The Murder of Alan Berg: How Right-Wing Extremism Turns Deadly
On the night of June 18, 1984, an unforgettable Jewish progressive voice was silenced forever. Alan Berg, an outspoken progressive Jewish radio host in Denver, Colorado, is gunned down by Robert Jay Matthews, a white supremacist with ties to the Neo-Nazi movement. Throughout decades past, the Neo-Nazis have been allowed to express their controversial bigoted views without fear of legal recourse against them. Yet, when a progressive voice wants to have the same freedom afforded to him, right-wing extremists want him dead.
Fast-forward almost 40 years. Right-wing extremism is ever present in the United States, in the radio and television mouthpieces of Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Michael Savage, Herman Cain, Mark Levin, Alex Jones, Glenn Beck, and countless others. The lingering racist twinges in the rhetoric of the current Republican Party bring back dark memories of the controversial right-wing extremist movements. Almost forty years later, not much has changed. Right-wing extremists still want liberals, progressives, and Democrats dead. Countless acts of hatred, racism, and violence have permeated throughout legislatures around the country.
The dangerous rhetoric of the Republican Party mirrors the controversial right-wing extremists that killed Alan Berg. Former Florida Representative Allen West wanted a list of all Communists serving in the US Congress, mirroring McCarthy’s actions during World War II. Radio hosts have used violence-twinged languages and hyperbole, not realizing that their words have influenced racism, violence, and acts of domestic terrorism in our country.
Almost forty years after Alan Berg’s murder, the rhetoric remains unchanged. Right-wing extremists continue to inflict their hatred and rhetoric on American society, like a plague seeking to end American progress. The family of Alan Berg continues to grieve over their devastating loss. No one deserves to be killed over their political affiliation, their ideology, or their beliefs.
What follows is an account of what happened to Alan Berg, what led up to his assassination, and how Alan Berg’s death should be a wake-up call to how violence-twinged language and all-out hatred of fellow American can spawn tragedies such as this. I hope this report is eye-opening and informative.
The Murder of Alan Berg
Alan Berg, a Jewish, progressive talk show host for Denver’s KOA 850 AM Radio, is gunned down in his driveway as he is stepping out of his car. The murder is carried out by members of the violent white-supremacist group The Order (see Late September 1983), a splinter group of the Aryan Nations white nationalist movement. Berg, who was described as often harsh and abrasive, regularly confronted right-wing and militia members on his show. Federal investigators learn that The Order’s “hit list” includes Berg, television producer Norman Lear, a Kansas federal judge, and Morris Dees, a civil rights lawyer and co-founder of the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). Radio producer Anath White later says that some of Berg’s last shows were particularly rancorous, involving confrontational exchanges with anti-Semitic members of the Christian Identity movement (see 1960s and After). “That got him on the list and got him moved up the list to be assassinated,” White will say. [HistoryLink, 12/6/2006; Rocky Mountain News, 5/1/2007; Denver Post, 6/18/2009]
Preparing for the Murder - Order leader Robert Jay Mathews had already sent a colleague to Denver to determine if Berg was a viable target (see May 17, 1984). The four members of the assassination team—Mathews, Bruce Pierce, David Lane, and Richard Scutari—assemble at a local Motel 6 to review their plans. Pierce, the assassin, has brought a .45 caliber Ingram MAC-10 submachine gun for the job. All four men begin to surveill Berg’s townhouse.
Gunned Down - At 9:21 p.m., Berg drives his Volkswagen Beetle into his driveway. Lane, the driver, pulls up behind him. Mathews leaps out of the car and opens the rear door for Pierce, who jumps out and runs up the driveway. Berg exits his vehicle with a bag of groceries. Pierce immediately opens fire with his submachine gun, pumping either 12 or 13 bullets into Berg’s face and body before the gun jams. (Sources claim both figures of bullet wounds in Berg as accurate.) Pierce and Mathews get back into their car, rush back to the Motel 6, gather their belongings, and leave town. Three of the four members of the “hit squad” will soon be apprehended, charged, and convicted. Pierce is sentenced to 252 years in prison, including time for non-related robberies, and will die in prison in 2010; Lane is given 150 years, and will die in prison in 2007. Neither man is prosecuted for murder, as the evidence will be determined to be inconclusive; rather, they will be charged with violating Berg’s civil rights. Scutari, accused of serving as a lookout for Pierce, and Jean Craig, accused of collecting information on Berg for the murder, will both be acquitted of culpability in the case, but will be convicted of other unrelated crimes. Mathews will not be charged due to lack of evidence of his participation; months later, he will die in a confrontation with law enforcement officials (see December 8, 1984). [Rocky Mountain News, 5/1/2007; Denver Post, 6/18/2009; Denver Post, 8/17/2010] In sentencing Pierce to prison, Judge Richard Matsch will say of the murder, “The man [Berg] was killed for who he was, what he believed in, and what he said and did, and that crime strikes at the very core of the Constitution.” [Denver Post, 8/17/2010]
Re-Enacting a Fictional Murder? - Some will come to believe that the assassins may have attempted to re-enact the fictional murder of a Jewish talk-show host depicted in The Turner Diaries (see 1978). [Rocky Mountain News, 5/1/2007; The Moderate Voice, 11/30/2007]
'Opening Shot … of a Truly Revolutionary Radical Right' - Mark Potok of the SPLC will characterize Berg’s murder as an early event leading to the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995). “In a sense, it was one of the opening shots of a truly revolutionary radical right,” Potok will say, “perfectly willing to countenance the mass murder of American civilians for their cause.” [Denver Post, 6/18/2009] Berg’s ex-wife, Judith Berg, will travel around the country in the years after her ex-husband’s murder, speaking about what she calls the “disease and anatomy of hate,” a sickness that can infect people so strongly that they commit horrible crimes. In 2007, she will tell a reporter that Berg’s murder was a watershed event that inspired more hate-movement violence. “What happened to Alan in the grown-up world has reached into the youth culture,” she will say. “It opened the door to an acceptance of violence as a means of acting on hate.… While our backs are turned toward overseas, hate groups are having a heyday. People are very unhappy; they’re out of work and jobs are scarce. They’re ripe for joining extremist groups. We need to understand what happened to make sure it doesn’t happen again.” [Rocky Mountain News, 5/1/2007] White later says of Pierce, Lane, and their fellows: “It’s left me to wonder what makes somebody like this. I think these people didn’t have much opportunity in their lives and scapegoat. They blame others for not making it.” [Denver Post, 8/17/2010]
Three FBI agents in a green US Forest Service truck drive onto the wooded Idaho property of Gary Yarborough, a member of the white supremacist group The Order (see August 1984 and After). They are met with gunfire and retreat. They return in the evening with a search warrant. Yarborough has fled into the woods (and will escape to join leader Robert Jay Mathews), but in his cabin the agents find a large collection of evidence of The Order’s crimes, including documents, explosives, gas grenades, cases of ammunition, pistols, shotguns, rifles, two Ingram MAC-10 submachine guns with silencers, gas masks, knives, crossbows, assault vests, radio frequency scanners, and other equipment. Among the cache of weapons is the MAC-10 used to kill Denver radio host Alan Berg (see June 18, 1984 and After). Based on the evidence found in Yarborough’s cabin, the FBI decides to begin arresting members of The Order. [HistoryLink, 12/6/2006]
David Lane was the Renaissance man of late 20th-century white nationalism. But the conspirator, writer, publisher, and theologian is best known on the radical right for coining the “14 Words,” a very popular white supremacist slogan: “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for White children.” Also popular is Lane’s “88 Precepts,” a list of statements on what he calls “natural law.” (Among neo-Nazis, because H is the eighth letter of the alphabet, 88 stands for “Heil Hitler.”) Lane was known for big proclamations. In his first trial, he told the court: “I do not recognize a government whose single aim is to exterminate my race. … I have given all that I have and all that I am to awake the people from their sleep of death.”
David Lane was born in Iowa in 1938. An alcoholic, Lane’s father regularly beat his four children and their mother until his death in 1942, according to David. When Lane’s mother could not make ends meet, a young Lutheran minister and his wife adopted the 4-year-old boy. According to his autobiography, Lane first became disgusted with Christianity and bored with the idea of Jesus Christ while traveling from parish to parish with his adopted parents. As a child, he was strangely obsessed with Adolf Hitler and National Socialism and often impersonated the flat-hand salute while playing World War II games with his brother.
After graduating from high school in Aurora, Colo., and losing his job as a real estate broker for refusing to sell homes in white neighborhoods to black customers, Lane began exploring the world of organized hate. In the 1960s, he joined the John Birch Society, which focused obsessively on the threat of communism and made frequent allegations of communism against various personalities up to and including President Eisenhower. Lane soon left the group because he felt that its single-minded focus on communism was misguided. For Lane, Jews were the real enemy, a position explicitly rejected by the John Birch Society. As he wrote later: “By 1978 my research was essentially complete and the real problem was sharp in my mind. The Western nations were ruled by a Zionist conspiracy.”
Lane then wrote his first pamphlet, “The Death of the White Race,” and distributed copies all over Denver before becoming an organizer of the Denver chapter of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. Between 1979 and 1983, he went even deeper into the world of white hate groups and their ideas. His main association then was with the Hitler-worshipping Aryan Nations, which practices Christian Identity, an anti-Semitic theology that preaches that Jews are the literal descendants of Satan. But he would soon turn his back on Christian Identity in favor of a racist version of the pre-Christian pagan religion commonly known as Odinism.
Disenchanted with the lack of action that characterized his network of white supremacists, Lane sought a more proactive path. In 1983, he met Robert Mathews, a recruiter for the neo-Nazi National Alliance, and joined Matthews’ new terrorist group, Bruders Schweigen (The Silent Brotherhood), which later became known as The Order. The Order, a far more radical and violence-prone organization than even its KKK and Aryan Nations counterparts, fought to kick off a race-based revolution that Mathews hoped would ultimately lead to an all-white nation.
Survival of whites was David Lane’s central concern, for he believed that integration would ultimately destroy, through miscegenation, the “Aryan” race. To that end, The Order’s plan was loosely based on The Turner Diaries, a racist novel by National Alliance chief William Pierce that depicted racist revolutionaries destroying Jews, “race mixers,” government agents and other enemies in a nationwide race war. To raise funds, Order members took on a lucrative trail-clearing contract, but when the work became taxing, they sought other illegal means of raising money for the revolution: counterfeiting and bank robbery. On June 19, 1984, 12 members of The Order robbed a Brinks armored car of $3.6 million in Ukiah, Calif.; the group also robbed two other armored cars, but with less lucrative results. Later, as officials realized that a single group was behind these crimes and others, an intensive investigation began that ultimately led to the arrest on counterfeiting-related charges of Tom Martinez, who became an informant as part of the plea bargain.
The resulting FBI crackdown, dubbed “Operation Clean Sweep,” ended with the destruction of The Order and the death of Mathews in a fiery 1984 shootout with the FBI, and sent Lane and his partners to trial on three separate occasions. In 1985, he and 22 others faced charges of racketeering and conspiracy; he received a 40-year sentence. In October 1987, Lane and three others were charged with violating the civil rights of Alan Berg, a talk-radio host murdered outside his Denver home for speaking out against white supremacists on the air. Lane drove the getaway car. After receiving a 150-year sentence, to be served after his earlier 40-year sentence, Lane held up a sign that read, “Remember Whidbey Island”— a reference to the island near Seattle where Mathews fought it out with federal agents and was killed.
In prison, Lane wrote furiously, producing many articles for extremist journals with the overriding theme of racial survival. It was there that he authored the “14 Words” and “88 Precepts.” Always anxious to move beyond rhetoric, Lane wrote the article “Strategy,” in which he called for a group of white families to relocate to a remote country. There, they could breed Aryan children and take over the local political system, creating a haven where the white race could prosper. His numerous writings relentlessly targeted the Jews, Christianity, and law enforcement, which he considered “the most brutal and unthinking segment of the population.”
To create an official outlet for his popular writings, Lane and wife Katja Lane, whom he married while in prison in 1994, established the 14 Word Press in 1995, dedicated to promotion of Lane’s racist ideology and his religion, which he called Wotanism (the Germanic word for Odinism; he also described the theology’s name as an acronym for “Will Of The Aryan Nation”). The theology is a version of the pre-Christian religion more commonly known as Odinism, and incorporates worship of Thor, Odin and other Norse-Germanic gods into an ideology promoting the survival of the Germanic culture and the Aryan race. (Devotees and scholars of these ancient religions have repeatedly pointed out that racism is not an original component of Odinism, but rather a product of Lane’s and others’ own creation.) Wotanism served as Lane’s main point of difference from the “Christian” white supremacist organizations and was adopted by most members of The Order.
