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An FBI photo of Eric Rudolph, illustrating his Ten Most Wanted inclusion. [Source: FBI / Public domain]Three pipe bombs, planted by anti-abortion activist and domestic terrorist Eric Robert Rudolph (see 1982 and January 29, 1998), go off in the Centennial Olympic Park in Atlanta, killing two and wounding 111. The park is the central hub of the 1996 Summer Olympics, currently taking place, and is a hive of activity. Thousands of spectators are gathered to watch a late-evening rock concert; sometime after midnight, Rudolph plants a US military field pack containing three pipe bombs surrounded by five pounds of nails (which function as shrapnel) underneath a bench near the base of a concert sound tower, and flees the scene. The bomb, a 40-pound construction considered to be the largest pipe bomb in US history, has a directed charge and could have done even more damage, but is knocked over sideways sometime between its planting and its detonation; FBI agent Jack Killorin will later say it is a “fluke” that the bomb did not kill dozens of people. “He’s one of the most successful serial bombers in history,” Killorin will say. “I do not respect Eric Robert Rudolph. But I do respect his capability as an opponent.” The bomb, like Rudolph’s earlier bombs (see January 16, 1997 and February 21, 1997), is propelled by nitroglycerin dynamite, uses an alarm clock and Rubbermaid containers, and contains steel plates. Security guard Richard Jewell discovers the field pack and alerts Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) officers; two bomb experts confirm that the backpack does, indeed, carry a “big” bomb. Shortly thereafter, Rudolph calls 911 to deliver a warning, but, Rudolph will later claim, the operator inexplicably hangs up on him in mid-statement. (Telephone records show an anonymous 911 call received at 12:57 a.m.; the operator could not find Centennial Park in her computer.) With no knowledge of the abortive 911 warning, Jewell, GBI agent Tom Davis, and others begin clearing the area, removing between 75 and 100 people from harm’s way. At 1:20 a.m. the bomb, controlled by an alarm clock “timer,” explodes. Georgia resident Alice Hawthorne dies from a nail striking her in the head, and Turkish cameraman Melih Uzunyol dies of a heart attack suffered while he runs to cover the explosion. Davis is among the 111 people injured in the blast. Eyewitness Desmond Edwards of Atlanta tells the press: “Some people looked really messed up. There were rivers of blood.” The FBI quickly rules the explosion a terrorist incident. The International Olympic Committee says the games will go on despite the bombing. [CNN, 7/27/1996; CNN, 6/15/2002; Orlando Weekly, 8/24/2006] Within days, authorities will speculate that the bombing was carried out either by a lone “nutjob” or by someone with ties to the right-wing militia movement. [CNN, 7/27/1996] GBI investigator Charles Stone will later tell the press: “It [the bomb] was put together in a meticulous fashion, and we believed we had somebody who wanted to kill a lot of people. Nobody took credit, which indicates that it might have been an individual, as opposed to an organized group, probably somebody who had military experience, somebody who was proficient with bombs.” A pair of eyewitnesses realize that they have inadvertently videotaped the explosion. They try to give their film to the police, but when they are turned away, they give it to CNN. Later, investigators turn up a blurry photo of someone sitting on the bench near where the bomb was planted, and believe it may be the bomber, but the photo is useless for identification purposes. [CNN, 6/15/2002]
Original Plan Far More Extensive - Rudolph’s original plan involved five pipe bombs, all to be detonated on different days, and primarily targeting law enforcement officials and not civilians. When the first bomb explodes, Rudolph loses his nerve, retrieves the other four bombs from where he has hidden them, and flees to western North Carolina, to plot further bombings. [Orlando Weekly, 8/24/2006]
Denounced by President - President Clinton denounces the bombing the following morning, calling it an “evil act of terror” and promising to turn all federal resources towards finding the bomber. “We will spare no effort to find out who was responsible for this murderous act,” he tells the public. “We will track them down. We will bring them to justice.” [CNN, 7/27/1996]
Jewell Falsely Implicated - Jewell, initially hailed by the press as a hero for his role in finding the bomb and clearing the area, is soon targeted by FBI investigators. He is never identified as anything other than a “person of interest” in the bombing, but is swarmed by media representatives. Jewell will later sue NBC, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and other media outlets for libel. He will say, “For 88 days, I lived a nightmare.” Investigators later learn that two drunken young men rousted by Jewell had intended to steal the backpack containing the bomb and carry it with them into a nearby nightclub. Stone later says if the young men had succeeded, “We would have had hundreds of fatalities. It would have been a disaster of just an unknown magnitude.” Instead, the would-be thieves tip over the pack, causing much of the blast to be directed straight up instead of into the crowd, as Rudolph intended. [CNN, 6/15/2002]
Rationale - In 2005, Rudolph will explain why he bombed the Olympics, saying that he wanted to shut down the Olympics because of its espousal of what he calls “global socialism” and the US government’s support for abortion (see April 14, 2005). Killorin has a simpler explanation: “The Olympic temptation, he could not resist it. It was too big a stage.” [Orlando Weekly, 8/24/2006]
Later Bombings Point to Rudolph - In early 1997, after an Atlanta-area abortion clinic and lesbian nightclub are bombed (see January 16, 1997 and February 21, 1997), FBI investigators determine that the bombs used at those venues are similar to the Centennial Park bomb. The 1998 bombing of an Alabama abortion clinic (see January 29, 1998) leads the FBI to determine that Rudolph is the bomber. Rudolph becomes a fugitive (see July 1998) and successfully hides for over five years (see May 31, 2003). He will plead guilty to all four bombings in return for the prosecution agreeing not to seek the death penalty (see April 14, 2005).
Entity Tags: Centennial Olympic Park, Georgia Bureau of Investigation, Charles Stone, Eric Robert Rudolph, Desmond Edwards, International Olympic Committee, Federal Bureau of Investigation, William Jefferson (“Bill”) Clinton, Alice Hawthorne, Melih Uzunyol, Jack Killorin, Tom Davis, Richard Jewell
Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism
Washington State Militia leader John Pitner and seven others are arrested on weapons and explosives charges in connection with a plot to build pipe bombs for a confrontation with the federal government. Pitner and four others will be convicted on weapons charges, while conspiracy charges against all eight will end in a mistrial. Pitner will later be retried on that charge, convicted, and sentenced to four years in prison. [Southern Poverty Law Center, 6/2001]
Sarah Palin during her tenure on Wasilla’s City Council. [Source: Sarah Palin Truth Squad (.com)]Wasilla, Alaska, City Council member Sarah Palin, a 32-year-old former sportscaster and current housewife, challenges three-term incumbent John C. Stein for mayor. Wasilla is a small town of less than 5,000 residents; Palin is popular among residents for her success in beauty pageants and for her history as a point guard on the 1982 Wasilla High School state basketball championship team. Before the Palin campaign, mayoral elections have focused relentlessly on local issues, such as paving dirt roads and putting in sewers. Personal campaigning revolved around who went hunting with who. [Anchorage Daily News, 10/23/2006; New York Times, 9/2/2008; Anchorage Daily News, 9/2/2008] Instead, Palin, guided by advisers such as Mark Chryson of the Alaskan Independent Party (AIP—see October 10, 2008), runs an unusually negative campaign against Stein. Her campaign slogan is “Positively Sarah.” Palin emphasizes her stance against abortion, her membership in the National Rifle Association (NRA), and her church work. She runs as an outsider against what she calls an “old boy network” that has controlled Wasilla’s government long enough. She vows to replace “stale leadership” and a “tax-and-spend” mentality with “fresh ideas and energy,” and, in campaign literature, complains that citizens asking city leaders for help routinely encounter “complacency, inaction, and even total disregard.” The Alaska Republican Party runs advertisements on Palin’s behalf, a first in Wasilla politics as Alaska municipal politics are officially nonpartisan. Palin also mounts a stinging negative campaign against Stein, including insinuations that he, a Lutheran, is a secret Jew. “Sarah comes in with all this ideological stuff and I was like, ‘Whoa,’” Stein will later recall. “But that got her elected: abortion, gun rights, term limits, and the religious born-again thing. I’m not a churchgoing guy, and that was another issue: ‘We will have our first Christian mayor.’” Of the Jewish campaign theme, Stein will recall: “I thought: ‘Holy cow, what’s happening here? Does that mean she thinks I’m Jewish or Islamic?‘… The point was that she was a born-again Christian.” Stein, who is pro-choice, remembers a “national anti-abortion outfit sen[ding] little pink cards to voters in Wasilla endorsing her.” Victoria Naegele, the managing editor of the local Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman newspaper and herself a conservative Christian, will later recall: “[Stein] figured he was just going to run your average, friendly small-town race. But it turned into something much different than that.… I just thought, ‘That’s ridiculous, she should concentrate on roads, not abortion.’” Palin wins with 638 votes, a 58 percent majority. A local TV station calls her Wasilla’s “first Christian mayor,” though Stein is a Christian as well. [Anchorage Daily News, 10/23/2006; New York Times, 9/2/2008; Time, 9/2/2008; Seattle Times, 9/7/2008; Washington Post, 9/14/2008] Palin has a tumultuous first term as mayor (see Late 1996 - 1999).
House Oversight Committee holds public hearings on the Waco debacle. [Source: C-SPAN]The House Oversight Committee releases its report on the FBI’s siege and final assault on the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas (see 5:00 A.M. - 9:30 A.M. February 28, 1993, March 1, 1993, and April 19, 1993). The report was prepared in conjunction with the House Judiciary Committee. The report spans investigative activities undertaken on behalf of the committees by Congressional investigators from April 1995 through May 1996; the committees took almost three months to write the final report. As part of that investigation, the Oversight Committee held 10 days of public hearings (see August 4, 1995). [House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight, 8/2/1996]
Findings - The report makes the following conclusions:
Branch Davidians Responsible for Situation, Deaths - “But for the criminal conduct and aberrational behavior of David Koresh and other Branch Davidians, the tragedies that occurred in Waco would not have occurred,” the report finds. “The ultimate responsibility for the deaths of the Davidians and the four federal law enforcement agents [referring to the federal agents slain in the February 1993 raid] lies with Koresh.” The Davidians set the fires themselves, the report finds. Moreover, the Davidians had time to leave the premises after their cohorts set the fires, and most either chose to stay or were prevented from leaving by their fellows. The 19 Davidians killed by gunfire either shot themselves, the report finds, were shot by their fellows, or were killed by “the remote possibility of accidental discharge from rounds exploding in the fire.”
Treasury Department 'Derelict' in Duties - Treasury Secretary Lloyd Bentsen and Deputy Secretary Roger Altman were “irresponsible” and “derelict in their duties” refusing to meet with the director of the BATF [Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, sometimes abbreviated ATF] in the month before the February raid, and failing to ask for briefings. Senior Treasury officials “routinely failed” to monitor BATF officials, knew little to nothing of the plans for the raid, and therefore failed to uncover the significant flaws in the plan. When the raid failed, Assistant Treasury Secretary Ronald Noble tried to blame the BATF for the failure, even though Noble and his fellow Treasury officials failed to supervise the BATF’s plans and activities.
BATF 'Grossly Incompetent' - Some of the worst criticism of the report are leveled at the BATF. The report calls the agency’s investigation of the Davidians (see June-July 1992, November 1992 - January 1993, and January 11, 1993 and After) “grossly incompetent” and lacking in “the minimum professionalism expected of a major federal law enforcement agency.” The agents in charge of planning decided to use a “military-style raid” two months before beginning surveillance, undercover, and infiltration efforts. The agency did have probable cause for a search warrant against Koresh and the Davidians (see February 25, 1993), but the affidavit applying for the warrant “contained an incredible number of false statements.” The BATF agents responsible for the affidavit either knew, or should have known, the affidavit was so inaccurate and false. Koresh could easily have been arrested outside the compound, the report finds; the BATF planners “were determined to use a dynamic entry approach,” and thusly “exercised extremely poor judgment, made erroneous assumptions, and ignored the foreseeable perils of their course of action.” BATF agents lied to Defense Department officials about the Davidians’ supposed involvement in drug manufacturing, and by those lies secured Defense Department training without having to reimburse the department, as they should have. The raid plan itself “was poorly conceived, utilized a high risk tactical approach when other tactics could have been successfully used, was drafted and commanded by ATF agents who were less qualified than other available agents, and used agents who were not sufficiently trained for the operation.” Plan security was lax, making it easy for the Davidians to learn about the plan and take precautions. The report singles out BATF raid commanders Philip Chojnacki and Chuck Sarabyn for criticism, noting that they endangered BATF agents’ lives by choosing to go ahead with the raid even though they knew, or should have known, the Davidians had found out about it and were taking defensive action. “This, more than any other factor, led to the deaths of the four ATF agents killed on February 28.” The report is highly critical of Chojnacki’s and Sarabyn’s rehiring after they were fired (see December 23, 1994). The report also cites former BATF Director Stephen Higgins (see July 2, 1995) and former Deputy Director Daniel Hartnett for failing to become involved in the planning.
Justice Department Decision to Approve Final Assault 'Highly Irresponsible' - The report charactizes Attorney General Janet Reno’s approval of the FBI’s plan to end the standoff “premature, wrong… highly irresponsible… [and] seriously negligent” (see April 17-18, 1993). Reno should have known that the plan would put the Davidians’s lives at extreme risk, especially the children inside, and should have been doubly reluctant because of the lack of a serious threat posed by the Davidians to the FBI or to the surrounding community. Reno should have been skeptical of the FBI’s reasons for ending the standoff: negotiations were continuing, the Davidians were not threatening to break out in force, the FBI’s Hostage Rescue Team (HRT) could have gone longer without mandatory rest and retraining, the Davidians’ living conditions had not significantly deteriorated, and there was no reason to believe that children were being abused or mistreated any more than they may have been before the February raid. “The final assault put the children at the greatest risk.” The report calls the plan to use CS riot control gas “fatally flawed.” CS gas is a dangerous substance, and particularly threatening to children, pregnant women, elderly people, and those with respiratory conditions, all of which were represented in the compound. Some of those who died in the fires may have died from exposure to CS gas before the fires consumed them, the report speculates. The Davidians were likely to react violently and not submissively, as the FBI insisted, and the likelihood of armed resistance and mass suicide in response to the CS gas insertion was high. Moreover, the plan had no contingency provisions in case the initial insertion did not provide the desired result. Reno offered her resignation after the April 19 assault; the report says that President Clinton “should have accepted it.” [House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight, 8/2/1996; House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight, 8/2/1996]
FBI Pushed for Violent Confrontation Instead of Allowing Negotiations to Continue - The FBI was riven by the conflict between two teams with “incompatible methodologies,” the report finds: the HRT, which ultimately controlled the situation, and the negotiators. Senior FBI agent Jeffrey Jamar almost always sided with the HRT’s aggressive approach, but often “allowed the proposals of each team to be implemented simultaneously, working against each other.” The FBI’s chief negotiator on-site, Gary Noesner, told the committee that the dichotomy between the “action-oriented” HRT and the “nonviolent” negotiators is a problem that the FBI routinely experiences; it was not unique to the Davidian standoff. The two teams battled with increasing hostility and anger towards one another as the siege progressed, with the negotiators becoming less and less influential. The negotiators later testified that the pressure tactics used by the HRT against the Davidians undermined their efforts at winning the Davidians’ trust and rendered their efforts ineffective. FBI profiler Peter Smerick (see March 3-4, 1993, March 7-8, 1993, March 9, 1993, March 9, 1993, March 17-18, 1993, August 1993, and 1995) was particularly harsh in his assessment of the tactics of the HRT during the siege; during his interviews with investigators, Smerick said “the FBI commanders were moving too rapidly toward a tactical solution and were not allowing adequate time for negotiations to work.” Smerick told investigators that while the “negotiators were building bonds… the tactical group was undermining everything.… Every time the negotiators were making progress the tactical people would undo it.” The report concludes, “FBI leadership engaged these two strategies in a way that bonded the Davidians together and perpetuated the standoff.” [House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight, 8/2/1996] After March 2, when Koresh and the Davidians broke what some considered to be a promise to come out (see March 2, 1993), Jamar believed nothing Koresh or the others said, and essentially gave up on the idea of a negotiated surrender. Chief negotiator Byron Sage did not share that view, but Jamar and the HRT officials began thinking, and planning, exclusively on a forced end to the standoff, even ignoring evidence that Koresh intended to lead his people out after completing his work on an interpretation of the Biblical Seven Seals (see April 14-15, 1993). Many FBI officials, particularly Jamar, Noesner, and the HRT leadership, became frustrated and impatient with what the report calls “endless dissertations of Branch Davidian beliefs” (see March 15, 1993), to the point where they ignored the assertions from religious experts that the Davidians could be productively negotiated with on a religiously theoretical level (see March 16, 1993). The FBI, the report says, “should have sought and accepted more expert advice on the Branch Davidians and their religious views and been more open-minded to the advice of the FBI’s own experts.” Jamar and the senior FBI officials advising Reno should have known that the reasons they gave to end negotiations and force an ending were groundless; their advice to Reno was, the report says, “wrong and highly irresponsible.” [House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight, 8/2/1996; House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight, 8/2/1996] However, some charges against the FBI are baseless, the report finds. CS gas would not have built up in any areas of the residence to anything approaching lethal levels. No FBI agents shot at the Davidians or the compound. No agent set any fires, either deliberately or inadvertently. [House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight, 8/2/1996]
Defense Department Bears No Responsibility - The report finds no reason to fault the Defense Department or National Guard, as no DoD nor Guard personnel took an active part in the assault; the Posse Comitatus Act was therefore not violated. No foreign military personnel or foreign nationals took any part in the assault, though “[s]ome foreign military personnel were present near the Davidian residence as observers at the invitation of the FBI.”
