Assessing domestic terrorism's significance.
Five themes speak to the possible threat posed by domestic terrorists. First, domestic terrorists likely have been responsible numerous incidents since 9/11, and there appears to be growth in anti-government extremist activity as measured by watchdog groups in the last several years. Second, a large number of those labeled as domestic terrorists do not necessarily use major terrorist tactics such as bombings or airplane hijackings. Third, domestic terrorists--much like their violent jihadist analogues--are often Internet savvy and use the medium as a resource for their operations. Fourth, domestic terrorism can be seen as a somewhat decentralized threat often involving lone wolves and movements operating under the model of leaderless resistance. Finally, prison has been highlighted as an arena in which terrorist radicalization can occur, and WSE plays a role in the activities of several U.S. prison gangs. Sovereign citizen theories have also taken root in U.S. prisons.
There is no publicly-available list of domestic terrorist incidents (foiled plots or attacks) kept by the U.S. government. This makes it especially challenging for anyone trying to develop a sense of this particularly diverse threat. (261) However, a September 2011 study by the New America Foundation and Syracuse University's Maxwell School of Public Policy found 114 individuals involved in non-jihadist terrorist acts in the 10 years following 9/11. The study did not limit its findings to animal rights extremists, eco-terrorists, anarchist extremists, sovereign citizens, unauthorized militias, black separatists, white supremacists, and anti-abortion extremists. It included incidents by what it described as left-wing and right-wing terrorists. (262)
Some U.S. government sources suggest levels of domestic terrorist activity. Examples of such sources include the following:
* An unclassified 2008 DHS report includes a table that lists selected criminal acts perpetrated by people involved in the animal rights extremist and eco-terrorist movements. This list counts 74 criminal acts between 9/11 and March 2008. (263)
* As noted, the FBI estimated that animal rights extremist and eco-terrorists together committed between 1,800 and 2,000 criminal incidents accounting for more than $110 million in damages from 1979 to early 2009. (264) In 2012, the FBI also publicly discussed a decline in eco-terrorism, especially after a wave of successful prosecutions in 2007. The bureau reportedly attributes the perceived dip to activists possibly viewing "a Democratic administration as more sympathetic to their goals and [thus] be less inclined to take radical steps." (265)
* An unclassified FBI intelligence bulletin estimates that 53 acts of violence were committed by what it calls "white supremacist extremists" between 2007 and 2009 in the United States. Victims included other white supremacists, African Americans, and Latinos. Most of the incidents involved assaults. The bulletin bases these findings on law enforcement and media reporting. (266)
* In February 2012, the FBI announced that sovereign citizen convictions increased from 10 in 2009 to 18 in both 2010 and 2011. (267)
Domestic terrorists have been responsible for killing Americans.
* The study by the New America Foundation and Syracuse University's Maxwell School of Public Policy counted "[a]t least 14 people ... killed in right- and leftwing terrorism-related incidents [in the 10 years since 9/11]." (268)
* On January 29, 2010, Scott Roeder was convicted of first-degree murder and two counts of aggravated assault for killing abortion provider George Tiller. (269)
* Described as a neo-Nazi and white supremacist, James von Brunn reportedly shot and killed a security guard at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC, in June 2009. In January 2010, the 89-year-old von Brunn died in federal prison, before he could be tried. (270)
Additionally, a key caveat regarding the violence involved in domestic terrorist activity may be of importance. Many domestic terrorist incidents have been linked to either animal rights extremists or eco-terrorists. As highlighted elsewhere in this report, many animal rights extremists and ecoterrorists claim to avoid violent acts that directly target people. The attacks by these individuals can often be described as property crimes involving arson or vandalism.
Growth in Hate Groups and Anti-Government Extremism
Beyond counting terrorist incidents, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) (271) has noted both a steady rise in the number of hate groups from 2000-2011 and a marked expansion in the militia movement (discussed elsewhere in this report) over the same period. Between 2009 and 2011, militia groups resurged to levels not seen since the 1990s. (272) The SPLC's figures likely capture a range of activity broader than that described by DOJ and the FBI as domestic terrorism. Regardless, the SPLC argues that the rise is "driven by resentment over the changing racial demographics of the country, frustration over the government's handling of the economy, and the mainstreaming of conspiracy theories and other demonizing propaganda aimed at various minorities." (273) SPLC also assesses that 2010 was the first year ever that the number of hate groups topped 1,000 (Figure 1).