Katja Lane ran the 14 Word Press, along with friend Ron McVan, out of her home in St. Maries, Idaho, for several years. But in 2001, she announced that she was handing over responsibility for the press to Steve Wiegand of Micetrap Distribution, a New Jersey-based hate-music producer. The press has since gone defunct.
David Lane died in prison on May 28, 2007, of epilepsy complications. His death touched off paeans from racists around the country and abroad. June 30 was designated a “Global Day of Remembrance” for Lane, with demonstrations held in at least five U.S. cities as well as England, Germany, Russia and the Ukraine.
Meanwhile, neo-Nazi activist April Gaede, a Kalispell, Mont., resident who had corresponded frequently with Lane and was given custody of his body, announced with great fanfare that she and “the gals from WAU,” a white supremacist group whose full name is Women for Aryan Unity, had established a David Lane Memorial Fund to cover the expenses of interring Lane’s remains. According to Gaede, Lane had told her that he wanted to be cremated and have his ashes placed in the capstone of a pyramid monument placed in a white homeland. However, Gaede wrote on the racist online forum Stormfront.org, “Since we are not in a situation to build a monument in a White homeland,” she was arranging instead to distribute Lane’s ashes among 14 smaller, portable pyramids, which would then be enshrined in the homes of 14 white nationalist women. (The number of pyramids is a direct reference to the 14 words.) Lane’s body reportedly was cremated in June 2007.
Today, the doctrines of David lane live on, embedded in the ideology of many white supremacist groups and called up regularly by the popular hate symbol 14-88 (where 14 stands for the 14 words and 88 stands for “Heil Hitler,” as noted above).
Death of The Assassin
Bruce Carroll Pierce, the gunman in the 1984 murder in Denver of Jewish talk show host Alan Berg, died Monday afternoon of natural causes. He was 56 years old and serving the 23rd year of a 252-year sentence at the Allenwood Federal Correctional Complex in Pennsylvania.
Pierce was a founding member of the right-wing terrorist group The Order, which went on a crime spree in 1983 and 1984. The Order’s goals included the assassination of racial enemies and the creation of a guerilla army to resist and overthrow the U.S. government. The group funded its activities by counterfeiting money and by committing a string of armed robberies, culminating in the July 1984 theft of $3.6 million from an armored car on a highway in Ukiah, Calif.
Alan Berg’s offense was vigorously insulting white supremacists and adherents of the anti-Semitic Christian Identity theology on his call-in radio program on KOA-AM. He was selected for death after members of The Order, which was also known as the Bruders Schweigen (German for Silent Brotherhood), decided that two others higher on their assassination list — TV producer Norman Lear, whose work lampooned bigotry, and Morris Dees, co-founder of the anti-racist Southern Poverty Law Center — would be too hard to get to. Pierce shot Berg 13 times with a MAC-10 machine gun on the evening of June 18, 1984. Another member of The Order, David Lane, drove the getaway car, while still others served as lookouts.
The Order was founded in September 1983 by Robert Jay Mathews, who was then the Pacific Northwest coordinator for the neo-Nazi National Alliance, based in West Virginia, and also an associate of the neo-Nazi Aryan Nations of Idaho. (Mathews lived in Metaline Falls, Wash., at the time.) Mathews took the name of the group from The Turner Diaries, a futuristic race war novel written by William Pierce, founder and leader of the National Alliance. Ultimately, more than 20 people, including many members of the Aryan Nations and other groups, joined. In addition to the assassination of Berg, members also murdered one of their own who they thought had loose lips. In the end, the group was uncovered by authorities who caught a member passing counterfeit bills and “turned” him. Mathews was tracked to a house on Whidbey Island, Wash., and killed in a fiery 1984 shootout with federal agents. His death is still commemorated annually by hard-line white supremacists.
Bruce Pierce was captured in March 1985 and eventually sentenced to a total of 252 years in prison in the course of trials for the murder and various other crimes. At a 1986 trial for racketeering and armored car robbery, he remained unrepentant. “I’m not going to waste your time or mine and beg for mercy,” he told the judge. “Whatever happens, I’d like to bring honor to myself, glory to my brother kinsmen and glory to God.” He never recanted his white supremacist views.
On the hate website “Free The Order,” Bruce Pierce and his compatriots are honored by white nationalists. The site contains biographies of the Order’s founders, articles written by Order members while in prison, and even a guestbook where well-wishers can leave comments. Visitors can also sign up for the “Adopt A Bruder” program and pledge to donate a certain amount of money to a jailed Order member every month. To this day, many Neo-Nazis and other white nationalists still revere The Order; its members did things that others only talked about.
The story of The Order and its battle against the “Zionist Occupation Government” (or ZOG, meaning the federal government) has become mythic on the radical right. It has inspired numerous acts of violence and attempted violence, including a St. Louis copycat group known as The New Order. That group’s members plotted unsuccessfully to assassinate the SPLC’s Dees and to rob banks. One brought a pistol to a 1997 speech by Dees, but turned back when faced with a metal detector.
More importantly, perhaps, The Order marked a watershed in the history of the American extreme right. Before its campaign of terror, most radical-right groups, like the Klan, had sought to restore what they imagined were the good old days — a world in which black people knew their place and whites ruled. At times, they were aided by sympathetic authorities of one kind or another, especially in the South. But The Order, acting on the vision of the National Alliance’s William Pierce, sought to completely overthrow the existing order in the United States. It was revolutionary, not restorationist, seeking to build a 100% white, independent nation with little resemblance to the America that preceded the Civil War.
In prison, Pierce was largely abandoned by his allies. Of all of the men who served Mathews’ cause, only David Lane, who died in prison in May 2007, remained seriously involved in white nationalist discourse after imprisonment. (Lane wrote the movement’s most famous motto, the so-called “14 Words”: “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for White children.” He also expressed some his creepy attraction to two 14-year-old girls.) Pierce complained of his isolation in a letter from prison quoted in Leonard Zeskind’s 2009 book Blood and Politics: “There is no mail and no assistance at all. … [F]rankly, it hurts to see mongrel drug dealers, pimps, and the ungodly receive more attention.”
Still, commenters on the neo-Nazi Web forum Vanguard News Network have been sending up valedictories on the great Bruce Pierce since his death Monday. “A belated thank you, Bruce, for silencing forever that horrendous, croaking kike,” wrote “Rottenfuhrer.” “Rest in peace Brother,” added “SA Mann.” “I’m sure he is up there in Valhalla having a nice tall cold one with Bob Mathews. … Hail the Order!” And, from “Hawthorne”: “Rest Well Bruce. Your name is now etched alongside the other warriors and heroes of our movement — forever!”
The Lingering Threat of Right-Wing Extremism
At 9:02 a.m. on April 19, 1995, a 7,000-pound truck bomb, constructed of ammonium nitrate fertilizer and nitromethane racing fuel and packed into 13 plastic barrels, ripped through the heart of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. The explosion wrecked much of downtown Oklahoma City and killed 168 people, including 19 children in a day-care center. Another 500 were injured. Although many Americans initially suspected an attack by Middle Eastern radicals, it quickly became clear that the mass murder had actually been carried out by domestic, right-wing terrorists.
The slaughter engineered by Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols, men steeped in the conspiracy theories and white-hot fury of the American radical right, marked the opening shot in a new kind of domestic political extremism — a revolutionary ideology whose practitioners do not hesitate to carry out attacks directed at entirely innocent victims, people selected essentially at random to make a political point. After Oklahoma, it was no longer sufficient for many American right-wing terrorists to strike at a target of political significance — instead, they reached for higher and higher body counts, reasoning that they had to eclipse McVeigh’s attack to win attention.
What follows is a detailed listing of major terrorist plots and racist rampages that have emerged from the American radical right in the years since Oklahoma City. These have included plans to bomb government buildings, banks, refineries, utilities, clinics, synagogues, mosques, memorials and bridges; to assassinate police officers, judges, politicians, civil rights figures and others; to rob banks, armored cars and other criminals; and to amass illegal machine guns, missiles, explosives and biological and chemical weapons. Each of these plots aimed to make changes in America through the use of political violence. Most contemplated the deaths of large numbers of people — in one case, as many as 30,000, or 10 times the number murdered on Sept. 11, 2001.
Here are the stories of plots, conspiracies and racist rampages since 1995 — plots and violence waged against a democratic America.
July 28, 1995
Antigovernment extremist Charles Ray Polk is arrested after trying to purchase a machine gun from an undercover police officer, and is later indicted by federal grand jury for plotting to blow up the Internal Revenue Service building in Austin, Texas. At the time of his arrest, Polk is trying to purchase plastic explosives to add to the already huge arsenal he’s amassed. Polk is sentenced to almost 21 years in federal prison.
October 9, 1995
Saboteurs derail an Amtrak passenger train near Hyder, Ariz., killing one person and injuring about 70 others. Several antigovernment messages, signed by the “Sons of Gestapo,” are left behind. The perpetrators remain at large.
November 9, 1995
Oklahoma Constitutional Militia leader Willie Ray Lampley, his wife Cecilia and another man, John Dare Baird, are arrested as they prepare explosives to bomb numerous targets, including the Southern Poverty Law Center, gay bars and abortion clinics. The three, along with another suspect arrested later, are sentenced to terms of up to 11 years in 1996. Cecilia Lampley is released in 2000, while Baird and Willie Lampley — who wrote letters from prison urging others to violence — are freed in 2004 and 2006, respectively.
December 18, 1995
An Internal Revenue Service (IRS) employee discovers a plastic drum packed with ammonium nitrate and fuel oil in a parking lot behind the IRS building in Reno, Nev. The device failed to explode a day earlier when a three-foot fuse went out prematurely. Ten days later, tax protester Joseph Martin Bailie is arrested. Bailie is eventually sentenced to 36 years in federal prison, with a release date of 2027. An accomplice, Ellis Edward Hurst, is released in 2004.
January 18, 1996
Peter Kevin Langan, the pseudonymous “Commander Pedro” who leads the underground Aryan Republican Army, is arrested after a shootout with the FBI in Ohio. Along with six other suspects arrested around the same time, Langan is charged in connection with a string of 22 bank robberies in seven Midwestern states between 1994 and 1996. After pleading guilty and agreeing to testify, co-conspirator Richard Guthrie commits suicide in his cell. Two others, Kevin McCarthy and Scott Stedeford, enter plea bargains and do testify against their co-conspirators. Eventually, Mark Thomas, a leading neo-Nazi in Pennsylvania, pleads guilty for his role in helping organize the robberies and agrees to testify against Langan and other gang members. Shawn Kenny, another suspect, becomes a federal informant. Langan is sentenced to a life term in one case, plus 55 years in another. McCarthy is released from prison in 2007, while Stedeford’s release date is set in 2022. Thomas receives eight years and is released in early 2004.
April 11, 1996
Antigovernment activist and self-described “survivalist” Ray Hamblin is charged with illegal possession of explosives after authorities find 460 pounds of the high explosive Tovex, 746 pounds of ANFO blasting agent and 15 homemade hand grenades on his property in Hood River, Ore. Hamblin is sentenced to almost four years in federal prison, and is released in March 2000.
April 12, 1996
Apparently inspired by his reading of a neo-Nazi tract, Larry Wayne Shoemake kills one black man and wounds seven other people, including a reporter, during a racist shooting spree in a black neighborhood in Jackson, Miss. As police close in on the abandoned restaurant he is shooting from, Shoemake, who is white, sets the restaurant on fire and kills himself. A search of his home finds references to “Separation or Annihilation,” an essay on race relations by neo-Nazi National Alliance leader William Pierce, along with an arsenal of weapons that includes 17 long guns, 20,000 rounds of ammunition, and countless military manuals.
April 26, 1996
Two leaders of the Militia-at-Large of the Republic of Georgia, Robert Edward Starr III and William James McCranie Jr., are charged with manufacturing shrapnel-packed pipe bombs for distribution to militia members. Later in the year, they are sentenced to terms of up to eight years. Another Militia-at-Large member, Troy Allen Kayser (alias Troy Spain), is arrested two weeks later and accused of training a team to assassinate politicians. Starr is released from prison in 2003, while McCranie gets out in 2001. Kayser, convicted of conspiracy, is released in early 2002.
