Domestic terrorism defined.
What Is Domestic Terrorism?
In the most general statutory terms, a domestic terrorist engages in terrorist activity that occurs in the homeland. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI, the Bureau) has lead responsibility for terrorism investigations at the federal level. (5)
The FBI generally relies on two fundamental sources to define domestic terrorism. First, the Code of Federal Regulations characterizes "terrorism" as including "the unlawful use of force and violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives." (6) Second, 18 U.S.C. Section 2331(5) more narrowly defines "domestic terrorism" and differentiates it from international terrorism and other criminal activity. (7) This definition comes from Section 802 of the USA PATRIOT Act (P.L. 107-52). According to 18 U.S.C. Section 2331(5), domestic terrorism occurs primarily within U.S. territorial jurisdiction, and domestic terrorism involves
(A) ... acts dangerous to human life that are a violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any State;
(B) appear to be intended--
(i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population;
(ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or
(iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping. ... (8)
Toward a Narrower Definition
The definitions cited above are too broad to capture what the FBI specifically investigates as "domestic terrorism." Besides the statutory definitions regarding the crime of domestic terrorism, the FBI has historically emphasized particular qualities inherent to the actors who engage in domestic terrorism. According to the Bureau, domestic terrorists do not simply operate in the homeland, but they also lack foreign direction. (15) In fact, the Bureau's practical, shorthand definition of domestic terrorism is "Americans attacking Americans based on U.S.-based extremist ideologies." (16) The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) follows this construction. (17)
Ambiguity Regarding "U.S.-Based Extremist Ideologies"
On the surface, the FBI's shorthand definition for domestic terrorism appears straightforward. However, there is inherent ambiguity to it. Namely, some of the "U.S.-based extremist ideologies" driving what the Bureau views as domestic terrorism have international roots and active followings abroad. The ideologies supporting eco-extremism and animal rights extremism (discussed below) readily come to mind, and people have long committed crimes in their names outside the United States. (18) At least in part, their origins lay in the United Kingdom. Nazism--with its German origins and foreign believers--is an element within domestic white supremacist extremism. Anarchism, the philosophy followed by anarchist extremists, also has longstanding European roots. The racist skinhead movement traces its origins abroad--to the United Kingdom--as well. It is unclear exactly what the FBI means when it emphasizes U.S.-based ideologies in its framing of domestic terrorism.
Factors Complicating the Descriptions of the Domestic Terrorism Threat
A few more issues make it hard to grasp the breadth of domestic terrorist activity in the United States. First, counting the number of terrorist prosecutions in general has been difficult in the post-9/11 period. Second, there may be some ambiguity in the investigative process regarding exactly when criminal activity becomes domestic terrorism. Third, the federal government appears to use the terms "terrorist" and "extremist" interchangeably when referring to domestic terrorism. It is unclear why this is the case. Finally, and most importantly, which specific groups are and should be considered domestic terrorist organizations? The U.S. government does not provide a public answer to this question. Rather, the federal government defines the issue in terms of "threats," not groups.
Counting Terrorism Cases
While statutory and practical federal definitions exist for "domestic terrorism," there is little clear sense of the scope of the domestic terrorist threat based on publicly available U.S. government information. Most broadly, it has been said that in much of the post-9/11 period, the federal courts and DOJ may have applied different parameters when sorting, counting, and categorizing all types of terrorist prosecutions--let alone domestic terrorism cases. (19) A 2009 study (critiqued by DOJ) found that the U.S. Federal District Courts, DOJ's National Security Division, and federal prosecutors rely on different criteria to determine whether or not specific cases involve terrorism at all. (20)
A bit more narrowly, in many instances, individuals considered to be domestic terrorists by federal law enforcement may be charged under non-terrorism statutes, making it difficult to grasp from the public record exactly how extensive this threat is. Regarding the prosecution of domestic terrorism cases, DOJ has noted that, "[a]lthough we do have at least one specialized [federal] statute aimed at animal enterprise terrorism, (21) domestic terrorism cases often involve firearms, arson or explosive offenses; crimes relating to fraud; and threats and hoaxes." (22) In some instances, the crimes committed by people the FBI describes as domestic terrorism suspects do not violate federal law. When this occurs, the Bureau, "support[s] [its local] partners any way [it] can--sharing intelligence, offering forensic assistance, conducting behavioral analysis, etc." (23) Thus, individuals considered domestic terrorists by federal law enforcement may not necessarily be federally charged as terrorists.
Sifting Domestic Terrorism from Other Illegal Activity
It may not be possible for investigators to describe the criminal activity involved early in an investigation as domestic terrorism. In these instances, investigators can work toward clarifying the motives of the suspects involved. (24) Domestic terrorism cases differ from ordinary criminal activity in key ways. Most importantly, unlike ordinary criminals--who are often driven by selfcentered motives such as profit and tend to opportunistically seek easy prey--domestic terrorists are driven by a cause or ideology. (25) If the motives involved eventually align with the definition laid out in 18 U.S.C. Section 2331(5), presumably the case becomes a domestic terrorist investigation. In some instances, ideologically motivated actors can also collaborate with profitdriven individuals to commit crimes.
To further cloud matters, another category of criminal activity, hate crime, may appear to involve ideological issues. (26) However, as described by one federal official, a "hate crime" "generally involve[s] acts of personal malice directed at individuals" and is missing the broader motivations driving acts of domestic terrorism. (27) For investigators, distinguishing between "personal malice" and ideologically motivated actions may be difficult in specific cases. This suggests that sorting domestic terrorism from hate crimes depends on the degree of a suspect's intent. Did the suspect articulate an ideology, belong to a domestic terrorist group, or follow an extremist movement? The grey area between domestic terrorism and hate crime hints that in some instances, suspects with links to domestic terrorist movements or ideologies supporting domestic terrorism may be charged with hate crimes. (28) It is unclear to what extent this influences how the government understands the threat posed by extremist movements that hold racist beliefs. If some individuals of this ilk commit crimes against police or judges, for example, is the government more apt to label this activity as terrorism while individuals sharing these same racist motivations but targeting ordinary citizens based on race, religion, disability, ethnic origin, or sexual orientation are charged with hate crimes?
The FBI's public description of the case of confessed would-be bomber Kevin Harpham exemplifies how difficult it may be to characterize acts as domestic terrorism. Initially the FBI viewed the case as domestic terrorism. In 2011, Harpham, allegedly motivated by white supremacist ideology, left a bomb--which never detonated--along the route of a parade in Spokane, WA, honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The FBI's Northwest Joint Terrorism Task Force led the investigation.29 In prepared public remarks framing the "current state of the terrorism threat" from April 2011, the FBI's Assistant Director for the Counterterrorism Division noted that Harpham's case was one of "several recent domestic terrorism incidents [that] demonstrate the scope of the threat."30 Harpham eventually pled guilty to committing a federal hate crime and attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction.31 Thereafter, the Bureau described the case as the successful prevention of a "horrific hate crime." (32)
Extremism vs. Terrorism
Another concept that muddies discussion of domestic terrorism is "extremism." The latter term is commonly applied to homegrown actors, whether they be domestic terrorists or adherents of ideologies forwarded by foreign groups such as Al Qaeda. National security expert Jonathan Masters has suggested that many law enforcement officials likely view "extremism" as largely synonymous with "terrorism." (33) Masters has also found that there is a "lack of uniformity in the way domestic terrorist activities are prosecuted" in the United States. (34) Presumably, using the term "extremist" allows prosecutors, policymakers, and investigators the flexibility to discuss terrorist-like activity without actually labeling it as "terrorism" and then having to prosecute it as
such. This flexibility is certainly an asset to prosecutors. They can charge subjects of FBI domestic terrorism investigations under a wider array of statutes and, as a result, not describe the subjects publicly as terrorists. However, for policymakers this flexibility makes it hard to determine the scope of the domestic terrorist threat. One cannot get a clear sense of scope if some individuals are charged and publicly described as terrorists, others are discussed as extremists, and still others enter the public record only as criminals implicated in crimes not necessarily associated with terrorism, such as trespassing, arson, and tax fraud.