While some domestic terrorism suspects engage in violent plotting, others commit much different crimes that do not physically harm people. This latter group differs from their homegrown violent jihadist counterparts, who are often bent on killing or harming people. Two types of activities that avoid visiting violence upon people but are commonly associated with subjects of domestic terrorism investigations stand out. First, many animal rights extremists, eco-terrorists, and anarchist extremists believe in "direct action." This typically involves what movement members would characterize as non-violent but criminal protest or resistance activities furthering the movement's ideology. While direct action has a long legacy among anarchists, in recent years the ALF and the ELF have played a large role in articulating its meaning. Second, "paper terrorism" is a term used to describe some of the non-violent criminal activity committed by sovereign citizens involving the filing of fraudulent documents in the hopes of harassing enemies or bilking state or federal tax authorities.
Anarchist extremists, animal liberation extremists, and environmental extremists refer to much of their operational activity as "direct action." This term has a long history, and it can be used to describe legitimate protest such as letter writing campaigns or work stoppages. However, this report uses "direct action" to describe criminal activities such as sabotage and arson. (274)
ALF and ELF members understand that criminality and direct action are one and the same. The Animal Liberation Primer, a movement resource, highlights criminality in the actions of supporters: "anyone working in the ALF is a criminal. You have to begin to think like a criminal." ALF and ELF members also generally view direct action as nonviolent and heroic. Using politically charged language, the ALF allegedly styles itself along the lines of the Underground Railroad, freedom fighters in Nazi Germany, anti-Apartheid protestors, U.S. civil rights activists, and Palestinian groups opposing Israel. (275) The ELF views constitutionally protected protest as "state sanctioned" and eschews such activity. The ELF, much like the ALF, also wraps itself in the mantle of reformers and describes itself as inheriting the spirit of Luddites, abolitionists, suffragists, and even the American revolutionary-era Boston Tea Party. (276)
The ALF: "Live Liberations" and "Economic Sabotage"
The ALF's version of direct action is framed as what it considers to be "economic sabotage" or "ethical vandalism." The ALF supports the destruction of property and intimidation of individuals and businesses considered by the movement to be involved in the exploitation of animals. Cells and individuals linked to the ALF also engage in trespassing and theft, or what they perceive as "live liberations" or "rescuing" animals from "the horrors of exploitation" (277) and human use (278) by stealing them from places such as legitimate research facilities or farms. Economic sabotage can be virtual. The North American Animal Liberation Press Office (NAALPO) has carried claims of cyber hacking incidents in the name of animal rights.279 NAALPO is one of the web-based vehicles used by ALF supporters to publicize criminal activities claimed on behalf of the movement.
The ELF: "Monkeywrenching"
Like the ALF, the ELF's discussions of direct action also revolve around economic sabotage. The ELF rejects legal protest tactics partly for what it views as pragmatic reasons--"because they have been proven not to work, especially on their own." (280) Economic sabotage in the name of environmentalism has a long history, perhaps stretching back to the 1950s, (281) and has been called "monkeywrenching," a term taken from a 1975 novel, The Monkey Wrench Gang by Edward Abbey. The book depicts such activity. (282) A guidebook that describes monkeywrenching offers what can be interpreted as a call to arms for would-be extremists:
It is time for women and men, individually and in small groups to act heroically in the defense of the wild, to put a monkeywrench into the gears of the machine that is destroying natural diversity. Though illegal, this strategic monkeywrenching can be safe, easy, and--most important--effective. (283)
The guidebook also defines monkeywrenching as nonviolent by stressing that it should never target people or "other forms of life." (284)
Arson and Explosive Devices
Federal officials are especially concerned about the use of incendiary devices and explosives by animal rights extremists and eco-terrorists. In congressional testimony from 2005, then-ATF
Deputy Assistant Director Carson Carroll stated that the "most worrisome" trend regarding animal rights extremists and eco-terrorists was their "willingness to resort to incendiary and explosive devices." (285)
This pronouncement came on the heels of two related incidents that occurred near San Francisco, CA, and involved explosive devices. An entity called the Revolutionary Cells of the Animal Liberation Brigade claimed responsibility for both attacks, which the FBI has also linked to a man named Daniel San Diego. In August 2003, two ammonium nitrate pipe bombs exploded at the campus of the biotechnology firm Chiron but caused little damage and no injuries. In October 2003, a reputed 10-pound ammonium nitrate bomb damaged the offices of Shaklee, a health, beauty, and household product company. No one was injured. The perpetrator(s) believed that both companies did business with Huntingdon Life Sciences (the same firm targeted by SHAC and discussed above). A related communique stressed that, "all customers and their families are considered legitimate targets." (286)
One commentator has suggested that the combination of "fire" as a tactic and instilling "fear" as a goal ensures eco-terrorists will continue to warrant the terrorist label. (287) Both animal rights extremists and eco-terrorists have histories of using incendiary devices to damage or destroy property--the Vail, CO, fire (mentioned elsewhere in this report) setting a prominent example for extremists. In fact, one of the hallmark publications circulated in extremist circles is a handbook on how to fashion incendiary devices titled Arson Around with Auntie ALF. (288) A recent example underscores this focus on arson.