July 1, 1996
Twelve members of an Arizona militia group called the Viper Team are arrested on federal conspiracy, weapons and explosive charges after allegedly surveilling and videotaping government buildings as potential targets. All 12 plead guilty or are convicted of various charges, drawing sentences of up to nine years in prison. The plot participants are all released in subsequent years. Gary Curds Baer, who drew the heaviest sentence after being found with 400 pounds of ammonium nitrate, a bomb component, is freed in May 2004.
July 27, 1996
A nail-packed bomb goes off at the Atlanta Olympics, which are seen by many extremists as part of a Satanic “New World Order,” killing one person and injuring more than 100 others. Investigators will later conclude the attack is linked to 1997-1998 bombings of an Atlanta-area abortion clinic, an Atlanta gay bar and a Birmingham, Ala., abortion facility. Suspect Eric Robert Rudolph — a reclusive North Carolina man tied to the anti-Semitic Christian Identity theology — flees into the woods of his native state after he is identified in early 1998 as a suspect in the Birmingham attack, and is only captured five years later. Eventually, he pleads guilty to all of the attacks attributed to him in exchange for life without parole.
July 29, 1996
Washington State Militia leader John Pitner and seven others are arrested on weapons and explosives charges in connection with a plot to build pipe bombs to resist a feared invasion by the United Nations. Pitner and four others are convicted on weapons charges, while conspiracy charges against all eight end in a mistrial. Pitner is later retried on that charge, convicted and sentenced to four years in prison. He is released in 2001.
October 8, 1996
Three “Phineas Priests” — racist and anti-Semitic Christian Identity terrorists who feel they’ve been called by God to undertake violent attacks — are charged in connection with two bank robberies and bombings at the two banks, a Spokane newspaper and a Planned Parenthood office. Charles Barbee, Robert Berry and Jay Merrell are eventually convicted and sentenced to life terms. Brian Ratigan, a fourth member of the group arrested separately, draws a 55-year term; he is scheduled for release in 2045.
October 11, 1996
Seven members of the Mountaineer Militia are arrested in a plot to blow up the FBI’s national fingerprint records center, where 1,000 people work, in West Virginia. In 1998, leader Floyd “Ray” Looker is sentenced to 18 years in prison. He is released in June 2012. Two other defendants are sentenced on explosives charges and a third draws a year in prison for providing blueprints of the FBI facility to Looker, who then sold them to a government informant who was posing as a terrorist.
January 16, 1997
Two anti-personnel bombs — the second clearly designed to kill arriving law enforcement and rescue workers — explode outside an abortion clinic in Sandy Springs, Ga., a suburb of Atlanta. Seven people are injured. Letters signed by the “Army of God” claim responsibility for this attack and another, a month later, at an Atlanta gay bar. Authorities later learn that these attacks, the 1998 bombing of a Birmingham, Ala., abortion clinic and the 1996 Atlanta Olympics bombing, were all carried out by Eric Robert Rudolph, who is captured in 2003 after five years on the run. Rudolph avoids the death penalty by pleading guilty in exchange for a life sentence, but simultaneously releases a defiant statement defending his attacks.
January 22, 1997
Authorities raid the Martinton, Ill., home of former Marine Ricky Salyers, an alleged Ku Klux Klan member, discovering 35,000 rounds of heavy ammunition, armor piercing shells, smoke and tear gas grenades, live shells for grenade launchers, artillery shells and other military gear. Salyers was discharged earlier from the Marines, where he taught demolitions and sniping, after tossing a live grenade (with the pin still in) at state police officers serving him with a search warrant in 1995. Following the 1997 raid, Salyers, an alleged member of the underground Black Dawn group of extremists in the military, is sentenced to serve three years for weapons violations. He is released from prison in 2000.
March 26, 1997
Militia activist Brendon Blasz is arrested in Kalamazoo, Mich., and charged with making pipe bombs and other illegal explosives. Prosecutors say Blasz plotted to bomb the federal building in Battle Creek, the IRS building in Portage, a Kalamazoo television station and federal armories. But they recommend leniency on his explosives conviction after Blasz, a member of the Michigan Militia Corps Wolverines, renounces his antigovernment beliefs and cooperates with them. He is sentenced to more than three years in federal prison and released in late 1999.
April 22, 1997
Three Ku Klux Klan members are arrested in a plot to blow up a natural gas refinery outside Fort Worth, Texas, after local Klan leader Robert Spence gets cold feet and goes to the FBI. The three, along with a fourth arrested later, expected to kill a huge number of people with the blast — authorities later say as many as 30,000 might have died — which was to serve, incredibly, as a diversion for a simultaneous armored car robbery. Among the victims would have been children at a nearby school. All four plead guilty to conspiracy charges and are sentenced to terms of up to 20 years. Spence enters the Witness Protection Program. Carl Jay Waskom Jr. is released in 2004, while Shawn and Catherine Adams, a couple, are freed in 2006. Edward Taylor Jr. is released in early 2007.
April 23, 1997
Florida police arrest Todd Vanbiber, a member of the neo-Nazi National Alliance’s Tampa unit and the shadowy League of the Silent Soldier, after he accidentally sets off pipe bombs he was building, blasting shrapnel into his own face. He is accused of plotting to use the bombs on the approach to Disney World to divert attention from a planned string of bank robberies. Vanbiber pleads guilty to weapons and explosives charges and is sentenced to more than six years in federal prison. He is released in 2002. Within two years, Vanbiber is posting messages on neo-Nazi Internet sites boasting that he has built over 300 bombs successfully and only made one error, and describing mass murderer Timothy McVeigh as a hero.
April 27, 1997
After a cache of explosives stored in a tree blows up near Yuba City, Calif., police arrest Montana Freemen supporter William Robert Goehler. Investigators looking into the blast arrest two Goehler associates, one of them a militia leader, after finding 500 pounds of explosives — enough to level three city blocks — in a motor home parked outside their residence. Six others are arrested on related charges. Goehler, with previous convictions for rape, burglary and assault, is sentenced to 25 years to life in prison. He is later accused of stabbing his attorney with a shank and charged with attacking prison psychologists.
May 3, 1997
Antigovernment extremists set fire to the IRS office in Colorado Springs, Colo., causing $2.5 million in damage and injuring a firefighter. Federal agents later arrest five men in connection with the arson, which is conceived as a protest against the tax system. Ringleader James Cleaver, former national director of the antigovernment Sons of Liberty group, is accused of threatening a witness and eventually sentenced to 33 years in prison, with a release date of 2030. Accomplice Jack Dowell receives 30 years and is scheduled to be freed in 2027. Both are ordered to pay $2.2 million in restitution. Dowell’s cousin is acquitted of all charges, while two other suspects, Ronald Sherman and Thomas Shafer, plead guilty to perjury charges in connection with the case.
July 4, 1997
Militiaman Bradley Playford Glover and another heavily armed antigovernment activist are arrested before dawn near Fort Hood, in central Texas, just hours before they planned to invade the Army base and slaughter foreign troops they mistakenly believed were housed there. In the next few days, five other people are arrested in several states for their alleged roles in the plot to invade a series of military bases where the group believes United Nations forces are massing for an assault on Americans. All seven are part of a splinter group from the Third Continental Congress, a kind of militia government-in-waiting. In the end, Glover is sentenced to two years on Kansas weapons charges, to be followed by a five-year federal term in connection with the Fort Hood plot. The others draw lesser terms. Glover is released in 2003, the last of the seven to get out.
December 12, 1997
A federal grand jury in Arkansas indicts three men on racketeering charges for plotting to overthrow the government and create a whites-only Aryan People’s Republic, which they intend to grow through polygamy. Chevie Kehoe, Daniel Lee and Faron Lovelace are accused of crimes in six states, including murder, kidnapping, robbery and conspiracy. Kehoe and Lee will also face state charges of murdering an Arkansas family, including an 8-year-old girl, in 1996. Kehoe ultimately receives a life sentence on that charge, while Lee is sentenced to death. Lovelace is sentenced to death for the murder of a suspected informant, but because of court rulings is later resentenced to life without parole. Kehoe’s brother, Cheyne, is convicted of attempted murder during a 1997 Ohio shootout with police and sentenced to 24 years in prison, despite his helping authorities track down his fugitive brother in Utah after the shootout. Cheyne went to the authorities after Chevie began talking about murdering their parents and showing sexual interest in Cheyne’s wife.
January 29, 1998
An off-duty police officer is killed and a nurse terribly maimed when a nail-packed, remote-control bomb explodes outside a Birmingham, Ala., abortion facility, the New Woman All Women clinic. Letters to media outlets and officials claim responsibility in the name of the “Army of God,” the same entity that took credit for the bombings of a clinic and a gay bar in the Atlanta area. The attack also will be linked to the fatal 1996 bombing of the Atlanta Olympics. Eric Robert Rudolph, a loner from North Carolina, is first identified as a suspect when witnesses spot his pickup truck fleeing the Birmingham bombing. But he is not caught until 2003. He ultimately pleads guilty to all four attacks in exchange for a life sentence.
February 23, 1998
Three men with links to a Ku Klux Klan group are arrested near East St. Louis, Ill., on weapons charges. The three, along with three other men arrested later, formed a group called The New Order, patterned on a 1980s terror group called The Order (a.k.a. the Silent Brotherhood) that carried out assassinations and armored car heists. New Order members plotted to assassinate a federal judge and civil rights lawyer Morris Dees, blow up the Southern Poverty Law Center that Dees co-founded and other buildings, poison water supplies and rob banks. Wallace Weicherding, one of the men, came to a 1997 Dees speech with a concealed gun but turned back rather than pass through a metal detector. In the end, all six plead guilty or are convicted of weapons charges, drawing terms of up to seven years in federal prison. New Order leader Dennis McGiffen is released in 2004, the last of the six to regain his freedom.
March 18, 1998
Three members of the North American Militia of Southwestern Michigan are arrested on firearms and other charges. Prosecutors say the men conspired to bomb federal buildings, a Kalamazoo television station and an interstate highway interchange, kill federal agents, assassinate politicians and attack aircraft at a National Guard base — attacks that were all to be funded by marijuana sales. The group’s leader, Ken Carter, is a self-described member of the neo-Nazi Aryan Nations. Carter pleads guilty, testifies against his former comrades, and is sentenced to five years in prison. The others, Randy Graham and Bradford Metcalf, go to trial and are ultimately handed sentences of 40 and 55 years, respectively. Carter is released from prison in 2002.
May 29, 1998
A day after stealing a water truck, three men shoot and kill a Cortez, Colo., police officer and wound two other officers as they try to stop the suspects during a road chase. After the gun battle, the three — Alan Monty Pilon, Robert Mason and Jason McVean — disappear into the canyons of the high desert. Mason is found a week later, dead of an apparently self-inflicted gunshot. The skeletal remains of Pilon are found in 1999 and show that he, too, died of a gunshot to the head, another apparent suicide. McVean is not found, but most authorities assume he died in the desert. Many officials believe the three men intended to use the water truck in some kind of terrorist attack, but the nature of their suspected plans is never learned.
July 1, 1998
Three men are charged with conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction after threatening President Clinton and other federal officials with biological weapons. Officials say the men planned to use a cactus thorn coated with a toxin like anthrax and fired by a modified butane lighter to carry out the murders. One man is acquitted of the charges, but Jack Abbot Grebe Jr., and Johnnie Wise — a 72-year-old man who attended meetings of the separatist Republic of Texas group —are sentenced to more than 24 years in prison. The men are set for release in 2019.
July 30, 1998
South Carolina militia member Paul T. Chastain is charged with weapons, explosives and drug violations after allegedly trying to trade drugs for a machine gun and enough C-4 plastic explosive to demolish a five-room house. The next year, Chastain pleads guilty to an array of charges, including threatening to kill Attorney General Janet Reno and FBI Director Louis Freeh. He is sentenced to 15 years in federal prison, with release scheduled in 2011.
October 23, 1998
Dr. Barnett Slepian is assassinated by a sniper as he talks with his wife and children in the kitchen of their Amherst, N.Y., home. Identified as a suspect shortly after the murder, James Charles Kopp flees to Mexico, driven and disguised by friend Jennifer Rock, and goes on to hide out in Ireland and France. Two fellow anti-abortion extremists, Loretta Marra and Dennis Malvasi, make plans to help Kopp secretly return. Kopp, also suspected in the earlier sniper woundings of four physicians in Canada and upstate New York, is arrested in France as he picks up money wired by Marra and Malvasi. He eventually admits the shooting to a newspaper reporter — claiming that he only intended to wound Slepian — and is sentenced to life in prison plus 10 years. In 2003, Marra and Malvasi are sentenced to time served after pleading guilty to federal charges related to harboring a fugitive.
