Domestic Terrorist Groups
Domestic Terrorist Groups
When we think of the term “terrorist” or “terrorism”, we sometimes connect the terms to some far-off land in the Middle East, or in Africa or Asia, or to some obscure group who have been extremely violent in the attainment, or trying to attain, their ends. We cannot escape the fact that the picture that comes to our mind is a man, totting a machine gun, shouting something that most of us don’t understand, and then letting off a volley of gun fire from his rifle. But have we ever thought that the terrorists may be just be around the corner? The Terror from Within
According to the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation, domestic terrorism can be defined as groups engaging in acts of terrorism with operations within the territorial limits of the United States, without any foreign influence (Judson Knight, 2007). In this context, the FBI further divides the groups engaged in domestic terrorism into three categories: right-wing groups, left-wing organizations and “special-interest” terrorism (Knight, 2007). The history of terrorist groups in the United States started with the establishment of the KKK, or the Ku Klux Klan in the 1860’s.
White supremacists’ groups still contribute to terrorists acts in the United States (Knight, 2007) The Right-Wing Basing from the definition of the FBI, right-wing terrorist groups find their motivation by ideas of white supremacy, as well as a hatred for government and regulations (Knight, 2007). Such organizations may include some extreme religious groups that destroy abortion clinics, although these groups are sometimes grouped together with special-interest groups (Knight, 2007).
But the majority of terrorist acts attributed to right-wing activists are ones that are motivated by race, such as “skinhead” attacks, legally fall under the classification of “hate crimes” rather than in the definition of domestic terrorism (Knight, 2007). But we must note the definition that not all attacks attributed to anti-government groups are racist in nature (Knight, 2007). The Klan Any discussion of right-wing organizations would be incomplete without naming one of the more infamous groups in the right wing aggrupation, the Ku Klux Klan (Knight, 2007).
Former Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest established the Klan with the intent of protecting the Confederate widows and children left orphaned by the Civil War (University of Virginia, 2004). Forrest named the group KuKlos Klan, from Greek and Scottish words meaning “family circle” (Virginia, 2004). The First Klan was established to resist the policies of Reconstruction and re-affirm “white supremacy” (The Columbia Encyclopedia, 2007).
The Klan believed that all Reconstruction authorities were hostile and oppressive, and inferred the colored people, particularly blacks, possessed an inherent inferiority to the white person, thus resenting the elevation of the former slaves to a state of equal footing with the (MSN Encrata, 2008). Herein lay the Klan being declared an illegal group as they strove to destroy all Reconstruction authority from Arkansas and North and South Carolina (Encarta, 2008). Klansmen scared local officials in the desire to boot them out of office.
Also, Klansmen terrorized blacks in efforts to stop them from exercising their rights to vote, assuming public office or using their new political rights (Encarta, 2008). When the strategy of the Klan did not get its desired result, the Klan resorted to more violent acts to enforce its message, including flogging, mutilation and murder (Encarta, 2008). The justification for these acts, according to the Klan, was to push the unassailability of white women and to reinforce the concept of “white supremacy” (Encarta, 2008).
But according to the Department of Homeland Security, right-wing terrorist groups and domestic terror groups are not listed in the list of internal security risk groups in the United States (Justin Rood, 2005). Recently, the Klan has been under fire for the violent acts that were attributed to race issues (Encarta, 2008). Among them were the 1994 conviction of a Klan member, Byron De la Beckwith, for the murder of Medgar Evans in 1964, and the 2005 conviction of Edgar Ray Killen of the killings of civil rights activists Andrew Goodman, James Chaney and Michael Schwerner in Philadelphia (Encarta, 2008).
The Army of God The Army of God is a highly militant religious organization to recently hit the spotlight (James Haught, 1997). The group is responsible for the two 1997 bombings in the Atlanta area, targeting a night club and an abortion facility (Haught, 1997). The paramilitary force has been tied to several incidences in the 1980’s including murders, bombings, kidnapping and arson the group utilizes as an anti-abortion group (Donald Spitz, 2007). They also espouse the use of violence against members of the homosexual community as well as abortion clinics (Dugdale-Pointon, 2007).
In their use of violence, the Army of God, unlike the Klan, uses Scriptural justification in carrying out their acts of violence against their targets (Dugdale-Pointon, 2007). Michael Bray, a pastor, has been in jail for bombing abortion clinics. In addition, the AOG has published a manual (Dugdale-Pointon, 2007). The manual is for guiding members on tactics and procedures on how to destroy abortion clinics, set these facilities on fire and other bomb-making methods (Dugdale-Pointon, 2007).