* In January 2012, NAALPO issued a communique in which "unnamed activists" claimed responsibility for setting fires that damaged 14 tractor trailer rigs at the Harris Ranch, a cattle feedlot in Coalinga, CA. The perpetrators used containers of accelerant, kerosene-soaked rope, and digital timers to set the blazes. According to the communique, the fires apparently embodied a reaction to "the horrors and injustices of factory farming. (289)
Some ELF adherents have focused on targets they perceive as emblematic of urban sprawl (290) or the excesses of industrialized society. Since 2000, a number of ELF actions have involved the torching of housing projects as well as activities such as the damaging and destruction of sports utility vehicles and other emblems of industrialized society and urban sprawl. (291) Between August and October 2002, three individuals tied to the ELF damaged construction vehicles and sports utility vehicles, and vandalized fast food restaurants in Virginia. In one incident, these individuals vandalized two homes under construction, spray painting "sprawl" on one of the structures. In November 2005, the ELF claimed responsibility for fires set in five townhomes under construction in Hagerstown, MD. (292) Similar activity has occurred on the West Coast. (293)
Both the ALF and the ELF have established guidelines and posted them on the Web for cells or lone wolves to follow. The guidelines are straightforward and short for both movements (see Figure 2). A key point in the guidelines for both the ALF and the ELF is to avoid harming any animal, human and non-human. (294) The ALF's guidelines also stipulate that individuals professing affiliation with the movement must be vegetarians or vegans.
Interestingly, the ALF employs a number of caveats in its understanding of violence. On the one hand, it supports intimidation as a tactic. On the other, the movement does not see intimidation as potentially involving violence. (295) The ALF also views arson as "violence against property," not people. (296) Beyond this, ALF does not greatly elaborate on its notion of violence.
Figure 2. ALF and ELF Guidelines Animal Liberation Front To Liberate animals from places of abuse, i.e. laboratories, factory farms, fur farms, etc., and place them in good homes where they may live out their natural lives, free from suffering. To inflict economic damage to those who profit from the misery and exploitation of animals. To reveal the horror and atrocities committed against animals behind locked doors, by performing direct actions and liberations. To take all necessary precautions against harming any animal, human and non-human. Any group of people who are vegetarians or vegans and who carry out actions according to these guidelines have the right to regard themselves as part of the Animal Liberation Front. Environmental Liberation Front To cause as much economic damage as possible to a given entity that is profiting off the destruction of the natural environment and life for selfish greed and profit, To educate the public on the atrocities committed against the environment and life, To take all necessary precautions against harming life. Source: CRS graphic based on ALF and ELF guidelines. Notes: For ALF guidelines, see http://www.animalliberationpressoffice.org/Background.htm. For ELF guidelines, see http://www.animalliberationfront.com/ALFront/ELF/elf_faq.pdf
Some animal rights extremists support violence. For example, in February 2012 Meredith Lowell was arrested for allegedly using a Facebook page she created (under an assumed name) to solicit a hit man to kill "someone who is wearing fur." (297) In the investigation, the FBI used an undercover employee to pose as a hit man and communicate with Lowell online. She was arrested before anyone could be harmed. (298)
An animal rights extremist entity named the "Justice Department" believes in the efficacy of violence against humans. (299) Founded in the United Kingdom in 1993, the "Justice Department" has been described as an offshoot of the ALF. (300) In 1999, the first incident claimed in its name on U.S. soil involved the mailing of more than 80 envelopes containing razor blades allegedly positioned to cut recipients. Some of the razors may have been covered in rat poison. The letters were received by animal researchers, hunting guides, and others in the United States and Canada. (301) In November 2010, individuals asserting ties to the "Justice Department" mailed two communiques to NAALPO. The missives claimed that "Justice Department" extremists had mailed AIDS-tainted razors to two scientists at the University of California, Los Angeles.302 One of the communiques read:
We are the past generation of animal liberationists, but we will now be the future, striking at the heart of the vivisection industry, and if we have to go back to egg timers and insence [sic] sticks then we will. Mark our words, we will destroy all who fall into our focus. (303)
Presumably, allusion to egg timers and incense sticks suggests timing devices and fuses for explosive or incendiary devices. (304)
"Paper Terrorism": Liens, Frivolous Lawsuits, and Tax Schemes
Sovereign citizens have committed non-violent crimes based on their ideological underpinnings. (305) These are often bundled under the concept of "paper terrorism." (306) This concept can include forging documents (fake money orders and bad personal checks, for example), failing to pay taxes, phony tax filings, and presenting sham legal arguments in court. Sovereign itizens have filed fraudulent property liens against their foes. (307) Some sovereigns hold illegal courts and target officials with fake criminal indictments. They can also "issue warrants for judges and police officers." (308)
While these acts may not be violent, they are frequently "designed to intimidate or defraud targeted individuals, private institutions, or government entities." (309) Thus, some sovereigns saddle their opponents with time-consuming legal efforts to wipe out sham retaliatory court filings. As a result, sovereign foes incur court fees and their credit ratings potentially suffer. In some cases, these proceedings arise from what most citizens might consider fairly mundane run-ins with law enforcement authorities. Some sovereigns do not necessarily see violations like parking tickets and trespassing arrests as run-of-the-mill. They can react to such encounters with police by challenging the very authority and jurisdiction of U.S. law enforcement and by harassing officials with dubious liens, for example.