June 10, 1999
Officials arrest Alabama plumber Chris Scott Gilliam, a member of the neo-Nazi National Alliance, after he attempts to purchase 10 hand grenades from an undercover federal agent. Gilliam, who months earlier paraded in an extremist T-shirt in front of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s offices in Montgomery, tells agents he planned to send mail bombs to targets in Washington, D.C. Agents searching his home find bomb-making manuals, white supremacist literature and an assault rifle. Gilliam pleads guilty to federal firearms charges and is sentenced to 10 years in prison. He is released in early 2008.
July 1, 1999
A gay couple, Gary Matson and Winfield Mowder, are shot to death in bed at their home near Redding, Calif. Days later, after tracking purchases made on Mowder’s stolen credit card, police arrest brothers Benjamin Matthew Williams and James Tyler Williams. At least one of the pair, Matthew Williams (both use their middle names), is an adherent of the anti-Semitic Christian Identity theology. Police soon learn that the brothers two weeks earlier carried out arson attacks against three synagogues and an abortion clinic in Sacramento. Both brothers, whose mother at one point refers in a conversation to her sons’ victims as “two homos,” eventually admit their guilt — in Matthew’s case, in a newspaper interview. Matthew, who at one point badly injures a guard in a surprise attack, commits suicide in 2002. Tyler, who pleads guilty to an array of charges in the case, and is given two sentences amounting to 50 years to be served consecutively.
July 2, 1999
Infuriated that neo-Nazi leader Matt Hale has just been denied his law license by Illinois officials, follower Benjamin Nathaniel Smith begins a three-day murder spree across Illinois and Indiana, shooting to death a popular black former college basketball coach and a Korean doctoral student and wounding nine other minorities. Smith kills himself as police close in during a car chase. Hale, the “Pontifex Maximus,” or leader, of the World Church of the Creator, at first claims to barely know Smith. But it quickly emerges that Hale has recently given Smith his group’s top award and, in fact, spent some 16 hours on the phone with him in the two weeks before Smith’s rampage. Conveniently, Hale receives a registered letter from Smith just days after his suicide, informing Hale that Smith is quitting the group because he now sees violence as the only answer.
August 10, 1999
Buford Furrow, a former member of the neo-Nazi Aryan Nations who has been living with the widow of slain terrorist leader Bob Mathews, strides into a Jewish community center near Los Angeles and fires more than 70 bullets, wounding three boys, a teenage girl and a woman. He then drives into the San Fernando Valley and murders Filipino-American mailman Joseph Ileto. The next day, Furrow turns himself in, saying he intended to send “a wake-up call to America to kill Jews.” Furrow, who has a history of mental illness, eventually pleads guilty and is sentenced to two life terms without parole, plus 110 years in prison.
November 5, 1999
FBI agents arrest James Kenneth Gluck in Tampa, Fla., after he wrote a 10-page letter to judges in Jefferson County, Colo., threatening to “wage biological warfare” on a county justice center. While searching his home, police find the materials needed to make ricin, one of the deadliest poisons known. Gluck later threatens a judge, claiming that he could kill 10,000 people with the chemical. After serving time in federal prison, Gluck is released in early 2001.
December 5, 1999
Two California men, both members of the San Joaquin Militia, are charged with conspiracy in connection with a plot to blow up two 12-million-gallon propane tanks, a television tower and an electrical substation in hopes of provoking an insurrection. In 2001, the former militia leader, Donald Rudolph, pleads guilty to plotting to kill a federal judge and blow up the propane tanks, and testifies against his former comrades. Kevin Ray Patterson and Charles Dennis Kiles are ultimately convicted of several charges in connection with the conspiracy. They are expected to be released from federal prison in 2021 and 2018, respectively.
December 8, 1999
Donald Beauregard, head of a militia coalition known as the Southeastern States Alliance, is charged with conspiracy, providing materials for a terrorist act and gun violations in a plot to bomb energy facilities and cause power outages in Florida and Georgia. After pleading guilty to several charges, Beauregard, who once claimed to have discovered a secret map detailing a planned UN takeover mistakenly printed on a box of Trix cereal, is sentenced to five years in federal prison. He is released in 2004, a year after accomplice James Troy Diver is freed following a similar conviction.
March 9, 2000
Federal agents arrest Mark Wayne McCool, the one-time leader of the Texas Militia and Combined Action Program, as he allegedly makes plans to attack the Houston federal building. McCool, who was arrested after buying powerful C-4 plastic explosives and an automatic weapon from an undercover FBI agent, earlier plotted to attack the federal building with a member of his own group and a member of the antigovernment Republic of Texas, but those two men eventually abandoned the plot. McCool, however, remained convinced the UN had stored a cache of military materiel in the building. In the end, he pleads guilty to federal charges that bring him just six months in jail.
April 28, 2000
Immigration attorney Richard Baumhammers, himself the son of Latvian immigrants, goes on a rampage in the Pittsburgh area against non-whites, killing five people and critically wounding a sixth. Baumhammers had recently started a tiny white supremacist group, the Free Market Party, that demanded an end to non-white immigration into the United States. In the end, the unemployed attorney, who is living with parents at the time of his murder spree, is sentenced to death.
March 1, 2001
As part of an ongoing probe into a white supremacist group, federal and local law enforcement agents raid the Corbett, Ore., home of Fritz Springmeier, seizing equipment to grow marijuana and weapons and racist literature. They also find a binder notebook entitled “Army of God, Yahweh’s Warriors” that contains what officials call a list of targets, including a local federal building and the FBI’s Oregon offices. Springmeier, an associate of the anti-Semitic Christian Patriots Association, is eventually charged with setting off a diversionary bomb at an adult video store in Damascus, Ore., in 1997 as part of a bank robbery carried out by accomplice Forrest Bateman Jr. Another 2001 raid finds small amounts of bomb materials and marijuana in Bateman’s home. Eventually, Bateman pleads guilty to bank robbery and Springmeier is convicted of the same charges. Both are sentenced to nine years, and have release dates in 2011.
April 19, 2001
White supremacists Leo Felton and girlfriend Erica Chase are arrested following a foot chase that began when a police officer spotted them trying to pass counterfeit bills at a Boston donut shop. Investigators quickly learn Felton heads up a tiny group called Aryan Unit One, and that the couple, who had already obtained a timing device, planned to blow up black and Jewish landmarks and possibly assassinate black and Jewish leaders. They also learn another amazing fact: Felton, a self-described Aryan, is secretly biracial. Felton and Chase are eventually convicted of conspiracy, weapons violations and obstruction, and Felton is also convicted of bank robbery and other charges. Felton, who previously served 11 years for assaulting a black taxi driver, is sentenced to serve more than 21 years in federal prison, while his one-time sweetheart draws a lesser sentence and is released in 2007.
October 14, 2001
A North Carolina sheriff’s deputy pulls over Steve Anderson, a former “colonel” in the Kentucky Militia, on a routine traffic stop as he heads home to Kentucky from a white supremacist gathering in North Carolina. Anderson, who is an adherent of racist Christian Identity theology and has issued violent threats against officials for months via an illegal pirate radio station, pulls out a semi-automatic weapon and peppers the deputy’s car with bullets before driving his truck into the woods and disappearing for 13 months. Officials later find six pipe bombs in Anderson’s abandoned truck and 27 bombs and destructive devices in his home. In the end, Anderson apologizes for his actions and pleads guilty. He is sentenced on a variety of firearms charges to 15 years in federal prison.
December 5, 2001
Anti-abortion extremist Clayton Lee Wagner, who nine months earlier escaped from an Illinois jail while awaiting sentencing on weapons and carjacking charges, is arrested in Cincinnati, Ohio. Wagner’s odyssey began in September 1999, when he was stopped driving a stolen camper in Illinois and told police he was headed to Seattle to murder an abortion provider. He escaped in February 2001 and, while on the lam, mailed more than 550 hoax anthrax letters to abortion clinics and posted an Internet threat warning abortion clinic workers that “if you work for the murderous abortionist, I’m going to kill you.” Wagner is eventually sentenced to 30 years on the Illinois charges. In Ohio, he is sentenced to almost 20 years more, to be served consecutively, on various weapons and car theft charges related to his time on the run. In late 2003, he also is found guilty of 51 federal terrorism charges. He is scheduled to be released in 2046.
December 11, 2001
Jewish Defense League chairman Irving David Rubin and a follower, Earl Leslie Krugel, are arrested in California and charged with conspiring to bomb the offices of U.S. Rep. Darrel Issa (R-Calif.) and the King Fahd Mosque in Culver City. Authorities say a confidential informant taped meetings with the two in which the bombings were discussed and Krugel said the JDL needed “to do something to one of their filthy mosques.” Rubin later commits suicide in prison, officials say, just before he is to go on trial in 2002. Krugel pleads guilty to conspiracy in both plots, and testifies that Rubin conspired with him. Krugel dies in prison in 2005.
January 4, 2002
Neo-Nazi National Alliance member Michael Edward Smith is arrested after a car chase in Nashville, Tenn., that began when he was spotted sitting in a car with a semi-automatic rifle pointed at Sherith Israel Pre-School, run by a local synagogue. In Smith’s car, home and storage unit, officials find an arsenal that includes a .50-caliber rifle, 10 hand grenades, 13 pipe bombs, binary explosives, semi-automatic pistols, ammunition and an array of military manuals. They also find teenage porn on Smith’s computer and evidence that he carried out computer searches for Jewish schools and synagogues. In one of his E-mails, Smith wrote that Jews “perhaps” should be “stuffed head first into an oven.” Smith is sentenced to more than 10 years in prison, with an expected release date in 2011.
February 8, 2002
The leader of a militia-like group known as Project 7 and his girlfriend are arrested after an informant tells police the group is plotting to kill judges and law enforcement officers in order to kick off a revolution. David Burgert, who has a record for burglary and is already wanted for assaulting police officers, is found in the house of girlfriend Tracy Brockway along with an arsenal that includes pipe bombs and 25,000 rounds of ammunition. Also found are “intel sheets” with personal information about law enforcement officers, their spouses and children. Although officials are convinced the Project 7 plot was real, Burgert ultimately is convicted only of weapons charges and draws a seven-year sentence; he is to be released in 2010. Six others are also convicted of or plead guilty to weapons charges. Brockway gets a suspended sentence for harboring a fugitive, but is sent to prison for violating its terms. She is released in early 2008.
July 19, 2002
Federal and local law enforcement agents arrest North Carolina Klan leader Charles Robert Barefoot Jr. for his role in a plot to blow up the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office, the sheriff himself and the county jail. Officers find more than two dozen weapons in Barefoot’s home. They also find bombs and bomb components in the home of Barefoot’s son, Daniel Barefoot, who is charged that same day with the arson of a school bus and an empty barn. The elder Barefoot — who broke away from the National Knights of the KKK several months earlier to form his own, harder-line group, the Nation’s Knights of the KKK — is charged with weapons violations and later sentenced to more than two years. In 2003, Barefoot, his wife and three other men are charged with the 2001 murder of a former Klan member. In 2007, a judge rules Barefoot mentally incompetent to stand trial for murder and commits him indefinitely to a mental hospital. Sharon Barefoot is released from prison in July 2009. Charles Barefoot is ruled competent to stand trial in 2011 and, in September 2012, a jury convicts him on six felony counts, including conspiracy, possession of stolen guns and receipt of explosives with intent to kill.
August 22, 2002
Tampa area podiatrist Robert J. Goldstein is arrested after police, called by Goldstein’s wife after he allegedly threatened to kill her, find more than 15 explosive devices in their home, along with materials to make at least 30 more. Also found are homemade C-4 plastic explosives, grenades and mines, a .50-caliber rifle, semi-automatic weapons, and a list of 50 Islamic worship centers in the area. The most significant discovery is a three-page plan detailing plans to “kill all ‘rags’” at the Islamic Society of Pinellas County. Eventually, two other local men are also charged in connection with the plot, and Goldstein’s wife is arrested for possessing illegal destructive devices. Goldstein pleads guilty to plotting to blow up the Islamic Society and is sentenced to more than 12 years in federal prison, with a release date in 2013. His wife was released in 2006.