Recommendations - The report recommends that:
the Justice Department consider assuming control of the BATF from the Treasury Department;
Waco residents who made the false statements to law enforcement officials included in the original search warrants should be charged with crimes;
federal agents should use caution in using such statements to obtain warrants; the BATF should review and revise its planning to ensure that “its best qualified agents are placed in command and control positions in all operations”;
senior BATF officials “should assert greater command and control over significant operations”;
the BATF should no longer have sole jurisdiction over any drug-related crimes;
Congress should consider enhancing the Posse Comitatus Act to restrain the National Guard from being involved with federal law enforcement actions;
the Defense Department should clarify the grounds upon which law enforcement agencies can apply for its assistance;
the General Accounting Office (GAO) should ensure that the BATF reimburses the Defense Department for the training and assistance it improperly received;
the GAO should investigate Operation Alliance, the organization that acts as a liaison between the military and other federal agencies;
the FBI should revamp its negotiation policies and training to minimize the effects of physical and emotional fatigue on negotiators;
the FBI should take steps to ensure greater understanding of the targets under investigation (the report notes that had the FBI and BATF agents understood more about the Davidians’ religious philosophies, they “could have made better choices in planning to deal with the Branch Davidians” (see March 15, 1993);
the FBI should ensure better training for its lead negotiators;
FBI agents should rely more on outside experts (the reports notes that several religious experts offered their services in helping the agents understand the Davidians, but were either rebuffed or ignored—see March 3, 1993, March 7, 1993, and March 16, 1993);
federal law enforcement agencies should welcome the assistance of other law enforcement agencies, particularly state and local agencies;
the FBI should expand the size of the Hostage Rescue Team (HRT) “so that there are sufficient numbers of team members to participate in an operation and to relieve those involved when necessary”;
the FBI should conduct further examinations on the use of CS gas against children, those with respiratory problems, pregnant women, and the elderly. [House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight, 8/2/1996]
'Perhaps the Greatest Law Enforcement Tragedy in American History' - In a statement appended to the final report, Representative Steven Schiff (R-NM) calls the Davidian raid, standoff, and final assault “perhaps the greatest law enforcement tragedy in American history.” He writes: “It would not be a significant overstatement to describe the Waco operation from the government’s standpoint, as one in which if something could go wrong, it did. The true tragedy is, virtually all of those mistakes could have been avoided.” His statement decries what he calls the increasing “militarization of law enforcement,” recommends that the HRT be scaled back instead of expanded, expresses little confidence in the FLIR (forward-looking infrared radar) videotapes used to determine when and how the fires were started, calls for stringent limitations on the use of CS gas, and blames the FBI for not allowing many of the residents to escape. He accuses the Justice Department of a “breach of ethics” in what he says were its attempts to conceal and withhold evidence from the committee, and to shape its findings. [House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight, 8/2/1996]
Dissenting Views - The investigating committees’ 17 Democrats issue a “dissenting views” addendum that is highly critical of what it calls the Republican majority’s use of “false assumptions and unfounded allegations” to besmirch the reputations of Reno and Bentsen, and the use of those “assumptions and allegations” to press for Reno’s resignation. [House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight, 8/2/1996]
Entity Tags: Gary Noesner, US Department of the Treasury, US Department of Defense, Branch Davidians, Clinton administration, Dan Hartnett, Federal Bureau of Investigation, FBI Hostage Rescue Team, David Koresh, US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Steven Schiff, Charles Sarabyn, Ronald Noble, Janet Reno, Stephen Higgins, House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, General Accounting Office, Lloyd Bentsen, Jeffrey Jamar, Operation Alliance, Peter Smerick, Roger Altman, Philip Chojnacki
Timeline Tags: 1993 Branch Davidian Crisis
Over 300 people attend what is described by the Southern Poverty Law Center as “the largest Patriot gathering ever held in Washington, DC.” The meeting, far from the rural areas where the Patriot movement (see February 1992) is strongest, is billed as a “Rally for the Bill of Rights.” [Southern Poverty Law Center, 6/2001]
Author Brandon M. Stickney, a reporter for the Lockport Union-Sun & Journal in upstate New York, catalogs a number of unproven and sometimes extremist conspiracy theories that have sprouted in the aftermath of the Oklahoma City bombing (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995). Stickney includes his findings in his “unauthorized biography” of accused bomber Timothy McVeigh (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995, July 11-13, 1995, and August 10, 1995), All-American Monster. Among the theories Stickney presents:
The bombing was carried out by the Japanese. This theory was promulgated by Michigan Militia leaders Norm Olson and Ray Southwell (see April 1994), and proved so embarrassing for the two that they resigned their posts.
Both the Oklahoma City bombing and the Branch Davidian tragedy (see April 19, 1993 and April 19, 1993 and After) were engineered by Clinton administration personnel in order to kill two former bodyguards of President Clinton who were preparing to go public with lurid tales of Clinton’s sexual transgressions. Secret Service agent Alan Wicher was killed in Oklahoma, and BATF agent Robert William was killed at Waco. Clinton attended Wicher’s funeral, and William had worked for the BATF in Little Rock while Clinton was governor of Arkansas. Idaho resident Bill Trowbridge told an Associated Press reporter after a militia meeting: “[T]hat makes four different bodyguards killed. Three in Waco, and this one. Sure did benefit Bill Clinton, didn’t it? Check that out.”
The UN participated in the bombing plot. This theory has been promoted by the John Birch Society (see March 10, 1961 and December 2011), the editors of the white-separatist magazine The Spotlight, and other organizations and groups that have warned about a partnership between the UN and the US government to impose tyranny and martial law on American citizens, as part of the imposition of what they call the “New World Order” (see September 11, 1990). Gate Keepers information service representative Pam Beesley told an AP reporter that “this is what the UN does when they go in and overthrow a country. They produce unrest in the country first.”
The bomb was an “electrodynamic gaseous fuel device” impossible for amateurs like McVeigh and his accomplice Terry Nichols to have made. Instead, it must have been made by US officials possessed of “high-level, top-secret” information. This theory came from former FBI agent Ted Gunderson, who makes regular appearances in The Spotlight. According to Gunderson, “John Doe No. 2” (see April 20, 1995, April 21, 1995, April 29, 1995, and June 14, 1995) was “vaporized by design” in the blast, and McVeigh was a “throwaway” or an “expendable asset.”
Two bombs, not one, destroyed the Murrah Federal Building. It is true that two “incidents” were recorded at 9:02 a.m. on April 19, 1995, 11.9 seconds apart, but, according to Oklahoma chief geophysicist James Lawson, the second tremor was not caused by a second bomb, but by the building collapsing (see After 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995). Lawson told the AP he still gets calls from people demanding to know about the “second explosion.” “A lot of them are anxious to explain to me that our government committed mass murder,” he said. “They are disappointed that I’m not saying it was two blasts.”
Stickney writes that many people have told him flatly that “they know” the government caused the bombing, and writes: “No matter what I told them, or for how long I tried to tell it, they would not change their minds that the government was involved. Distrust in public officials has reached the point of delusion, where Americans create their own explanations they cannot understand. One of the people who spoke with me went so far as to say he’d obtained a photograph of the bombed-out Murrah (ordered through a late-night AM radio show) that ‘proves two bombs were set off. McVeigh was led to Oklahoma by his nose, by the government.’” A video titled Oklahoma City: What Really Happened sells well at gun shows and through militia magazines and Web sites. On the box, it poses the questions: “Was there more than one bomb?” “What happened to John Doe No. 2?” “Was there a Middle Eastern connection?” and “Did some occupants of the building have prior warning?” [Stickney, 1996, pp. 265-267]
Entity Tags: United Nations, Timothy James McVeigh, Ted Gunderson, William Jefferson (“Bill”) Clinton, Ray Southwell, Clinton administration, James Lawson, Brandon M. Stickney, Alan Wicher, Bill Trowbridge, Robert William, Terry Lynn Nichols, Pam Beesley, Norman (“Norm”) Olson, John Birch Society
Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism
Charles Barbee, Robert Berry, and Jay Merrell are charged with robbing and bombing banks, a newspaper office, and a Planned Parenthood clinic in the Spokane, Washington, area. The three are self-described “Phineas Priests,” members of the Christian Identity movement (see 1960s and After and 1990) who claim to have been called by God to launch violent attacks. The three will be convicted and sentenced to life in prison. A fourth “priest,” Brian Ratigan, will be arrested separately and sentenced to 55 years in jail. [Southern Poverty Law Center, 6/2001]
Seven members of the West Virginia Mountaineer Militia are arrested in a plot to blow up the FBI’s national fingerprint records center in that state. In 1998, leader Floyd “Ray” Looker will be sentenced to 18 years in prison. Two other defendants are later sentenced on explosives charges and a third will draw a year in prison for providing blueprints of the FBI facility to Looker, who then sold them to a government informant. [Southern Poverty Law Center, 6/2001]
Dr. Jack Fainman, a Vancouver physician and abortion provider, is shot in the right shoulder while at his home. The bullet comes through his back window. [Washington Post, 1998] Anti-abortion advocate James Kopp will later be named as a suspect in Fainman’s shooting (see March 29, 2001).
Sarah Palin, taking the oath of office as mayor, 1997. [Source: New York Times]Wasilla, Alaska, City Council member Sarah Palin becomes Mayor of Wasilla after running a groundbreakingly negative political campaign (see Mid and Late 1996). In her term, she focuses on town development and personal politics. Palin supporters will say that she helps Wasilla develop from a small backwater into a fast-growing suburb, almost doubling its population during her term and bringing in large “box stores” such as Target. Critics will say that she leads the overdevelopment and exploitation of a town that was largely homesteaded farmland before her arrival. Palin weathers a brief attempt at a recall, in part because of town leaders’ fears of retaliation: She quickly becomes known for using her position for exacting revenge against her personal and political enemies. Council member Anne Kilkenny, a Democrat, will later remember Palin’s efforts to get books banned from the Wasilla library. “They were somehow morally or socially objectionable to her,” Kilkenny will recall. Town librarian Mary Ellen Emmons, later described by former mayor John C. Stein as “aghast” at Palin’s requests, resists Palin’s efforts at what Kilkenny will call “censorship,” and Palin promptly fires her. After residents protest, Palin relents and allows Emmons to retake the position, and drops her call to ban the library books; in late 1996, Palin tells a local reporter that her talk of banning books was merely “rhetorical.” Once in office, Palin demands that many of Stein’s supporters and appointees in city government resign, an unprecedented event in town history. She forces the public works director, city planner, museum director, and others to resign, and fires Police Chief Irl Stambaugh, who will lose a wrongful termination lawsuit in 2000. (Stambaugh will later say that part of the reason why Palin fires him is because she tells him “the NRA [National Rifle Association, a powerful Palin supporter] didn’t like me and that they wanted change.” Palin also informs Stambaugh that he “stared” at her during their meetings and attempted to be “physically intimidating.”) Palin packs city government with figures from the area Republican Party, sometimes including wives and relatives, and responds to a question about running city government without experienced government personnel by saying: “It’s not rocket science. It’s $6 million and 53 employees.” She attempts to replace two council members with persons she knows, though the mayor does not have that legal power. She issues an edict forbidding city employees from talking to anyone in the press without her authorization. Victoria Naegele, the editor of the Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman, will recall: “It was just things you don’t ever associate with a small town. It was like we were warped into real politics instead of just, ‘Do you like Joe or Mary for the job?’ It was a strange time and [the Frontiersman] came out very harshly against her.” Going against her stance on cutting taxes and restricting spending, Palin forces through a half-cent raise in the local sales tax to pay for a $15 million sports complex that hosts, among other local teams, a junior league hockey team, but the city will later have to pay more than $1.3 million to settle an ownership dispute over the site. And again going against her stated distaste for taking federal money, she makes frequent trips to Washington to lobby for federal funds for local rail projects and a mental health center, among other initiatives. In 1999, Palin will become president of the Alaska Conference of Mayors. [Anchorage Daily News, 10/23/2006; New York Times, 9/2/2008; Time, 9/2/2008; Seattle Times, 9/7/2008; Washington Post, 9/14/2008] Palin will use her second and final term as mayor as a springboard to higher office (see January 2000 - 2002).
The Senate launches an investigation into what a minority (Democratic) report calls “an audacious plan to pour millions of dollars in contributions into Republican campaigns nationwide without disclosing the amount or source” in order to evade campaign finance laws. A shell corporation, Triad Management, is found to have paid more than $3 million for attack ads in 26 House races and three Senate races. More than half of the advertising money came from an obscure nonprofit group, the Economic Education Trust. The Senate minority report finds that “the trust was financed in whole or in part by Charles and David Koch of Wichita, Kansas” (see August 30, 2010). Many in the investigation believe that the Koch brothers paid for the attack ads, most of which aired in states where Koch Industries does business. The brothers refuse to confirm or deny their involvement to reporters. In 1998, the Wall Street Journal will confirm that a consultant on the Kochs’ payroll had been involved in the scheme. Charles Lewis of the Center for Public Integrity will describe the scandal as “historic,” explaining: “Triad was the first time a major corporation used a cutout (a front operation) in a threatening way. Koch Industries was the poster child of a company run amok.” [New Yorker, 8/30/2010]
The original Earth Liberation First logo. [Source: Original ELF (.com)]The Earth Liberation Front (ELF), an extremist offshoot of Earth First! (see 1980 and After) founded in Britain in 1992, steps up the vandalism and violence of its parent organization. It consciously models itself after the Animal Liberation Front (ALF—see 1976) in having little to no hierarchical organization, and consists of what it calls “autonomous groups of people” who are “anonymous not only to the public but also to one another.” The ELF writes that it exists to “inflict economic damage on those profiting from the destruction and exploitation of the natural environment,” and “to reveal and educate the public on the atrocities committed against the earth and all species that populate it.” In a promotional video, “Igniting the Revolution,” ELF says it now knows “that to be successful in the struggle to protect the Earth, more extreme tactics must be utilized. Thus the Earth Liberation Front was born.” It first garners major US public attention in 1997, when ELF activists burn down a Bureau of Land Management (BLM) horse corral in Oregon (see 1997). [Southern Poverty Law Center, 9/2002; Anti-Defamation League, 2005]
The Earth Liberation Front (ELF—see 1997) claims sole responsibility for burning down an unoccupied Bureau of Land Management (BLM) horse corral in Oregon; previous attacks had been performed in conjuction with the Animal Liberation Front (ALF—see 1976). [Anti-Defamation League, 2005]
Cover of ‘ARSON-Around with Auntie ALF’. [Source: Resource Clearinghouse (.com)]Activists with the Animal Liberation Front (ALF—see 1976) use the step-by-step instructions provided by an ALF manual, “ARSON-Around with Auntie ALF,” to make and use homemade napalm to burn down an Oregon slaughterhouse. The manual states, “Arson is not always used by ALF in the course of an action, but when it is, it can be devastatingly effective.” The activists drill holes in the walls, pour in 35 gallons of homemade napalm, and use three electronically timed incendiary devices to, in the words of an ALF statement, “halt what countless protests and letter-writing campaigns could never stop.” [Anti-Defamation League, 2005]
A screenshot of Neal Horsley’s ‘Nuremberg Files’ Web site, showing murdered doctors with their names lined out. [Source: MSNBC / Christian Gallery (.com)]Anti-abortion activist Neal Horsley posts a Web site he calls “The Nuremberg Files,” which lists the names, addresses, and phone numbers of some 200 abortion providers and clinic staff members. The site, sponsored by the American Coalition of Life Activists (ACLA—see 1995 and After), lists each person with one of three statuses: still working, wounded, or dead. Many observers and pro-choice activists will call the site a “hit list” targeting abortion providers for assassination (see October 23, 1998). [Kushner, 2003, pp. 40] Government documents also identify Horsley as a white supremacist and separatist, and the “webmaster” for the secessionist organization “Republic of Texas.” [Extremist Groups: Information for Students, 1/1/2006] In a 2001 documentary on the “Army of God,” an organization to which Horsley belongs (see 1982 and March 30, 2001), Horsley discusses his site’s treatment of murdered abortion provider Dr. Barnett Slepian (see October 23, 1998). Horsley will explain why, within hours of Slepian’s murder, the site depicts Slepian’s name with a line drawn through it: “Names in black are people who are working. The grayed-out names are people who have been wounded. And the strike-throughs, like Dr. Slepian, are people who have been killed. When I drew a line through his name, I said: ‘See, I told ya. There’s another one. How many more is it gonna take?’ The evidence is at hand. There are people out there who [will] go out and blow their brains out.” [Womens eNews, 3/30/2001]
Abortion providers and women’s clinics around the country receive over 550 mailings of suspicious white powder, accompanied by letters claiming the powder is laced with anthrax (see November 2001). All the anthrax mailings are determined to be hoaxes. Many of the accompanying letters are signed “Army of God, Virginia Dare Chapter” (see 1982, Early 1980s, and August 1982) or “Virginia Dare Cell.” The sender is determined to be anti-abortion activist Clayton Waagner. Arrested by authorities in 2000, Waagner escapes prison and remains at large for a year before being recaptured in December 2001; during his time as a fugitive, Waagner robs banks, buys weapons and surveillance equipment, steals cars, and stalks abortion clinics and clinic personnel. When he is arrested, Waagner has $10,000 in cash, as well as computer components and a loaded handgun in his stolen Mercedes-Benz. He soon confesses to sending the fake anthrax mailings. Waagner admits to signing many of the letters “Army of God,” referring to a violent anti-abortion group to which he belongs (see 1982). He will serve as his own attorney at trial, and be convicted on 51 of 53 federal charges. [Salon, 2/19/2002; Kushner, 2003, pp. 40; Extremist Groups: Information for Students, 1/1/2006]
Two bomb blasts, one an hour after the first, destroy the Sandy Springs Professional Building in Atlanta, Georgia, containing the Atlanta Northside Family Planning Service. The second blast is apparently designed to injure or kill responders such as firemen, paramedics, and others responding to the first blast. “This bomber placed secondary bombs designed to kill and maim rescuers, paramedics, firefighters, and police officers who rushed to the scene to help,” John Magaw of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) will later say. “He didn’t care who they were.” Seven people are injured in the blast. Anti-abortion activist Eric Rudolph (see October 14, 1998 and January 29, 1998) will later be convicted of the bombings. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 10/14/1998; CBS News, 4/19/2007; Associated Press, 5/31/2009] The second bomb could have had a far more devastating effect, but, according to FBI agent Jack Killorin, a couple visiting a nearby substance abuse treatment center inadvertently parked their car directly in front of Rudolph’s bomb. “It absorbed huge amounts of the explosive,” Killorin will say. [Orlando Weekly, 8/24/2006]
Federal authorities raid the Illinois home of Ricky Salyers, a former Marine and current white supremacist and Ku Klux Klan member. They find 35,000 rounds of heavy ammunition, armor piercing shells, smoke and tear gas grenades, live shells for grenade launchers, artillery shells, and other military gear. Salyers is allegedly a member of the underground Black Dawn group of extremists in the military; he will be sentenced later in the year to serve three years for weapons violations. [Southern Poverty Law Center, 6/2001]
In an 8-1 decision, the US Supreme Court rules that anti-abortion demonstrators have the right under the First Amendment to confront pregnant women outside health clinics and “strongly urge” them not to have abortions. The decision casts doubt on an array of city ordinances and judicial orders barring protesters from confronting doctors, nurses, and patients outside clinics. Chief Justice William Rehnquist, writing for the majority, rules that there is no “generalized right to be left alone on a public street or sidewalk.” Rather, picketing, leafleting, and loud protesting “are classic forms of speech that lie at the heart of the First Amendment.” The Court affirms that protesters have no right to physically accost or interfere with clients or providers, nor may they trespass on clinic property. They do have the right to shout and chant on public property such as sidewalks. The ruling also reaffirms a 1994 decision that created protest-free zones, sometimes called “fixed bufffer zones,” at the doors and driveways of health clinics. [Los Angeles Times, 2/20/1997]
A gay and lesbian nightclub in Atlanta, The Otherside Lounge, is bombed, injuring five people. A second explosive is found on the side of the building, apparently set to go off after first responders such as police, firemen, and paramedics respond to the first explosion; that bomb is safely detonated with no injuries or damage suffered. After the bombing, a handwritten, unsigned letter is sent to the Reuters news agency, claiming that this and a January 1997 bombing of an abortion clinic (see January 16, 1997) are the work of what the letter claims to be “units of the Army of God.” The Army of God (AOG—see 1982) is a violent anti-abortion organization. The letter also warns that anyone involved with the performance of abortions “may become victims of retribution.” Regarding the bombing of the gay and lesbian nightclub, the letter states, “We will target sodomites, their organizations, and all those who push their agenda.” The bombings will later be tied to anti-abortion extremist and AOG member Eric Rudolph (see October 14, 1998 and January 29, 1998). [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 10/14/1998; Extremist Groups: Information for Students, 1/1/2006] A task force assembled to investigate the Sandy Springs bombing (see January 16, 1997) quickly realizes that the bomb and the methodology used in the nightclub bombing are similar to the earlier attack. Both bombings were in locations with easy access to an interstate for a quick escape; both bombings featured two bombs, one to cause large-scale damage and a second “sucker bomb” to kill and injure first responders. The letter Rudolph sent to Reuters and other news agencies references the siege of the Branch Davidians in Waco, Texas, and contains a code that Rudolph says will identify him as the Sandy Springs and Otherside bomber in future mailings. The code is the date 4-19-93, the anniversary of the fire in Waco and a reference to the Oklahoma City bombing (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995). FBI agent Jack Killorin says, “We held that back from the public.” The FBI will use evidence from the Otherside bombing to identify Rudolph as the Olympic bomber (see July 27, 1996 and After). [Orlando Weekly, 8/24/2006]