* In November 2011, Kenneth W. Leaming, from Spanaway, WA, was arrested for allegedly issuing billions of dollars in frivolous liens to intimidate public officials enforcing laws against sovereign citizens. Reportedly, he had been tied to other sovereign citizen adherents and groups. Also, he purportedly planned to harass the children of U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts. (310)
Sovereign citizen guru Roger Elvick is the reputed founder of "redemption," (311) a concept that blurs the line between sovereign citizen ideology and pure scam. Redemption suggests that when the United States left the gold standard during the Great Depression, the nation found a way to monetize people. According to the theory, each child who is born in the United States and has a birth certificate also has a U.S. Treasury account "valued from $630,000 to more than $3 million" (312) viewed as collateral against the nation's debts. Redemption supporters hold that by filing certain forms with state or federal authorities, people can draw money from these accounts. To do so, they occasionally attempt to pass bogus checks. (313)
On a broad level, redemption can be viewed as an ideologically driven tactic meant to illegally wrangle money from the U.S. government via the IRS. According to DOJ, in some instances this involves the filing of "a series of false IRS forms, including tax returns, amended returns, and Forms 1099 (including Form 1099-OID) or Forms W-2, to request fraudulent tax refunds based on phony claims of large income tax withholding." (314)
In addition, DOJ describes some redemption adherents as scammers who dupe customers into filing false IRS forms to redeem money via the purported secret accounts the government holds for its citizens. (315) One guru recently pled guilty to money laundering charges. (316) In another case, in December 2009 Audie Watson received a 14-year prison sentence for his involvement in an immigration benefit fraud scheme that sold membership in the Pembina Nation Little Shell Band to illegal aliens. Watson and co-conspirators charged individuals $1,500 and couples $2,000. They conned clients into believing that membership could be used to avoid removal from the United States. (317)
* In March 2011, DOJ announced that the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri had permanently barred Gerald A Poynter "from preparing tax returns for others and from promoting" a redemption scam. (318) Poynter informed his customers that he could obtain tax refunds for them, charged them for his services, and then produced fraudulent IRS forms claiming $64 million in refunds for 165 customers. (319)
The Internet and Domestic Terrorists
In the counterterrorism world, there has been much concern regarding violent jihadist use of the Internet.320 However, domestic terrorists also are computer savvy and active online. One count suggested that 657 U.S.-based hate websites existed in 2010.321 A Web presence may help extremist groups--sometimes relatively small, with rosters in the 100s or fewer--educate their existing membership and forge a group identity. Also, in many instances they can use websites to focus on outsiders to propagandize, socialize, and recruit new adherents.322 A few domestic terrorists also have exploited the Web to harm their targets.
White supremacists have long been using computer technology to communicate and interact. As one study has suggested, white supremacists "were among the very early users of the electronic communication network that eventually evolved into the Internet." (323) Among a variety of findings, the study indicated that white supremacist extremist websites were possibly an effective recruiting tool that the groups exploited. Membership forms are available on some sites. Others exhibit multimedia material, and some actually retail items such as music and video games. (324) The Internet allows individuals and groups to connect with one another and to disseminate ideology. (325) It also enables groups to manage how others perceive them. Many white supremacist sites claim that their sponsoring groups are non-violent and not even racist. (326)
Some white supremacists may be unwilling to affirm their views in public spaces such as work, school, or in street demonstrations. To them, the virtual realm is an important antidote. As one study has suggested, "free spaces" in both the real and virtual worlds--where conflict with nonbelievers will be minimized--are important for adherents. In them they can "meet, articulate, and support their views." (327) Supremacists can turn to virtual free spaces to receive indoctrination into movement culture, key narratives outlining movement grievances, adopt ideologies, and "talk of violence against 'racial enemies.'" (328)
Much of this online ideological activity involves constitutionally protected speech. A number of examples stand out.