October 3, 2002
Officials close in on long-time antigovernment extremist Larry Raugust at a rest stop in Idaho, arrest him and charge him with 16 counts of making and possessing destructive devices, including pipe bombs and pressure-detonated booby traps. He is accused of giving one explosive device to an undercover agent, and is also named as an unindicted co-conspirator in a plot with colleagues in the Idaho Mountain Boys militia to murder a federal judge and a police officer, and to break a friend out of jail. A deadbeat dad, Raugust is also accused of helping plant land mines on property belonging to a friend whose land was seized by authorities over unpaid taxes. He eventually pleads guilty to 15 counts of making bombs and is sentenced to federal prison. Raugust was released in early 2008.
January 8, 2003
Federal agents arrest Matt Hale, the national leader of the neo-Nazi World Church of the Creator (WCOTC), as he reports to a Chicago courthouse in an ongoing copyright case over the name of his group. Hale is charged with soliciting the murder of the federal judge in the case, Joan Humphrey Lefkow, who he has publicly vilified as someone bent on the destruction of his group. (Although Lefkow originally ruled in WCOTC’s favor, an appeals court found that the complaint brought by an identically named church in Oregon was legally justified, and Lefkow reversed herself accordingly.) In guarded language captured on tape recordings, Hale is heard agreeing that his security chief, an FBI informant, should kill Lefkow. Hale is found guilty and sentenced to serve 40 years in federal prison; he is not expected to be released until 2037.
January 18, 2003
James D. Brailey, a convicted felon who once was selected as “governor” of the state of Washington by the antigovernment Washington Jural Society, is arrested after a raid on his home turns up a machine gun, an assault rifle and several handguns. One informant tells the FBI that Brailey was plotting to assassinate Gov. Gary Locke, both because Locke was the state’s real governor and because he was Chinese-American. A second informant says that Brailey actually went on a “dry run” to Olympia, carrying several guns into the state Capitol building to test security. Eventually, Brailey pleads guilty to weapons charges and is sentenced to serve 15 months in prison. He is released in 2004.
February 13, 2003
Federal agents in Pennsylvania arrest David Wayne Hull, imperial wizard of the White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan and an adherent of the anti-Semitic Christian Identity theology, alleging that Hull arranged to buy hand grenades to blow up abortion clinics. The FBI says Hull also illegally instructed followers on how to build pipe bombs. Hull, who published a newsletter in which he urged readers to write Oklahoma City bomber Tim McVeigh “to tell this great man goodbye,” is found guilty of weapons violations and sentenced to 12 years in federal prison. He is released in July 2012.
April 3, 2003
Federal agents arrest antigovernment extremist David Roland Hinkson in Idaho and charge him with trying to hire an assassin on two occasions in 2002 and 2003 to murder a federal judge, a prosecutor and an IRS agent involved in a tax case against him. Hinkson, a businessman who earned millions of dollars from his Water Oz dietary supplement company but refused to pay almost $1 million in federal taxes, is convicted in 2004 of 26 counts related to the tax case. In early 2005, a federal jury finds him guilty in the assassination plot as well. He is not expected to be released until 2040.
April 10, 2003
The FBI raids the Noonday, Texas, home of William Krar and storage facilities that Krar rented in the area, discovering an arsenal that includes more than 500,000 rounds of ammunition, 65 pipe bombs and remote-control briefcase bombs, and almost two pounds of deadly sodium cyanide. Also found are components to convert the cyanide into a bomb capable of killing thousands, along with white supremacist and antigovernment material. Investigators soon learn Krar was stopped earlier in 2003 by police in Tennessee, who found several weapons and coded documents in his car that seemed to detail a plot. But Krar refuses to cooperate, and details of that alleged plan are never learned. He pleads guilty to possession of a chemical weapon and is sentenced to more than 11 years in prison, where he dies.
June 4, 2003
Federal agents in California announce that former accountant John Noster, in prison since November 2002 for car theft, is under investigation for plotting a major terrorist attack. Noster was first arrested as part of a car theft ring investigation, but officials who found incendiary devices in his stolen camper continued to probe his activities. Eventually, they find in various storage facilities three pipe bombs, six barrels of jet fuel, five assault weapons, cannon fuse, a large amount of ammunition and $188,000 in cash. Law enforcement officials, who describe Noster as an “antigovernment extremist,” allege at a press conference that he “was definitely planning” on an attack but do not elaborate. In addition to prison time in that case, Noster draws another five years in 2009, after pleading guilty to two weapons charges.
October 10, 2003
Police arrest Norman Somerville after finding a huge weapons cache on his property in northern Michigan that includes six machine guns, a powerful anti-aircraft gun, thousands of rounds of ammunition, hundreds of pounds of gunpowder, and an underground bunker. They also find two vehicles Somerville calls his “war wagons,” and on which prosecutors later say he planned to mount machine guns as part of a plan to stage an auto accident and then massacre arriving police. Officials describe Somerville as an antigovernment extremist enraged over the death of Scott Woodring, a Michigan Militia member killed by police a week after Woodring shot and killed a state trooper during a standoff. Somerville eventually pleads guilty to weapons charges and is sentenced to six years in prison. He is scheduled to be released in late 2009.
April 1, 2004
Neo-Nazi Skinhead Sean Gillespie videotapes himself as he firebombs Temple B’nai Israel, an Oklahoma City synagogue, as part of a film he is preparing to inspire other racists to violent revolution. In it, Gillespie boasts that instead of merely pronouncing the white-supremacist “14 Words” slogan (“We must secure the existence of our people and a future for White children”), he will carry out 14 violent attacks. A former member of the neo-Nazi Aryan Nations, Gillespie is found guilty of the attack and later sentenced to 39 years in federal prison, with an expected release date of 2038.
May 24, 2004
During the attempted robbery of a Tulsa bank by Wade and Christopher Lay, a father-and-son pair of political extremists, security guard Kenneth Anderson is shot to death. Both robbers are wounded, and are arrested a short time after fleeing the bank. At trial, Wade Lay testifies that he and his son acted “for the good of the American people” and in an effort to “preserve liberty.” Other evidence shows the pair hoped to get money to pay for weapons that they intended to use to kill Texas officials who they believed were responsible for the deadly 1993 standoff between the authorities and religious cultists in Waco. In the end, Wade Lay is sentenced to death for first-degree murder, while his son gets 25 years for armed robbery.
October 13, 2004
Ivan Duane Braden, a former National Guardsman discharged from an Iraq-bound unit after superiors noted signs of instability, is arrested after checking into a mental health facility and telling counselors about plans to blow up a synagogue and a National Guard armory in Tennessee. The FBI reports that Braden told agents that he planned to go to a synagogue wearing a trench coat stuffed with explosives and get himself “as close to children and the rabbi as possible,” a plan Braden also outlined in notes found in his home. In addition, he intended to take and kill hostages at the Lenoir City Armory, before blowing the armory up. Eventually, Braden, who also possessed neo-Nazi literature and reportedly hated blacks and Jews from an early age, pleads guilty to conspiring to blow up the armory. He is sentenced to prison, where his release is expected in 2017.
October 25, 2004
FBI agents in Tennessee arrest farmhand Demetrius “Van” Crocker after he tried to purchase ingredients for deadly sarin nerve gas and C-4 plastic explosives from an undercover agent. The FBI reports that Crocker, who local officials say was involved in a white supremacist group in the 1980s, tells the agent that he admires Hitler and hates Jews and the government. He also says “it would be a good thing if somebody could detonate some sort of weapon of mass destruction on Washington, D.C.” Crocker is convicted of trying to get explosives to destroy a building and imprisoned until an expected release in 2030.
May 20, 2005
Officials in New Jersey arrest two men they say asked a police informant to build them a bomb. Craig Orler, who has a history of burglary arrests, and Gabriel Carafa, said to be a leader of the neo-Nazi World Church of the Creator and a member of a racist Skinhead group called The Hated, are charged with illegally selling 11 guns to police informants. Carafa gave one informant 60 pounds of urea to use in building him a bomb, but never said what the bomb was for. Police say they moved in before the alleged bombing plot developed further because they were concerned about the pair’s activities. They taped Orler saying in a phone call that he was seeking people in Europe to help him go underground. Orler is sentenced to more than 10 years in prison, while Carafa draws seven.
June 10, 2005
Daniel J. Schertz, a former member of the North Georgia White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, is indicted in Chattanooga, Tenn., on federal weapons charges for allegedly making seven pipe bombs and selling them to an undercover informant with the idea that they would be used to murder Mexican and Haitian immigrant workers. The informant says Schertz demonstrated how to attach the pipe bombs to cars, then sold him bombs that Schertz expected to be used against a group of Haitians and, separately, Mexican workers on a bus headed to work in Florida. Schertz eventually pleads guilty to six charges — including teaching how to make an explosive device; making, possessing and transferring destructive devices; and possessing a pistol with armor-piercing bullets — and is sentenced to 14 years in prison. He is to be released in 2017.
March 19, 2006
U.S. Treasury agents in Utah arrest David J. D’Addabbo for allegedly threatening Internal Revenue Service employees with “death by firing squad” if they continued to try to collect taxes from him and his wife. D’Addabbo, who was reportedly carrying a Glock pistol, 40 rounds of ammunition and a switchblade knife when he was seized leaving a church service, allegedly wrote to the U.S. Tax Court that anyone attempting to collect taxes would be tried by a “jury of common people. You then could be found guilty of treason and immediately taken to a firing squad.” In August D’Addabbo pleads guilty to one charge of threatening a government agent in exchange for the dismissal of three other charges of threatening IRS agents. He is sentenced to time served and released the same year as his arrest.
April 26, 2007
Five members of the Alabama Free Militia are arrested in north Alabama in a raid by federal and state law enforcement officers that uncovers a cache of 130 homemade hand grenades, an improvised grenade launcher, a Sten Mark submachine gun, a silencer, 2,500 rounds of ammunition and almost 100 marijuana plants. Raymond Kirk Dillard, the founder and “commander” of the group, pleads guilty to criminal conspiracy, illegally making and possessing destructive devices and being a felon in possession of a firearm. Other members of the group — Bonnell “Buster” Hughes, James Ray McElroy, Adam Lynn Cunningham and Randall Garrett — also plead guilty to related charges. Although Dillard, who complained about the collapse of the American economy, terrorist attacks and Mexicans taking over the country, reportedly told his troops to open fire on federal agents if ever confronted, no shots are fired during the April raid, and the “commander” even points out booby-trap tripwires on his property to investigators. Dillard and Garrett draw the harshest sentences, with releases scheduled for 2012 and 2018, respectively.
June 8, 2008
Six people, most of them tied to the militia movement, are arrested in rural north-central Pennsylvania after officials find stockpiles of assault rifles, improvised explosives and homemade weapons, at least some of them apparently intended for terrorist attacks on U.S. officials. Agents find 16 homemade bombs during a search of the residence of Pennsylvania Citizens Militia recruiter Bradley T. Kahle, who allegedly tells authorities that he intended to shoot black people from a rooftop in Pittsburgh and also predicts civil war if Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton are elected president. A raid on the property of Morgan Jones results in the seizure of 73 weapons, including a homemade flame thrower, a machine that supposedly shot bolts of electricity, and an improvised cannon. Also arrested and charged with weapons violations are Marvin E. Hall, his girlfriend Melissa Huet and Perry Landis. Landis, who is to be sentenced in late 2009, allegedly tells undercover agents he wanted to kill Gov. Ed Rendell. Hall is sentenced to more than two years.
August 24, 2008
White supremacists Shawn Robert Adolf, Tharin Robert Gartrell and Nathan D. Johnson are arrested in Denver during the Democratic National Convention on weapons charges and for possession of amphetamines. Although police say they talked about assassinating presidential candidate Barack Obama, they are not charged in connection with that threat because officials see their talk as drug-fueled boasting. Police report the three had high-powered, scoped rifles, wigs, camouflage clothing and a bulletproof vest, along with the crystal methamphetamine. Gartrell is released from prison in June 2009, while Johnson is to be freed in 2010. Adolf, who was already wanted on other charges, draws a longer sentence.
October 24, 2008
Two white supremacists, Daniel Cowart and Paul Schlesselman, are arrested in Tennessee for allegedly plotting to assassinate Barack Obama and murder more than 100 black people. Officials say Schlesselman and Cowart, a probationary member of the racist skinhead group Supreme White Alliance, planned to kill 88 people, then behead another 14. (Both numbers are significant in white supremacist circles. H is the eighth letter of the alphabet, so double 8s stand for HH, or “Heil Hitler.” The number 14 represents the “14 Words,” a popular racist saying.) The pair are indicted on charges that include threatening a presidential candidate, possessing a sawed-off shotgun, taking firearms across state lines to commit crimes, planning to rob a licensed gun dealer, damaging religious property, and using a firearm during the commission of a crime.