Anti-abortion activist Peter Howard puts 13 gas cans and three propane tanks in his truck, and drives it through the door of a California women’s clinic. He is arrested on the scene, and will plead guilty to multiple felony charges. [National Abortion Federation, 2010]
M. Elizabeth Broderick, who used Freemen teachings to defraud dozens of banks and businesses of millions of dollars (see October 1995 - March 1997 and April 25, 1996), and has been convicted of a number of fraud-related charges, is sentenced to 16 years in prison. After Broderick’s conviction, prosecutor Nora Manella says of her: “Behind Ms. Broderick’s anti-government rhetoric was a classic con artist. She appealed principally to financially strapped people who wanted something for nothing. They wound up further in debt and she wound up a convicted felon.” Federal judge Dickran M. Tevrizian says Broderick did more damage to the banking system “than most bank robbers,” and says, “You dropped an atomic bomb on the banking system with this bogus scheme.” Broderick attempted to claim that she was a patriot battling the tyranny of the US government, and claims that the government went bankrupt in 1932 and had been issuing worthless paper money ever since. Tevrizian retorts: “You’re not a patriot.… You defrauded thousands of people… people who were desperate.” Broderick, who represented herself during the trial, claimed the government had no jurisdiction over her, and called herself a political prisoner, is defiant during sentencing, saying: “I was here to give damages to the American people. You can lock me up, but you can’t lock up my knowledge.” Three other Californians, Barry Switzer, Julian Cheney, and Adolf Karl Hoch, are convicted as her accomplices. Broderick garnered some $1.2 million during her scheme. [Mark Pitcavage, 5/6/1996; Los Angeles Times, 10/5/1996; Los Angeles Times, 3/11/1997]
The New York Times publishes an overview of the ongoing criminal trials of the Montana Freemen (see 1993-1994, March 25, 1996, June 13, 1996, and March 16, 1998 and After), and calls the proceedings “an absurdist drama that could be called Alice in Wonderland on the Yellowstone River.” Freemen leader LeRoy Schweitzer, indicted for multiple counts of civil fraud and threatening federal officials (see March 26, 1996), recently announced himself as “Supreme Court Justice LeRoy Michael” in a court hearing, and told the judge: “Supreme court is in session. You are removed from the bench under impeachment.” Most of the Freemen are refusing to cooperate with either the court officials or their own defense lawyers; some of them had to be compelled to give fingerprints and be photographed for booking. Defendant Daniel Petersen, indicted along with Schweitzer and a third Freeman, Rodney Skurdal, disrupted a recent proceeding by shouting that the “Supreme Court of Yellowstone County” was now in session, and yelled at the judge and prosecution, “I’m charging all of you with misprison of treason and misprison of felony.” Defendant Steven Hance (see June 14, 1996) told one judge, “I am above the Constitution,” called the judge “an outlaw,” and informed him, “You are out of order.” Hance’s two sons, James Hance and John Hance, answered their indictments by belching at the judge; James Hance told the judge: “You’re going to be impeached. How are you going to feel about that?” and his brother added: “You’d better start obeying the law, sir. You’re incompetent.” Another defendant, Dale Jacobi, accused the judge of holding “blood sacrifices.” During a North Carolina trial of one Freeman, Russell Landers, the judge at that trial ordered Landers—defending himself—to cease his rambling opening statement, threw him out of the courtroom, and had him watch his trial by closed-circuit television; in his turn, Landers claimed he was being held hostage by a foreign power and accused the judge of wearing a black robe to disguise his real identity as “a Roman tribunal.” One judge, Charles Lovell, recently said that Schweitzer has “no business in the courtroom unless he is chained and taped,” and banned him from the courtroom. The defendants are routinely expelled from the courtroom for their antics. They call themselves “white Christian men” who are, by definition, “sovereign American naturals” and therefore not subject to United States laws and courts. They hold that their system of “common law” (see Fall 2010) places them above the “ordinary” American judicial system. The judges have uniformly ignored the Freemen’s arcane legal claims, which the New York Times calls “a salad of the Uniform Commercial Code, the Magna Carta, biblical admonitions, and meaningless Latin phrases.” Lovell called Schweitzer’s legal defense “nonsensical” and added, “This is preposterous, absolutely preposterous—it has no more bearing in law than an ounce of sand.” The Montana Supreme Court threw out 37 pages of Freemen court documents as “nonsensical filings,” and another judge called a Freeman’s legal arguments “bunkum.” While similar trials of right-wing militia figures have drawn numerous protesters agitating on behalf of the defendants, the Freemen are drawing a vanishingly small number of supporters; “sympathizers are rare, and protest placards have not been seen in more than nine months,” the Times observes. [New York Times, 3/25/1997]
Entity Tags: Montana Freemen, Dale Jacobi, Charles C. Lovell, James Hance, LeRoy Schweitzer, Montana Supreme Court, New York Times, Steven Hance, Rodney Owen Skurdal, Russell Dean Landers, John Hance
Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism
Militia activist Brendon Blasz is arrested in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and charged with making pipe bombs and other illegal explosives. Blasz allegedly plotted to bomb the federal building in Battle Creek, the IRS building in Portage, a Kalamazoo television station, and federal armories. Prosecutors will recommend leniency on his explosives conviction after Blasz renounces his antigovernment beliefs and cooperates with them. In the end, he is sentenced to more than three years in federal prison. [Southern Poverty Law Center, 6/2001]
District Court Judge David Coar rules that NOW v. Scheidler, a lawsuit brought by the National Organization of Women (NOW) against anti-abortion advocates (see June 1986 and September 22, 1995), can be designated as a “class-action” lawsuit. Coar certifies NOW as the class representative of not only all NOW members but all women “whose rights to the services of women’s health centers in the United States at which abortions are performed have been or will be interfered with by defendants’ unlawful activities.” Coar later rules that if NOW proves its case, then defendant Randall Terry and his Operation Rescue organization (see 1986) will be held responsible for all acts of terrorism and violence perpetuated by the Pro-Life Action Network (PLAN—see 1980 and 1986). Coar rejects the defendants’ argument that their “moral imperative” to stop abortion justifies their violent acts. [National Organization for Women, 9/2002]
Jury selection begins in the trial of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and August 10, 1995). Judge Richard Matsch has denied defense attempts to delay the trial after a brief controversy erupted over media reports using defense documents (see February 28 - March 4, 1997). “I have full confidence that a fair-minded jury can and will be impaneled and that those selected will return a just verdict based on the law and evidence presented to them,” Matsch wrote on March 17. Jurors’ identities are kept hidden from the press. One potential juror, asked by US Attorney Patrick Ryan, “Did you watch a lot of the coverage?” answers: “It was unavoidable. In Oklahoma, it was wall to wall and floor to ceiling.” Another potential juror says he worries about his safety in regards to what he will learn in the course of the trial: “It would seem this case goes further, wider, and deeper in many ways. A juror is going to be an insider on information he might just as soon not know.” [Washington Post, 3/18/1997; New York Times, 4/1/1997; Douglas O. Linder, 2001] The pressure of this being a death-penalty trial, and the prospect of potentially confusing forensic evidence countered by the raw emotions of the bombing itself and of the conspiracy theories surrounding the proceedings, raises oft-asked questions about the competence of 12 jurors to find the truth in such a complex situation. The difference between an open-minded juror and one who is ignorant or intellectually challenged is difficult for lawyers and observers to assess. New York Times reporter Laura Mansnerus reflects on the trial of Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North, charged with crimes relating to the Iran-Contra scandal (see July 7-10, 1987 and May-June, 1989), in which, she writes: “When the jury was selected for the 1989 trial of Oliver North, a search went out for 12 people who knew nothing about Oliver North, which produced, well, 12 people who knew nothing about Oliver North. One person who qualified for service said she had seen him on television, but added, ‘It was just like I was focusing on the Three Stooges or something.’” That ill-informed jury proved remarkably pliable to North’s theatrics, Mansnerus writes, and many believe McVeigh’s defense team hopes for a similar jury pool that may be willing to set aside scientific evidence in favor of conspiracy theories and emotional pleas. Jury expert Jeffrey Abramson of Brandeis University tells Mansnerus: “In a case that’s heavy on scientific, forensic evidence, the defense is going to favor people who are less sophisticated about scientific matters and who are prone to conspiracy theories. That’s the classic defense approach.” Philadelphia prosecutor Jack McMahon warned in a well-known 1986 instructional video of the pitfalls that can result in letting “smart people” on the jury, saying: “Smart people will analyze the hell out of your case. They have a higher standard. They take those words ‘reasonable doubt’ and they actually try to think about them. You don’t want those people.” Moreover, people with jobs requiring any real level of responsibility are routinely excused from jury service; this case is no exception, leaving a pool of jurors with little or no steady employment, spotty educational status, and somtimes limited intellectual capabilities to judge McVeigh’s innocence or guilt. [New York Times, 4/6/1997]
A Patriot group (see February 1992) files a legal notice with Maricopa County, Arizona, officials declaring the state’s separation from the US and the formation of a new “Country of Arizona.” The group falsely claims that the new “nation” is recognized by the United Nations as “Indigenous Nation No. 215.” [Southern Poverty Law Center, 6/2001]
Without comment, the US Supreme Court refuses to hear the appeals of six Branch Davidians convicted of an array of crimes (see January-February 1994) surrounding the February 1993 shootout with federal agents (see 5:00 A.M. - 9:30 A.M. February 28, 1993) and the subsequent assault on the Davidian compound near Waco, Texas (see April 19, 1993). An appeals court ordered that four Davidians given 30-year sentences for the use of firearms during a violent crime, and a fifth given a 10-year sentence, must be set aside and new sentences given; the appeals court said those sentences could only be reinstated if the lower court found that the four not only had the guns but “actively employed” them during the February 1993 raid. Lawyer Steven Rosen, who represents defendant Kevin A. Whitecliff, says he expects the sentences to be reinstated and the appeals process to start over again. [Houston Chronicle, 4/21/1997] In 2000, the Court will overturn the sentences (see June 5, 2000).
Florida police arrest Todd Vanbiber, an alleged member of the neo-Nazi National Alliance (see 1970-1974) and the obscure League of the Silent Soldier, after he accidentally sets off pipe bombs he was building. Officials find a League terrorism manual and extremist literature in Vanbiber’s possession, along with a dozen or so pipe bombs. Officials learn that Vanbiber robbed banks before visiting the National Alliance compound in West Virginia (see 1985) and gave the organization $2,000. Authorities accuse him of plotting to use the bombs as part of a string of bank robberies. Vanbiber later pleads guilty to weapons and explosives charges, and is sentenced to more than six years in federal prison. [Southern Poverty Law Center, 6/2001; Center for New Community, 8/2002 ]
A five-day standoff between police and “Republic of Texas” common-law separatists ends, with one separatist killed in a gun battle with police officers. [Southern Poverty Law Center, 6/2001]
The US Supreme Court follows up on a 1976 ruling (see March 30, 1976) by finding that electoral redistricting plans can indeed be drawn with racial discrimination in mind, as long as the redistricting does not make conditions worse for minority voters (retrogression). In the case of Reno v. Bossier Parish School Board, the Court rules 5-4 that even if the redistricting violates the Constitution or Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA—see June 29, 1989), the government can give permission for the redistricting to take place (“preclear”) as long as the ability of minority communities to elect candidates of their choice is not weakened. The Court is split along ideological lines, with the majority opinion written by conservative Justice Antonin Scalia and joined by his fellow conservatives. Scalia writes, “As we have repeatedly noted, in vote-dilution cases [Section 5] prevents nothing but backsliding, and preclearance under [Section 5] affirms nothing but the absence of backsliding.” The four liberals and moderates on the court dissent. Justice David Souter writes, “Now executive and judicial officers of the United States will be forced to preclear illegal and unconstitutional voting schemes patently intended to perpetuate discrimination.” [American Civil Liberties Union, 2012; Oyez (.org), 2012] A 2006 law will invalidate this ruling (see July 27, 2006).
Sarah Palin shortly after being elected mayor of Wasilla. [Source: Associated Press]Wasilla, Alaska, councilman Nick Carney proposes a local gun-control measure that would prohibit residents from carrying guns into schools, bars, hospitals, government offices, and playgrounds. Newly elected Mayor Sarah Palin (see Mid and Late 1996) and her political ally, Mark Chryson, who heads the far-right secessionist Alaskan Independence Party (AIP), craft a way to defeat Carney’s proposal. During one council meeting, Chryson and seven allies storm the meeting in an unannounced appearance. Carney will later recall that the proposal was in its formative stages, and not ready for formal presentation, much less public hearings. Instead, Palin insists that the council have an “ad-hoc” hearing to let Chryson and his allies testify. Palin states that “she invites the public to speak on any issue at any time.” Chryson’s impassioned opposition to the measure is so successful that when Carney attempts to have the ordinance discussed officially at the next regular meeting, he cannot get another council member to second the motion. The measure dies. “A lot of it was the ultra-conservative far right that is against everything in government, including taxes,” Carney will later recall. “A lot of it was a personal attack on me as being anti-gun, and a personal attack on anybody who deigned to threaten their authority to carry a loaded firearm wherever they pleased. That was the tenor of it. And it was being choreographed by Steve Stoll and the mayor.” (Carney is referring to another far-right ally of Palin’s, John Birch Society member Steve Stoll.) Asked if he thought it was Palin who had instigated the turnout, Carney will say, “I know it was.” [Salon, 10/10/2008]
A grand jury convenes to investigate allegations that a larger conspiracy surrounds the 1995 bombing of a federal building in Oklahoma City (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995), perhaps involving a federal government cover-up. Militia member Timothy McVeigh was convicted (see June 2, 1997) and sentenced to death (see June 11-13, 1997) for carrying out the bombing; his alleged co-conspirator Terry Nichols awaits trial for his role in the bombing. State Representative Charles R. Key (R-Oklahoma City) and accountant Glenn Wilburn, who lost two grandsons in the blast, gathered 13,500 signatures on a petition to force the review. (Wilburn became involved when private investigator J.D. Cash began his own investigation, fueled by his belief that McVeigh either had no involvement in the bombing or was part of a larger conspiracy. Cash is a strong advocate of the “John Doe No. 2” theory, which states that the putative, never-identified Doe No. 2 suspect “proves” the existence of a wider conspiracy—see June 14, 1995 and January 29, 1997). Both Key and Wilburn allege that the federal government had prior knowledge of the bombing (see June 15, 1997); Key is involved with right-wing militia groups (see July 17, 1998). Twelve jurors are selected in less than three hours. Prosecutor Pat Morgan questions jurors about their backgrounds, their acquaintance with victims of the explosion, and their views of the case. Five jurors know someone killed or injured in the bombing, or someone who participated in the rescue. One prospective member, Ben Baker, says the grand jury is unnecessary: “Everybody I’ve talked to believes this is kind of a waste of time and taxpayers’ money. I believe the same thing.” Federal officials have long stated that they doubt anyone besides McVeigh and Nichols was involved in the bombing plot, though circumstantial evidence exists of white supremacist militia involvement on some level (see (April 1) - April 18, 1995). Oklahoma City District Attorney Robert Macy, who will advise the grand jury, has already promised to file state murder charges against both McVeigh and Nichols. Macy originally opposed the grand jury, but now says he hopes it will “find out what the truth was in the Oklahoma City bombing, if there is any additional evidence.” Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson calls the grand jury investigation a waste of time and taxpayer money. “The notion that it can learn something that the FBI was unable to learn, is, I think, ludicrous,” he says. “The witnesses that Mr. Key is talking about, we know who they are, we know what they have to say. That doesn’t get us any closer to knowing the truth of it, hearing them say it again.” The grand jury petition names seven witnesses who have said they saw at least one other person with McVeigh in Oklahoma City on the day of the bombing. None of those witnesses were called before the federal grand jury that indicted McVeigh and Nichols (see August 10, 1995). [Deseret News, 6/30/1997; New York Times, 7/1/1997; Serrano, 1998, pp. 266]
Thomas Ricks. [Source: Alex Wong / Getty Images]Author and military expert Thomas Ricks writes a detailed examination of what he calls the widening gap between members of the US military and the rest of American society. Ricks portrays a platoon of Marine recruits who, after returning home from boot camp, were largely alienated from their old lives. “They were repulsed by the physical unfitness of civilians, by the uncouth behavior they witnessed, and by what they saw as pervasive selfishness and consumerism,” he writes. “Many found themselves avoiding old friends, and some experienced difficulty even in communicating with their families.” Many recruits were offended by the overt racism and class segregation they experienced in their old neighborhoods, in sharp contrast to what Ricks calls “the relative racial harmony of Parris Island.” Several commented on how aimless and nihilistic their former friends seemed. Ricks writes that the Marines “were experiencing in a very personal way the widening gap between today’s military and civilian America.” Retired Sergeant Major James Moore tells Ricks: “It is difficult to go back into a society of ‘What’s in it for me?’ when a Marine has been taught the opposite for so long. When I look at society today, I see a group of young people without direction because of the lack of teaching of moral values at home and in school. We see that when we get them in recruit training. The recruits are smarter today—they run rings around what we were able to do, on average. Their problems are moral problems: lying, cheating, and stealing, and the very fact of being committed. We find that to get young people to dedicate themselves to a cause is difficult sometimes.” Retired Admiral Stanley Arthur adds: “Today, the armed forces are no longer representative of the people they serve. More and more, enlisted [men and women] as well as officers are beginning to feel that they are special, better than the society they serve. This is not healthy in an armed force serving a democracy.”
Voluntary Segregation - Ricks notes that after over twenty years without a draft, the US military has become a more professional and disparate societal group. Many military personnel live their lives in and among the military, taking their children to military doctors and sending them to military or base schools, living on or around military bases, socializing with other military families. Former Air Force historian Richard Kohn says, “I sense an ethos that is different. They talk about themselves as ‘we,’ separate from society. They see themselves as different, morally and culturally. It isn’t the military of the fifties and sixties, which was a large, semi-mobilized citizen military establishment, with a lot of younger officers who were there temporarily, and a base of draftees.” The closing of many military bases has contributed to what Ricks calls “the geographical and political isolation of the military…,” as has the privatization of many of the military’s logistical and supply functions. “[M]ilitary personnel today are less likely to be serving in occupations that have civilian equivalents, and are more likely to specialize in military skills that are neither transferable to the civilian sector nor well understood by civilians,” he writes.
Deepening Politicization of the Military - Ricks writes that many military personnel, especially officers, are becoming more politicized, and particularly more conservative. “Of course, military culture has always had a conservative streak,” he writes. “I suspect, however, that today’s officers are both more conservative and more politically active than their predecessors.” He continues, “The military appears to be becoming politically less representative of society, with a long-term downward trend in the number of officers willing to identify themselves as liberals. Open identification with the Republican Party is becoming the norm. And the few remaining liberals in uniform tend to be colonels and generals, perhaps because they began their careers in the draft-era military. The junior officer corps, apart from its female and minority members, appears to be overwhelmingly hard-right Republican and largely comfortable with the views of Rush Limbaugh.” He quotes Air Force Colonel Charles Dunlap as writing, “Many officers privately expressed delight that” as a result of the controversy over gays in the military, the Reserve Officers Training Corps program is producing “fewer officers from the more liberal campuses to challenge [the Air Force officers’] increasingly right-wing philosophy.” Surveys conducted of midshipmen at Annapolis and cadets at West Point support this conclusion. Retired Army Major Dana Isaacoff, a former West Point instructor, says that West Point cadets generally believe that being a Republican is becoming part of the definition of being a military officer. “Students overwhelmingly identified themselves as conservatives,” she says. And, she notes, the cadets tend to favor more radical conservatism as opposed to what Ricks calls “the compromising, solution-oriented politics of, say, Bob Dole.” Isaacoff says, “There is a tendency among the cadets to adopt the mainstream conservative attitudes and push them to extremes. The Democratic-controlled Congress was Public Enemy Number One. Number Two was the liberal media.” Studies of Marine officers at Quantico, Virginia produced similar results.