* The ALF and the ELF have their long-established guidelines posted on the Web for independent groups or individuals to follow. (329) Movement websites virtually connect like-minded individuals. As mentioned elsewhere in this report, key ideological texts are also made available online. (330) The websites of animal rights extremists and eco-terrorists also post press releases publicizing crimes perpetrated on behalf of the movements. (331)
* Reverend Donald Spitz administers the Army of God's website. (332) Among other things, the site includes lists of people who support "violent opposition to abortion" as well as listing people incarcerated because of anti-abortion crimes they committed. (333)
* The National Socialist Movement sponsors its own social networking site, the "New Saxon Social Network." (334)
Some domestic terrorists also engage in cyber attacks. According to DOJ, an animal rights extremist cell (SHAC USA, Inc.) active between 2001 and 2004 listed online the personal information--names, addresses, phone numbers--of workers at a firm it was targeting. (The business uses animals in its research.) The extremist cell likely devised the list to help focus the activities of the group's online followers. In some cases, the published information included the names of spouses and children of employees, license plate numbers, churches attended by the employees, as well as the schools their children attended. The websites used by the extremist cell also posted suggestions for action by supporters--including what it described as the "top 20 terror tactics." (335) Supporters across the United States vandalized victims' homes and automobiles and engaged in cyber attacks against the research firms and other companies tied to it, among other activities. (336)
In January 2009, in an unclassified assessment available on the Internet, DHS stated that "leftwing" extremists were likely to increasingly use cyber attacks. The assessment noted that animal rights extremists engaged in cyber attacks such as "deletion of user accounts, flooding a company's server with e-mails, and other types of e-mail assaults intended to force businesses to exhaust resources." (337)
A Decentralized Threat
Domestic terrorism can be described as a decentralized threat. As this report has already suggested, domestic terrorism suspects generally operate on their own or in small, independent cells. In other words, they do not necessarily belong to organizations with cohesive, well-articulated leadership structures or cadres.
However, independently acting domestic terrorism suspects are not necessarily isolated, adrift, and cut off from any outside contact or influence. Some take ideological cues from broader movements or groups espousing extremist ideas. These groups or movements publicly disavow violent criminal behavior and engage in constitutionally protected activities. This dynamic--the interplay between above-ground groups or movements proffering extremist dogma or ideology (protected speech) that is then consumed and acted upon by independent underground groups or cells who commit crimes--is a critical feature of domestic terrorism.
Within the domestic terrorism realm, the notions of decentralized activity received attention in the 1980s and early 1990s when white supremacist Louis Beam circulated his theories of "leaderless resistance." (338) He saw leaderless resistance as a means to transform the white supremacy movement. Beam described it as a means of avoiding law enforcement infiltration of white supremacist groups, and he suggested two levels of leaderless movement activity. First, on an operational level, militant, underground, ideologically motivated cells or individuals (lone wolves) engage in movement-related illegal activity without any centralized direction or control from an organization that maintains traditional leadership positions and membership rosters. Second, on another level, the above-ground public face (the "political wing") of the movement propagandizes and disseminates ideology--engaging in protected speech. In this system, underground cells or lone wolves would be responsible for their own actions, and the public face of the movement would not be held accountable. (339)
Online comments from the leadership of the neo-Nazi National Socialist Movement (NSM) offer a specific example of an above-ground movement avoiding violence and the terrorist label. The NSM's leader has posted the following statement on the group's website:
I want it made perfectly clear to all of our members, supporters, prospective members, readers, etc. that the National Socialist Movement condemns illegal actions and in such we do not endorse any acts of violence or terrorism. The NSM is a White Civil Rights Movement that adheres to Political activism, and a legal means to restore America to its former glory. Acts of violence or terrorism against America, or its Citizens is unacceptable, and not tolerated within the ranks of the National Socialist Movement. (340)
"The Turner Diaries"
One of the key texts read by neo-Nazis and anti-government extremists is The Turner Diaries, a 1978 novel by William Pierce, the deceased founder of the neo-Nazi group National Alliance. (341) This book can be seen as an above-ground product that motivates underground cells or individuals to commit crimes. The book has partly inspired a number of violent acts by white supremacist extremists and anti-government extremists.