December 9, 2008
Police responding to a shooting at a home in Belfast, Maine, find James G. Cummings dead, allegedly killed by his wife after years of domestic abuse. They also find a cache of radioactive materials, which Cummings was apparently using to try to build a radioactive “dirty bomb,” along with literature on how to build such a deadly explosive. Police also discover a membership application filled out by Cummings for the neo-Nazi National Socialist Movement. Friends say that Cummings had a collection of Nazi memorabilia. The authorities say Cummings was reportedly “very upset” by the election of Barack Obama.
December 16, 2008
Kody Ray Brittingham, a lance corporal in the U.S. Marine Corps, is arrested with four others on attempted robbery charges. A search of his barracks room at Camp Lejeune, N.C., allegedly turns up white supremacist materials and a journal written by Brittingham containing plans to kill Barack Obama. Brittingham is indicted for threatening the president-elect of the United States, a crime that carries a maximum penalty of five years in federal prison and a fine of up to $250,000.
January 21, 2009
On the day after Barack Obama is inaugurated as the nation’s first black president, Keith Luke of Brockton, Mass., is arrested after allegedly shooting three black immigrants from Cape Verde, killing two of them, as part of a racially motivated killing spree. The two murders are apparently only part of Luke’s plan to kill black, Latino and Jewish people. After being captured by police, he reportedly says he planned to go to an Orthodox synagogue near his home that night and “kill as many Jews as possible.” Police say Luke, a white man who apparently had no contact with white supremacists but spent the previous six months reading racist websites, told them he was “fighting for a dying race.” Luke also says he formed his racist views in large part after watching videos on Podblanc, a racist video-sharing website run by longtime white supremacist Craig Cobb. When he later appears in court for a hearing, Luke, charged with murder, kidnapping and aggravated rape, has etched a swastika into his own forehead, apparently using a jail razor.
April 4, 2009
Three Pittsburgh police officers — Paul Sciullo III, Stephen Mayhle and Eric Kelly — are fatally shot and a fourth, Timothy McManaway, is wounded after responding to a domestic dispute at the home of Richard Andrew Poplawski, who had posted his racist and anti-Semitic views on white supremacist websites. In one post, Poplawski talks about wanting a white supremacist tattoo. He also reportedly tells a friend that America is controlled by a cabal of Jews, that U.S. troops may soon be used against American citizens, and that he fears a ban on guns is coming. Poplawski later allegedly tells investigators that he fired extra bullets into the bodies of two of the officers “just to make sure they were dead” and says he “thought I got that one, too” when told that the fourth officer survived. More law enforcement officers are killed during the incident than in any other single act of violence by a domestic political extremist since the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.
April 25, 2009
Joshua Cartwright, a Florida National Guardsman, allegedly shoots to death two Okaloosa County, Fla., sheriff’s deputies — Burt Lopez and Warren “Skip” York — at a gun range as the officers attempt to arrest Cartwright on domestic violence charges. After fleeing the scene, Cartwright is fatally shot during a gun battle with pursuing officers. Cartwright’s wife later tells investigators that her husband was “severely disturbed” that Barack Obama has been elected president. He also reportedly believed the U.S. government was conspiring against him. The sheriff tells reporters that Cartwright had been interested in joining a militia group.
May 31, 2009
Scott Roeder, an anti-abortion extremist who was involved with the antigovernment “freemen” movement in the 1990s, allegedly shoots to death Kansas late-term abortion provider George Tiller as the doctor is serving as an usher in his Wichita church. Adherents of “freemen” ideology claim they are “sovereign citizens” not subject to federal and other laws, and often form their own “common law” courts and issue their own license plates. It was one of those homemade plates that led Topeka police to stop Roeder in April 1996, when a search of his trunk revealed a pound of gunpowder, a 9-volt battery wired to a switch, blasting caps and ammunition. A prosecutor in that case called Roeder a “substantial threat to public safety,” citing Roeder’s refusal to acknowledge the court’s authority. But his conviction in the 1996 case is ultimately overturned. In the more recent case, Roeder is charged with murder and could face up to life in prison if convicted.
June 10, 2009
Eighty-eight-year-old James von Brunn, a longtime neo-Nazi, walks up to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and allegedly shoots to death security guard Stephen Johns before he is himself shot and critically wounded by other officers. Von Brunn, who earlier served six years in connection with his 1981 attempt to kidnap the members of the Federal Reserve Board at the point of a sawed-off shotgun, has been active in the white supremacist movement for more than four decades. As early as the early 1970s, he worked at the Holocaust-denying Noontide Press, and in subsequent decades, he comes to know many of the key leaders of the radical right. A search of von Brunn’s car after the museum attack turns up a list of other apparent targets, including the White House, the Capitol, the National Cathedral and The Washington Post. A note allegedly left by von Brunn in his car reads: “You want my weapons; this is how you’ll get them … the Holocaust is a lie … Obama was created by Jews. Obama does what his Jew owners tell him to do. Jews captured America’s money. Jews control the mass media.” He is charged with murder.
June 12, 2009
Shawna Forde — the executive director of Minutemen American Defense (MAD), an anti-immigrant vigilante group that conducts “citizen patrols” on the Arizona-Mexico border — is charged with two counts of first-degree murder for her alleged role in the slayings of a Latino man and his 9-year-old daughter in Arivaca, Ariz. Forde allegedly orchestrated the May 30 home invasion because she believed the man was a narcotics trafficker and wanted to steal drugs and cash to fund her group. Authorities say the murders, including the killing of the child, were part of the plan. Also arrested and charged with murder are the alleged triggerman, MAD Operations Director Jason Eugene “Gunny” Bush, and Albert Robert Gaxiola, 42, a local member of MAD. Authorities say that Bush had ties to the neo-Nazi Aryan Nations in Idaho, and that Forde has spoken of recruiting its members.
June 25, 2009
Longtime white supremacist Dennis Mahon and his brother Daniel are indicted in Arizona in connection with a mail bomb sent in 2004 to a diversity office in Scottsdale that injured three people. Mahon, formerly tied to the neo-Nazi White Aryan Resistance (WAR) group, allegedly left a phone message at the office saying that “the White Aryan Resistance is growing in Scottsdale. There’s a few white people who are standing up.” In a related raid, agents search the Indiana home of Tom Metzger, founder of WAR, but he is not arrested. On the same day, white supremacist Robert Joos is arrested in rural Missouri, apparently because phone records show that Dennis Mahon’s first call after the mail bombing was to Joos’ cell phone. Joos is charged with being a felon in possession of firearms and is sentenced in May 2010 to 6½ years in prison. Dennis Mahon is found guilty of three bombing charges in February 2012 and faces a maximum 60 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Daniel Mahon is acquitted of the one charge against him.
Oct. 28, 2009
Luqman Ameen Abdullah, identified by authorities as a member of a black Muslim group hoping to create an Islamic state within U.S. borders, is shot dead at a warehouse in Dearborn, Mich., after he fires at FBI agents trying to arrest him on conspiracy and weapons charges. The FBI says Abdulla encouraged violence against the United States, adding that 10 other group members are being sought.
Feb. 18, 2010
Joseph Andrew Stack, who had earlier attended meetings of radical anti-tax groups in California, sets fire to his own house and then flies his single-engine plane into an Austin, Texas, building housing IRS offices. Stack and an IRS manager are killed, and 13 others are injured. Stack leaves a long online rant about the IRS and the tax code, politicians and corporations.
March 25, 2010
A man later identified as Brody James Whitaker opens fire on two Florida state troopers during a routine traffic stop on I-75 in Sumter County. Whitaker flees, crashing his vehicle and continuing on foot. He is arrested two weeks later in Connecticut, where he challenges the authority of a judge and declares himself a “sovereign,” not American, citizen. Sovereigns typically believe that police have no right to regulate road travel. Whitaker is later extradited to Florida to face charges of assaulting and fleeing from a police officer.
March 27-28, 2010
Nine members of the Hutaree Militia are arrested in raids in Michigan, Ohio and Indiana and charged with seditious conspiracy and attempted use of weapons of mass destruction. The group, whose website said it was preparing for the imminent arrival of the anti-Christ, allegedly planned to murder a Michigan police officer, then use bombs and homemade missiles to kill other officers attending the funeral, all in a bid to set off a war with the government. Joshua Clough pleads guilty to a weapons charge in December 2011. A federal judge dismisses charges against seven members of the group during a trial in March 2012, saying their hatred of law enforcement did not amount to a conspiracy. Militia leader David Stone and his son Joshua Stone plead guilty to gun charges two days after the trial. In August 2012, a federal judge chooses not to send the Stones back to prison. They are each fined $100 and placed on two years’ supervision. Another member, Jacob Ward, awaits a separate trial.
April 15, 2010
Matthew Fairfield, who is president of a local chapter of an antigovernment “Patriot” organization called the Oath Keepers, is indicted on 28 explosives charges, 25 counts of receiving stolen property and one count of possessing criminal tools. Authorities searching his home discover a napalm bomb built by Fairfield, along with a computer carrying child pornography. Fairfield later pleads guilty to explosives charges, but still faces trial on other counts.
April 30, 2010
Darren Huff, an Oath Keeper from Georgia, is arrested and charged with planning the armed takeover of a Madisonville, Tenn., courthouse and “arrest” of 24 local, state and federal officials. Authorities say Huff was angry about the April 1 arrest there of Walter Francis Fitzpatrick III, a leader of the far-right American Grand Jury movement that seeks to have grand juries indict President Obama for treason. Several others in the antigovernment “Patriot” movement accuse Huff of white supremacist and anti-Semitic attitudes in Internet postings. He is sentenced in May 2012 to four years in federal prison.
May 10, 2010
Sandlin Matthew Smith detonates a pipe bomb at a rear entrance to a mosque in Jacksonville, Fla., while worshippers are inside. Armed only with a fuzzy videotape, authorities only identify Smith, based on talking to witnesses to whom he admits the attack, a year later. They track Smith, a bus driver from Julington Creek, Fla., to a campsite near Fairview, Okla., where he resists arrest with a gun and is killed. A search of Smith’s two homes turns up explosive materials.
May 20, 2010
A father and son team of “sovereign citizens” who believe police have no right to regulate road travel murder West Memphis, Ark., police officers Robert Brandon Paudert, 39, and Thomas William “Bill” Evans, 38, during a routine traffic stop on an I-40 exit ramp. The incident begins when Jerry Kane, 45, starts to argue with the officers over his bogus vehicle paperwork and then pushes Evans into a roadside ditch. Kane’s 16-year-old son then kills both officers with an AK-47 before the pair flees. Authorities catch up with them about 45 minutes later. In the ensuing shootout, two more officers are badly wounded and both Kanes are killed. The pair had been traveling the country offering seminars in bogus sovereign techniques for avoiding foreclosure and related matters.
June 8, 2010
A bomb packed into a soda can is planted outside Osage Baptist Church in Carroll City, Ark., where a polling station for a Democratic Senate primary runoff between Sen. Blanche Lincoln and Lt. Gov. Bill Halter is located. The device does not explode, although authorities say it was capable of causing death or serious bodily injury. Officials later receive a tip from contractors who hired to clean out the foreclosed home of self-described “Patriot” Mark Krause, where they find bomb-making materials, manuals, and materials related to antigovernment militias. Krause, who earlier posted antigovernment messages to MySpace, eventually is arrested in Seattle.
July 18, 2010
An unemployed parolee with two bank robbery convictions, apparently enraged at liberals and what he sees as the “left-wing agenda” of Congress, allegedly opens fire on California Highway Patrol troopers who pull him over in Oakland. No one is killed, but two troopers are slightly injured and Byron Williams is shot in the arms and legs. Williams allegedly later tells authorities that he was on his way to attack offices of the American Civil Liberties Union and the Tides Foundation, a liberal organization that, although little known to most Americans, has been repeatedly pilloried on air by Fox News host Glenn Beck.
July 21, 2010
Attorney Todd Getgen is shot to death at a gun range in Cumberland County, Penn., and his weapon, a silenced AR-15 rifle, is stolen. Authorities arrest prison guard Raymond Peake nine days later, saying Peake was trying to accumulate weapons for an unnamed organization that intended to overthrow the government. Fellow prison guard Thomas Tuso is also arrested for allegedly helping Peake hide Getgen’s custom-built weapon.