What Is Extremism?
The FBI's public formulation of "extremism" suggests two components. First, extremism involves hewing to particular ideologies. Second, it also includes criminal activity to advance these ideologies. (35) Thus, according to this construction, an anarchist believes in a particular ideology--anarchism. An "anarchist extremist" is an anarchist who adopts criminal tactics. (36)
One scholar has indicated a similar bifurcation: First, extremism refers to an ideology outside a society's key values, and for liberal democracies, such ideologies "support racial or religious supremacy and/or oppose the core principles of democracy and human rights." Second, extremism can refer to the use of tactics that ignore the rights of others to achieve an ideological goal. (37)
"Homegrown Violent Extremists" Are Not Domestic Terrorists
The FBI and DHS have recently popularized the phrase "homegrown violent extremist" (HVE). It separates domestic terrorists from U.S.-based terrorists motivated by the ideologies of foreign terrorist organizations. (HVEs include some of the actors this report considers as "homegrown violent jihadists.") According to DHS and the FBI, a HVE is "a person of any citizenship who has lived and/or operated primarily in the United States or its territories who advocates, is engaged in, or is preparing to engage in ideologically-motivated terrorist activities (including providing support to terrorism) in furtherance of political or social objectives promoted by a foreign terrorist organization, but is acting independently of direction by a foreign terrorist organization." (38)
According to the FBI and DHS, an HVE is not a domestic terrorist--they are two distinct categories of terrorist actors. (39)
The Lack of an Official Public List
The federal government does not generate an official and public list of domestic terrorist organizations or individuals. (40) The development of such a list may be precluded by civil liberties concerns (i.e. inclusion in a publicly available list may impinge on a group's exercise of free speech or its other constitutionally protected activities). However, a lack of official lists or processes to designate groups or individuals as domestic terrorists makes it difficult to assess domestic terrorism trends and evaluate federal efforts to counter such threats. An unnamed DHS official cited in a news report stated that "unlike international terrorism, there are no designated domestic terrorist groups. Subsequently, all the legal actions of an identified extremist group leading up to an act of violence are constitutionally protected and not reported on by DHS." (41) Constitutionality aside, the lack of a list may also contribute to a certain vagueness in the public realm about which groups the federal government considers domestic terrorist organizations. While the government does not provide an official and public list of domestic terrorist organizations, it does include domestic terrorists (along with international terrorists) in its Terrorist Screening Database, commonly known as the "Terrorist Watchlist." (42)
The government is much less vague regarding foreign terrorist organizations. They are officially designated as such according to a well-established legally and procedurally proscribed regimen. According to the Department of State's Bureau of Counterterrorism, as of September 2012 the Secretary of State had designated 51 foreign terrorist organizations according to Section 219 of the Immigration and Nationality Act, as amended. (43)
Toward a Practical Definition: Threats Not Groups
As discussed above, DOJ and the FBI do not list domestic terrorist organizations publicly and officially. This may complicate the understanding that federal policymakers have of what exactly the government considers "domestic terrorism." While not naming specific groups, DOJ and the FBI have openly delineated domestic terrorist threats. DOJ has identified domestic terrorism threats to include criminal activity by "animal rights extremists, eco-terrorists, anarchists, antigovernment extremists such as 'sovereign citizens' and unauthorized militias, [b]lack separatists, [w]hite supremacists, and anti-abortion extremists." (44)
The actors who constitute each of the domestic terrorist "threats" outlined by DOJ draw upon ideologies whose expression largely involves constitutionally protected activity. The FBI safeguards against cases focused solely on constitutionally protected activities. All FBI investigations have to be conducted for an authorized national security, criminal, or foreign intelligence collection purpose. (45) The purpose of an investigation may not be to solely monitor First Amendment rights. (46)
However, it is unclear how DOJ or the FBI arrive at their list of domestic terrorism threats. This poses at least two fundamental questions:
* How does a particular brand of dissent become ripe for description by DOJ and the FBI as driving a "domestic terrorism" threat?
What criteria are involved in such a process? How many crimes or plots attributed to a specific ideology have to occur to stimulate the identification of a new extremist threat? Is the severity of the crimes linked to an ideology taken into consideration?
* At what point do ideologically driven domestic terrorism threats cease to exist?
Should there be a means for public petitioning of the government to eliminate various threats as investigative priorities?
The below discussion of domestic terrorism threats will follow the order in which DOJ listed them. This does not necessarily presume the priority of one over the other. It is also important to note that instances of animal rights extremism and eco-terrorism within the last 10 years are more readily available in the public record than cases involving other types of domestic terrorism. The extensive use of such examples in this report does not imply the prominence of animal rights extremism or eco-terrorism over other domestic terrorist threats.
Animal Rights Extremists and Environmental Extremists
The term "animal rights extremism" covers criminal acts committed in the name of animal rights. (47) Environmental extremism--most often referred to as "Eco-terrorism"--includes criminal acts committed in the name of the environment. (48) These terms are not applied to groups or individuals involved with environmental movements or animal welfare protection/rights activism within the "confines of civil society and the rule of law." (49)
Many of the crimes committed by both animal rights extremists and eco-terrorists are perpetrated by independent small cells or individuals who harass and intimidate their victims. (50) These cells or lone actors engage in crimes such as vandalism, theft, the destruction of property, and arson. Most animal rights and eco-extremists also eschew physical violence directly targeting people or animals. Regardless, crimes committed by eco-terrorists and animal rights extremists have caused millions of dollars in property damage, and some have involved the intimidation and harassment of victims. (51) These two types of extremism are often discussed together, because the two broader radical movements from which they draw their philosophical underpinnings have similar beliefs and overlapping membership.
The two movements--the Animal Liberation Front (ALF) and the Earth Liberation Front (ELF)--have the greatest reach among animal rights extremists and eco-terrorists. The ALF and the ELF are too diffuse to be called groups. Neither the ALF nor the ELF maintains formal rosters or leadership structures, for example. (52) However, each communicates a sense of shared identity and attracts people who commit crimes in its name. They achieve this via "above-ground" wings. Largely using websites, ALF and ELF supporters publish literature highlighting movement philosophies, tactics, and accounts (press releases) of recent movement-related criminal activity. Much of this involves protected speech and occurs in the public realm. Press releases allow "underground" extremists to publicly claim responsibility for criminal activity in the name of either movement while maintaining secrecy regarding the details of their operations. The ALF and the ELF do not work alone. Members of other entities such as Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC) have committed crimes in the name of animal rights, for example.
Additional factors tangle our understanding of the ALF and the ELF. People can simultaneously participate in both. This may partly be true because the movements are so amorphous. The two movements also share similar agendas, and in 1993 they declared solidarity. (53) All of this can play out confusingly in the real world. For example, an individual can commit a crime and claim responsibility for it online in the name of both the ALF and the ELF. One case especially highlights intersections between the ALF and the ELF.