The Turner Diaries predates the widespread acceptance of the "leaderless resistance" concept. However, its lasting place in the neo-Nazi and anti-government extremist movements highlights how leaderless resistance works. Peirce's book has been described as "the most widely read book among far-right extremists." (342) The novel reflects the author's own racist religious philosophies.343 Perhaps 500,000 copies of the book have been sold.344 In it, Pierce emphasized that the current racial order of things had to be cataclysmically destroyed and reborn in accordance with white supremacist ideals. (345) To convey this message, he devised his book as the edited diaries of neo-Nazi character Earl Turner. As such, Turner's story is annotated by a fictionalized editor, one Andrew Macdonald. The novel describes Turner leading a terrorist group whose actions trigger a race war that results in the overthrow of the government--controlled by Jews in Pierce's construction. Turner also initiates a nuclear war that wipes out earth's non-white human inhabitants. The atomic apocalypse allows for the rebirth of a revitalized white race. (346)
The book has informed the activities of domestic terrorists. In September 1983, white supremacist Robert Mathews formed a small underground group known as The Order. Its inspiration came from passages in The Turner Diaries. The group planned for and engaged in what it viewed as a revolution. (347) Over the next 15 months, The Order went on a violent crime spree. Among other crimes, it robbed banks, armored cars, electronic stores, a truck stop, and a video store, and allegedly gave some of the spoils to Richard Butler, who was at the time the leader of the WSE group Aryan Nations. The Order also bombed a synagogue and murdered a Jewish talk show host, Alan Berg, before it was dismantled by federal law enforcement. (348)
Anti-government extremist Timothy McVeigh, an avid reader of the book, had passages from the Turner Diaries with him when he was arrested. The 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah federal building in Oklahoma City mimicked one described in the novel and involved a small cell of underground conspirators. (349) Sales of the book allegedly rose after the bombing. (350)
The ALF, the ELF
The concept of leaderless resistance has been mirrored by other extremist movements in the United States. Both the ALF and the ELF have rejected recognizable leadership structures or hierarchies and follow a leaderless resistance model instead, making their activities more difficult for law enforcement to investigate. (351) According to the model, above-ground elements in the movements provide guidelines and an ideological platform that underground individuals (lone wolves) or independent cells can draw upon to motivate their own criminal actions. Exercising First-Amendment rights, the above-ground components of the ALF and the ELF lawfully communicate shared identities largely via websites. As one scholar has suggested for the ELF, this possibly creates a broad consensus focused on a very specific cause and avoids internecine conflicts over ideological fine points. (352) Much like the NSM, the above-ground elements of the ALF take pains to distinguish themselves from criminal activity. For example, NAALPO states:
Disclaimer: The Animal Liberation Press Officers do not engage in illegal activities, nor do they know any individuals who do. Rather, the Press Office receives and posts communiques from anonymous parties and provides comment to the media. (353)
Additionally, the above-ground literature of both the ALF and the ELF suggests that independent cells avoid communication with one another. (354) This leaderless format is followed to avoid law enforcement infiltration and is based on models used by other domestic terrorists. As one scholar has suggested, this parallels franchising in the business world. (355)
Some domestic terrorists are "lone wolves." This can be seen as a form of leaderless resistance. One scholar has offered a succinct conceptualization:
Lone wolf terrorism involves terrorist attacks carried out by persons who (a) operate individually, (b) do not belong to an organized terrorist group or network, and (c) whose modi operandi are conceived and directed by the individual without any direct outside command hierarchy. (356)
Lone wolves have committed crimes in the names of a number of domestic terrorism movements. For example, according to the FBI, when it comes to violence attributed to white supremacist extremism, lone wolves play a prominent role. Lone wolves filter in and out of WSE groups. They can either get dismissed from these groups because of their "violent tendencies" or voluntarily leave because they find the organizations too passive. (357) There is little research on the lone wolf phenomenon and no universally accepted definition of the term. (358)
The above definition stresses how lone wolves operate. Just as critical is what they believe. Lone wolves can hew to broader ideological causes and use them to justify their actions. (359) This suggests that lone wolves potentially adopt the ideas of broader terrorist movements while not claiming formal membership in them. Divining exactly what "formal membership" constitutes leads to debate regarding whether or not some individuals acted as lone wolves or part of larger movements. For example:
* On January 29, 2010, Scott Roeder was convicted of first-degree murder and two counts of aggravated assault for killing abortion provider George Tiller. (360) Roeder allegedly had "connections with militant abortion foes but few formal ties with known groups." (361) Some supporters of abortion rights consider his contacts among anti-abortion adherents as evidence of possible conspiracy. (362) Meanwhile, some anti-abortion activists have stressed that Roeder was a lone wolf. (363) He remains the only person convicted of Tiller's murder.