August 30, 2010
White supremacist Wayde Lynn Kurt is arrested in Spokane, Wash., on federal gun and forgery charges. Authorities later release audio recordings to support their allegation that he was planning a terrorist attack he called his “final solution,” which included killing President Obama. Wayde, a convicted felon who is associated with neo-Nazis and Odinists, is sentenced in May 2012 to 13 years in prison on firearms and false identification convictions after federal prosecutors sought and received a “terrorism enhancement” to his sentence.
Sept. 2, 2010
A pipe bomb is thrown through the window of a closed Planned Parenthood clinic in Madera, Calif., along with a note that reads, “Murder our children? We have a ‘choice’ too.” The note is signed ANB, apparently short for the American Nationalist Brotherhood. Six months later, law enforcement officials arrest school bus driver Donny Eugene Mower, who allegedly also threatened a local Islamic Center and has the word “Peckerwood,” a reference to a white supremacist gang, tattooed on his chest. Mower reportedly confesses to the attack.
Sept. 7, 2010
The FBI arrests 26-year-old Justin Carl Moose, a self-described “freedom fighter” and “Christian counterpart to Osama bin Laden,” for allegedly planning to blow up a North Carolina abortion clinic. After earlier receiving tips that Moose was posting threats of violence against abortion providers and information about explosives on his Facebook page, the FBI set up a sting operation to capture him. Moose later pleads guilty to distributing information on manufacturing and use of an explosive and is sentenced to 30 months in prison. He is released in November 2012.
Sept. 19, 2010
An antigovernment extremist with ties to the separatist Republic of Texas organization allegedly opens fire on an oil company worker and two sheriff’s deputies who show up at White’s property in West Odessa, Texas, to access an oil well to which the company has rights. Victor White, 55, allegedly wounds all three men before they retreat, and a 22-hour standoff follows. White eventually surrenders and is charged with three counts of attempted capital murder of a peace officer, one count of attempted capital murder, and aggravated assault.
Jan. 14, 2011
Federal agents in Arizona arrest Jeffery Harbin, a member of the neo-Nazi National Socialist Movement, for allegedly building homemade grenades and pipe bombs that he apparently intended to supply to anti-immigration groups patrolling the Mexican border. A prosecutor says that Harbin constructed the devices, using model rocket engines and aluminum power, “in such a way as to maximize human carnage.” Harbin is indicted on two counts of possessing a destructive device and a third of transporting destructive devices. Jeffery Harbin is the son of Jerry Harbin, a Phoenix-area activist with past ties to the neo-Nazi National Alliance and the racist Council of Conservative Citizens.
Jan. 17, 2011
Bomb technicians defuse a sophisticated improvised explosive device (IED) found in a backpack along the Spokane, Wash., route of a Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade with 1,500 marchers. Using forensic clues found in the dismantled bomb, officials about two months later identify and arrest Kevin William Harpham, a long-time neo-Nazi. Harpham had posted more than 1,000 messages to the neo-Nazi Vanguard News Network since 2004, when he was a member of the neo-Nazi National Alliance. Harpham also had contributed to the white supremacist Aryan Alternative newspaper. He is indicted on one count of attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction and one count of possessing an IED. Later, federal hate crime charges are added.
March 10, 2011
Six members of the antigovernment Alaska Peacemakers Militia, including its leader, Francis Schaeffer Cox, 28, are arrested and charged with plotting to kill or kidnap state troopers and a Fairbanks judge. The group already has a large cache of weapons, including a .50-caliber machine gun, grenades and a grenade launcher. Cox earlier identified himself as a “sovereign citizen.” Cox is convicted in June 2012 on nine counts, including conspiring to kill a judge and law enforcement officials. He is sentenced in January 2013 to almost 26 years in federal prison. Lonnie Vernon, 56, and his wife, Karen, 66, plead guilty in August to charges they plotted to kill a federal judge and an IRS agent involved in a tax case against them. The Vernons are also sentenced in January 2013. Lonnie receives almost 25 years in federal prison while his wife receives 12 years. Another member, Coleman Barney, 38, is found guilty of weapons charges and sentenced in September 2012 to five years in federal prison.
May 14, 2011
Three masked men break into the Madrasah Islamiah, an Islamic center in Houston, and douse prayer rugs with gasoline in an apparent attempt to burn the center down. Images of the men are captured on surveillance cameras, but they are not identified. The fire is put out before doing major damage.
May 25, 2011
A man with a long history of menacing abortion clinics is arrested on weapons charges after he accidentally shoots a pistol through the door of a Madison, Wis., motel room. Ralph Lang, 63, tells police he planned to kill a doctor and workers at a nearby Planned Parenthood clinic.
August 24, 2011
Cody Seth Crawford, 24, is arrested on federal charges accusing him of the Nov. 28, 2010, arson of the Salman Alfarisi Islamic Center in Corvallis, Ore. The firebombing occurred two days after a former Oregon State University student was arrested in a plot to detonate a car bomb during Portland’s annual tree-lighting. Crawford had ranted about Muslims and described himself as a Christian warrior during previous run-ins with police.
October 5, 2011
White supremacist ex-convict David “Joey” Pedersen, 31, and his girlfriend, Holly Ann Grigsby, 24, are arrested in California after a murderous rampage in three states. Grigsby tells police that she and Pedersen “were on their way to Sacramento to kill more Jews.” The first killed were Pedersen’s father and stepmother in Everett, Wash. Another man was killed in Lafayette, Ore., because the pair thought he was Jewish. An African-American man was found shot to death in Eureka, Calif. Pederson earlier served time for threatening to kill the federal judge who handled the Ruby Ridge case of white separatist Randy Weaver. Pederson pleads guilty in March 2012. He will receive a mandatory life sentence without possibility of parole. Grigsby pleads not guilty and awaits trial.
November 1, 2011
Four members of an unnamed North Georgia militia are arrested in an alleged plot to bomb federal buildings, attack cities including Atlanta with deadly ricin, and murder law enforcement officials. The men – Frederick Thomas, 73, Samuel J. Crump, 68, Dan Roberts, 67, and Ray H. Adams, 65 – allegedly discussed dispersing ricin powder in a series of cities, “taking out” a list of officials to “make the country right again,” and scouting buildings in Atlanta to bomb. Authorities say the plot was inspired by an online novel, Absolved, written by longtime Alabama militiaman Mike Vanderboegh. Thomas, the accused ringleader, and Roberts plead guilty in April 2012 to charges of conspiring to possess explosives and firearms. Thomas and Roberts are each sentenced in August 2012 to five years in federal prison for conspiring to obtain an unregistered explosive device. Crump and Adams are awaiting trial.
December 10, 2011
Four soldiers, later identified as members of a militia-type group called Forever Enduring, Always Ready (FEAR), are arrested for murdering 19-year-old former soldier and group member Michael Roark and his 17-year-old girlfriend, Tiffany York, because they feared the pair would talk about the group’s plans. Officials say the group, based at Fort Stewart, Ga., planned to take over the Army base, assassinate President Obama and overthrow the government, and had spent $87,000 on guns and bomb parts. Group leader Pvt. Isaac Aguigui, 22, Sgt. Anthony Peden, 26, Pvt. Christopher Salmon, 25, and Pfc. Michael Burnett, 26, also allegedly discussed blowing up a dam and poisoning fruit crops in Washington state. Officials say Aguigui funded the group with a $500,000 insurance payment for the death of his pregnant wife. In 2012, seven more people are arrested in connection with the group’s activities; several accept plea bargains and agree to testify against their comrades. In April 2013, the Army charges Aguigui with killing his wife.
April 17, 2012
Joseph Benjamin Thomas and Samuel James Johnson of Mendota Heights, Minn., are indicted on federal weapons and drug charges following an investigation into their alleged plans to form a white supremacist group called the “Aryan Liberation Movement” and commit violence against minorities, leftists and government officials. Prosecutors allege that Thomas planned to attack the Mexican consulate in St. Paul on May 1 with a truck loaded with barrels of oil and gasoline that he would set on fire, believing that the attack would stir debate on immigration amnesty prior to the 2012 elections. An affidavit unsealed in federal court reveals that Johnson, a former leader of the neo-Nazi National Socialist Movement in Minnesota with past convictions for armed crimes, was trying to recruit others to his cause and scouted for a training compound in Illinois and Minnesota. Johnson pleads guilty in June 2012 and is sentenced in September to 15 years in prison on one count of being a felon in possession of an assault weapon. Thomas pleads guilty in July to possession with intent to distribute 50 grams of methamphetamine in a case related to a federal investigation of white supremacist activity. He faces the possibility of life in prison.
August 5, 2012
Neo-Nazi skinhead Wade Michael Page, 40, opens fire with a 9 mm handgun at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wis., near Milwaukee, killing six and critically wounding three, including a police officer who responded. Page shoots and kills himself at the scene. A U.S. Army veteran who was discharged in 1998 for “patterns of misconduct,” Page was a “patched” member of the Northern Hammerskins, a chapter of the Hammerskin Nation, a violent, racist skinhead group. He was also a fixture on the white power music scene who played in the band End Apathy and others.
August 16, 2012
Seven people with ties to the antigovernment “sovereign citizens” movement allegedly ambush and murder Louisiana sheriff’s deputies Brandon Nielsen, 34, and Jeremy Triche, 27. The attack comes in a trailer park near New Orleans, where the deputies pursued suspects following the shooting and wounding of another deputy working as an off-duty security guard at an oil refinery. Those arrested include the group’s leader, Terry Lyn Smith, 44, Smith’s wife, Chanel Skains, and his sons, Derrik Smith and Brian Smith. Others are Brittany Keith, Kyle David Joekel and Teniecha Bright. Brian Smith is charged with first-degree murder and the others with related charges. The group, which traveled the country doing construction work, possess a stockpile of weapons. Its members have outstanding warrants in Nebraska, Tennessee and Louisiana.
September 4, 2012
Christopher Lacy, 36, shoots California Highway Patrol officer Kenyon Youngstrom at close range after the officer stops Lacy’s vehicle, which had an obstructed license plate, on I-680 near Alamo, Calif. Lacy is fatally shot by another trooper who responds to the scene. Youngstrom dies September 5. An investigation into Lacy’s background reveals a large amount of antigovernment “sovereign citizens” literature on several computers at his home.
December 21, 2012
FBI agents arrest Richard Schmidt, the owner of a sporting goods store in Bowling Green, Ohio, for trafficking in counterfeit goods and discover a cache of 18 weapons in his home and store, including AR-15 assault rifles, 9 mm and Sig Sauer pistols and shotguns, and more than 40,000 rounds of ammunition. Schmidt is unable to own the weapons legally because he is a felon who served 13 years for murdering a Latino man and wounding two others in a 1989 traffic dispute. They also find evidence of Schmidt’s neo-Nazi views, including video and Nazi paraphernalia, and the Anti-Defamation League identifies him as a long-time member of the neo-Nazi National Alliance. And officials discover a notebook they say Schmidt was using to track Detroit area Jewish and African-American leaders, apparently as a prelude to some kind of attack. Schmidt is indicted in Toledo in January 2013 on three federal counts of possessing illegal firearms, body armor and ammunition, and one count of trafficking in counterfeit goods, and pleads not guilty.
The False Equivalency Of Left-Wing Terrorism
Sixties radicals may grow old, but they never seem to go out of style. In a trailer for Robert Redford’s recently released film, The Company You Keep, we are informed: “In 1969, a group of radical anti-war protesors began a campaign of bombings on American soil.” Redford plays a former terrorist, still in hiding “30 years after the notorious bank robbery that claimed the life of a guard.”
Never mind that the actual Weathermen didn’t go in much for bank robberies and avoided killing anyone during their bombing campaign. Several ex-Weathermen were involved in the horrifically bungled Brink’s armored car robbery at Rockland County, NY’s Nanuet Mall. Carried out by the remnants of the Black Liberation Army (a hyper-violent fragment of the Black Panther Party) and a few ex-members of the Weather Underground, the crime left two police officers and a security guard dead. The attempted robbery, which ended in the arrest or death of all involved, took place on Oct. 20, 1981.There have been no deaths linked to American left-wing extremism since.
But the specter of left-wing terrorism continues to hold a powerful sway over the American imagination. A policeman in George V. Higgin’s novel Outlaws describes a cadre of lefty terrorists as “Longhairs that got bored with protesting the war and branched out,” a description that sums up the general feeling about everyone from the Weather Underground to the Symbionese Liberation Army. The closest modern-day equivalent is the Earth Liberation Front, whose periodic fire bombings target property and have caused no deaths. (ELF is getting a hip cinematic touchup in the form of the new indie thriller The East: “We will counterattack three corporations for their worldwide terrorism in the next six months,” Ellen Page murmurs, as a swirling montage of images implies that her radical environmentalist clique’s tactics will quickly, violently and stylishly spin out of control.)