Changes in Society - American society has become more fragmented, Ricks writes, and steadily less emphasis is being put on what he calls “the classic military values of sacrifice, unity, self-discipline, and considering the interests of the group before those of the individual.” Ricks writes that while the military has largely come to grips with two of the most intractable problems American society faces—drug abuse and racism—society as a whole has not. And young military personnel display a competence and level of education that many non-military youth do not, Ricks asserts. And military personnel are increasingly better educated than their civilian counterparts: some military recruiters say that they have more trouble than ever before in finding recruits who can pass the military entrance exams.
Lack of a Focused Threat - The end of the Cold War and the loss of the Soviet Union as a hard-and-fast enemy has made many Americans wonder why the nation needs such a large standing army any longer. “For the first time in its history (with the possible exception of the two decades preceding the Spanish-American War) the US Army must justify its existence to the American people,” Ricks writes. Military budgets are continually under attack in Congress and from the White House, and many predict huge, potentially crippling funding cuts in the near future. Low-intensity, localized problems such as the fighting in Somalia, Bosnia, and Haiti do not capture the public imagination—or create fear among the citizenry—in the same way that the daily threat of nuclear annihilation and Soviet hegemony kept the support for the military high among American priorities.
Enemies Within - Ricks is troubled by the increasing use of military forces against US citizens. It wasn’t long ago that Marines descended into the streets of Los Angeles to impose order among rioters, and the Marines used similar strategies to contain the fractious populace as they used in Somalia. One Marine, Captain Guy Miner, wrote in 1992 of the initial concerns among Marine intelligence units over orders to collect intelligence on US citizens, but their concerns over legality and morality quickly evaporated once, Miner wrote, “intelligence personnel sought any way possible to support the operation with which the regiment had been tasked.” Many military officers are calling for the military to be granted wide-ranging powers to be used against civilians, including the right to detain, search, and arrest civilians, and to seize property. In 1994, influential military analyst William Lind blamed what he called “cultural radicals [and] people who hate our Judeo-Christian culture” for what he saw as the accelerating breakdown of society, and went on to discuss the predominant “agenda of moral relativism, militant secularism, and sexual and social ‘liberation.’” Ricks notes that Lind’s words are fairly standard complaints which are often echoed daily on conservative talk radio and television broadcasts. However, he writes, Lind’s words take on a new significance in light of his conclusion: “The next real war we fight is likely to be on American soil.”
Military's Impact on Civilian Society Likely to Increase - Ricks does not believe a military coup is likely at any point in the foreseeable future. While the equilibrium between civilians and the military is shifting, he writes, it is unlikely to shift that far. What is likely is a new awareness among members of the military culture of their impact and influence on civilian society, and their willingness to use that influence to shape the social and political fabric of their country. [Atlantic Monthly, 7/1997]
Entrance to Fort Hood, Texas. [Source: New York Times]Fort Hood, Texas, preparing for the annual “Freedom Fest” Fourth of July celebration, readies itself for a large crowd of local civilians planning to spend the day enjoying fireworks, marathons, concessions, military bands, carnival rides, and community activities. However, anti-government activists Bradley Glover and Michael Dorsett are captured by FBI and Missouri state police officers in Missouri before they can turn the festival into a massacre. Glover and Dorsett have become convinced that the United Nations is housing Communist Chinese troops at the military base, in conjuction with a “New World Order” conspiracy to invade and occupy the United States (see September 11, 1990). Glover, Dorsett, and others—all “splinter” members of an organization calling itself the “Third Continental Congress” (TCC—see Summer 1996 - June 1997)—are planning a multi-pronged attack on the Army base. Soon after, five others are arrested in conjunction with the plot.
History of the Fort Hood Plot - Glover and other TCC members believe that the April 1995 bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995) was a plot by federal agencies to gin up an excuse to persecute “patriot” organizations. Glover told British reporter Ambrose Evans-Pritchard shortly after the Oklahoma City bombing that “it’s only a matter of time now before the shooting war begins.” He believed that the bombing would be followed by heavy-handed anti-terrrorism legislation that would see federal agencies attempt to violently eradicate militia groups, and in turn, those groups would violently resist. “If this thing goes down,” Glover predicted in May 1995, “there’s going to be an extremely large number of US military that’s coming to our side with their weapons. They’ll turn like a dog on a cat.” He believed the militias would easily defeat the government forces—“We can whip those guys. We can take out the so-called ninja wanna-bes. We’ll beat ‘em quick”—but worries that President Clinton will turn to the Chinese forces he supposedly has housed throughout the United States: “That’s what worries us,” Glover said. “Then we’re gonna be fighting big time.” Glover became known to federal authorities after his frequent interviews with reporters after the Oklahoma City bombing, and claims to lead groups such as the Southern Kansas Regional Militia and the First Kansas Mechanized Infantry. (In his “real” life, Glover is a part-time computer consultant.) When the expected crackdown failed to materialize, Glover became a national council member of a national “umbrella” militia group called the Tri-States Militia (see October 1995 and After) and then began associating with ever-more violent anti-government extremists. Glover, Dorsett, and a small group of extremists devise an extensive plan to strike at a number of government facilities and military bases, beginning with Fort Hood.
Arrests - But federal and state authorities are well aware of their plans. At 6:15 a.m. on the morning of July 4, FBI agents arrest Glover and Dorsett in their tents in the Colorado Bend State Park. The two have an arsenal with them: two rifles, five pistols, 1600 rounds of ammunition, bulletproof vests, a smoke grenade, a homemade silencer, explosive material, a night vision scope, and other items. “Their explosives would have been more damaging to the personnel at Fort Hood than to the physical installation,” Missouri State Highway Patrol Lieutenant Richard Coffey later tells a Texas newspaper reporter. “They did not have the same philosophy as the people in Oklahoma City. They were not looking for a huge explosion to make their point.” Instead, they planned small, repeated explosions. Glover, charged only with weapons violations, posts bail and flees to Wisconsin, where he is quickly arrested again after another weapons charge is added to the original indictment. Dorsett is held on an outstanding federal passport violation. Fellow plotter Merlon “Butch” Lingfelter is later arrested in Wisconsin on July 10, while looking for Glover; he surrenders his two machine guns and two pipe bombs, but says, “I’m not trying to be a noble knight in this, but it’s time somebody somewhere does something.” Despite his defiance, Lingenfelter tells a reporter that the meetings held by Glover were merely social outings. Kevin and Terry Hobeck are arrested on July 10 in Colorado after giving two illegal automatic weapons to undercover police officers; Thomas and Kimberly Newman are arrested on July 11 in Kansas after Thomas Newman gives the same undercover officers a sack full of pipe bombs.
Suicide Mission? - One law enforcement official believes that the group may have intended to die in the planned Fort Hood attack. “I think you have to have a warped sense of reality to think you can pull of a mission like that,” Missouri State Highway Patrol Captain James Keathley later tells a Denver reporter. “It sounds like a suicide mission to me. I don’t know if they could have pulled this off.” [Mark Pitcavage, 1997; Southern Poverty Law Center, 6/2001]
Sentences - Glover will draw a seven-year prison sentence, and the others lesser terms. [Southern Poverty Law Center, 6/2001]
Entity Tags: Kimberly Newman, Kevin Hobeck, Fort Hood, First Kansas Mechanized Infantry, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Bradley Glover, Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, United Nations, US Department of the Army, Southern Kansas Regional Militia, Thomas Newman, James Keathley, Richard Coffey, Terry Hobeck, Missouri State Highway Patrol, Third Continental Congress, Merlon (“Butch”) Lingenfelter, Jr., Michael Dorsett, Tri-States Militia
Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism
Three Florida members of the World Church of the Creator (WCOTC—see May 1996 and After), Jules Fettu, Donald Hansard, and Raymond Leone, are charged with assaulting an African-American man and his son after the two leave a concert in Sunrise, Florida. Witnesses will state that around 11 “skinheads,” or white males who shave their heads, espouse racist views, and sometimes display Nazi symbology, take part in the beating, kicking the pair in the back, chest, and face and smashing beer bottles over their heads. Fettu is heard to yell “white power!” and racial epithets during the attack, which is classified as a hate crime by police officers. Hansard and Leone will later plead guilty to aggravated assault; Fettu, who runs the WCOTC’s Web site, will be convicted of battery against the two. Guy Lombardi, the group’s Southeast regional director, will plead guilty to attempting to intimidate a witness in the case (see June 1998). [Anti-Defamation League, 7/6/1999; Southern Poverty Law Center, 9/1999]
A physician and abortion provider in northern New York state is shot in the shoulder while at home. Local police will not identify the victim. It is suspected that the doctor is shot by an anti-abortion protester. [Washington Post, 1998]
One of several unofficial logos of the Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty organization. [Source: Kitty Liberation Front (.com)]The BBC broadcasts a graphic documentary detailing the mistreatment and abuse of animals by Huntingdon Life Sciences (HLS), a British research firm. Angered animal rights activists in Britain begin to pressure financial institutions associated with HLS to drop their support of the company as a means to force it to stop performing animal testing. The campaign grows into the Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC) organization, which models itself on the tactics and ideologies espoused by the Animal Liberation Front (ALF—see 1976) and Earth Liberation Front (ELF—see 1997), among others. SHAC quickly migrates across the Atlantic to the US and into Europe; its activists will claim responsibility for a number of bombings and acts of vandalism and harassment. [Anti-Defamation League, 2005]
David Barbarash, an animal rights activist (see 1992) with the Animal Liberation Front (ALF—see 1976 and 1979-1993), and his fellow activist Darren Thurston are charged in Vancouver with sending letters filled with razor blades to 22 hunting trip guides. Charges against Barbarash and Thurston are dropped because the prosecution does not want to jeopardize other investigations. Barbarash will soon become what he calls an “above ground” spokesman and publicist for the ALF. He will resign in 2002 after Canadian police seize videotapes and computer files from his home as part of their investigation into the organization. [Anti-Defamation League, 2005]
The British “Animal Rights Militia,” an offshoot of the Animal Liberation Front (ALF—see 1976), threatens to kill 10 scientists if ALF member Barry Horne, serving 18 years in prison for waging a 1994 firebombing campaign that caused extensive damage to stores in England, dies while on a hunger strike. Horne discontinues the strike after 68 days. Horne had previously vowed to die, telling a reporter: “This is the end. In death you win. Words are cheap. Only actions really count. This is not for me, it is for every animal in every torture lab. We are creating a turning point—a moment in history that will be remembered. Never doubt this. We will see an end to this evil.” After he ceases his hunger strike, an obscure animal rights group called “Animals Betrayed Coalition” (ABC) announces: “Barry’s hunger strike has achieved more than we could ever have imagined. [The strike] has caused people in and out of the [animal rights] movement to reassess the priorities in their lives and do that bit more for the animals. People have asked, ‘What can be happening to animals in laboratories that is so bad that someone is prepared to die for it?’” Apparently, Horne ends his hunger strike after receiving a promise that the British government will review its policies towards animal experiments. Of ARM’s promise to kill scientists if he dies, Horne says: “People must do what they feel is right in response to my death.… Look at the evil of Nazis and the level of violence needed, quite rightly, to stop them.” [Fur Commission, 12/15/1998; Anti-Defamation League, 2005]
Harold Ray Redfeairn, a member of the white supremacist organization Aryan Nations and a self-styled “Christian Identity” “pastor” (see 1960s and After), tells churchgoers in a sermon: “We are dangerous. Dangerous to the Jews, n_ggers, and anyone else who poses a threat to the white race. What I find especially disturbing is the n_ggers.” This information comes from FBI informant Dave Hall. [Southern Poverty Law Center, 2010]
Don Black, the white supremacist who runs the racist Web site Stormfront.org (see March 1995), appears on ABC News’s Nightline, along with host Ted Koppel and First Amendment advocate Floyd Abrams, a prominent lawyer. Black is introduced as “a former member of the Ku Klux Klan.” During the interview, Black strives to give the appearance of a moderate, thoughtful person who does not espouse racial hatred, and explains that through Stormfront, he has “recruited people” via the Internet whom he “otherwise wouldn’t have reached.” He also says that sites such as Stormfront “provide those people who are attracted to our ideas with a forum to talk to each other and to form a virtual community.” Black says his views are entirely reasonable: “You may consider my views dangerous, but so were those of the Founding Fathers, who were considered dangerous. In fact, their views… weren’t that much different from my own.… Fifty, 60, 70 years ago, what I’m saying was part of the mainstream.” In the days after the interview, Black will claim a 400 percent increase in visitors to his site. [Anti-Defamation League, 1998]
The New Woman All Women Health Care Clinic in Birmingham, Alabama, is bombed by anti-abortion activist Eric Rudolph. The bomb, hidden in a flowerpot, kills police officer Robert Sanderson and critically injures nurse Emily Lyons. Rudolph, who flees the scene and hides successfully for years in the wilds of western North Carolina, is also responsible for the fatal 1996 bombing during the Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia (see July 27, 1996 and After), and several other bombings, including other Atlanta abortion clinics (see January 16, 1997 and October 14, 1998) and an Atlanta lesbian bar (see February 21, 1997). [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 10/14/1998; Kushner, 2003, pp. 40; CNN, 5/31/2003; CNN, 12/11/2003] Rudolph lives in Murphy, North Carolina, a small town in the mountainous western part of the state. Over Christmas, he purchased materials from the local Wal-Mart to assist in his fashioning of the bomb. Rudolph was dissatisfied with the results of his earlier bombings, and instead of relying on an alarm clock to act as a timer as he did with his previous bombs, modifies a model airplane remote control to use as a detonator. Before dawn, he places the bomb inside a pot beside the front door of the clinic and places plastic flowers on top of it. He watches from a hill about a block away; when he sees Sanderson bend down to examine the flowerpot, he detonates the bomb. A witness sees Rudolph walking away from the explosion, and, later explaining that he found it suspicious when everyone else was running towards it, watches as Rudolph gets into his pickup truck and drives away. The witness writes down Rudolph’s license plate number—KND 1117—and alerts police. The FBI will soon identify Rudolph with the bombing, and will quickly tie him to his other three attacks. [Orlando Weekly, 8/24/2006]
Opposed to Abortion, Government - Family members will later say that Rudolph is not only opposed to abortion, but to all forms of government in general; his sister-in-law will tell CNN that Rudolph’s immediate family is “against… any form of government or the form of government that we have in our country today.” Evidence shows Rudolph is an active member of the extremist anti-abortion group Army of God (see 1982 and Early 1980s) and the Christian Identity movement (see 1960s and After), a militant, racist and anti-Semitic organization that believes whites are God’s chosen people. He will be described by future Attorney General John Ashcroft as “the most notorious American fugitive on the FBI’s ‘Most Wanted’ list.” [CNN, 12/11/2003]
Will Plead Guilty - Rudolph will later plead guilty to the bombing, and other crimes, in lieu of being sentenced to death (see April 14, 2005). He will justify the bombing in an essay from prison, writing that Jesus would condone “militant action in defense of the innocent.” He will also reveal the location of a large cache of explosives, apparently gathered for future bombing attacks. [Extremist Groups: Information for Students, 1/1/2006; Associated Press, 5/31/2009]
No Remorse for Sanderson's Death - Of Sanderson’s death, he will write: “Despite the fact that he may have been a good guy, he volunteered to work at a place that murders 50 people a week. He chose to wield a weapon in defense of these murderers… and that makes him just as culpable.… I have no regrets or remorse for my actions that day in January, and consider what happened morally justified.” [Orlando Weekly, 8/24/2006]
Three men affiliated with the Ku Klux Klan are arrested in Illinois on weapons charges. The three, along with three others arrested later, are accused of plotting to murder a federal judge and civil rights lawyer Morris Dees; blow up the Southern Poverty Law Center, which Dees co-founded, and other buildings; poison water supplies; and rob banks. The six will receive terms of up to seven years in prison. [Southern Poverty Law Center, 6/2001]
Daniel Rudolph, the brother of accused abortion clinic and Olympic bomber Eric Rudolph (see January 29, 1998 and October 14, 1998), charges the FBI and the national media with persecuting his brother. In protest at what he calls the unfair treatment of his brother, Daniel Rudolph sets up a camera in his Summerville, South Carolina, garage. He then turns on a circular saw and thrusts his left arm into it, cutting off the hand. It will later be surgically reattached. [CNN, 5/31/2003]
White separatist Jason Leigh attempts to take over a Veterans Affairs (VA) office in Waco, Texas. Leigh, who crashes his vehicle into the office, is reported to have separatist views similar to the secessionist Republic of Texas; he is also obsessed with UFO conspiracy theories. He tells police that he is armed and carrying explosives. During the standoff, Leigh demands $1 million for an organization called “Save our Soldiers,” which apparently only consists of himself. Leigh eventually surrenders to police. [Anti-Defamation League, 4/24/1998; Southern Poverty Law Center, 6/2001]
Six Montana Freemen (see 1993-1994, March 25, 1996, and June 13, 1996) are tried in a district court in Billings, Montana, accused of being accessories to helping fugitives avoid arrest during the FBI siege of the Freemen compound. Four Freemen will be ejected from the courtroom for being disruptive during the trial; the four attempt to derail the proceedings by cursing and screaming. All six Freemen have refused to participate in their defense, rejected their court-appointed counsels, and refused to dress themselves for the trial. “It’s a difficult trial to get prepared for,” says Lisa Swanson, who represents defendant James Hance. “He won’t talk to me. The only way he would talk with me is if I would denounce my membership in the American Bar Association.” Three are dragged in and out of the courtroom after refusing to walk, and one is transported in a wheelchair. As they are taken into the courtroom, they yell “non-assumptus,” their term for their claim that the judge has no authority over them. Another defendant, Steven Hance, yells at the presiding judge, “Let the record show I’m placing you under arrest,” and curses him. Hance then knocks over a chair and tries to knock over a computer monitor. A third defendant, James Hance, curses the US Attorney prosecuting the case, Sherry Matteucci. [New York Times, 3/16/1998; Los Angeles Times, 4/1/1998; Billings Gazette, 3/25/2006] Five of the defendants will be convicted (see March 31, 1998).
Five Montana Freemen (see 1993-1994, March 25, 1996, and June 13, 1996) are convicted of serving as accessories to helping other Freemen escape arrest during the 81-day standoff (see March 16, 1998 and After). Steven Hance and his two sons, James and John Hance, are convicted of being accessories and for being fugitives in possession of firearms. Barry Nelson, who joined the Freemen during the standoff (see March 25 - April 1, 1996), is convicted of being an accessory. Elwin Ward is acquitted of accessory charges, but found guilty of submitting a false claim to the Internal Revenue Service. Edwin Clark is acquitted of all charges. [New York Times, 4/1/1998; Billings Gazette, 3/25/2006] The Hances and Nelson will receive lengthy jail sentences (see June 6, 1998).