Because lone wolves are not plugged into terrorist organizations, distinguishing them from individuals who commit hate crimes can also be difficult. (364) In these cases, as mentioned above, the FBI likely attempts to determine whether the motives involved were personal (hate crime) and not focused on broader ideologies (domestic terrorism).
The Law Enforcement Challenges Posed by Lone Wolves
Lone wolves present particular challenges to law enforcement. Because lone wolves, by definition, operate alone, it can be difficult for law enforcement to assess exactly which radicalized individuals intend to turn their beliefs into action and pursue terrorist activity. One former FBI counterterrorism official has said:
The lone wolf is arguably one of the biggest challenges to American law enforcement. How do you get into the mind of a terrorist? The FBI does not have the capability to know when a person gets up in middle America and decides: 'I'm taking my protest poster to Washington or I'm taking my gun.' (365)
Aside from intent, it is also hard to assess the operational capability of potential lone wolf terrorists--knowledge of explosives, familiarity with firearms, or experience in surveillance, for example. (366) Lone wolves do not participate in terrorist networks or training camps that can be infiltrated or whose communications can be traced. They do not rehearse their schemes or practice their criminal skills with conspirators who can potentially act as cooperating witnesses. To attempt to overcome these issues, the FBI asserted in 2009 that it was "beginning an extensive study on identified lone offenders to come up with indicators and behavior predictors that investigators can use to assess suspects." (367)
Not all of the news for law enforcement regarding lone wolves is necessarily dire. They have weaknesses. Their lack of tradecraft may make it harder for lone wolves to engage in large-scale attacks. Likewise, lone wolves do not necessarily experience the reinforcement of a closely knit terrorist social network. They cannot rely on others to assist them in any type of complicated plot. (368)
Regardless, lone wolf attacks can be lethal. For example, according to one scholarly examination, between 1990 and April 2009, "far-rightists" have been responsible for the deaths of 42 law enforcement officers--most from state and local agencies in the United States. Most of the incidents involved firearms, and most of the assailants acted alone. (369) Other instances of fatalities have been documented as well. Aside from the 2010 actions of Scott Roeder and the 2009 shooting involving James von Brunn (discussed elsewhere), suspected lone wolves were involved in at least two fatal shooting incidents in 2009, according to media sources and watchdog groups. The individuals involved in these incidents held white supremacist beliefs.
* Richard Poplawski shot and killed three Pittsburgh police officers in April 2009. He has been described as a "white supremacist" lone wolf. (370) He had posted antigovernment messages on racist websites. (371)
* On January 21, 2009, Keith Luke allegedly shot and killed two Cape Verdean immigrants and raped and shot a third. Police arrested him before he could attack a synagogue, as he planned. (372) Luke purportedly informed police that he had decided to go on his spree after reading about "the demise of the white race" on a neo-Nazi website. (373) He reputedly said that he was "fighting for a dying race" and that he had been planning the attack for six months. (374)
The shootings perpetrated by Roeder and von Brunn had been described by the federal government as terrorist acts. (375) It is unclear whether the Poplawski and Luke cases are considered as such.