In late 2005 and early 2006, the FBI dismantled a network that, according to DOJ, committed violent acts in the name of both the ALF and the ELF. The group included about 20 individuals and called itself "the Family." It was reportedly responsible for at least 25 criminal incidents totaling approximately $48 million in damages in the late 1990s and early 2000s and disbanded at some point in 2001, due to law enforcement pressure on the group. The Family was responsible for an arson attack in 1998 at the Vail Ski Resort. Eight simultaneous fires damaged radio towers, ski lift towers, restaurants, and the ski patrol office at the Colorado site and totaled over $24 million in losses. (54)
Both the ALF and the ELF rely on and borrow from a number of philosophical underpinnings to rationalize their beliefs and actions. These help forge a common identity among individuals in each movement. These ideas are also key principles professed by more mainstream animal rights or environmental activists engaged in legal protest.
The ALF: Animal Rights and Speciesism. The ALF's moral code includes the belief that animals possess basic inalienable rights such as life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, and this suggests that animals cannot be owned. According to the ALF, the U.S. legal system--which describes animals as property--is corrupt, and there exists a "higher law than that created by and for the corporate-state complex, a moral law that transcends the corrupt and biased statutes of the US political system." (55) Simply put, the rights of one species do not trump the rights of others. To suggest otherwise is to be prejudiced, according to animal rights adherents.
For the ALF and other animal rights supporters, the favoring of one species, particularly humans, over others has a name: speciesism. For the ALF, speciesism is a "discriminatory belief system as ethically flawed and philosophically unfounded as sexism or racism, but far more murderous and consequential in its implications." (56) Thus, the movement couches the theft or illegal release of animals used in research or for economic gain as "liberation." The ALF views the destruction of laboratory infrastructure or tools as the elimination of items used to enslave species who have the same rights as humans. Intimidation of scientists and employees of businesses tied to animal research or testing is rationalized as confrontation with "oppressors" or those who, in the eyes of movement adherents, abuse and murder animals. (57)
The ELF: An Ideological Melange. Eco-terrorists are motivated by a melange of environmental philosophies. There is no single formula for what constitutes the ideological makeup of an ELF follower, but several concepts likely play key roles in the movement. These are biocentrism, deep ecology, social ecology, and green anarchism. Biocentrism argues for the equality of all organisms. (58) Deep ecology suggests that all species are part of "the larger super-organism that is nature." (59) It criticizes industrialization and views modern human impact on the earth as negative and hearkens back to small communities centered on subsistence agriculture. (60) Social ecology suggests that hierarchical human society leads to social inequalities and environmental harm. Green anarchism ascribes environmental harm to civilization and domestication and embraces the notion of "rewilding," or rejecting civilization and returning to a hunter-gatherer state to preserve one's natural surroundings. (61)
According to the FBI, anarchist extremists commit crimes in the name of anarchist ideals. (62) These ideals include belief that
individual autonomy and collective equality are fundamental and necessary for a functional, civilized society. [Anarchism] resists the existing hierarchical structure of society that gives some people authority and control over others. [According to anarchists] authority imbues power, and power always is used in illegitimate and self-serving ways by those who have it. (63)
Anarchist extremists as well as anarchists engaging in constitutionally protected activity can oppose government, business, or social interests that they view as dangerous. As this suggests, anarchists advocate some form of revolution that realigns authority and power in the societies they desire to transform. However, adherents cannot agree to a single means for attaining revolutionary change. (64)
As one may assume, anarchist activity is decentralized. In fact, a basic, temporary organizational structure--the affinity group--likely plays a larger role in shaping the work of U.S. anarchists than any formal long-lasting entities or networks. (65) Affinity groups are "autonomous militant unit[s] generally made up of between five-to-twenty individuals who share a sense of the causes worth defending and the types of actions they prefer to engage in. The decision-making process is anarchist, that is to say, egalitarian, participatory, deliberative, and consensual." (66) An affinity group often consists of a circle of friends. The friends coalesce around a specific objective and break apart when they achieve their desired ends. Individual groups can band together in "clusters" and clusters can coordinate their efforts, if need be. (67) The ends can be legal or illegal, violent or non-violent, covert or open. These structures have a long history among anarchists, but other movements use them as well. (68) Also, anarchists can engage in what they call "black bloc" tactics. These involve secretive planning for public--often criminal--activity in which participants, typically dressed in black, act en-masse. (69) Adding to the sprawling nature of the anarchist movement, some adherents also participate in the ALF and the ELF. These three movements share general philosophical tenets such as opposition to globalization and capitalism. (70)
The FBI has described anarchist extremists as typically being "event driven," meaning
they show up at political conventions, economic and financial summits, environmental meetings, and the like. They usually target symbols of Western civilization that they perceive to be the root causes of all societal ills--i.e., financial corporations, government institutions, multinational companies, and law enforcement agencies. They damage and vandalize property, riot, set fires, and perpetrate small-scale bombings. Law enforcement is also concerned about anarchist extremists who may be willing to use improvised explosives devices or improvised incendiary devices. (71)
Anarchist extremists in the United States have been involved in illegal activity during mass protests surrounding events such as the 1999 World Trade Organization Ministerial Conference in Seattle, WA.
Anarchist extremists reportedly committed crimes during the 2008 Republican National Convention in St. Paul, MN. (72) To coordinate their protests during the convention, some anarchists formed what they called the "RNC Welcoming Committee" (RNCWC). (73) In September 2007, the RNCWC developed a plan to broadly organize the activities of affinity groups intending to disrupt the convention. Law enforcement infiltrated and undermined these efforts, arresting 800 people, including eight involved with the RNCWC. (74) Initially, in Minnesota state court, the eight "had been charged with felonies: first-degree damage to property and second-degree conspiracy to riot. Prosecutors added a more serious charge of conspiracy to riot in furtherance of terrorism, which was later dismissed." (75) Five of the eight pled guilty to gross misdemeanor charges in 2010. The others had all of the charges they faced dismissed. (76)
On April 30, 2012, five men who reputedly had anarchist sympathies were arrested for purportedly scheming to blow up a bridge near Cleveland, OH. (77) The plot was apparently timed to coincide with peaceful protest activity arranged by Occupy Cleveland, an offshoot of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Occupy Cleveland representatives have stated that the alleged would-be bombers "were in no way representing or acting on behalf of Occupy Cleveland." (78) An FBI sting operation led to the quintet's arrest. (79) Purportedly, the group relied on an undercover FBI employee to supply them with two inert bombs that the conspirators believed were functional. (80)
Criminal acts involving anarchist extremists do not have to be event-driven. For example, Joseph Konopka, the self-dubbed "Dr. Chaos," allegedly led a group of boys he called "The Realm of Chaos" in a series of crimes involving vandalism to radio and cell phone towers in the late 1990s and early 2000s. In 2002, he was arrested in Chicago for storing more than a pound of deadly cyanide powder in a passageway in a Chicago Transit Authority subway tunnel. (81) He had obtained the material (potassium cyanide and sodium cyanide) from an abandoned warehouse. (82) In 2002, Konopka pled guilty in federal court to possessing chemical weapons, and in 2005 he pled guilty to 11 felonies, including conspiracy, arson, creating counterfeit software, and interfering with computers in Wisconsin. (83)
White Supremacist Extremists
The term "white supremacist extremism" (WSE) describes people or groups who commit criminal acts in the name of white supremacist ideology. At its core, white supremacist ideology purports that the white race ranks above all others. WSE draws on the constitutionally protected activities of a broad swath of racist hate-oriented groups active in the United States ranging from the Ku Klux Klan to racist skinheads. Some of these groups have elaborate organizational structures, dues-paying memberships, and media wings. Additionally, many individuals espouse extremist beliefs without having formal membership in any specific organization.