In the manual also is found the central beliefs of the Army as to its orientation as being anti-abortion, anti-homosexual and critical of the authorities in being lax in keeping and defending values that are Christian, according to their belief (Dugdale-Pointon, 2007). James Kopp, an Army of God member, shot and killed Dr. Barnett Sleppian in 1998, and one member, Clayton Waagner, in a terrorist scare tactic, mailed over 500 letters to abortion facilities across the nation, claiming that the letters contained a lethal poison, anthrax, killing anyone who would open the letters (Dugdale-Pointon, 2007).
After the Sleppian slaying, then Attorney General Janet Reno formed the National Task Force against Health Care Providers in November 1998 (Army of God). This again angered Army members by the renaming of what they consider “baby-killers” as against the term “health care providers” (Army of God). It also affiliates itself with such individuals as Presbyterian minister Paul J. Hill, executed over the killing of two Florida abortion clinic staff and Eric Robert Rudolf, involved in the Olympic Park Bombing in 1996 (Spitz, 2007). The Left Wing
The effects of the right wing organizations have tended to blur the importance of the left-wing domestic terror groups (Knight, 2007). In his testimony before the House Resources Committee’s subcommittee on forests and forest health, James Darboe, the Federal Bureau of Investigation domestic terrorism unit chief, said (2002) that the right wing terror groups have overtaken left-wing groups as the most lethal threat to the United States (Jarboe, 2002). In the cases involving left-wing and special interest terror groups, later to be discussed, the death count is smaller, but also wreaks havoc on property and lives (Knight, 2007).
These groups, in the definition of the FBI, espouse a socialist agenda, touting themselves as some sort of guardians for the populace against the effect of capitalism and the imperialism of the United States (Knight, 2007). The Armed Forces of National Liberation The Armed Forces of National Liberation (Fuerzas Armadas Liberacion Nacional) or simply FALN is a secret organization that is dedicated to the independence of the island of Puerto Rico from the United States (Gina Perez, 2005).
First coming out in October 26, 1974, when five explosive devices went off in the Manhattan area of New York, comprising the Wall Street, the Rockefeller and Park Avenue areas, causing large damage to property but no casualties (Britannica). In the years between 1974 and 1983, the Puerto Rican nationalists have claimed to be the perpetrators of at least 120 bombing incidents, targeting military and business establishments, and business headquarters across the country (Perez, 2005).
The bombings were meant to send a message of protest to the continued presence of the United States in Puerto Rico, focus the relationship of Puerto Rico with the United States, and object to the increasing influence of US corporations on the island (Perez, 2005). The first impression that one gets is that the FALN should be a special-interest group, but according to the FBI, given the language and the goals of the group, they are at present classified as a left-wing organization (Knight, 2007).
Since the middle of the 1900’s, the Puerto Rican rebels have gained notoriety as one of the most important left-wing groups (Knight, 2007). Since that time, this group have sought to bring independence to Puerto Rico, by violent means if necessary (Debra Burlingame, 2008). The recent activities of the group tend to sway one to the belief that they are serious in their aspiration. As early as the 1950’s, Puerto Rican rebels were trying to destabilize the United States, even trying to assassinate President Harry Truman (Knight, 2007).
In April of 1980, eleven members of the group were caught in Illinois, on robbery, conspiracy and weapons violations (Britannica). The 1975 Fraunces Tavern bombing in 1975 is considered the bloodiest attacks of the group in the United States (Burlingame, 2008). The FALN even boasted about the bombing, calling the bombing victims as “reactionary corporate executives”, going so far as to threaten the United States with a “storm” that will ultimately destroy America (Burlingame, 2008). The Symbionese Liberation Army
The Symbionese Liberation Army, or SLA, is a cult along Maoist lines espousing the ideal of a violent take over of the government (Black-Dahlia). The SLA was taken over by a former black convict, Donald DeFreeze (Black-Dahlia), in 1973 (Suellentrop, 2002). Along with a few veterans of the Bay of Pigs incident, the SLA adopted the rhetoric of Communists and South American revolutionary elements (Chris Suellentrop, 2002). The group itself borrows a term used in the field of biology- “symbiosis”, a term connoting the interdependence of different organisms on one another (Suellentrop, 2002).
Even SLA members took on different names to symbolize their revolutionary advocacy (Suellentrop, 2002). The group, using a seven-headed cobra as its symbol, has an interesting slogan- “Death to the fascist insect that preys on the life of the people” (Suellentrop, 2002). Adopting French newspaperman Regis Debrays’ idea of “urban propaganda”, the concept involved the use of “selective violence” (Suellentrop, 2002). By “selective violence”, the group engaged in violent acts, such as kidnapping and bank robberies, designed to focus media on the group, thus gaining support for the group (Suellentrop, 2002).