Hard-line militia members angrily walk out of a militia unity meeting at the Knob Creek, Kentucky, Machine Gun Shoot, an annual event popular with militia members and gun enthusiasts. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, this is “one of many splits to weaken the Patriot movement” (see February 1992). [Southern Poverty Law Center, 6/2001]
Three members of the North American Militia of Southwestern Michigan are arrested on firearms and other charges. The men conspired to bomb federal buildings, a Kalamazoo television station, and an interstate highway interchange; to kill federal agents and a black radio talk show host; and to attack aircraft at a National Guard base. Group leader Ken Carter, a self-described member of the neo-Nazi Aryan Nations, will later plead guilty, cooperate with the government, and receive five years in prison. The others will be convicted and receive much longer prison terms. [Southern Poverty Law Center, 6/2001]
After 12 years of litigation, the National Organization for Women (NOW) wins its lawsuit against the Pro-Life Action Network (PLAN, also known as the Pro-Life Action League, or PLAL—see 1980 and 1986) and other anti-abortion advocates (see June 1986, September 22, 1995, and March 29 - September 23, 1997). The jury hearing the case unanimously agrees that the defendants engaged in a nationwide conspiracy to deny women access to medical facilities. The jury determines that Operation Rescue (see 1986), PLAN, PLAN president Joseph Scheidler, and their co-defendants are racketeers under the RICO Act and should be held liable for triple damages for the harm their violent acts caused to women’s health clinics. [National Organization for Women, 9/2002]
The cover of ‘False Prophets.’ [Source: Amazon (.com)]Dale Jakes and his wife Connie Jakes release a new book, False Prophets, that details their experiences as FBI informants who infiltrated the Montana Freemen for 14 months in 1995 and early 1996 (see 1993-1994). The Jakes write that they collected enormous amounts of information for the FBI. Dale Jakes was welcomed by the Freemen because of his knowledge of explosives, and Connie Jakes became the group’s unofficial office manager. They left the group shortly before the March 1996 standoff between the Freemen and law enforcement authorities (see March 25, 1996). The two also collected information on dozens of other extremist groups that the Freemen were in contact with, including many who came to visit the Freemen and take what Dale Jakes calls “basic hate courses” in ideology and financial fraud (see September 28, 1995 and After). The Jakes say that the FBI delayed attempts to arrest the Freemen leaders to give the Jakes the chance to collect more data. A former sheriff’s deputy for the area confirms that the two did work for the FBI. Dale Jakes says that one of the more worrisome moments came when a group of Freemen assaulted an ABC News crew and chased them off the property (see October 2, 1995). “Unknown to the film crew, four high-powered rifles with scopes were trained on the driver and his passenger,” Jakes says. “In the cabin, a debate raged among the Freemen leaders as to whether or not to ‘shoot them.’” [Associated Press, 5/12/1998]
The jury trial of Freemen leader LeRoy Schweitzer (see March 25, 1996) and 11 other Freemen begins in the Billings, Montana, district court, amid tight security. (Three others charged in the indictment have already pled guilty.) The Freemen are charged with conspiracy to commit fraud, bank and wire fraud (see May 1995), filing false IRS claims, interstate transportation of stolen property, threatening federal officials, armed robbery of news crews (see October 2, 1995 and February 8, 1996), and firearms violations (see March 14, 1996). Prosecutors give their opening arguments, and tell the jury that the case against the anti-government group centers on fraud and not politics. Lead prosecutor James Seykora says that the Freemen issued over 4,000 fraudulent checks worth a total of $18 billion; while most were rejected, the Freemen garnered $1.8 million in illicit payments from the checks. The checks—called at various times certified money orders, certified banker checks, comptroller warrants, or lien drafts—were drawn on a Norwest Bank account that never held over $116. “This is a fraud of truly epic proportions, a fraud fueled by hatred and motivated by greed,” Seykora says. “They bought some computers, they bought some fancy paper and sat down and made their own checks, their own money.” Authorities in Utah, California, Colorado, Wyoming, South Dakota, and elsewhere have uncovered similar schemes and linked the fraud rings to Schweitzer. Overall, authorities say phony money orders worth $20 million were disseminated as part of the fraud, which they liken to a variation of the Bank of Sark scam of the 1970s. Defense lawyers argue that the Freemen sincerely believed their checks had value, an argument challenged by prosecutors’ assertions that the Freemen did not themselves honor such checks if anyone tried to pay them for the seminars the Freemen provided (see September 28, 1995 and After), nor did they use them to pay telephone or electric bills. In previous Freemen trials, followers, not leaders, have appeared (see March 31, 1998); Ken Toole of the Montana Human Rights Network says: “Now, you have the real leadership on trial. These are the hard-core ideologues.” Judge John C. Coughenour presides over the trial. Two of the defendants, Schweitzer and Rodney Skurdal, have issued “arrest warrants” for Coughenour, charging him with a string of alleged crimes including “perjury, contempt of court, sedition, and treason.” Defendant Daniel Petersen has informed Coughenour that he has filed a $956 million claim against him. The defendants have largely shunned their court-appointed lawyers. Skurdal’s lawyer, Gregory Jackson, has twice asked to withdraw from the case, noting that Skurdal has sued him for libel and slander, and calls him “a servant of Satan” and “dumb, stupid, and lazy.” Today Jackson tells the court that Skurdal is “a gung-ho patriot, a gung-ho Marine.” Security at the courtroom and other federal buildings in Billings, the site of the trial, is high, with many of the security precautions adopted during the Oklahoma City bombing trial (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995) in place here as well. Nine of the 12 defendants have refused to come to court, and monitor the proceedings over closed-circuit television in a Yellowstone County Jail holding cell two miles away. [Washington Post, 4/1996; New York Times, 5/29/1998; Southern Poverty Law Center, 8/1998; Billings Gazette, 3/25/2006] Two of the Freemen in the holding cell even refuse to dress, and watch the proceedings in their underwear. [New York Times, 5/27/1996] One of the Freemen who pled guilty, Dana Dudley Landers, has agreed to testify against her former colleagues. She pled guilty to interstate transportation of stolen goods, mostly vehicles and office equipment purchased in North Carolina with worthless Freemen checks and brought to Montana. Prosecutors say the vehicles were to have been used by the Freemen in kidnapping public officials for “trials” before a Freemen tribunal. Another Freeman, Emmett Clark, has pled guilty to threatening to kidnap and murder a federal judge, but has not agreed to testify against his former fellows. [New York Times, 5/27/1996; Associated Press, 5/27/1998]
Garfield County, Montana, prosecutor Nick Murnion receives the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award for enforcing the law despite death threats from the Montana Freemen (see 1993-1994). Murnion receives the award from the Kennedy family at the JFK Library in Boston. [Billings Gazette, 3/25/2006]
Three militia members and anti-government survivalists, Alan Monty Pilon, Robert Mason, and Jason McVean, fresh from stealing a water truck, shoot and kill police officer Dale Claxton in Cortez, Colorado, and wound two others as the officers try and fail to apprehend them. The three fire more than 500 rounds from their semi-automatic weapons at the officers. They then flee into the high desert of the “Four Corners,” the no-man’s land where the boundaries of Colorado, Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico meet; Mason will later fire on two other law enforcement officials, wounding one. The bodies of Mason and Pilon will later be found, dead of self-inflicted gunshot wounds. McVean remains at large, though some suspect he may have died also. The three are described as “patriots” who hate the US government and believe civilization will destroy itself at the turn of the century. [New York Times, 8/3/1998; New York Times, 8/23/1998; Southern Poverty Law Center, 6/2001]
Four members of the Montana Freemen (see 1993-1994) are forcibly wheeled into court in wheelchairs after refusing to come to court under their own power, and are sentenced to prison for their part in the group’s standoff with the FBI (see March 25, 1996 and March 31, 1998). US District Judge John C. Coughenour sentences Steven Hance to 78 months in jail. Hance interrupts the proceedings with shouts that he is not a US citizen and not subject to the jurisdiction of the court. Barry Nelson receives 71 months. John Hance receives 63 months. James Hance receives 67 months. Fellow Freeman Elwin Ward, who does not resist being brought to court, is released for time served. [Associated Press, 6/6/1998]
Three Aryan Nations security guards (see Early 1970s) assault a mother and her child, leading to civil charges. Victoria Keenan and her son Jason stop briefly in front of the Aryan Nations compound in Hayden Falls, Idaho, to retrieve something that has fallen from their car. The car either backfires or someone sets off a firecracker; whatever the source of the sound, the guards believe the compound is under fire from the car. They pursue it in a pickup truck, firing repeatedly at the vehicle before shooting out a tire and forcing it into a ditch. The guards assault both mother and son before releasing them. In response, Keenan and her son retain attorneys, including a team from the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), to sue Aryan Nations leader Richard Butler and the three guards. During the trial, Butler tells the jury, “The white race is the most endangered species on the face of the earth.” Two years later, a jury assesses a $6.3 million judgment against the defendants. $6 million of the judgment is in punitive damages. Butler himself is responsible for $4.8 million because he had hired ex-convicts as security guards, given them no training or formal policies to follow, armed them with illegal assault weapons, and indoctrinated them in racist, hate-filled ideology. The Keenans’ lawyers successfully argue that the actions of his guards were a foreseeable result of his negligent and reckless supervision. The courtroom defeat ultimately forces Butler to relinquish the Idaho compound in a bankruptcy auction. The new owners demolish the buildings. [Southern Poverty Law Center, 2010; Southern Poverty Law Center, 2010]
Republic of Texas logo. [Source: Republic of Texas]Three members of the separatist Republic of Texas (RoT) are charged with conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction in a plot to assassinate President Clinton and other federal officials. The plot consists of an anthrax-like toxin to be delivered via a cactus thorn fired from a modified butane lighter. One man, Oliver Dan Emigh, is later acquitted. The other two, white separatists Jack Abbot Grebe Jr. and Johnnie Wise, will be sentenced to lengthy prison terms. The RoT considers itself the sovereign governing body of Texas, under what it calls “common law” similar to beliefs espoused by the Montana Freemen (see 1983-1995 and Fall 2010). In 1996, the RoT split into three factions, led by different members. The faction led by Jesse Enloe harbors Grebe, Wise, and Emigh. Computer consultant John L. Cain was approached by Grebe and Wise for help in sending “untraceable” email messages to government officials. Cain informed the FBI, worked with Grebe and Wise, and provided the evidence that led to their arrests. Though some RoT members will express their anger and opposition to their fellow group members’ criminal activities, Grebe and Wise will be listed as “prisoners of war” on the RoT Web site. After Grebe and Wise’s convictions, RoT will become a less extremist organization, and after the 9/11 attacks, some members will say they stand ready to help the government stand off terrorist attacks. RoT members will turn their attention to patrolling the Texas-Mexican border, sometimes forcibly deporting illegal immigrants. [Southern Poverty Law Center, 6/2001; National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism, 2010]
A jury convicts Montana Freemen (see 1993-1994) leader LeRoy M. Schweitzer (see 1983-1995) and three of his fellows, Dale Jacobi, Daniel E. Petersen Jr., and Russell D. Landers, for conspiracy and bank fraud (see May 27, 1998 and After). Schweitzer is found guilty on 21 of 30 counts, most involving fake checks and money orders issued by the group. Schweitzer, Petersen, Richard Clark, and Rodney Skurdal are found guilty of two counts of threatening to kill Judge Jack Shanstrom. The defense argued that the Freemen sincerely believed that they were doing what was necessary; defense attorney Anthony Gallagher said during the trial, “These were folks that legitimately believed that their government was no longer their government.” After several days of jury deliberations, District Judge John C. Coughenour declares a mistrial on 63 unresolved counts of the 126 total charges; one of those charges is that all the defendants engaged in an enormous fraud scheme. [Reuters, 7/3/1998; Associated Press, 7/3/1998; Southern Poverty Law Center, 8/1998; Billings Gazette, 3/25/2006]
The first annual American Heritage Festival, billed as a family-friendly “patriotic Woodstock” aimed at drawing militia members, Patriot group members, and others, draws some 3,000 participants to the Carthage, Missouri, event over two days. Some of the scheduled speakers include well-known militia figures James “Bo” Gritz, Jack McLamb, Oklahoma State Representative Charles Key, right-wing investigative reporter Christopher Ruddy, and others. [Center for New Community, 6/1998; Southern Poverty Law Center, 6/2001]
South Carolina militia member Paul T. Chastain is charged with weapons, explosives, and drug violations after he allegedly tries to trade drugs for a machine gun and enough C-4 plastic explosive to demolish a five-room house. Chastain, who has written of the need to counter what he calls government tyranny with “brute force,” swapped 300 tablets of Dilaudid to undercover police officers. South Carolina law enforcement official Robert Stewart later says: “I think it is safe to say Paul T. Chastain was not planning to go duck-hunting with C-4 explosives and an M-16 rifle.… I truly believe lives were saved by this arrest.” Chastain is a member of a newly formed militia, the “South Carolina Minutemen Corps.” Officials say the militia group operates out of a dilapidated former boating and fishing campground named Sky Ranch. The next year, Chastain will plead guilty to an array of charges, including threatening to kill Attorney General Janet Reno and FBI Director Louis Freeh, and be sentenced to 15 years in prison. [Southern Poverty Law Center, 6/1998; Southern Poverty Law Center, 6/2001]
James ‘Bo’ Gritz. [Source: Hyde Park Media]Militia leader and former Green Beret James “Bo” Gritz arrives in Andrews, North Carolina, from his camp in Idaho. Gritz, now a right-wing talk show host and vehement anti-abortion advocate, says that he and his fellow militia members have been asked by the FBI to help find fugitive Eric Rudolph, who is in hiding from the FBI (see July 1998) after bombing abortion clinics, a gay and lesbian nightclub, and the 1996 Olympics (see January 29, 1998 and October 14, 1998), and persuade him to surrender; Gritz tells reporters that the alternative for Rudolph is a “bullet in the neck” from the FBI or police officers. Gritz says he believes Rudolph may have a shortwave radio and is listening to his broadcasts. Gritz is a leader in the Christian Patriot movement and was the 1992 presidential candidate of the far-right Populist Party. In 1992, he helped the FBI negotiate an end to the armed standoff in Ruby Ridge, Idaho. Gritz and some 100 fellow militia members and area volunteers spend a week in Andrews. The plan, according to author Maryanne Vollyers, is for Gritz to solicit the help of Rudolph’s mother Patricia, persuade Rudolph to come out of hiding, and protect him with lawyers and bodyguards through his legal processing. In return, Gritz will claim the $1 million reward being offered for Rudolph’s capture by the FBI. However, Patricia Rudolph refuses to cooperate with Gritz. A week after their arrival, Gritz and his followers give up trying to find Rudolph. [CNN, 7/31/1998; CNN, 5/31/2003; Vollyers, 2006, pp. 166-167] Later, Gritz will tell Vollyers that his purpose in trying to find Rudolph was to turn him into a “Christian Patriot icon,” whom he could use to advocate against abortion and homosexuality. Gritz views Rudolph as a potential “champion” for their shared right-wing views. Gritz will say that he believes Rudolph could win an acquittal through “jury nullification,” and will tell Vollyers: “I thought, boy, what an impact if a jury was to turn Eric Rudolph loose. Every abortion doctor in this country would have to grab his anus and head for wherever he could hide.” [Vollyers, 2006, pp. 166-167]
The FBI gives a $1 million reward to David Kaczynski, who identified his brother Theodore “Ted” Kaczynski as the “Unabomber” (see April 3, 1996). The FBI spent nearly 20 years in an ever-increasing and fruitless manhunt to catch the serial bomber. David Kaczynski works as a youth shelter social worker in Schenectady, New York. He has expressed his ambivalence over turning his brother over to the FBI. Kaczynski has said that if he receives the reward money, he will donate most of it to the families of his brother’s victims. The Kaczynski family feels that giving most of the money to the victims “might help us resolve our grief over what happened,” he says. Kaczynski family attorney Anthony Bisceglie says now that Kaczynski has actually received the money, “[t]hat certainly still is his intent.” Kaczynski notes that he has to use some of the money to pay off the family’s legal bills resulting from the Unabomber case. FBI spokesman John Russell says that the $1 million reward is one of the biggest rewards ever paid in a domestic terrorism case. Kaczynski says that while he does not claim the mantle of “hero” that lead prosecutor Robert J. Cleary labeled him, he believes that his choice to turn in his brother may have spared the lives of more innocent people. Kaczynski pressed federal prosecutors to consider his brother as not just guilty of heinous crimes, but deeply mentally ill (Ted Kaczynski has been diagnosed as suffering from acute paranoid schizophrenia). It is in part because of the diagnosis, and because of pressure from David Kaczynski, that the government ultimately chose not to seek the death penalty against his brother (see May 4, 1998). Until the government reversed itself and chose not to seek the death penalty, David Kaczynski was bitterly angry at the government and accused Justice Department officials of wanting to “kill my brother at any cost” (see December 30, 1997). Kaczynski and his mother, Wanda Kaczynski, also criticized the FBI and Unabom Task Force prosecutors for misleading them during the negotiations that led up to their identification of Theodore Kaczynski by suggesting they were interested in obtaining psychiatric help for him and not in pressing for capital punishment. During the entire trial, though David Kaczynski sat just 10 feet behind his brother in the courtroom, Ted Kaczynski never once acknowledged his brother’s presence or looked at him. [Washington Post, 8/21/1998]
Graham Hall’s back, branded with the letters ALF. [Source: The Mail on Sunday]British reporter Graham Hall, who in 1998 infiltrated a British cell of the Animal Liberation Front (ALF—see 1976) with a hidden camera and captured footage of ALF’s British spokesman Robin Webb giving a bomb-making manual to activists and suggesting a target, is abducted, apparently by ALF members. They blindfold Hall and threaten to kill him, then brand the letters ALF on his back before throwing him out of a van onto a deserted road. Hall produced a documentary, Inside the ALF, that portrayed the organization as violent and extremist. Webb says the documentary was heavily and selectively edited, and says of the branding, “People who make a living in this way have to expect from time to time to take the consequences of their actions.” The British television network that aired the documentary, Channel 4, has offered to pay for plastic surgery for Hall, who considers himself an animal rights supporter but finds ALF’s tactics too extreme. Police refuse to prosecute Webb and other ALF members, who in Hall’s film boast of numerous bombings and arson attacks. Hall says of the ALF members he encountered: “Even I underestimated them. They are highly organized and totally obsessed—they’ll stop at nothing. That conflict is now out of hand and ready to explode.… I have been badly shaken by this but it will not deter me from carrying on. I will not rest until I bring these men to justice… and it won’t be the sort of justice they deal in. They are terrorists, not animal rights campaigners. They can’t function without violence. They have done this to me because I hurt them with my film. They wanted to get back at me, pure and simple.… One day I will infiltrate the ALF again. And next time they won’t get away with it.” [The Mail on Sunday, 11/7/1999; Anti-Defamation League, 2005]
The murder of gay college student Matthew Shepard (see October 9, 1998 and After) triggers a national discussion about hate crimes, centering on the question of whether Shepard’s murder should be classified as such. Shortly after Shepard’s murder, his friends Walt Boulden and Alex Trout tell reporters that Shepard may have been killed because of his homosexuality. “I know in the core of my heart it happened because he revealed he was gay,” Boulden tells a reporter. “And it’s chilling. They targeted him because he was gay.” Boulden and Trout also speak with county law enforcement officials. Kristen Price, the girlfriend of one of Shepard’s assailants, Aaron McKinney, cooperates with police after being charged with being an accessory to the murder (the charges are later reduced); she tells them that McKinney reacted violently to Shepard’s alleged advances. Later, Price will recant that part of her story and say that McKinney’s motive was to rob Shepard. In 2004 she will say: “I don’t think it was a hate crime at all. I never did.” Former Laramie police detective Ben Fritzen will agree, saying: “Matthew Shepard’s sexual preference or sexual orientation certainly wasn’t the motive in the homicide.… If it wasn’t Shepard, they would have found another easy target. What it came down to really is drugs and money and two punks that were out looking for it.” McKinney will tell an ABC News reporter: “I would say it wasn’t a hate crime. All I wanted to do was beat him up and rob him.” He will explain the excessively savage beating he delivered to Shepard as triggered by his methamphetamine abuse. Others disagree. In 1999, Sergeant Rob DeBree, the chief investigator in the case, will scoff at the idea that gay hatred had nothing to do with the crime. “Far from that!” he will say. “They knew damn well he was gay.… It started out as a robbery and burglary, and I sincerely believe the other activity was because he was gay.” Former Laramie police commander Dave O’Malley doesn’t think drug use motivated the attack, either. “I really don’t think [McKinney] was in a methamphetamine-induced rage when this happened,” he will say. “I don’t buy it at all. I feel comfortable in my own heart that they did what they did to Matt because they [had] hatred toward him for being gay.” Shepard’s mother Judy Shepard will agree, saying: “I’m just not buying into that. There were a lot of things going on that night, and hate was one of them, and they murdered my son ultimately. Anything else we find out just doesn’t, just doesn’t change that fact.” McKinney will deny knowing Shepard before the murder, but some townspeople say they saw Shepard and McKinney together in the weeks before the murder, presumably seeing Shepard buying meth from McKinney. [ABC News, 11/26/2004]
'Gay Panic Defense' - McKinney’s legal strategy is to use the so-called “gay panic defense,” where assailants justify their actions by claiming they were driven temporarily insane because of their victim’s homosexuality. McKinney’s lawyer Dion Custis will go even farther, claiming that Shepard made a physical advance towards McKinney. “It started because Matthew Shepard grabbed [McKinney’s] balls,” Custis will tell the jury. “It continued because Aaron McKinney was a chronic meth user.” However, McKinney’s fellow assailant Russell Henderson will later admit that Shepard never made any advances towards either of his killers. Henderson will not testify against McKinney, as is arranged, so Custis is free to make the argument to the jury. [Salon, 11/6/1999] Of Henderson, his landlord says: “I perceived him as a follower. I have a hard time imagining him coming up with anything like this on his own. It seems extremely out of character, but sometimes people make really bad choices.” [New York Times, 10/16/1998]
Search for Justification - Experts say that the details of the incident fit a larger pattern of anti-gay crimes. Karen Franklin, a forensic psychologist, observes: “Once someone is labeled as homosexual, any glance or conversation by that person is perceived as sexual flirtation. Flirtation, in turn, is viewed as a legitimate reason to assault.” Men like McKinney and Henderson justify their violent assaults on gay men, Franklin notes, by using excuses such as “self-defense” from homosexual overtures, ideological opposition to homosexuality, thrill seeking, and peer approval. [New York Times, 10/16/1998]
Presidential Response - President Clinton condemns the killing, saying that “crimes of hate and crimes of violence cannot be tolerated in our country.” Clinton presses Congress to expand the federal hate-crimes law to cover offenses based on disability or sexual orientation. “The public outrage in Laramie and all across America today echoes what we heard at the White House Conference on Hate Crimes last year,” Clinton says. “There is something we can do about this. Congress needs to pass our tough hate crimes legislation. It can do so even before it adjourns, and it should do so.” Governor Jim Geringer (R-WY) demurs when asked if Wyoming should pass similar legislation, saying that he is against giving one group “special rights” over others. [CNN, 10/12/1998] Several gay entertainment figures openly declare the murder to be a hate crime. Actress and comedian Ellen DeGeneres, who hosts Shepard’s memorial service in Washington, DC, tells the gathered mourners that she publicly announced her sexual orientation in part “to keep this type of thing from happening.” Gay singer Melissa Etheridge will write a song, “Scarecrow,” as a tribute to Shepard (the title comes from Shepard’s initially being mistaken for a scarecrow when he was found). [Hall and Hall, 2006, pp. 575]
Entity Tags: Karen Franklin, Dion Custis, Dave O’Malley, Ben Fritzen, Alex Trout, Aaron McKinney, Ellen DeGeneres, Judy Shepard, William Jefferson (“Bill”) Clinton, Melissa Etheridge, Jim Geringer, Rob DeBree, Walt Boulden, Russell Henderson, Kristen Price, Matthew Shepard
Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism
The FBI announces that it is charging anti-abortion activist Eric Robert Rudolph with the 1996 bombing of Atlanta’s Centennial Olympic Park as well as with the 1997 bombing of an Atlanta abortion clinic (see January 16, 1997) and an Atlanta nightclub (see February 21, 1997). Rudolph has been a fugitive from law enforcement authorities since his January 1998 bombing of an Alabama clinic (see January 29, 1998), for which he has already been charged. “We are going to keep searching until we find him,” says Attorney General Janet Reno. The current complaint against Rudolph cites five counts of malicious use of an explosive in violation of federal law. FBI Director Louis Freeh calls Rudolph a domestic terrorist. The FBI has Rudolph on its Most Wanted list. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 10/14/1998] The charges will be formalized, and new charges added, in November 2000, when grand juries hand down additional indictments. [CNN, 5/31/2003] Rudolph will be captured after almost five years of living as a fugitive (see May 31, 2003).