A large proportion of white supremacists dualistically divide the world between whites and all other peoples who are seen as enemies. (84) Particular animus is directed toward Jews and African Americans. In fact, a common racist and revisionist historical refrain is that the civil rights movement succeeded only because Jews orchestrated it behind the scenes. (85)
Scholars indicate that white supremacists believe in racial separation and that society discriminates against them. To them, whites have lost "ground to other groups and ... extreme measures are required to reverse the trend." (86) All of this has been encapsulated in a slogan known as the "Fourteen Words": "We must secure the existence of our race and a future for white children." This was coined by David Lane, a member of a violent terrorist group active in the 1980s. The Fourteen Words have been described as "the most popular white supremacist slogan
in the world." (87)
Neo-Nazism and its obsession with Adolph Hitler and Nazi Germany is also a prominent component of white supremacist extremism in the United States. (88) The father of American neoNazism, George Lincoln Rockwell, became publicly active in the late 1950s. According to one scholar, Rockwell laid down three concepts that have shaped neo-Nazism ever since. For his followers, he reconfigured the racial notion of "white," broadening it beyond "Aryan" to include people of Southern and Eastern European descent. Additionally, Rockwell denied the Holocaust. He also encouraged tying neo-Nazism to religion, and some of his followers took up the obscure creed of Christian Identity. (89)
Conflict and Conspiracy
Aside from racial superiority, a dualistic view of the world, and neo-Nazism, at least two other broad concepts shape white supremacy in the United States. They are the inevitability of violent conflict, and a belief that conspiracies hostile to white supremacy shape the existing world. (90) It can be said that WSE broadly shares these concepts with the militia movement (discussed below).
The FBI has stated that white supremacists "commonly anticipate" waging war against their opponents. (91) For example, the inevitability of RAHOWA--an acronym for "racial holy war"--is a central tenet of the neo-Nazi Creativity Movement, which has its roots in the Church of the Creator, a racist group founded by Ben Klassen in 1973. (92) Klassen, who committed suicide in 1993, argued that whites had no choice but to wage war against non-whites. (93) Likewise, some white supremacists use racism to interpret apocalyptic imagery from Norse mythology embodied in Odinism. (94) Most Odinists are not racists, however. (95)
Conspiracism has been defined as "the idea that most major historic events have been shaped by vast, long-term, secret conspiracies that benefit elite groups and individuals." (96) Conspiracy theories are not the province of a particular movement or group. Regardless, conspiracy theories can particularly shape the outlooks and actions of white supremacist extremists. Media sources have stated that Richard Poplawski--convicted of shooting and killing three Pittsburgh police officers in April 2009--believed that a Zionist conspiracy controlled government and major corporations in the United States. (97)
As in Poplawski's example, anti-Semitism plays a prominent role in the racist conspiracies of many white supremacists. (98) These people--as well as anti-government extremists--believe in something they call the Zionist Occupied Government (ZOG). (99) ZOG refers to the federal government, which adherents contend is "controlled or manipulated by international Jewish interests." (100) On its website, one WSE group has sold versions of a video game titled "ZOG's Nightmare." Gameplay involves shooting nonwhites while being chased by a police agency controlled by Jews. (101) Racists explain all sorts of personal or social grievances by invoking ZOG. (102) One scholar has described ZOG as
an omnipresent and omnipotent cabal involving at its heart varying constellations of Jews, Illuminati, Freemasons, plutocrats, and multinational corporations. It operates through many social 'front' institutions, from the United Nations to Parent-Teacher Associations. ... ZOG can be used to explain not only the existence of affirmative action, environmental pollution, and pornography but also why a certain individual made poor grades in school, lost his job, or seems unable to find a partner. (103)
According to adherents, ZOG is said to control the media, arts, religion, science, and education. (104)
Loss of Prominent Leaders
In the 1980s and 1990s, a small number of figures dominated white supremacist circles. They were intimately linked to their own relatively cohesive organizations. By the early 2000s, these groups fragmented as they lost their leaders. This fragmented situation likely persists. In fact, one study from 2006 has described "a recent crisis of leadership in the hate movement." (105)
Two particularly well-known white supremacist figures died in the last decade. William Pierce, head of the National Alliance died in 2002. Richard Butler, leader of Aryan Nations, died in 2004. Both Peirce and Butler articulated clear ideologies that attracted followers and drew upon resources such as rural headquarters/compounds to sustain their organizations. (106) By the early 2000s, the National Alliance even had a substantial revenue stream estimated at $1 million annually generated from a publishing company and record labels it owned as well as dues. (107) The deaths of Butler and Pierce exacerbated the downfall of both organizations. The decline of these groups also resulted from a number of other forces, such as infighting among members and pressure from law enforcement and watchdog groups. (108)
Two prominent white supremacist movements are discussed below. National Socialist Movement (NSM)
One white supremacist organization active in the United States is the National Socialist Movement (NSM). It has benefitted from the decline of these other groups as well as new leadership in the form of Jeff Schoep. (109) The NSM also capitalized on the expansion of the Internet in the early 2000s. The group, which emerged in 1974, is a descendant of the American Nazi Party, and until the 1990s and early 2000s "it operated only on the fringes of the neo-Nazi movement." (110) As of 2008, the group had around 500 members and close associates throughout the United States. (111) The NSM is flexible about membership, allowing its members to also participate in other white supremacist organizations. (112)
Individuals allegedly tied to the NSM at some point in their lives have run afoul of the law.
