The real terrorist threat to most Americans does not come from overseas. Instead, it is found in places like Muskogee, Okla.; Columbus, Ohio; and Spokane.
While national leaders decry foreign terrorists operating on American soil, and commemorate the hundreds killed in Oklahoma City, many smaller crimes are spreading terror across the country.
These terrorists don’t travel from some faraway land to commit their politically motivated acts of violence. They live and work among us.
Here are a few:
A plumber and an electrician in Georgia stockpiled pipe bombs and talked of planting explosives in lunch buckets to disrupt the Olympics.
A former AT&T; supervisor and a Navy nuclear submarine veteran are accused of bombings and robberies in the Spokane Valley.
The son of a CIA agent is charged with leading a group called the Aryan Republican Army that committed 19 bank robberies throughout the Midwest.
“We, ladies and gentlemen, are your neighbors,” says a member of that group. “We are the guy down the street. We’re the guy who works on your car. We’re the accountant, the deputy sheriff, the Internal Revenue guy.”
This wave of domestic terrorism isn’t some monolithic revolution with one or two leaders giving orders.
Anti-government rebels are organizing in small groups called cells that act independently but with a common purpose. That makes it harder for law enforcement to detect and infiltrate them.
Our region has seen more than its share of domestic terrorism - from the violent Aryan Nations splinter groups of the 1980s to the bombers and robbers who struck the Valley this year.
Now, anti-government crime and terrorism are cropping up across the nation - among militia groups, tax protesters, so-called patriots and hard-core racists.
There is evidence of it in at least half of the states, and it’s gotten worse since Oklahoma City.
The FBI rarely classifies these crimes as terrorism.
But to people like Karen Mathews, that’s just what it is. The California county clerk was beaten and threatened with death after refusing to accept common-law court documents from one anti-government group.
“I can’t describe how scared I was,” says Mathews. “I thought he was going to kill me.”
Last year, The Spokesman-Review explored the mounting anger against the U.S. government in a special report called The Ragged Edge.
We found a fierce anti-government movement that was uniting growing factions of people against what they saw as an intrusive, corrupt and deaf Big Brother.
In today’s paper, we begin a three-part series that examines an extreme, violent corner of this anti-government movement.
Please see Section H for part one of our series, The War Within.