Lone wolves do not necessarily have to focus on gun-related crimes. Kevin Harpham's case illustrates as much. On March 9, 2011, law enforcement officers arrested Kevin Harpham (discussed elsewhere) and charged him in connection to a bomb concealed in a backpack and placed along the route of a Martin Luther King, Jr. Day March in Spokane, WA. In September 2011, Harpham pled guilty to committing a federal hate crime and attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction. (376) Media reports and watchdog groups have indicated that Harpham had ties to white supremacists. Allegedly, he was a member of the neo-Nazi National Alliance in 2004. The group denied that he was still a member. Harpham had also been in contact with Paul Mullet, leader of a white supremacist group active in Athol, ID. Mullet said that he and Harpham spoke many times but that the latter never joined Mullet's group. (377) Harpham reportedly made postings on white supremacist websites and read The Turner Diaries. (378)
Also, lone wolf activity is not solely the domain of purported white supremacists. Another case illustrates the kind of attack a domestic lone wolf animal rights extremist can commit:
* In November 2010, Walter Bond pled guilty to two felonies stemming from an April 2010 arson that destroyed a store known as the Sheepskin Factory in Glendale, CO. (379) Speaking from jail, Bond condemned the business, which sold sheepskin products, as engaging in "blood trade" and drawing profits "from the death and exploitation of suffering animals." (380) Bond worked alone. A web posting claimed the arson "in defense and retaliation for all the innocent animals that have died cruelly at the hands of human oppressors." (381) Apparently, Bond strongly identified with the notion of being a lone wolf. The ATF, working with a confidential informant, recorded Bond discussing the fire and the fact that he actually used the nickname "Lone Wolf." (382) In a jailhouse letter, Bond stated, "I used the name 'ALF Lone Wolf' in the media to convey to my ALF brothers and sisters worldwide (whoever they are) the power of acting alone." (383)
As some experts have pointed out, prison offers an environment in which individuals can potentially radicalize (384) on the way to becoming terrorists. This issue has loomed large among experts examining international terrorism. (385) A scholar of the prison radicalization phenomenon in the United Kingdom notes that jail time potentially jump starts the radicalization process for individuals who are at risk of radicalizing. Prison brings together disaffected people who may be receptive to anti-social messages offering "clear, albeit intolerant, solutions to complex problems of identity and belonging." (386) In other words, some disaffected prisoners may discover and adopt terrorist ideals as they try to find meaning behind bars, potentially establishing bonds with likeminded people in jail. Another study of government policies on prison radicalization in 15 countries (including the United States) concludes that "[w]hether or not one believes that prisons have become Al Qaeda's 'universities' or 'finishing schools' there can be no question that prisons matter." (387) They matter because they have figured largely in the development of many previous radical movements around the globe. Prisons also unsettle prisoners who "are more likely than elsewhere to explore new beliefs and associations." (388)
Some prison gangs delve into radical or extremist ideologies that also motivate domestic terrorists, and in a number of instances, these ideologies are integral to fashioning cohesive group identities within prison walls. It must be reiterated, however, that even for gangs exhibiting these ideological dimensions, criminal enterprises such as drug trafficking--not radical beliefs--largely drive their activities. The largest white supremacist prison gangs illustrate this.
Several gangs in America's penal institutions subscribe to white supremacist beliefs, views broadly shared by some domestic extremist groups such as the National Socialist Party, the National Alliance, Aryan Nations, and racist skinheads. A national-level gang of this ilk with approximately 15,000 members in and out of prison, the Aryan Brotherhood, has factions within facilities managed by the California Department of Corrections and the Federal Bureau of Prisons. (389) The Nazi Low Riders, a regional-level gang with a membership estimated between 800 and 1,000, exists in correctional facilities on the West Coast and in the Southwest. (390) Another white supremacist gang with a prison and street presence, Public Enemy Number One--largely a local-level organization with between 400 and 500 members--is mostly active in California with scattered groups outside of the state. (391)
These three groups may espouse racial hatred, but they are largely guided by the profit motive, not extremism. (392) For example, one expert has described the Aryan Brotherhood's ideological underpinnings as "mostly just a good recruiting tool and a way to maintain structure and discipline. These guys are more about making money than starting any kind of white revolution." (393) As another indicator of the primacy of profit, members of all three white supremacist groups often set aside their racism and "have working relationships with Hispanic street gangs and non-white prison gangs such as the Mexican Mafia, due to a shared interest in criminal activity, particularly the drug trade." (394) However, members of racist gangs do commit hate crimes. For example, in 1998 "[t]wo of the three men who murdered James Byrd Jr., a black man, by tying him to their pickup truck and dragging him over three miles of road near Jasper, Texas, were ex-cons who belonged to the [Aryan] Brotherhood." (395)
One study has estimated that "hundreds, possibly thousands" of sovereign citizens have been incarcerated in the United States since the 1990s, where some have continued to practice their beliefs and even pass their knowledge on to other prisoners. (396) An unknown number of prisoners have converted to the movement's ideology, while others have simply used sovereign tactics. (397) The following cases suggest how this may occur.
* In September 2010, Marlon T. Moore pled guilty to one count of filing a false claim with the IRS, requesting a fraudulent refund of $9,087,987.95.398 Prior to his 2010 guilty plea, he had become a sovereign citizen during a six-year stint in prison on drug-related money laundering charges. (399)
* In 1992, James T. McBride discovered sovereign citizen ideology while in a Michigan prison on drug-related charges. After he left prison, among other things, he became a sovereign guru and operated a business that peddled sovereign ideas. (400)
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|Title Annotation:||The Domestic Terrorist Threat: Background and Issues for Congress|
|Author:||Bjelopera, Jerome P.|
|Publication:||Congressional Research Service (CRS) Reports and Issue Briefs|
|Date:||Jan 1, 2013|
|Previous Article:||Domestic terrorism defined.|
|Next Article:||Policy considerations for Congress.|