* In Minnesota in April 2012, Joseph Benjamin Thomas was indicted on drugrelated charges, and Samuel James Johnson was indicted on weapons-related charges. Purportedly the two were tied to NSM--at one point Johnson had served as its leader in Minnesota. The duo had reportedly formed their own white supremacist group, gathering weapons and ammunition and planning to attack the government and other targets. (113) In June 2012, Johnson pled guilty to "one count of being a felon in possession of firearms." (114) In July 2012, Thomas pled guilty to "possession with intent to distribute more than 50 grams of high-purity methamphetamine." (115)
* In January 2011, William White, a onetime member of the NSM and founder of his own white supremacist organization, was convicted (116) of soliciting violence online against the jury foreman in U.S. v. Matthew Hale. (117) In April 2011, a federal judge reversed White's conviction. The judge ruled that prosecutors had failed to prove that White actually intended to harm the foreman and that White's web posting regarding the foreman was protected by the First Amendment. (118) In an unrelated case, in December 2009, White was convicted of four counts of communicating threats in interstate commerce and one count of witness intimidation. One of the convictions for communicating threats in interstate commerce was later reversed. (119) The witness intimidation charges involved White reportedly attempting to "delay or prevent the testimony" of African Americans in a discrimination case. (120) According to publicly available information, in 2005 and 2006 White was involved with NSM, for a time serving as its national spokesman. (121) His activity with NSM ceased after he had a falling out with Schoep. (122)
In the United States, racist skinheads have a legacy stretching back to the early 1980s.123 However, skinhead culture originated in the United Kingdom in the late 1960s and today has a global reach.124 Since the early 2000s, the movement in the United States has been characterized by a proliferation of regional groups or crews rather than a united core organization.125 In law enforcement circles, racist skinheads have a reputation for violence. This is "reinforced by hatefilled white power music and literature." "[T]hey foster [their reputed toughness] through their appearance (shaved heads or close-cropped hair, white power tattoos) and dress (bomber jackets, 'braces' (suspenders), steel-toed boots." (126)
Skinheads emerged as a non-racist movement among British working-class youth in the late 1960s. These early skinheads rejected the hippie lifestyle and embraced elements of Jamaican culture, particularly reggae and ska music. As immigration from South Asia to the U.K. grew, some white British skinheads embraced racism and neo-Nazism. This racist skinhead variant of the subculture materialized in the U.S. Midwest and in Texas in the early 1980s. (127)
In the mid-1990s, many U.S.-based racist skinhead groups allied with one another to form the Hammerskin Nation (HSN). HSN eventually developed chapters throughout the United States and in Europe. It had its own annual meeting/concert called Hammerfest, ran a record label, and had a publishing company. In the early 2000s, other groups such as the Outlaw Hammerskins, Hoosier State Hammerskins, and Ohio State Skinheads challenged HSN for preeminence. These groups saw HSN as "elitist." (128) In 2011, by one measure, 133 skinhead groups were active in the United States. (129)
In January 2010, the FBI released a bulletin that, among other things, emphasized that some racist skinheads formed the most violent segment of WSE adherents. (130) This supported the findings in a 2008 FBI assessment. (131) Between 2007 and 2009, skinheads were involved in 36 of the 53 violent incidents the FBI identified in the United States as being tied to WSE proponents. (132) The Bureau has stated that "violence is an integral part of the racist skinhead subculture." (133) Elements within the fractious movement even target one another. (134) These criminal acts are typically unrehearsed and opportunistic, targeting nonwhites and "other religious and social minorities." (135)
An apparent recent exception involved greater levels of planning. One man was convicted and two others pled guilty in a Connecticut case that involved the illegal sale of firearms and homemade grenades. The scheme included multiple meetings between late 2008 and early 2010 to negotiate the transactions, prepare the firearms, and assemble the grenades. The trio was tied to a skinhead group known as Battalion 14 (originally called the Connecticut White Wolves). They sold the weapons to a convicted felon working as an FBI cooperating witness. The informant posed as a member of the Imperial Klans of America, a Ku Klux Klan organization. Two others in the case, including the leader of Battalion 14 and a man not tied to the group, were acquitted of charges. (136)
As mentioned above, DOJ considers both unauthorized militias and sovereign citizens as antigovernment extremists. Neither militia membership nor advocacy of sovereign citizen tenets makes one a terrorist or a criminal. However, in some instances both militia members and sovereign citizens have committed crimes driven in part by their ideologies.
The militia movement emerged in the 1990s as a collection of armed, paramilitary groups formed to stave off what they perceived as intrusions of an invasive government. (137) Central to this is a fear of firearm confiscation by a federal government thought to be out of control. Some adherents also believe in anti-Semitic and racist ideologies. (138) Regardless, most militia members engage in constitutionally protected activity.
Militia groups typically coalesce around a specific leader. Groups can run training compounds where they rehearse paramilitary tactics, practice their survival skills, and receive weapons instruction and lessons in movement ideology. Some militia groups also maintain websites for recruitment and fundraising. (139) Extremists within the movement who run afoul of law enforcement "tend to stockpile illegal weapons and ammunition, trying illegally to get their hands on fully automatic firearms or attempting to convert weapons to fully automatic. They also try to buy or manufacture improvised explosive devices. " (140)
Segments of the militia movement believe that the U.S. government is either run by some hidden conspiracy or is an overreaching sham. Some see a "New World Order" controlling U.S. institutions such as the media and the federal government. They contend that this is partly fostered by international organizations such as the United Nations. From this perspective, these organizations sap American sovereignty. Some militia supporters believe that agents of an unauthentic "Shadow Government" are interested in seizing lawfully owned firearms as part of a plan to undermine democracy. (141) Importantly, others in the militia movement hold that the federal government has overstepped its constitutional bounds. (142) One scholar has noted that some militia members assert that they have "the right to organize, purchase and use firearms, and enforce the law against agents of the government who behave unconstitutionally." (143)
A small minority of Americans who held anti-government fears formed militias largely in response to two incidents in the early 1990s. These were confrontations between federal law enforcement and private citizens at Ruby Ridge, ID, and at a site near Waco, TX. (144) Both involved warrants related to firearms violations.
* In August 1992, Randy Weaver and his family were engaged in an 11-day standoff with federal law enforcement agents. Randy Weaver had failed to appear in court on firearms-related charges in 1991. Subsequently, an unsuccessful operation to arrest Weaver led to the death of his 14-year-old son and a U.S. Marshal. It also precipitated the standoff. During the standoff, Weaver and a friend were shot and wounded. An FBI sniper also shot and killed Weaver's wife, Vicki. (145) Weaver was eventually found guilty of failing to appear in court on the gun charges that played a role in the standoff. In October 1993, he was sentenced to 18 months in jail and a $10,000 fine. In 1995, Weaver received a $3.1 million settlement in a wrongful death suit filed against the U.S. government. (146) The events at Ruby Ridge helped precipitate the militia movement, whose members tend to view Randy Weaver as a hero and demonize the federal government. (147)
* The militia movement also emerged because of the 51-day standoff between federal law enforcement and a religious sect named the Branch Davidians near Waco. (148) On February 28, 1993, an unsuccessful attempt by ATF agents to arrest the sect's leader, David Koresh, initiated the events near Waco. He was wanted on suspicion of federal firearms and explosives violations. (149) Four ATF agents and six Branch Davidians died in a gunfight during the operation. (150) Protracted discussions followed between federal negotiators and Koresh. These failed. On April 19, federal agents assaulted the Davidian compound, which caught on fire. At least 75 Branch Davidians perished in the assault. (151)
If the incidents involving the Weavers and the Branch Davidians helped form the militia movement, Timothy McVeigh's bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995, helped usher in a temporary decline. (152) In the bombing's aftermath, militia groups received greater law enforcement scrutiny. (153) The bombing claimed 168 lives, and until 9/11 was the largest single act of terrorism on U.S. soil. The militia movement included 441 groups in 1995. By 2000, this number was reportedly down to 72. (154) Although McVeigh's bombing cannot fully account for a dip in militia activity, it impacted the movement by causing some groups to temper their rhetoric while others grew more extreme, and militias became more marginalized. (155)
The militia movement has experienced a recent resurgence. One watchdog group has attributed this partly to a rise in anti-government anger since 2008. (156) According to another organization, the number of militias in the United States jumped from 42 in 2008 to 334 in 2011 (see Figure 1).
The recent resurgence may exhibit a key difference from its precursor. Social networking websites have encouraged looser organization of smaller, largely web-based cells. (157)
Several examples highlight how some militia adherents have allegedly engaged in criminal activity since 9/11.