The Reverend Fred Phelps, holding a sign outside Matthew Shepard’s funeral service. [Source: Slate]The funeral for Matthew Shepard, a gay college student brutally murdered by three white supremacists (see October 9, 1998 and After), is held in St. Mark’s Church in Casper, Wyoming. The service is led by the Reverend Anne Kitch. [CNN, 10/13/1998; Louie Crew, 10/14/1998] The Reverend Fred Phelps of the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas, leads a small delegation of church members in a raucous denunciation of homosexuality at Shepard’s funeral. Phelps and his congregation members have picketed the funerals of gay men for years across the country, holding “God Hates Fags” signs and harassing family members. Governor Jim Geringer (R-WY) says he cannot prevent Phelps from attending the funeral, but vows that the protesters will not be allowed to disrupt it. Phelps’s group, Geringer says, is “just flat not welcome. What we don’t need is a bunch of wing nuts coming in.” For his part, Phelps, who claims he has received multiple death threats after announcing his journey to Laramie, says: “We’re not going to tolerate any violence from these homosexuals. They are the most violent people in the world. Here they are talking about what happened to this poor boy, and they turn around and make death threats against us.” Geringer, the Casper City Council, and several groups of gay activists succeeded in passing a regulation that keeps Phelps and his protesters 50 feet away from church property during the funeral. “[I]t was the best we could accomplish without risking an immediate court injunction for violating constitutional free speech,” reads a statement by the local chapter of the Log Cabin Republicans. “Such an injunction might have allowed Phelps to walk right up to the church property line.” [CNN, 10/13/1998; Log Cabin Republicans, 10/16/1998] Phelps and his fellow church members picket the funeral with signs reading, “Matt Shepard Rots in Hell,” “AIDS Kills Fags Dead,” and “God Hates Fags.” [Fact-Index, 2004] Five years later, Phelps will attempt to erect a marker emblazoned with inflammatory statements about Shepard in a local park, to “commemorate” his death (see October 3, 2003).
The Vail resort in flames. [Source: Mark Mobley / Colorado Independent]Earth Liberation Front (ELF—see 1997) activists set fire to a Vail, Colorado, ski resort, causing $12 million in damage. At the time, the Vail attack is the costliest ecoterrorist attack in US history. The attack consists of seven separate fires, which destroy three buildings, including the “spectacular” Two Elk restaurant, and damage four chairlifts. In a press release, the ELF says: “[P]utting profits ahead of Colorado’s wildlife will not be tolerated.… We will be back if this greedy corporation continues to trespass into wild and unroaded [sic] areas.” [Anti-Defamation League, 2005; Colorado Independent, 10/19/2008]
Resort Threatens Lynx Habitat - The ELF justifies the bombing by claiming that the resort encroaches on the natural habitat of Canada lynx in the area, an endangered species; an 885-acre planned expansion would, the group claims, virtually destroy the habitat. The resort and other construction have virtually eliminated all lynx from the area. [Outside, 9/2007; Colorado Independent, 10/19/2008; Rocky Mountain News, 11/20/2008]
Activist Says ELF Not a Terrorist Group - In a 2007 jailhouse interview, one of the activists, Chelsea Dawn Gerlach, will discuss her role in the bombing. An activist since her mid-teens, she began by getting involved with “above ground” protests with Earth First! (see 1980 and After), a less overtly militant environmental organization, and became disillusioned when she saw how little effect such protests had on corporate depredations. She will say that she and her colleagues were extremely careful about buying the materials for the firebombs, not wanting to raise suspicions. They built the actual devices in a Utah motel room, with group leader William C. Rodgers, whom Gerlach and the others call “Avalon,” doing the bulk of the work. After performing a final reconnaisance of the lodge, some of the ELF members decide the bombing cannot be done, and return to Oregon. Rodgers actually plants the devices and sets them off; Gerlach, who accompanies Rodgers and others to the resort, later emails the statements released under the ELF rubric. Gerlach will say: “We weren’t arsonists. Many of our actions didn’t involve fires at all, and none of us fit the profile of a pyromaniac. I guess ‘eco-saboteur’ works. To call us terrorists, as the federal government did, is stretching the bounds of credibility. I got involved at a time when a right-winger had just bombed the Oklahoma City federal building—killing 168 people—(see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995) and anti-abortionists were murdering doctors (see March 10, 1993 and July 29, 1994). But the government characterized the ELF as a top domestic terrorism threat because we burned down unoccupied buildings in the middle of the night. It shows their priorities.” [Outside, 9/2007]
Apprehensions, Convictions - The Vail firebombing focuses national attention on the organization, as well as on other “ecoterror” groups that use vandalism, arson, and other destructive methods to further their agendas. In December 2006, Gerlach and Stanislas Gregory Meyerhoff will plead guilty to federal arson charges. Gerlach and Meyerhoff have already pled guilty to other arsons committed between 1996 and 2001 by a Eugene-based ELF cell known as the Family, which disbanded in 2001. (Gerlach will say that the Family took great pains to ensure that while property was destroyed, no one was injured; “In Eugene in the late nineties, more than a couple of timber company offices were saved by the proximity of neighboring homes.”) The FBI learned about them from an informant who enticed friends of the two to speak about the crimes in surreptitiously recorded conversations. Both are sentenced to lengthy jail terms and assessed multi-million dollar restitution fines. Two others indicted in the arson, Josephine Sunshine Overaker and Rebecca J. Rubin, who do not directly participate in the Vail firebombing, remain at large. Rodgers will commit suicide in an Arizona jail in December 2005 after being apprehended. Several others will later be arrested and convicted for their roles in the assault. [Associated Press, 12/14/2006; Outside, 9/2007; Colorado Independent, 10/19/2008; Rocky Mountain News, 11/20/2008]
Firebombing Detrimental to Local Activism - Gerlach will later say that the Vail firebombing was actually detrimental to local environmental activism. [Outside, 9/2007] In 2008, Ryan Bidwell, the executive director of Colorado Wild, will agree. He will say that the fires damaged the trust the community once had in the environmental activist movement, and will add that the federal government used the fires to demonize the entire environmental movement. “I don’t think it really changed the Bush administration agenda, but it probably made their job easier by lumping those actions onto the broad umbrella of terrorism over the last decade,” Bidwell will say. “I don’t think that’s been effective at all, but every time that someone lumps groups here in Colorado under the same umbrella as ELF it’s really disingenuous. In places like Vail that have a history it’s made it more important for the conservation community to communicate what its objectives are.” [Colorado Independent, 10/19/2008]
Entity Tags: Rebecca J. Rubin, Chelsea Dawn Gerlach, Earth First!, Josephine Sunshine Overaker, Earth Liberation Front, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Colorado Wild, Bush administration (43), Ryan Bidwell, William C. Rodgers, Stanislas Gregory Meyerhoff
Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism
An impromptu rally on New York City’s Fifth Avenue to mourn and protest the recent murder of a gay college student in Wyoming, Matthew Shepard (see October 9, 1998 and After), ends with at least 96 arrests and several injuries after demonstrators face off with police in riot gear and on horseback. No one is seriously injured during the confrontation, which features several short charges by police officers wielding billy clubs and plunging their horses into the crowd. Rally organizers did not secure a permit to march from the city. Over 4,000 people attend the march, billed as a “political funeral” to protest Shepard’s murder. The rally turns confrontational after police refuse to allow the marchers to take to the street. Organizers and marchers will accuse the police of overreacting, and say that the rally would have remained peaceful had they been allowed to complete their march. “The police refused to negotiate with us,” says organizer Sara Pursley. “The police refused even to talk to us. And by doing so, they created far more havoc in the city than we had ever planned to create.” She calls the police response “cruel and brutal.” Police say that the marchers endangered public safety by walking in the street. Police Commissioner Patrick Kelleher says of the police response: “They had a right to gather. But once they left the sidewalk, they were endangering the motorists, they were endangering the pedestrians. And we were forced to make arrests.” Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, who usually takes a hardline stance against civil disturbances, says he understands the marchers’ feelings. “It’s a very worthy cause,” he says. “I can understand why they are so outraged and upset.” However, Giuliani supports the police response. Organizers later say they were surprised to see how many people joined in the rally. Pursley later says she and the other organizers expected 500 people at best. [New York Times, 10/20/1998; New York Times, 10/21/1998] The New York Times editorial board is highly critical of the police response. Marchers should have secured a permit, the editors say in an op-ed, but the police response was excessive. [New York Times, 10/21/1998]
James Kopp. [Source: Women's eNews (.org)]Dr. Barnett Slepian, an obstetrician in Buffalo, New York, who performs abortions, is shot to death in his kitchen, by a bullet that enters through the window of his Amherst, New York, home. His wife and one of his four children witness his murder. Anti-abortion advocate James Kopp shoots Slepian with a high-powered rifle. Kopp uses the pseudonym “Clive Swenson,” and is well known under that name in a Jersey City, New Jersey, Catholic congregation. Militant anti-abortionists call him “Atomic Dog.” It will take the FBI over two years to find Kopp, who will be arrested in France (see March 29, 2001). Kopp, who apparently was drawn to anti-abortion protests in the 1970s after his girlfriend had an abortion, has been active in anti-abortion protests for decades and joined Randall Terry’s Operation Rescue in 1986. It is also believed he joined the violent anti-abortion organization “Army of God” in 1988 (see 1982), as well as the “Lambs of God,” a Catholic anti-abortion group whose leader has characterized the anti-abortion movement as a “war between God and Satan.” Kopp is well known for designing intricate locks that anti-abortion protesters use to lock the doors to women’s health care clinics. Slepian has been listed as a “wanted” abortion provider on the anti-abortion Web site “Nuremberg Files,” which The Guardian will describe as “a virtual hit list of doctors who carry out abortions” (see January 1997). Within hours of his murder, Slepian’s name is reposted on the site, this time with a line drawn through it. [Washington Post, 1998; Womens eNews, 3/30/2001; Guardian, 4/1/2001; National Abortion Federation, 2010] By early November, Kopp will be named as a suspect in the murder, though he will not be formally charged until May 1999. He will be placed on the FBI’s “Most Wanted” list in June 1999. [National Abortion Federation, 2010] In 2002, Kopp will confess to the murder (see November 21, 2002). He will be found guilty a year later (see March 17-18, 2003).
Ten Montana Freemen are retried in a Billings, Montana, court (see July 3-8, 1998). This case centers on 35 criminal charges, mostly for bank and mail fraud and armed robbery indictments. Sixty-five witnesses will testify in the trial. [Billings Gazette, 3/25/2006]
A federal judge sentences three members of the anti-government Montana Freemen (see 1993-1994, May 27, 1998 and After, and July 3-8, 1998) to jail. Russell Landers, who told the court that it had no jurisdiction over him, receives over 11 years in prison for conspiracy, bank fraud, threatening a federal judge, and being a fugitive in possession of a firearm. Emmett Clark, who is ill, is sentenced to time served plus three years’ probation; he pled guilty to threatening to kidnap and murder Montana federal judge Jack Shanstrom. Dana Dudley, Landers’s wife, pled guilty to interstate transportation and is sentenced to time served plus another 21 months in prison. When the sentencing hearing begins, Landers interjects, “This is now the supreme court of Justus Township, Russell Dean presiding.” Landers is referring to “Justus Township,” the ranch formerly occupied by the Freemen (see September 28, 1995 and After). When Judge John Coughenour attempts to proceed, Landers says: “Bailiff, remove me. I have no part in the United States, no part in these proceedings.” He repeats his contention and sits quietly for the remainder of the hearing. [New York Times, 11/8/1998]
A jury convicts 10 Montana Freemen on an array of fraud and armed robbery charges (see October 23, 1998). All but one of the Freemen charged with armed robbery are convicted; some of the defendants are acquitted on mail fraud charges. [Billings Gazette, 3/25/2006]
Roy W. Menninger, the chairman of a citizens’ rights group in Topeka, Kansas, writes a column for the local press condemning the anti-gay protests held by Topeka’s Westboro Baptist Church (WBC—see November 27, 1955 and After) at the funeral of a murdered gay man (see October 14, 1998). Menninger calls Matthew Shepard’s murder (see October 9, 1998 and After) a “shocking” example of “unspeakable brutality… intentionally and… blatantly aimed at a member of a minority.” The WBC’s derogatory protest at Shepard’s funeral (see October 14, 1998) “surely express[ed] the same fear and the same bitter hatred right here that motivated the killers of the Wyoming youth: These very attitudes are the substructure of such acts of violence.” Menninger writes that almost everyone harbors some capacity for hatred, fear, and brutality just as Shepard’s killers and the WBC protesters do, but they generally do not act on that capacity. Too often, he continues, those feelings cause people to “look away from the unbelievably obscene signs carried by local picketers pillorying homosexuals in the name of Christianity. We cluck our dismay, we are distressed by their behavior, and we regret the sad image of Topeka that these picketers project—but we do not protest; we do not object. Where is our outrage? Why do we not mobilize the healthy sentiment in this community that would force these behaviors to stop?… The plain fact of the matter is that our silence conveys tacit approval of the mean and ugly things that are done by others in the name of righteousness. Our silence encourages the shameful unChristian behavior that this picketing really is. Our failure to speak out against those who commit hateful acts of prejudice and injustice makes us silent accomplices and secret supporters. In fact, our silence gives permission to the openly hateful few to act out their fear and anger against others; our silent acquiescence encourages their violence, which then becomes our violence and our hate crime. We cannot escape the guilt that this kind of collusion brings: When we are silent, we are as guilty as the perpetrators.” [Topeka Capital-Journal, 11/18/1998]
The New York Times prints a lengthy interview with Craig Rosebraugh, who serves as an unofficial spokesman for the Earth Liberation Front (ELF—see 1997). Rosebraugh, who claims to sympathize with the group even though knowing little about it, has spent weeks sending out statements and press releases on behalf of the ELF after the recent firebombing of a Vail, Colorado, ski resort (see October 19, 1998). Rosebraugh, who was contacted by unidentified ELF members about the Vail fires, says the ELF takes credit for the incident, and defends it by saying the resort has caused extensive damage to the area’s lynx habitats and a planned expansion would all but destroy those habitats. “They don’t want this to be seen like an act of terrorism,” he recently told a reporter on behalf of ELF. “They instead want this to be seen as an act of love for the environment.” The firebombing was not an instance of so-called “ecoterrorism,” he told another reporter: “To me, Vail expanding into lynx habitat is ecoterrorism.” Many mainstream groups such as the Sierra Club and Defenders of Wildlife have condemned the Vail firebombing; Jonathan Staufer of the Colorado group Ancient Forest Rescue, who has been working to stop the Vail resort’s proposed expansion, says: “It marginalized all the enviromentalists in Colorado who have been fighting it. I can’t condemn it more completely.” Rosebraugh became active in extreme environmental movements in June 1997, when he was contacted by the Animal Liberation Front (ALF—see 1976) and asked to be its “aboveground” spokesperson. Since then, he has formed a group called the Liberation Collective, which he says is intended to bring the ELF, ALF, and other “direct action” groups together to make common cause (see 1996 and After). Lieutenant Jeff Howard of the Oregon State Police says of the two groups, “If the truth be known, there are members that are probably members of both groups.” Because of the decentralized, “cell” structure of both ELF and ALF, federal investigators have had difficulty determining even the most basic facts about the two organizations. Recently, Rosebraugh said of the federal investigations into ELF, ALF, and the Vail firebombing: “This is a very hot topic not only for the media, but most important it’s a hot topic for the FBI and government agencies. The FBI just had a big meeting on animal rights terrorism. So there’s obviously going to be a big crackdown soon. It’s hard to imagine what’s going to happen but you can only look at history, and history shows that there is going to be a lot of pressure and my feeling is the best way to act is to resist.” [New York Times Magazine, 12/20/1998]
Activists with the underground environmental group Earth Liberation Front (ELF—see 1997) set fire to the US Forest Industries headquarters in Medford, Oregon. In mid-January 1999, the group will take credit for the blaze in a fax sent to the Associated Press. The ELF fax claims the fire was set “in retribution for all the wild forests and animals lost to feed the wallets of greedy” corporations. ELF spokesperson Craig Rosebraugh (see December 20, 1998) will say: “They have a clear political and social purpose. That’s to end the exploitative and abusive industry practices at hand.” The ELF fax reads in part: “On the foggy night after Christmas when everyone was digesting their turkey and pie, Santa’s ELFs dropped two five-gallon buckets of diesel/unleaded mix and a one-gallon jug with cigarette delays, which proved to be more than enough to get this party started.” The office that burns serves as the offices for four wood mills. Damage is estimated at $500,000. [New York Times, 1/17/1999]
A federal jury in Portland, Oregon, finds in favor of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit Planned Parenthood v. ACLA (see 1996). The jury orders the American Coalition of Life Activists (ACLA—see July 1993) to pay $109 million in damages to the abortion providers and organizations who brought the suit; Judge Robert Jones declares that the ACLA’s campaign of published threats against the providers is “a blatant and illegal communication of true threats to kill, assault, or do bodily harm.” He issues an injuction against further publication of such threats (see 1996). In 2001, an appeals court will reverse the verdict on First Amendment grounds; a year later, a higher court will reaffirm the original verdict. [Ms. Magazine, 12/2002]
Eighty university researchers receive threatening letters booby-trapped with razor blades. One of the letters, sent to a Harvard researcher, says: “You have until autumn 2000 to release all your primate captives and get out of the vivisection industry. If you do not heed our warning, your violence will be turned back upon you.” The “Justice Department,” an animal-rights organization and an offshoot of the Animal Liberation Front (ALF—see 1976), claims responsibility for the mailing. [Anti-Defamation League, 2005]
Kevin Kjonaas. [Source: Anti-Defamation League]Animal Liberation Front (ALF—see 1976) activist Kevin Kjonaas, the organization’s spokesman, is forced to testify before a grand jury as to his knowledge of an ALF “direct action” against a University of Minnesota research facility that released 166 animals from testing labs and caused some $700,000 in damage to equipment. Kjonaas also has his house raided by FBI agents. Instead of staying in the US and facing a second round of testimony, Kjonaas goes to Great Britain, where he becomes active with Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC), a British animal rights organization. Kjonaas will return to the US in 2001 and establish an American chapter of SHAC. He will continue to speak for the organization despite a 2004 arrest. [Anti-Defamation League, 2005]
FBI Director Louis Freeh, speaking of the possibility of future violence from radical-right militia groups, says: “With the coming of the next millennium, some religious/apocalyptic groups or individuals may turn to violence as they seek to achieve dramatic effects to fulfill their prophecies.… Many white supremacist groups adhere to the Christian Identity belief system (see 1960s and After), which holds that the world is on the verge of a final apocalyptic struggle… and teaches that the white race is the chosen race of God.” Some of these Christian Identity members will commit crimes to prepare for their anticipated Apocalypse, Freeh warns, and says that the US government, Jews, and non-whites are likely targets. [Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance, 5/30/2006] Freeh’s statement anticipates the FBI’s “Project Megiddo” report, which will focus on the possibility of a wave of domestic terrorism coinciding with the “end of the millennium” (see October 20, 1999).