Among the more noteworthy acts of the group include the kidnapping of media heiress Patricia Hearst (Suellentrop, 2002), and the murder of Marcus Foster (Suellentrop, 2002). Special Interest Terror Groups Attacks and perceived threats against abortion clinics mainly constituted the special-interest group in the 1990’s (Knight, 2007). The FBI classified these crimes against these facilities more as “hate crimes”, rather than acts of terrorism, to be dealt with other law enforcement entities (Knight, 2007).
Special terrorism is differentiated from left- or right-wing terror groups in that these radical organizations seek to address particular issues, rather than espousing radical political change (Jarboe, 2002). These groups perform their acts of violence to force sectors in society to change their opinions essential to the groups’ causes (Jarboe, 2002). These groups may be found lying on the outer fringes of several cause oriented groups, those advocacies for pro-life movements, environment groups, those against nuclear power and animal rights (Jarboe, 2002).
Some of the movements’ adherents have recently utilized vandalism and terror acts to further their respective groups (Jarboe, 2002). In 1997, disgruntled members of the environmental group Greenpeace founded the Sea Shepherd Society, attacking commercial fishing concerns by destroying drift nets (Jarboe, 2002). These and other acts of “eco-terrorism” have been happening in many parts of the world (Jarboe, 2002). The Animal Liberation Front In recent times, the Animal Liberation Front (ALF) has gained the reputation as one of the more active rabid group in the United States (Jarboe, 2002).
In spite of the acts of the group that are destructive in nature, its standard operating policy is not to create any act harmful to people or animals (Jarboe, 2002). The ALF, founded in Great Britain in the 1970’s, is a loose group dedicated to stopping abuse and exploitation of animals (Jarboe, 2002). As a terrorist group, its sole agenda, as defined by the FBI, is to create social and political reform through the use of violent force (Jarboe, 2002). Both the United States and Great Britain classify this organization as a domestic terror threat (S.
E. Smith, 2008). A distinguishing trait of the ALF is, as stated earlier, is its deficiency in structure (Smith, 2008) The group has no leadership structure, or any other official hierarchy. This means that anyone can initiate immediate direct acts for the benefit of animals and label the act as done on behalf of the ALF (Smith, 2008). This characteristic makes the neutralization of the group very difficult, given the decentralization of the group (Smith, 2008). Several of the groups’ aims is to economically disable companies and individuals who
derive profit from animal abuse and exploitation (Smith, 2008). The “direct action” would make the target unable to continue operations or inflict economic damage (Jarboe, 2002). The amount of damage caused by the ALF, computed by the Fur Commission and the National Association for Biomedical Research, puts the price tag at about $ 45 million (Jarboe, 2002). The ALF has waged a steady campaign of terror activities against restaurants, mink farms, fur businesses and research laboratories using animals in their activities (Jarboe, 2002).
The Earth Liberation Front The Earth Liberation Front (ELF) is a world wide group that, like the ALF, utilizes direct action, not for animal rights, but against those who destroy and exploit the planet’s natural resources (Satya, 2004). The group conducts its terror activities against those whose only aim is the accumulation of profit no matter what the cost (Satya, 2004). Thus, it can be said that the ELF conducts its actions to make it unprofitable for individuals or companies from exploiting the planet (Satya, 2004).
Founded in Brighton, England in 1994, the members of the ELF have destroyed sports utility vehicles, lavish homes, and other properties that have cost Americans millions of dollars in damages (Target of Opportunity). These individuals adhere to a deep-seated Marxist ideology-founded Anarchist view against private property ownership (Target of Opportunity). This notion of private ownership and rights to property are ideas that this group wishes to destroy (Target of Opportunity). The group utilizes “monkey wrenching”, acts of destruction used against industries or business entities allegedly abusing the environment (Jarboe, 2002).
The main weapon of the ELF, as well as the Alf, is arson, the instructions found in the ELF website (Jarboe, 2002). Both the ALF and the ELF have claimed to have perpetrated terror acts, either acting in collaboration or in unison (Jarboe, 2002). Both claimed credit for the burning of a Bureau of Land Management wild horse holding facility in November 1997, and the ELF claimed sole responsibility in a ski lift burning in October 1998 (Jarboe, 2002). All individuals have the right to voice out their opinions against what they perceive as injustices or social inequalities. That is the essence of a free, democratic society.
But along with the free society, is the respect that each one must render to another person’s rights. When that right is violated, then there lies the spectre of terrorism, whatever the agenda or purpose. References Black-Dahlia. (n. d. ). The Symbionese Liberation Army. Retrieved August 7, 2008, from http://www. black-dahlia. org/sla. html Burlingame, D. (2002, February 12). The Clinton’s terror pardons. The Wall Street Journal http://online. wsj. com/public/article_print/SB120277819085260827. html Dugdale-Pointon, T. (2007). The Army of God. August 17, 2007.
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