* In November 2011, the FBI arrested four retirees, Samuel J. Crump, Ray H. Adams, Dan Roberts, and Frederick W. Thomas, who allegedly formed a fringe militia group and planned violent attacks on government officials. The group, based in northern Georgia, purportedly had ties to an unnamed militia organization. According to DOJ, the quartet "discussed multiple criminal activities, ranging from murder; theft; manufacturing and using toxic agents; and assassinations in an effort to undermine federal and state government and to advance their interests." (158) Between June and November 2011, Roberts and Thomas met with an FBI undercover agent to negotiate the purchase of materiel for the plot: "a silencer for a rifle and conversion parts to make a fully automatic rifle, as well as explosives." (159) In October, plotters reportedly discussed making ricin, a deadly poison derived from castor beans. (160) In April 2012, Roberts and Thomas pled guilty to conspiring to obtain an unregistered explosive device and silencer. (161)
* In June 2012, three individuals were found guilty in Anchorage, AK of conspiracy and firearms charges related to a scheme purportedly led by Francis "Schaeffer" Cox. (162) He and his followers allegedly plotted "a potential retaliatory response to any attempt by law enforcement to arrest Cox, who had an outstanding bench warrant for not attending a trial over a misdemeanor weapons charge." (163) They were members of the Alaska Peacemaker's Militia based in Fairbanks, AK and also held sovereign citizen beliefs. The plotters supposedly codenamed their plan "241 (two for one)," because they reputedly intended to kill two government officials for every militia member killed in the operation. (164)
The above alleged activities are not necessarily indicative of trends toward violence in the larger militia movement, and in one prominent case, DOJ failed to convince the presiding judge of serious charges revolving around a purported violent plot. In March 2012, a federal judge acquitted members of a Michigan Militia group known as the Hutaree on charges of seditious conspiracy or rebellion against the United States and conspiring to use weapons of mass destruction. The judge also cleared the accused Hutaree members of weapons crimes related to the conspiracies. (165)
The case garnered headlines in March 2010, when nine Hutaree members were indicted for allegedly preparing to violently confront U.S. law enforcement. (166) Their supposed plotting included the murder of a local law enforcement officer and an attack on fellow officers who gathered in Michigan for the funeral procession. According to DOJ, the Hutaree discussed the use of explosives against the funeral procession. (167) Audio recordings by an undercover FBI agent of reputed Hutaree leader David Brian Stone capture him discussing the New World Order and how, "it's time to strike and take our nation back so we will be free of tyranny. ... The war will come whether we are ready or not." (168) According to DOJ, the group had a hit list that included federal judges, among others. (169) However, during the trial an Assistant U.S. Attorney acknowledged that the Hutaree had not formed a "specific plan" to attack government targets. (170) U.S. District Judge Victoria Roberts stated that, "The court is aware that protected speech and mere words can be sufficient to show a conspiracy. In this case, however, they do not rise to that level," (171) Three Hutaree members pled guilty to firearms charges. (172)
Sovereign Citizen Movement
The FBI defines the sovereign citizen movement as "anti-government extremists who believe that even though they physically reside in this country, they are separate or 'sovereign' from the United States. As a result, they do not accept any government authority, including courts, taxing entities, motor vehicle departments, or law enforcement." (173) However, simply holding these views is not a criminal act, and numerous movement adherents solely exercise their beliefs via constitutionally protected activities.
The ideas behind the movement originated during the 1970s with a group known as the Posse Comitatus and enjoyed some popularity in extremist circles during the 1980s and 1990s. (174) Early on, the movement featured white supremacist elements, but this has not kept some African Americans from subscribing to its ideals in recent years. (175) In the 1990s, the movement attracted 250,000 followers and was marked by the FBI's standoff with a group known as the Montana Freemen that lasted 81 days. (176) Current estimates suggest a membership of 300,000. (177)
For the most part, the sovereign citizen movement is diffuse and includes few organized groups. (178) The FBI suggests that sovereigns "operate as individuals without established leadership and only come together in loosely affiliated groups to train, help each other with paperwork [critical to some of their schemes], or socialize and talk about their ideology." (179) The movement involves leaders described as "gurus" who proselytize online, in print publications, or via inperson seminars. These gurus rouse followers into believing a conspiracy theory in which the legitimate federal government has been replaced by a government designed to take away the rights of ordinary citizens. (180) This shares the same broad interplay between concepts of legitimate and illegitimate rule seen in the New World Order and WSE theories about ZOG. Gurus can also promote illegal techniques that individuals can use to supposedly cut their ties to the federal government or avoid its reach, particularly when it comes to taxation. (181)
Sovereign citizens reject the legitimacy of much of the U.S. legal system. (182) Many believe that the 14th Amendment "shifted the nation from its original common-law roots with states' rights to a federal corporation that legally enslaved everyone." (183) According to movement members, the amendment ushered in an illegitimate federal government by supposedly abrogating individual rights and replacing them with a system that "grant[ed] privileges through contracts such as marriage and driver's licenses, gun permits, and property codes." (184)
By ignoring all sorts of laws, avoiding taxes, disregarding permit requirements, and destroying government-issued identification documents, some sovereign citizens have tried to cut formal ties with what they perceive as an illegitimate regime. (185) Sovereigns have filed court documents stating that they are not U.S. citizens. (186) They have also created bogus financial documents to harass or defraud their enemies. (For more information, see the "Paper Terrorism": Liens, Frivolous Lawsuits, and Tax Schemes" section in this report).
Sovereign citizens have in some instances created fictitious entities and used fake currency, passports, license plates, and driver licenses. In 2009, a federal jury found three men guilty of conspiring to use and sell fraudulent diplomatic credentials and license plates that they believed allowed "their customers [to] enjoy diplomatic immunity and [to] no longer ... pay taxes or be subject to being stopped, detained, or arrested by law enforcement personnel." (187) In 2003, Ronald K. Delorme developed the Pembina Nation Little Shell Band of North America (188) into a sovereign citizen group. (189) It is a sham Native American tribe that anyone can join to try and avoid taxes and government-imposed costs, such as auto registration fees. For example, news reports indicate that in June 2010, a sheriff's deputy in Florida pulled over John McCombs when the law enforcement official noticed a Pembina Nation Little Shell license plate on the motorcycle McCombs was driving. According to publicly available sources, McCombs presented a fraudulent letter of diplomatic immunity and an invalid Pembina Nation Little Shell vehicle registration. (190)
Some sovereign citizen fraud appears to be motivated by economic opportunism rather than ideology. (191) This includes "pyramid schemes, other investment schemes, bogus trust scams, real estate fraud, and various types of tax frauds [as well as] more esoteric scams ... ranging from immigration fraud to malpractice insurance fraud." (192) In November 2011, husband and wife Monty and Patricia Ervin were convicted in federal court of conspiring to defraud the United States as well as three counts of tax evasion. In addition, the federal jury convicted Patricia of structuring transactions to avoid bank reporting requirements. (193) The couple allegedly had not filed federal income tax returns between 2000 and 2008, denied their U.S. citizenship, and dubbed themselves "sovereign" when the IRS investigated. (194) The Ervins earned more than $9 million from investment properties they owned. (195) A group of self-proclaimed sovereign citizens in North Georgia was indicted in March 2011 for using sovereign schemes to allegedly steal millions of dollars worth of real estate. (196)
In a few recent cases, avowed sovereign citizens have been involved in violent altercations with law enforcement officers. According to a September 2011 FBI publication, since 2000 "lone-offender sovereign-citizen extremists have killed six law enforcement officers," and the Bureau sees sovereign citizens as a growing threat to U.S. law enforcement. (197)
* Perhaps the most publicized example of alleged sovereign violence directed at police occurred in 2010. In May of that year, two self-professed sovereign citizens were involved in a violent confrontation with West Memphis, TN, police officers. During a traffic stop, Joe Kane fired an AK-47 assault rifle and killed two officers. Kane and his father Jerry fled the scene. Law enforcement sighted their vehicle in a nearby parking lot 90 minutes later. The duo died in the ensuing shootout, which also wounded two more officers. (198) The FBI had investigated Jerry Kane five years before the murders because he was allegedly traversing the United States peddling what the FBI termed a "debt elimination scheme." (199)
In June 2012, the FBI issued a bulletin suggesting that some sovereign extremists may be moving away from more spontaneous violence simply in reaction to encounters with police and are potentially preparing for conflict in advance, "making more specific plans to interfere with state and local law enforcement officers during traffic stops and, in some cases, intentionally initiating contact with law enforcement." (200)
Other cases have garnered attention. For example, in July 2011 James M. Tesi allegedly shot at a local police officer trying to arrest him near Fort Worth, TX. Tesi was reportedly wounded in the altercation. Outstanding "arrest warrants for speeding, driving without a license in possession, and failure to appear" prompted the attempted apprehension. (201) Court documents described in news reporting noted that Tesi linked himself to a sovereign citizen group. (202) In February 2012, Tesi was found "guilty of aggravated assault on a public servant with a deadly weapon." (203) In June 2011, a police officer in Page, AZ, shot and killed William Foust while responding to a domestic violence 911 call. The shooting reportedly occurred during a physical struggle in which Foust attempted to "gain control of the police officer's Taser. (204) According to a press account, Foust had declared his sovereign citizen status in court proceedings in Kenab, UT (about 75 miles from Page), related to a speeding ticket. (205)
Black Separatist Extremists
DOJ includes black separatism in its list of movements that potentially spawn domestic terrorists. (206) However, most black separatists solely engage in constitutionally protected behavior. Since 9/11, there has been little public discussion of federal investigations involving black separatist extremists. One group exhibiting what can be described as black separatist views, the New Black Panther Party for Self Defense (NBPP), received national scrutiny over voter intimidation allegations involving members of its Philadelphia chapter during the 2008 federal general election.