Judge John C. Coughenour sentences Montana Freemen leader LeRoy Schweitzer (see November 18, 1998) to over 22 years in prison, and orders almost $40,000 in restitution, on charges stemming from the Freemen’s expansive bad-check scheme that spread throughout the country (see 1993-1994). Freemen leader Rodney Skurdal receives a 15-year sentence. Another group leader, Daniel Petersen, is sentenced to 15 years and ordered to pay $39,845 in restitution. Former Canadian police officer Dale Jacobi receives 13 years. Richard Clark receives 12 years. William Stanton (see October 17, 1994) receives a three-year sentence. Two of the convicted Freemen’s wives, Agnes Stanton and Cherlyn Petersen, are sentenced to time served and released. Coughenour says of the Freemen’s crimes, “What we are talking about is a calculated and organized program to undermine the banking system of this country and to encourage other, more ignorant people to violate the law.” He says that the Freemen’s sentences should send “a loud and clear message to those who pass this hatred and ugliness around.… Be forewarned, your personal liberty is at stake.” Schweitzer and five other Freemen, continuing to refuse to accept the sovereignty of the court, refuse to attend the sentencing and watch the proceedings from a holding cell. [Seattle Times, 3/17/1998; Billings Gazette, 3/25/2006]
Anti-abortion advocate Michael Bray (see September 1994), serving four years for conspiracy in firebombing 10 abortion clinics in Virginia, Maryland, and the District of Columbia, tells a CBS reporter, “I consider blowing up a place where babies are killed a justifiable act.” Bray is a Lutheran minister. [Feminist Women's Health Center News, 2010]
US Representative Ron Paul (R-TX) introduces the so-called “Liberty Amendment” as, his office says in a press release, “what should be 28th Amendment to the US Constitution; HJ116, the Liberty Amendment.” The Liberty Amendment would repeal the 16th Amendment, which gives the federal government the right to levy income, estate, and gift taxes, and would severely limit the power of the federal government in areas not strictly defined by the Constitution, giving vast new powers to the states instead. The Liberty Amendment was first introduced in Congress in 1952; in 1957, Representative Elmer Hoffman (R-IL) reintroduced it with the new prohibitions on federal taxations. The Anti-Defamation League will write, “In this form, the amendment garnered considerable support among extreme right-wing conservatives as well as the budding libertarian movement.” Right-wing libertarian Willis Stone became the chairman of the Liberty Amendment Committee in the late 1950s, and for years attempted to raise support for the amendment. In recent years, Paul has become the champion of the amendment. After introducing the amendment, Paul tells reporters: “Over the years this amendment has enjoyed widespread support and has been introduced several times in the past by various members of Congress, but finally this measure has a chance of success given the conservative Congress and mood of the country in favor of a more limited, constitutional government which respects individual liberty.… The income tax is the most regressive tax imaginable, allowing government to take first claim on our lives. The income tax assumes government owns us, as individuals, and has a sovereign claim to the fruits of our labor. This is immoral. But government has been compelled to levy this economically damaging tax because government has grown so big. By reducing the size of the federal government to those functions strictly enumerated in the Constitution, there will no longer be a need for the income tax.… Once again, Americans are being treated to hearings on the abuses of the IRS. For as abusive as the IRS is, it is in fact simply the predictable result of the underlying income tax. By eliminating the income tax, we will go a long way toward eliminating these abuses.” Paul has regularly introduced the amendment in the House since 1981. [Ron Paul, 4/28/1999; Anti-Defamation League, 2011] The Liberty Amendment is part of the anti-tax movement stemming at least as far back as 1951 (see 1951-1967).
Benjamin ‘August’ Smith. [Source: Eye on Hate (.com)]Benjamin “August” Smith, a troubled 21-year-old man who devoutly believes in the racist teachings of the World Church of the Creator (WCOTC—see May 1996 and After), goes on a three-day killing spree targeted at Jews and non-whites. Smith gave himself the nickname of “August” because he believes his given name sounds Jewish, and as a reference to the Roman emperor Caesar Augustus. Smith was expelled from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana for several run-ins with police, and is in trouble at his current school, the University of Indiana, for distributing WCOTC literature and penning racist screeds for the student newspaper (see August 27, 1998). His girlfriend has broken up with him due to his physical and emotional abuse towards her. The event that apparently triggers Smith’s killing spree is Illinois’s denial of a law license to Matthew Hale, the leader of the WCOTC and a man Smith considers to be his mentor (see July 2, 1999).
July 2: One Killed, Six Injured - Smith, driving a light blue Ford Taurus and carrying a .380 semiautomatic and a .22 pistol, begins the killing spree on July 2 in a Chicago suburb when he sees a group of Orthodox Jews walking home from Sabbath services; he opens fire on them, injuring six. A short time later, Smith sees Ricky Byrdsong, an African-American and the former basketball coach of Northwestern University, walking with two of his children in his front yard in the Chicago suburb of Skokie. Smith shoots and kills Byrdsong from his car. He then fires on an Asian couple in the Northwood suburb, but misses them both.
July 3: Three Injured - On July 3, while police are piecing together the events of the Chicago shootings, Smith drives to Springfield, Illinois, where he shoots at two African-Americans, wounding one and missing the other. He then drives to Decatur where he shoots and wounds Stephen Anderson, an African-American minister. He then drives to Champaign-Urbana, where he critically wounds an Asian student.
July 4: One Killed, Shooter Commits Suicide - On July 4, Smith shoots and kills Won-Joon Yoon, a University of Indiana doctoral student standing outside his Birmingham, Indiana church. Smith abandons his Taurus in Ina, Illinois, hijacks a van from a gas station, and flees. Police, alerted to the hijacking, locate him traveling towards Salem, Illinois. The police chase Smith down the highway until he shoots himself below the chin in a suicide attempt; the badly wounded Smith crashes the van and shoots himself twice more before being taken to the hospital, where he is pronounced dead on arrival. A search of the Taurus reveals that Smith carefully planned his shooting spree, though he chose his victims apparently at random. A journal left in the car contains anti-Semitic and neo-Nazi writings; the journal opens, “Anyone who knows the history of this plague upon humanity who calls themselves Jews will know why I have acted.” The car also contains a bulletproof vest and receipts showing Smith has cashed in two retirement accounts. The police subsequently find and search a storage locker Smith had rented; it houses Nazi armbands and flags, a computer, printers, and floppy disks. [Los Angeles Times, 7/6/1999; Eye on Hate, 2003]
Reactions - A former Indiana roommate, Tyrese Alexander, says of Smith after the shootings: “There was never really a, ‘I don’t like you, I hate you because you’re black.’ He seemed to harbor intense anger, but it was never of a physical nature. He never lashed out at anybody. He just had an angry look on his face.… He seemed mad at the world. But I had no idea it would end like this.” [Los Angeles Times, 7/6/1999; CNN, 7/6/1999] Hale mourns his death, saying that Smith was “a pleasant person who believes in his people, who believes in his people, the white people, I can’t say anything bad about him,” and declares he feels nothing for the victims. Some believe that Hale may have known more of Smith’s plans than he admits. Of Smith’s victims, Hale says, “As far as we’re concerned, the loss is one white man.” [CNN, 7/6/1999; Eye on Hate, 2003; Anti-Defamation League, 2005]
'Martyr' for Radical Rightists - Many radical rightists will quickly declare Smith a “martyr” for the cause and an “exemplary student” of the movement. The spree will help bolster the WCOTC membership, which will expand into 17 states and a large Internet presence. [CNN, 7/6/1999; Albion Monitor, 7/26/1999; Eye on Hate, 2003] The WCOTC will eventually change its name to the “Creativity Movement” (see November 2002). Hale will be sentenced to prison in 2005 for soliciting the murder of a federal judge (see April 6, 2005). [Anti-Defamation League, 2005]
Based on the recent lawsuit by the National Organization for Women (see April 20, 1998), District Judge David Coar issues a nationwide injunction against the anti-abortion advocates who lost the case. Coar’s injunction forbids the defendants from hindering the right of women to obtain reproductive health services at clinics and the right of the clinics to provide those services. One of the defendants, Joseph Scheidler, will appeal the ruling on several grounds, including the First Amendment right of free speech. [National Organization for Women, 9/2002]
A researcher for a 1997 documentary about the Branch Davidian debacle near Waco, Texas (see April 19, 1993), questions the government’s claim that the FBI did not use incendiary devices when it launched its assault on the Davidian compound. The assault triggered a fire that swept through the compound and killed nearly 80 Davidians, including their leader, David Koresh. Officials have since denied any use of incendiary or pyrotechnic devices during the assault, and investigations have concluded that the Davidians themselves set the fires that consumed them (see August 4, 1995). Researcher Michael McNulty, who is preparing a new documentary on the final assault, says state and federal officials are refusing to allow public access to over 12 tons of evidence from the Davidian site stored in Waco. McNulty says that according to evidence logs compiled by the Texas Rangers, at least six items listed as silencers or suppressors are actually “flash-bang” devices used by law enforcement officials to stun suspects. McNulty says the devices can start fires in small, enclosed spaces. The evidence logs show that the devices were found in areas of the compound in which the fires began, McNulty says. “It’s our belief that these pieces of ordnance could and probably did have an impact on the fire on April 19th,” he says. Justice Department spokesman Myron Marlin calls the allegations “nonsense” and says they ignore evidence that the fire was set in several places at the same time. “We know of no evidence that any incendiary device or flash-bang device was fired into the compound on April 19,” Marlin says. The chairman of the Texas Department of Public Safety, James Francis, says he has asked a federal judge to take control of the evidence and allow experts to examine it. [Associated Press, 7/29/1999] Francis will succeed in having the evidence opened and reexamined (see August 10, 1999 and After). Shortly thereafter, the Justice Department will admit that such devices were indeed used during the assault, but will claim that they had nothing to do with starting the fires (see August 25, 1999 and After). Examination will show that at least one of the spent shells was from an illumination flare fired into the compound during the early days of the assault (see September 9, 1999).
James B. Francis Jr., the head of the Texas Department of Public Safety and a fundraiser for the presidential campaign of Governor George W. Bush, convinces federal judge Walter Smith to order that government vaults containing 12 tons of evidence from the Branch Davidian compound near Waco be opened, and the contents reexamined. The Davidian compound was destroyed six years ago as the culmination of a 51-day standoff between the residents and the FBI (see April 19, 1993). Smith orders the reopening of the vaults after inquiries from an independent filmmaker, Michael McNulty (see July 29, 1999), and a lawyer, David Hardy, who has long challenged the government’s account of events. There are three kinds of evidence to be examined, Francis has said: “One is shells, shell casings, physical things. The second type of evidence is video and still photographs. The third type are interviews done there on the spot at the time.” Smith’s order reads in part: “First and foremost, the parties to civil litigation pending in this court have the right to seek access (see April 1995). Second, the events that took place between Feb. 28 and April 19, 1993, and thereafter, have resulted in sometimes intense interest from the national media and the members of the public. There may come a time when persons other than the current civil litigants would be allowed access to the materials.” [Associated Press, 8/10/1999; Associated Press, 9/10/1999; Associated Press, 9/17/1999] One document that will prove to be extremely significant is the 49th and final page of a December 1993 lab report that has long ago been made available to lawmakers and attorneys. The 49th page had been removed. It states that FBI investigators who examined the scene at Waco found a “fired US military 40mm shell casing which originally contained a CS gas round,” and two “expended 40mm tear gas projectiles.” (The Justice Department will later claim that the prosecution and defense lawyers in the civil trial received the 49th page as well.) [Associated Press, 9/11/1999] The Texas Rangers review the contents, and find a spent military tear-gas canister, which forces the FBI and the Justice Department to admit that their agents fired incendiary gas canisters into the compound during the final assault (see August 25, 1999 and After). The government has previously denied firing any weapons into the compound that might have caused the conflagration that consumed the building and killed almost all of the residents. As a result of the investigation, the federal government names a special prosecutor to investigate whether there was a government cover-up (see September 7-8, 1999 and July 21, 2000), and Attorney General Janet Reno (see July 29, 1999) has to weather calls from Republican lawmakers to resign. Later, Francis denies reopening the case for political reasons. His decision “unleashed a series of forces that were apparently a lot bigger than what I recognized,” he will say. “I never dreamed that it would turn into something like this.” He will claim that he is “doing everything in my power to not politicize this” controversy. Governor Bush himself refrains from commenting on the issue, though his chief of staff helped bring McNulty and Hardy to Francis’s attention. Hardy will say of Francis, “I don’t think there’s any question that he is the shining light of this entire inquiry.” Hardy used his friends in the Texas gun lobby to contact former Texas Senator Jerry Patterson; Patterson contacted Bush’s chief of staff Clay Johnson, who in turn referred him to Francis. “I think what happened to Jim Francis is he initially wanted to be very low-key and then as more and more revelations began to surface, he became angry and disgusted, as all of us are,” Patterson will say. “This was not a role that he sought.” As for his own role, Francis will say: “It’s important that the facts come out, whatever those are. I’m not a hero, but I have done the right thing.” [Excite, 7/28/1999; Excite, 7/29/1999; Associated Press, 8/10/1999; Associated Press, 9/10/1999; Associated Press, 9/17/1999] In July, the Justice Department called Francis’s allegations of mismanagement and possible cover-ups “nonsense.” [Excite, 7/28/1999; Excite, 7/29/1999]
Entity Tags: Branch Davidians, George W. Bush, David Hardy, Clay Johnson, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Walter Smith, Texas Rangers, James B. Francis Jr, US Department of Justice, Janet Reno, Michael McNulty, Jerry Patterson
Timeline Tags: 1993 Branch Davidian Crisis
Pyrotechnic CS gas canisters. [Source: Law Enforcement Equipment Distribution]According to newly presented documents, the FBI used two or three pyrotechnic tear gas canisters during the raid on the Branch Davidian compound near Waco, Texas (see April 19, 1993). The documents contradict earlier FBI and Justice Department claims that law enforcement officials did nothing that could have contributed to the fire that killed over 80 sect members. Former senior FBI official Danny Coulson begins the revelations by admitting to the Dallas Morning News that the FBI had indeed used pyrotechnic grenades, though he says the grenades did not start the fires that consumed the building. Texas Department of Public Safety Commission Chairman James Francis says the Texas Rangers have “overwhelming evidence” supporting Coulson’s statement. “There are written reports by Rangers, there is photographic evidence, there is physical evidence, all three of which are problematic,” Francis says. Coulson, the founder of the FBI’s Hostage Rescue Team and a former assistant deputy director, says that two M651 CS tear gas grenades were fired into the building, but they were fired hours before the blazes erupted. Attorney General Janet Reno, who tells reporters she knew nothing of the grenade usage and is “very, very frustrated” at the knowledge, appoints former Senator John C. Danforth (R-MO) as the head of an investigatory commission (see September 7-8, 1999); Danforth will find that, regardless of the use of the pyrotechnic gas canisters, law enforcement officials were not responsible for the fire, and neither the FBI nor the Justice Department tried to cover up any actions (see July 21, 2000). [PBS Frontline, 10/1995; Dallas Morning News, 8/25/1999; Salon, 9/9/1999] The military M651 canisters, which burn for about 30 seconds to heat and release the solidified tear gas inside, were fired from a Bradley fighting vehicle at a bunker near the main building (see September 3, 1999). After the assault, a Texas Ranger found a spent 40mm gas canister shell lying on the ground and asked a nearby FBI agent, “What’s this?” The agent promised to find out, but never returned with an answer; the shell went into evidence containers (see August 10, 1999 and After). Two weeks after the FBI acknowledges the use of incendiary gas canisters at the Waco assault, Reno testifies on the matter to the House Judiciary Committee. She says that, based on the briefings she had been given (see April 17-18, 1993), “It was my understanding that the tear gas produced no risk of fire.… That fire was set by David Koresh and the people in that building.” After her testimony, Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-MS) calls on Reno to resign. [Newsweek, 9/6/1999; Associated Press, 9/10/1999] FBI agent Byron Sage, the chief negotiator during the Davidian standoff, will say in 2003 that the incendiary gas canisters could not have set the fires. “This is the critical point, the M651 rounds were never directed towards the wooden structure,” he will say. “They were used in an area yards away from the building. Also, they were used earlier in the day. The fire didn’t start until four hours later. They had absolutely nothing to do with that fire.” Sage will say that the canisters were fired only at a construction pit near the compound where other gas-discharging devices had been smothered in mud. The pit was targeted because some Davidian gunfire during the ATF raid had come from that area, he will say. [Waco Tribune-Herald, 3/16/2003] Charles Cutshaw, an editor of Jane’s Defense Information and an expert on this kind of weapon, says these military tear gas cartridges are not intended to start fires. He says he knows of no studies or reports on how often such cartridges may have caused fires. [Washington Post, 9/4/1999] Shortly after the admission, federal prosecutor Bill Johnston, one of the lawyers for the government in the wrongful-death lawsuit filed by surviving Davidians (see April 1995), informs Reno that government lawyers had known for years about the use of pyrotechnic tear-gas rounds (see August 30, 1999). Johnston will be removed from the lawsuit and replaced by US Attorney Michael Bradford. [Fort Worth Star-Telegram, 7/21/2000] He will also plead guilty to concealing evidence from investigators concerning the canisters (see November 9, 2000).