But today there is no equivalent threat from left-wing extremists. Small bands of masked protestors periodically indulge in a bout of window smashing or throw rocks at the police, but bombings, bank robberies and gunfights with law enforcement are the province of fringe right-wing extremist groups. “Unlike the 1960s and 1970s, there are few, true left-wing extremist organizations operating in the United States,” Daryl Johnson notes in Right-Wing Resurgence: How A Domestic Terrorism Threat Is Being Ignored. Johnson is an expert on domestic non-Islamic extremism and a former senior analyst with the Department of Homeland Security, although his unit was dismantled in the wake of conservative outrage over its report on right-wing extremism in the United States. In January 2009, Johnson’s team warned of increased cyber attacks, which “are attractive options to leftwing extremists who view attacks on economic targets as aligning with their nonviolent, ‘no-harm’ doctrine.”
“I stand by the statement that the left-wing terrorist groups were active in the 1970s and early ’80s and we’ve seen a shift to more right-wing extremism,” Johnson says. “We do have left-wing extremists who are active and they do property destruction and commit acts of arson; there have been occasional incidents where a police officer will get injured…but the vast majority of these things are property destruction. They just don’t have the body count.”
The crimes listed in the DHS report include disrupted email accounts at laboratories (usually in relation to animal rights), which allegedly cost the targeted companies millions of dollars. Contrast that with the Aug. 24, 1970 bombing at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Sterling Hall, which contained the Army Mathematics Research Center, which was barely affected by the attack. But the physics department in the building’s lower levels was badly hit, wounding several students and a security guard and killing researcher Robert Fassnacht.
The ultra-left-wing terrorist groups of the 1970s generally carried out such attacks in protest of bloody U.S. interventions abroad or the entrenched racism of American society. Clearly, their tactics did nothing to hinder either phenomenon, as the invasion of Iraq and the racial segregation that is still readily apparent in our prison complex, inner cities and educational system illustrate. Considering these continuing evils and the dire threats of climate change and soaring inequality, there are arguably even more issues to be enraged about than there were in the early 1970s. But no American left-wing radical group has resorted to the kind of murderous plot found in the works of Tom Clancy and Michael Crichton, popular authors who cast environmentalist and anarchist groups as brutal villains.
So what has changed since the Brink’s armored car robbery in 1981? “The brief moment of left violence in the late 1960s and ‘70s was a product of leftists hooking up with anti-colonial international movements,” says Andrew Hartman, an associate professor at Illinois State University. “[American terrorists] thought of themselves as fighting against the colonial power from the belly of the beast in solidarity with these ‘Third World’ movements. It was rooted in the expectation that a revolution was right around the corner and that almost any means necessary was appropriate in trying to achieve that. Obviously this was delusional, but it was a very palpable expectation.”
American leftists’ eager identification with their counterparts in Latin America, Africa and Asia is readily apparent. “The vanguard role of the Vietnamese and other Third World countries in defeating US imperialism has been clear to our movement for some time,” reads the 1969 manifesto of the Revolutionary Youth Movement (many of whose members would join the Weather Underground). “[The movement] will become one division of the International Liberation Army, while its battlefields are added to the many Vietnams which will dismember and dispose of US imperialism.” (Even the bizarre rhetoric of the SLA reflects this: every group member took a “revolutionary” name. Patty Hearst’s choice was Tania, after a comrade of Che Guevera.) “There were thousands of acts of violent protest happening all around,” explained ex-Weatherperson Kathy Boudin in a 2001 New Yorker interview at the Bedford Hills Correctional Facility, where she served a 19-year sentence for her role in the 1981 Brink’s robbery. “Every day you would hear about acts of violence, so it didn’t feel unusual in a certain way.”
The more exact analogy was probably the violent radical groups in Western Europe which, while just as ineffectual, were far deadlier than their American counterparts. From 1970 to 1981, the Italian Red Brigades killed “three politicians, nine magistrates, 65 policemen, and some 300 others,” according to Tony Judt’s Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945. A former prime minister, Aldo Moro, was kidnapped on the day of his greatest political victory and held hostage at a “People’s Prison” in Rome. His body was found seven weeks later in the trunk of a car parked in the city center. The Red Army Faction robbed 30 banks, took 162 hostages and killed 28 people including the West German attorney general.
Contrast that with the Weathermen, who only killed each other. On March 6, 1970 a cache of bombs ripped apart a Greenwich Village townhouse, killing three Weathermen before they could deploy the bombs at a dance for officers at Fort Dix, New Jersey. Bill Ayers (who was not present) says in the 2001 profile of Boudin, who survived the blast, “The townhouse knocked us back and forced us to reassess ourselves, pulling us back from that particular abyss.” Before the group broke up in 1976, they carried out over two dozen bombings across the nation, including attacks on the U.S. Capitol building and the Pentagon, but issued warnings beforehand and avoided killing anyone.
No matter their tactics, the leftist terrorists of the 1970s did not inspire much of anything (besides a whole lot of novelists and screenwriters). “There was no social base for it, no support for it on campuses or black communities,” says Maurice Isserman, professor of history at Hamilton College and co-author of America Divided: The Civil War of the 1960s. “The appeal of terrorism is that it substitutes the individual or the small band of desperados for a mass social movement. It’s hard to organize mass social movements, but it’s relatively easy in this country to acquire guns and dynamite.”
This last point is something the lunatic fringe of the American right has been at pains to prove recently. While left-wing terrorism in the United States is relegated to property damage and Al Qaeda-inspired militants have been largely foiled in the last decade, right-wing terrorism continues to wreck havoc. From 1995 to 2011,according to the Center for American Progress, 56 percent of domestic terrorist attacks can be attributed to right-wing extremists, 30 percent to violent environmentalists and 12 percent to Islamic radicals. The most deadly terrorist attack on U.S. soil before 9/11 was carried out by Timothy McVeigh, who was steeped in hard-right-wing ideology.
As Daryl Johnson testified before the Senate Subcommittee on the Constitution, right-wing extremist have killed 16 police officers and 20 other Americans between 2006 and 2012. (That’s a higher toll than the collective murders of all the American leftist terrorists of the 1970s combined.) Many women’s health clinics, African-American churches and mosques have been attacked in the same period. Just last week a man believed to be a member of a white supremacist gang murdered the chief of the Colorado Department of Corrections in his home.
But aside from the movie American History X, right-wing terrorists don’t have the same hold on the popular imagination (maybe corrupted idealism is more interesting than pure hate). As Benjamin Kunkel wrote in a 2005 essay, “The terrorist novel has dealt mostly with…the gun-happy dregs of the domestic New Left, who for all their snarling communiques killed only a handful of people, and that 20 and 30 years ago.” (See: Philip Roth’s American Pastoral.)
“[Leftist terrorists] play into the American fixation with outlaws,” says Max Elbaum, author of Revolution in the Air: Sixties Radicals Turn to Lenin, Mao and Che. “There is an archetype of the small band of outlaws who take on authority…They are part of the American tradition.”
The Grim Reality
There are four revealing stories to be gleaned from the Aggrieved Conservative Backlash™ to an exhaustive and sober new West Point Combating Terrorism Center report on “Understanding America’s Violent Far-Right.” (For a more grass roots-y look at how hysterical and viral that backlash is, see some choice tweets here.)
First, there is the obvious lesson about double standards. When the government accuses a Muslim group of being a national security threat, conservatives are quick to applaud and demand immediate (often violent) action, without regard for the whole “innocent until proven guilty” stuff. By contrast, when the government accuses an ideologically right-wing group of being a similarly dangerous threat, many of the same conservatives suddenly play the victim card, insisting that the Big Bad Government is wrongly demonizing them.
Second, the backlash tells the story of how priorities abruptly change when the context shifts. Again, when the government accuses a Muslim group of posing a threat, the substance of the accusations (how much of a threat? what is the operational capacity of the threat? etc.) are typically received by conservatives as serious national security issues. But when far right groups are labeled a threat, many conservatives’ first reflex is to defend the accused and wholly ignore the substance of the accusations no matter how well documented those accusations are (and say what you will about the West Point report’s conclusions, its supporting evidence is most certainly well-documented).
This spotlights the third story line: that of the double standard that governs what is, and is not, considered an acceptable rhetorical response to a purported national security threat. In the reaction to the West Point report, many conservatives seem to be arguing that the government is unduly targeting the anti-government/allegedly pro-freedom agenda that they share with far-right extremist groups. This move to first and foremost defend the common ideology is apparently seen as A-OK. But ask yourself: How would liberals be received if, upon publication of a report about Islamic terrorism, their reaction was first and foremost to publicly defend, say, the anti-imperialist sentiment of the accused terrorists? Such a reaction probably would get those liberals accused of “giving aid and comfort” to said terrorists and therefore being traitors to country.
Finally, and perhaps most revealingly, there is the fourth story, the one of desperate, almost comical misdirection in the face of all-too-serious evidence. In following up its original story with a piece headlined “‘Far Right’ report outrages critics of federalism,” the right-wing Washington Times tells us that conservatives “wonder why an institution that molds future Army officers to fight foreign enemies now is focusing on a perceived domestic threat.” The paper then quotes “a Republican congressional staffer who served in the military” demanding to know why West Point would dare focus on right-wing terrorism at all.
“If [the Defense Department] is looking for places to cut spending, this junk study is ground zero,” the staffer said. “Shouldn’t the Combating Terrorism Center be combating radical Islam around the globe instead of perpetuating the left’s myth that right-wingers are terrorists?”
This attempt to marginalize was predictably echoed by the National Review’s John Fund, who says the report aims to “lump together every known liberal stereotype about conservatives between its covers,” and that therefore, “it might be wise for all of us to be skeptical of [the West Point Combating Terrorism Center’s] other work.” The overarching point in this line of criticism is that West Point supposedly has no legitimate reason to even look at domestic right-wing extremism — and that therefore the only possible reason it is doing so is, as conservative blogger Pam Geller alleges, because it received “orders from higher ups” in the Obama administration. We are supposed to consequently conclude that any of the report’s findings should be ignored because the report itself has no credible standing.
To see this crude misdirect tactic for what it really is, set aside for a moment the fact that the overwhelming evidence presented by West Point inherently elucidates why the Combating Terrorism Center would be interested in the subject of right-wing terrorism. Set aside, too, the fact that, according to FBI data, there have been more right-wing terrorist plots than Islamic terrorist plots in recent years, thus justifying a military institution’s interest in both the latter and the former. Set aside even your own memories of Oklahoma City and all the acts of right-wing terrorism in the last few years that should prove why America’s military academy would want to study such terrorism.
Instead, simply recall the 2009 findings of the Department of Homeland Security, and also look at which circumstances tend to evoke right-wing terrorism in the first place.
Though similarly slammed by the GOP as an Obama-orchestrated assault on conservatives, that DHS report on right-wing extremism was requested by the Bush administration and written by Bush-era career DHS employees. You will recall that it warned that right-wing extremist groups specifically target U.S. soldiers for recruitment.
Meanwhile, as Table 1 of the West Point study shows, right-wing violence tends to spike around presidential election years. Additionally, the same report charts a correlation between right-wing violence and “the sense of empowerment that emerges when the political system is perceived to be increasingly permissive to far right ideas.”
Considering this, it should be painfully obvious why West Point is looking at right-wing terrorism right now. Simply put, there is legitimate reason for the military institution to at least assess whether that kind of terrorism will target West Point cadets (read: future soldiers) for recruitment; whether that terrorism might spike in the aftermath of a presidential campaign; and whether it will be fueled by a “sense of empowerment” that could emerge with a House of Representatives dominated by “far right ideas.”
None of this, of course, is to argue that all or most conservatives are terrorists. The West Point report doesn’t come close to doing that, and it shouldn’t be used to make such allegations.
However, it is to argue that in light of all the aforementioned reasons why the school should look at right-wing terrorism, those who suggest that it nonetheless shouldn’t are effectively asking America’s premiere military academy to succumb to a form of “political correctness.” Regularly championed by conservatives, this particularly pernicious strain of “political correctness” says we somehow can’t talk about (or in this case, even study) anything that offends the political ideology of the conservative movement.
We see that kind of p.c. policing in the gun debate, and we now see it in reaction to terrorism research — and it should be ignored as an affront not merely to liberty, but in this case, to national security as well.
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