The NBPP emerged in the early 1990s, and it is not tied to the Black Panthers from the 1960s. (207) Watchdog groups have described the NBPP as "a virulently racist and anti-Semitic organization whose leaders have encouraged violence against whites, Jews, and law enforcement officers," (208) as well as "the largest organized anti-Semitic and racist black militant group in America." (209) The NBPP, which denies that it is a hate group, engages in "high-profile" rhetoric at rallies or demonstrations intended to encourage confrontation with authorities. The group's actions occur "on behalf of the poor or disadvantaged, involving the ready display of firearms." (210) As an example of the rhetoric the group uses, an NBPP representative characterized the March 2011 shooting death of a drug suspect in Jacksonville, FL, as "a violent act of terrorism" committed by police. (211) Soon after the shooting, the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office said that the confrontation involved undercover officers serving a search warrant at an apartment. Officers claimed that inside the apartment, the victim--an alleged drug dealer with a criminal record--was holding a firearm. (212)
In 2008, the Philadelphia, PA, chapter of the NBPP was involved in a case that generated public controversy. A 2009 civil suit filed by DOJ claimed that two NBPP members wearing the group's paramilitary uniforms loitered around the entrance to a 2008 federal general election polling station in Philadelphia. One of the NBPP members allegedly carried a nightstick. According to DOJ, some poll watchers feared for their safety because of this activity. Philadelphia police officers responding to claims of voter intimidation removed the nightstick-wielding NBPP member and allowed the other to remain (the latter was a certified poll watcher). Police asked people at the polling station whether they had been threatened by the two individuals. All those questioned replied that they had not. However, at least one individual claimed that the presence of the two NBPP members had been intimidating. (213) The NBPP disavowed the actions of its two members. (214) In May 2009, DOJ voluntarily dismissed claims against defendants in the case, and a July 2009 letter from 10 members of Congress to DOJ's Inspector General questioned the decision to do so. DOJ's Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) investigated, and in March 2011, OPR issued a report which argued that DOJ officials did not act inappropriately regarding the matter. (215)
The vast majority of anti-abortion activists engage in constitutionally protected activity. However, anti-abortion extremism involves crime committed in the name of the anti-abortion movement. Sixty-six instances of "extreme violence" targeting abortion providers and clinics occurred in the United States from 1997 through 2010, according to one group that supports abortion rights and tracks criminal activity intended to limit access to abortion services. (216) These cases involved shootings, bombings, arson incidents, and acid attacks. (217) Since 1993, eight clinic workers have been murdered by anti-abortion extremists in the United States. (218) Because of a wave of violence focused on abortion providers in the 1980s and early 1990s, Congress passed and President Clinton signed into law the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act (FACE Act) (18 U.S.C. [section]248) in 1994. (219) As with other types of domestic terrorism investigations, it is unclear exactly which incidents of violence perpetrated against abortion providers the FBI considers terrorist acts.
The 2009 murder of George Tiller, an abortion provider, received sizeable public attention. On January 29, 2010, Scott Roeder was convicted of first-degree murder and two counts of aggravated assault for killing Tiller. Roeder shot Tiller while the latter was at church on May 31, 2009. Roeder was sentenced to "life in prison with no possibility of parole for 50 years." (220)
A number of other unrelated schemes targeting abortion clinics have been uncovered since Roeder's arrest. These incidents appear to involve individuals largely operating alone.
* In January 2012, Bobby Joe Rogers was charged in the firebombing of a Pensacola, FL, abortion clinic on New Year's Day 2012. The bombing destroyed the clinic, which had been targeted in the past. (221) In February 2012, a federal grand jury indicted him on two counts--arson and damaging a reproductive health facility. (222) He pled guilty to the charges in July 2012. (223)
* In May 2011, Ralph Lang was arrested after allegedly accidently firing his handgun through the door of the hotel room in Madison, WI. He was reportedly planning to kill abortion providers in the area. (224)
One underground network that supports attacks on abortion clinics is the Army of God (AOG). (225) The loosely structured organization openly promotes anti-abortion violence. (226) However, its members deny that they are terrorists. They also deny that attacks against clinics and abortion providers constitute violent activity, because they see it as "Godly work." (227) AOG first made headlines with the 1982 kidnapping of a doctor and his wife, both of whom ran an abortion clinic in Illinois. Three individuals who claimed membership in AOG were responsible. (228) The group disseminates a manual that "is a 'how to' for abortion clinic violence. It details methods for blockading entrances, attacking with butyric acid, arson, bomb making, and other illegal activities. The manual contains anti-abortion language as well as anti-government and antigay/lesbian language. The manual begins with a declaration of war on the abortion industry. " (229)
Eric Rudolph, who in the late 1990s bombed an abortion clinic near Atlanta, GA, and one in Birmingham, AL, "published his writings on the Army of God website." (230)
Protected Activities vs. Terrorism--Divergent Perceptions of the ALF
The boundary between constitutionally protected legitimate protest and terrorist activity has received much attention in public discussions of domestic terrorism. As an example of this, the next several sections of this report explore such considerations regarding the ALF.
A Serious Domestic Concern or "Green Scare?"