Entity Tags: FBI Hostage Rescue Team, Bill Johnston, Danny Coulson, Byron Sage, Branch Davidians, Federal Bureau of Investigation, James B. Francis Jr, Trent Lott, Janet Reno, US Department of Justice, John C. Danforth, Texas Rangers, Charles Cutshaw, Michael Bradford
Timeline Tags: 1993 Branch Davidian Crisis
One of the few survivors of the April 1993 conflagration that killed over 70 members of the Branch Davidian sect near Waco, Texas (see April 19, 1993), writes of the events of that day and their aftermath. David Thibodeau was in the Mt. Carmel compound when the FBI tanks and armored vehicles began crashing through the walls. He recalls walls collapsing, CS gas billowing in, and a cacophony of noise assaulting his ears, from exploding rockets (ferret rounds containing CS gas) and tank-tread squeals to the shrieks of terrified children. The idea of trying to leave the building, he writes, “seemed insane; with tanks smashing through your walls and rockets smashing through the windows, our very human reaction was not to walk out but to find a safe corner and pray.” He and his fellow Davidians found the FBI’s reassurances, delivered over loudspeakers, of “This is not an assault!” confusing, conjoined as they were with tanks smashing down walls and gas being sprayed all over the building.
No Compulsion to Stay - Thibobeau insists that Davidian leader David Koresh had no intentions of ending the siege with a mass suicide; Koresh allowed those who wanted to leave the compound, even during the siege itself. “But many of us stayed, too, not because we had to, but because we wanted to,” Thibodeau explains. “The FBI and [B]ATF (see 5:00 A.M. - 9:30 A.M. February 28, 1993) had been confrontational from the start, they had lied to us and they continued lying up through the siege.”
FBI, Not Davidians, Set Fires? - He accuses the BATF of “fabricating” the charges that led that agency to raid the compound in February, writing that false allegations of drug use prompted the raid (the raid was actually prompted by charges of illegal firearms possession and child abuse—see November 1992 - January 1993 and May 26, 1993). He notes that a CIA agent has alleged that Delta Force commandos took part in the siege (see August 28, 1999), and says that FBI audiotapes prove federal agents, not the Davidians, caused the fire that destroyed the compound, largely through the use of incendiary devices (see Late September - October 1993, August 4, 1995, and August 25, 1999 and After). Thibodeau says that other videotapes show FBI agents firing into the compound during the final assault, and BATF agents firing into the compound from helicopters during the February raid. He writes: “The FBI has not come close to revealing the full government complicity in the Waco massacre. In the years since the fire, I’ve tried desperately to find out what really happened. What I’ve discovered is disturbing.” Thibodeau finds the allegations of child abuse particularly disturbing. He says while children were spanked for disciplinary purposes, “the strict rule was they could never be paddled in anger,” and “wild allegations” that children were scheduled to be sacrificed on Yom Kippur came from a single disgruntled former resident, Marc Breault, and were not true.
Intentions to Peacefully End Siege - Thibodeau writes that Koresh intended to settle the siege peacefully, by allowing himself to be taken into custody. He intended to stay long enough to finish his treatise on the “Seven Seals” of Biblical prophecy (see April 14-15, 1993). “The FBI thought the Seven Seals issue was just a ploy, and dismissed it,” Thibodeau writes. “But it was legitimate, and in the ashes of Mount Carmel they found that Koresh had completed the first two commentaries and was hard at work on the third when the tanks rolled in.”
'No Affinity with the Right' - Thibodeau writes of the heavy irony in the fact that many right-wing separatists and supremacists such as Timothy McVeigh (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995) have embraced the Davidians as part of their movement. “[W]e had no affinity with the right,” he notes, and says, “One irony of the Waco disaster is that right-wing extremists and racists look to Mount Carmel as a beacon; if they realized that so many of us were black, Asian, and Latino, and that we despised their hateful politics and anger, they would probably feel bitterly betrayed.” While not all of the Davidians “leaned to the left,” he writes, “we also had a ‘live and let live’ attitude that had allowed the community to co-exist with its Texas neighbors for all those decades. We certainly weren’t as isolated as people seem to think.” [Salon, 9/9/1999]
The visitors’ center at the new Branch Davidian church outside Waco, Texas. [Source: Waco Cult (.com)]Workers break ground on the Mt. Carmel property near Waco, Texas, for a new Branch Davidian church. The Davidian compound that stood there before was burned to the ground six years ago during a standoff with FBI agents (see April 19, 1993); only about 12 Davidians remain in the area. The project is led by radio talk show host Alex Jones, who says the Davidians were victims of “a government cover-up of its violation of the First Amendment.” Jones, whose radio show features radical conspiracy theories and a variety of right-wing and gun advocates as guests, says of the church raising: “This is a statement. This is about saying the witch hunt of 1993 is over.” The party of workers includes the parents of Davidian leader David Koresh, who died during the standoff. Koresh’s stepfather Roy Haldeman says of the project, “I feel good about it.” He lived at the compound during 1992 and the early months of 1993. Jones says he and others have been talking about building a structure on the site for three years. “All of it, it’s all about public opinion,” he says. “We know that now is the perfect time, that’s why we’re doing it.… This is a monument to the First Amendment. You think about speech and the press, but it is also religion and the expression thereof.” During an interview with an Associated Press reporter, he wears a pin reading, “You burn it, we build it.” Jones has contributed $1,000 to the project, and says it will be complete in two or three months. The ownership of the Mt. Carmel property is in dispute. At least four parties claim it: Clive Doyle and a group of Davidians who lived at the compound; Douglas Mitchell, who claims to be the divinely appointed leader of the Branch Davidian Seventh-day Adventist Association; Amo Bishop Roden (see May 15, 1995), who has said that she was married “by contract” to the late George Roden, the former Branch Davidian leader (see November 3, 1987 and After); and Thomas Drake, Roden’s old bodyguard. Doyle says his group has maintained the grounds, erected a memorial to the Davidians slain in the standoff, and paid the taxes on it. He says he has been leading a small number of congregants in Bible studies in the Waco area and intends to lead services at the new church. One volunteer working on the church is Mike Robbins of Austin, a customer relations manager at a car dealership. He says he is not associated with the Davidians, but has constitutional concerns about what happened at the compound: “I came out here to support the First Amendment rights and the rights of every citizen,” he says. “There is a lack of tolerance in this country and I’m here to fight that.” [Associated Press, 9/19/1999; Dallas Morning News, 1/20/2000; Waco Tribune Herald, 5/3/2000] In November 1999, Jones is fired from his job as a host on Dallas’s KJFK-FM after refusing to stop broadcasting interviews with surviving Davidians, and for refusing to stop discussing his theories about government conspiracies surrounding the April 1993 debacle. Jones moves to a public-access cable TV channel and over the Internet. [Dallas Morning News, 1/20/2000] The target date for the completion of the project is pushed back to April 19, 2000, the seven-year anniversary of the conflagration at the former compound. About $40,000 has been raised for the project, volunteers say, but $50,000 more is needed. Doyle and his mother, Edna, live on the property in a mobile home. A good number of the volunteers helping build the church are anti-government activists who share theories about the government’s secret plan to destroy the Davidians, many of which are aired and discussed on the air by Jones, who regularly features survivors of the 1993 debacle on his cable show. The Michigan Militia has donated $500, and vendors sell T-shirts emblazoned with machine guns and slogans such as “Death to the New World Order.” Construction work is only done on Sundays, in deference to the Davidians’ Saturday Sabbath. [Howard News Service, 12/22/1999; Dallas Morning News, 1/20/2000] The church will be dedicated for services on April 19, 2000. The construction costs will come to at least $92,000. Some of the surviving Davidians do not want to worship at the new church, but prefer to meet in private homes. [Howard News Service, 12/22/1999; Associated Press, 4/19/2000] At the dedication service, former Attorney General Ramsey Clark says: “This is an occasion for joy, because from the ashes has risen the church. The world must never forget what the United States government did here.” Clark is one of several lawyers representing the surviving Davidians in a wrongful-death lawsuit against the US government (see April 1995). Five Michigan Militia members, dressed in combat fatigues and berets, will present sect members with a commemorative plaque from their group for the new building. [Dallas Morning News, 4/20/2000] Doyle will eventually win a court verdict awarding him ownership of the land. [The Mercury, 8/11/2002]
Entity Tags: Alex Jones, David Koresh, Amo Bishop Roden, Branch Davidians, Clive J. Doyle, Thomas Drake, Ramsey Clark, Roy Haldeman, George Roden, Douglas Mitchell, Mike Robbins, Michigan Militia
Timeline Tags: 1993 Branch Davidian Crisis
A former Army colonel tells a Dallas reporter that the FBI overheard Branch Davidian leader David Koresh ordering the fires that consumed the Davidian compound and killed almost 80 of Koresh’s followers (see April 19, 1993). For years, many have accused the FBI of causing the fires that culminated the April 19, 1993 assault on the Davidian compound. Now, Colonel Rodney Rawlings, a former military adviser, says that he was in the FBI monitoring room outside the compound on the day of the assault, and he and several FBI agents overheard Koresh give the orders to fire the compound. The FBI had surveillance “bugs” in several places inside the compound, but FBI and Justice Department officials, including Attorney General Janet Reno, have said that they did not know if Koresh ordered the fires. In recent weeks, the FBI has come under heavy criticism for having to admit that its agents fired incendiary tear gas rounds at a bunker near the compound during the assault (see August 25, 1999 and After). Rawlings tells the Dallas Morning News that as the Army’s senior liaison to the FBI’s Hostage Rescue Team (HRT), he was in the monitoring room during the assault. He says: “You could hear everything from the very beginning, as it was happening. Anyone who says you couldn’t at the time is being less than truthful.” Rawlings says the FBI surveillance bugs picked up Koresh’s orders to set the fires. Shortly afterwards, he says, the bugs picked up the sound of gunfire. The bugs then recorded Koresh declaring that God did not want him to die, and Koresh’s chief lieutenant, Steve Schneider, saying that Koresh “wasn’t going to get out of this.” Both Koresh and Schneider were later found dead in a room of the compound, both dead of gunshot wounds. FBI officials have previously testified that transmissions from the eavesdropping devices were too garbled to allow agents to hear discussions about spreading fuel and setting fires. Rawlings says that the FBI’s denials bother him “to no end. They’ve had the opportunity to say, ‘We knew.’ We’ve not gotten a straightforward answer.” [Reuters, 10/8/1999]
The FBI releases its report on what it calls “Project Megiddo,” an examination of what it calls “the potential for extremist criminal activity in the United States by individuals or domestic groups who attach special significance to the year 2000.” The report is released to law enforcement agencies throughout the country, but not to the public. A statement accompanying the report reads in part: “The threat posed by extremists as a result of perceived events associated with the year 2000 (Y2K) is very real. The volatile mix of apocalyptic religious and [New World Order] conspiracy theories (see February 4, 1999) may produce violent acts aimed at precipitating the end of the world as prophesied in the Bible.” The report is based on nine months of intelligence and data collection by the domestic terrorism unit of the FBI. Soon after its release, the Center for Studies on New Religions (CESNUR) will obtain a copy and release it on the Internet. The report’s executive summary notes that “Megiddo,” a hill in northern Israel, is the site of a number of Biblical-era battles, and the Hebrew word “armageddon” derives from a Hebrew phrase meaning “hill of Megiddo.” The Bible’s depiction of “Armageddon” is, the report states, “the assembly point in the apocalyptic setting of God’s final and conclusive battle against evil. The name ‘Megiddo’ is an apt title for a project that analyzes those who believe the year 2000 will usher in the end of the world and who are willing to perpetrate acts of violence to bring that end about.” While much of the media-fueled debate about the upcoming “end of the millennium” focuses on technological issues, such as the anticipated widespread disabling of computer networks and the like, the FBI report focuses more specifically on the religious connotations of the time as viewed by far-right “Christian Identity” (see 1960s and After) and related white supremacist, separatist, and militia organizations. The report, the summary states, “is intended to analyze the potential for extremist criminal activity in the United States by individuals or domestic extremist groups who profess an apocalyptic view of the millennium or attach special significance to the year 2000.” It is difficult to say what groups may pose a threat as 1999 comes to a close, the report states, as it is difficult to anticipate which groups will follow through on their rhetoric and which will not. Moreover, the report notes, many domestic extremist groups are not traditionally structured in a hierarchical fashion; the possibility of “lone wolf” strikes by individuals operating outside a militia or extremist group may in some cases outweigh the likelihood of violent assaults carried out by such groups. The report notes that the worst domestic terrorist event in US history, the Oklahoma City bombing (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995), was carried out by two “lone wolves,” Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols. The report finds few indications of what it calls “specific threats to domestic security,” but focuses more on suspicious activities by a variety of militia groups who are arming themselves, stockpiling food, raising money through illegal means, and other actions which may serve as a warning of future violence. Problems caused by “Y2K glitches” such as power outages and computer failures may be interpreted by some extremist groups as the first actions of a government assault on the citizenry, the FBI warns, and may precipitate violent responses. [Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance, 10/1999; Federal Bureau of Investigation, 10/20/1999; Washington Post, 10/31/1999] The right-wing news blog WorldNetDaily will accuse the FBI of issuing the report to “set up” militia groups as patsies for the government’s own terrorist activities (see December 9, 1999).
Around 10,000 people attend the “Center for Preparedness Expo” in Denver to prepare for the imminent “Y2K” collapse of society warned of by many white separatists and “Patriot” movement members (see October 20, 1999 and February 4, 1999). The expo has traveled the country, including a stop in Philadelphia in June. Promoter Dan Chittock says the show offers “practical information for the uncertain times we live in,” but Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center says the expo features what he calls “a queer mix of people interested in organic farming and political extremism.” Visitors can buy anything from radiation detectors, tents, and survival rations to guides on avoiding income taxes and making their own license plates to avoid paying licensing fees for their vehicles. Lectures are offered with such titles as “Trapping Techniques for Self-Reliance and Survival,” “Don’t Get Caught With Your Pantry Down,” and “Save Your Life, Be Your Own Doctor.” Three seminars are about life under martial law. Previous expos have featured speakers such as militia leader Bo Gritz, who has spoken about coming plagues, imminent food shortages, and how President Clinton has sold out America. Stephen O’Leary, a University of Southern California professor who studies beliefs about the millennium, says that the expos have become recruitment centers for anti-government, survivalist militia groups who often hold racist and anti-Semitic views. “It’s not just about preparing for an emergency or disaster,” he says. “What they’re selling is a whole world view—a program for the apocalypse.” Potok, who has attended previous expos, says “it’s not unusual to see booths for the John Birch Society (see March 10, 1961 and December 2011) and the Montana Militia next to a granola salesman.” The radical right, Potok says, is using fears of the upcoming millennium—“Y2K”—to fuel hysteria about what they say is the imminent declaration of martial law by the federal government and the eradication of constitutional liberties. Chittock calls such concerns “nonsense.” Barry Morrison of the Anti-Defamation League says of the expos: “What we’re concerned about is that some people take the position that the government is not to be trusted. Some of these exhibitors… portray people like Jews in an unfavorable light and as having undue control over their lives.” Morrison says anti-Semitic tracts espousing “Christian Identity” ideology (see 1960s and After) have appeared at previous expos. He also says Gritz’s Liberty Lobby is “the most influential anti-Semitic propaganda organization in America today.” He adds: “I’m not saying everyone [at the expos] is an extremist or subscribes to those views, but this is a vehicle that attracts that element. It’s part of the mix.” [Philadelphia Inquirer, 6/11/1999; Southern Poverty Law Center, 6/2001]
Joseph Farah, the publisher of the right-wing news blog WorldNetDaily, blasts the FBI for issuing its “Project Megiddo” report, which warns of possible domestic terror activities centering on the transition into the “new millennium” at year’s end (see October 20, 1999). Farah calls the report “more than slanderous, bigoted, and inciteful,” and accuses the FBI of “set[ting] up a system of self-fulfilling prophecies that permits the government to scapegoat groups of people who are enticed into committing illegal acts or conspiring about them by agents provocateur.” Farah claims that his assertions are proven by his belief that the federal government carried out the Oklahoma City bombing (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995) to discredit the far right. “Remember this the next time you hear about a so-called ‘terrorist incident,’” Farah concludes. “And, tell your representatives and senators it’s time to rein in the mad bombers and provocateurs in our own government.” [WorldNetDaily, 12/9/1999]
Activists with the underground environmental group Earth Liberation Front (ELF—see 1997) set fire to the Oregon offices of the Boise Cascade Corporation, a paper manufacturer. A statement from ELF activists says the group started the fire with four buckets of diesel fuel and a kitchen timer. Boise Cascade has “ravaged the forests of the Pacific Northwest,” the group claims. The ELF statement comes with a similar statement from the Liberation Collective, which brings together environmental and animal rights activist groups under a common rubric. Liberation Collective spokesman Craig Rosebraugh (see December 20, 1998) says he receives “anonymous communications” from ELF and other groups. “I just pass that information along to the press and public,” he says. The Liberation Collective describes ELF as “an underground environmental organization that uses economic sabotage to end the exploitation and destruction of the natural environment and its inhabitants.” Because ELF, which is classified as a domestic terrorism organization, has taken credit for the blaze, the FBI will head up the investigation. [New York Times, 12/31/1999]
Richard Butler, the leader of the white supremacist organization Aryan Nations (see Early 1970s), is quoted in the Spokane Statesman-Review as saying: “The white man is now on trial. Hate laws are against him. No hate laws can be applied to a nonwhite. That makes the white man a third-class citizen, in my mind.” [Southern Poverty Law Center, 2010]
A number of political action committees, or PACs (see 1944, February 7, 1972, 1975, and November 28, 1984), created by “independent” organizations inform the Federal Election Commission (FEC) that they will not disclose the names of donors or amounts of funds raised, because they are not expressly advocating for or against any individual candidate. These PACs become known as “527 groups,” based on Section 527 of the federal tax code. Congress soon passes a disclosure mandate forcing PACs to reveal their donors and information about their fundraising and expenditures (see June 30, 2000). By 2005, many PACs begin registering themselves as 501(c)4 “advocacy nonprofit” organizations. Under the law, such groups can only conduct certain “political advocacy” activities, but in return do not have to disclose their contributors or information about their financing. [National Public Radio, 2012]
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