wing zealot and was heavily armed.
Levitas said the Justice Department made little of Krar's arrest but took pains to publicize Padilla's.
He attributed the unequal treatment simply to the government seeking to save face. ''I think it's embarrassing to the United States to present frightening evidence that there are people in this country who are just as fanatical and murderous as Islamic terrorists halfway around the world,'' he said. …..