U.S. law enforcement, some business groups, and some scientists--among others--have stressed that animal rights extremists (and eco-terrorists) are a security and law enforcement concern. In 2008, the FBI stated that animal rights extremists and eco-terrorists together posed a serious domestic terrorism threat for several reasons, including the number of crimes attributed to animal rights extremists and eco-terrorists (between 1,800 and 2,000 incidents accounting for more than $110 million (231) in damages from 1979 to early 2009), the broad pool of victims (such as large pharmaceutical corporations, scientific laboratories, ski resorts, automobile dealerships, individual researchers, and lumber companies), and the movement's rhetoric and destructive tactics. (232) In March 2012, the FBI suggested that the threat from eco-terrorists may be declining in recent years. (233)
As articulated by some scientific researchers, the monetary toll on legitimate businesses and laboratories in the United States exacted by animal rights and eco extremists is compounded by less tangible issues. For example, animal rights extremists and eco-terrorists have impacted the work of scientists. In some cases, special equipment and research materials have been destroyed in attacks. The consequences of criminal activity in the name of movements such as the ALF can also be more personal. Two advocates of animal research conducted strictly according to federal regulations have noted that the actions of animal rights extremists have pushed some scientists to quit lab work involving animals. Often, this work relates to products and procedures that some maintain cannot feasibly be marketed without animal testing. (234) In 2006, a UCLA professor of behavioral neuroscience declared he was stopping his research on monkeys because of what he described as harassment by animal rights groups. (235) Additionally, animal rights extremists are said to be driving out students from research programs. (236)
Critics of U.S. efforts to fight animal rights extremism and eco-terrorism have suggested that the threat is overblown by law enforcement and that the government's pursuit of purported extremists perpetuates a "green scare," chilling the exercise of protected speech by protesters. (237) Some say that the government conflates property crime with terrorism. (238) Others add that people engaged in what the government describes as animal rights extremism or eco-terrorism do not deserve the terrorist label.
Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (P.L. 109-374)
The Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (P.L. 109-374; AETA) expanded the federal government's legal authority to combat animal rights extremists who engage in criminal activity. Signed into law in November 2006, it amended the 1992 Animal Enterprise Protection Act (P.L. 102-346; AEPA). Namely, the AETA
Amends the federal criminal code to revise criminal prohibitions against damaging or interfering with the operations of an animal enterprise to include intentional damage or loss to any real or personal property and intentional threats of death or serious bodily injury against individuals (or their family members, spouses, or intimate partners) who are involved with animal enterprises. (239)
The AETA expanded the AEPA to include both successful and attempted conspiracies. It also prohibits intentionally placing a person in "reasonable fear" of death or serious bodily injury while damaging or interfering in the operations of an animal enterprise. The AETA revised and increased monetary and criminal penalties. It also stipulates that it does not prohibit First Amendment-protected activity.
DOJ successfully prosecuted individuals on charges relating to animal enterprise terrorism for the first time under the AEPA in 2006 (the case had been built before the AETA had been signed into law). (240) Six individuals were convicted for what DOJ described as "their roles in a campaign to terrorize officers, employees, and shareholders of HLS [Huntingdon Life Sciences, a research corporation that performs animal research and has U.K. and U.S. facilities]." (241) These individuals belonged to an animal rights campaign named Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC) (242) and the entity SHAC USA, Inc. SHAC involves both legal protests and criminal activity against HLS.
Reportedly, the six incited threats, harassment, and vandalism and on this basis were convicted of violating the AEPA. (243) DOJ has noted that SHAC's stated mission was to work "outside the confines of the legal system." (244) DOJ proved in court that the group managed websites that encouraged others "to direct their intimidation, harassment, and violence against HLS and its targeted employees, as well as secondary targets--companies and employees who did business with HLS." (245)
DOJ has also successfully applied the AETA. For example, on February 14, 2011, Scott DeMuth was sentenced to six months in prison on one count of misdemeanor conspiracy to commit animal enterprise terrorism. He was involved in a raid that released about 200 ferrets at a Minnesota farm in 2006. Activists had claimed the action in the name of the ALF. (246) In another case, William James Viehl and Alex Hall were sentenced to 24 months and 21 months in prison, respectively, under AETA. The duo had released 650 minks, destroyed breeding records, and vandalized structures at the McMullin Ranch in South Jordan, UT, in 2008. (247)
DOJ has experienced at least one setback in its application of the AETA. In February 2009, the FBI announced the arrests of what it described as "four animal rights extremists." The four (two women, two men, all in their 20s) allegedly violated the AETA by using "force, violence, or threats to interfere with the operation of the University of California." (248) The incidents leading to the indictment included protests at the houses of researchers from the University of California, Berkeley and University of California, Santa Cruz. According to the FBI's press release, in one instance, three of the indicted individuals tried to forcibly enter the home of a researcher, whose husband was hit by an object while confronting the protesters. (249) In July 2010, a federal judge dismissed the indictment against the four. According to the ruling, the indictment failed to specifically describe crimes allegedly committed by the defendants. (250) Opponents of the prosecution stress that the case involved over-broad application of AETA to First Amendmentprotected behaviors. (251)
Criticisms of federal government efforts to counter animal rights extremists have focused on the AETA itself and First Amendment-related issues. Opponents of the AETA suggest that it expanded the AEPA too much by making it easier to prosecute individuals who wage protest campaigns against secondary or tertiary targets--companies or people (such as insurers) indirectly tied to an animal enterprise. (252) Opponents also take issue with the inclusion of "reasonable fear" in the AETA, suggesting that protected speech or activities may possibly be interpreted as provoking "reasonable fear" in some instances. Echoing critiques of the AETA, one observer emphasizes that while activities linked to U.S.-based animal rights extremists have caused significant property damage, none of these criminal acts has physically harmed people. This critic suggests that describing vandalism or arson as terrorism and not ordinary crime dampens constitutionally protected protest activity by people who support animal rights or radical environmentalism but do not engage in criminal activity. (253) In essence, this position argues that the U.S. government is encouraging a "green scare" by labeling the activity of movements such as the ALF and the ELF as terrorism or extremism. (254) After serving 40 months in prison for her involvement with SHAC USA, Lauren Gazzola argued that she was not a terrorist, claiming, "I hadn't hurt anyone or vandalized any property. In fact, the indictment didn't allege that I'd committed any independent crime at all, only that I'd 'conspired' to publish a website that advocated and reported on protest activity against a notorious animal testing lab in New Jersey." (255)
The U.S. Code's definition of "domestic terrorism" has been seen by some as potentially chilling to legitimate animal rights and environmental protest activities. (256) As mentioned, the current delineation of domestic terrorism in the U.S. Code includes criminal acts "dangerous to human life" that appear to intend to intimidate or coerce a civilian population or influence governmental policy via intimidation or coercion. This line of reasoning suggests that the crimes committed by animal rights extremists and eco-terrorists cannot be compared to clearly violent attacks by groups such as Al Qaeda. An opposing commentary stresses that such discussion is irrelevant and
miss[es] the mark. The ALF ideology encourages members to instill fear in those who engage in the activities that the ALF opposes: fear of harm to themselves and their families, and fear of personal and professional economic loss. Additionally, these arguments assume that "true terrorism" is fundamentally different from animal rights terrorism. While it is true that animal rights terrorism, as a whole, does not engage in the same scale of violence as other extremist groups, those working in academia, research, agriculture, and food service industries are no less fearful when their homes and workplaces are firebombed; violent tactics can instill fear even when they are used infrequently. (257)
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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|
|Next Article:||Assessing domestic terrorism's significance.|