2004-01-02 10:44:51 UTC
From the December 29, 2003 edition -
Christian Science Monitor
The terror threat at home, often overlooked
As the media focus on international terror, a Texan pleads guilty to
possessing a weapon of mass destruction.
By Kris Axtman | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor
HOUSTON - It began as a misdelivered envelope and developed into the
most extensive domestic terrorism investigation since the Oklahoma City
Last month, an east Texas man pleaded guilty to possession of a weapon
of mass destruction. Inside the home and storage facilities of William
Krar, investigators found a sodium-cyanide bomb capable of killing
thousands, more than a hundred explosives, half a million rounds of
ammunition, dozens of illegal weapons, and a mound of white-supremacist
and antigovernment literature.
"Without question, it ranks at the very top of all domestic terrorist
arrests in the past 20 years in terms of the lethality of the arsenal,"
says Daniel Levitas, author of "The Terrorist Next Door: The Militia
Movement and the Radical Right."
But outside Tyler, Texas, the case is almost unknown. In the past nine
months, there have been two government press releases and a handful of
local stories, but no press conference and no coverage in the national
Experts say the case highlights the increased cooperation and quicker
response by US agencies since Sept. 11. But others say it points up just
how political the terror war is. "There is no value for the Bush
administration to highlighting domestic terrorism right now," says
Robert Jensen, a journalism professor at the University of Texas in
Austin. "But there are significant political benefits to highlighting
foreign terrorists, especially when trying to whip up support for war."
Mr. Levitas goes even further: "The government has a severe case of
tunnel vision when it comes to domestic terrorism. I have no doubt
whatsoever that had Krar and his compatriots been Arab-Americans or
linked to some violent Islamic fundamentalist group, we would have heard
from John Ashcroft himself."
The case began in the fall of 2002 when a package bound for New Jersey
was misdelivered to a New York address. The family inadvertently opened
the package and found fake identification badges, including Department
of Defense and United Nations IDs. The FBI eventually tracked the
package back to Mr. Krar in Noonday, Texas.
The cache of weapons and bombs was found when the FBI served a search
warrant in April of this year. Krar and his common-law wife, Judith
Bruey, and the receiver of the package, New Jersey Militia member Edward
Feltus, were arrested.
All three have pleaded guilty to separate counts and are awaiting
Brit Featherston, the assistant US attorney in charge of the case, says
it was Krar and Ms. Bruey's connections to white-supremacist groups that
prompted further investigation. "Any little town has worse criminals on
paper than these two. But because of their background, the red flags
were flying all over the place - especially after Sept. 11," says Mr.
Featherston, in the eastern district of Texas.
Before Sept. 11, he says, the case most likely would have been worked as
a false-ID case and ended there. Instead, dozens of law-enforcement
agencies were involved and hundreds of subpoenas were served. "This case
was very high priority," says Featherston.
Still, investigators have been unable to answer questions such as: Where
was the sodium-cyanide bomb destined? And were the weapons being
prepared for a group or sold individually? Featherston says the
investigation is ongoing and won't end until these questions are answered.
Experts say the case is important not only because of what it says about
increased government cooperation, but also because it shows how serious
a threat the country faces from within. "The lesson in the Krar case is
that we have to always be concerned about domestic terrorism. It would
be a terrible mistake to believe that terrorism always comes from
outside," says Mark Potok at the Southern Poverty Law Center in
The fact is, the number of domestic terrorist acts in the past five
years far outweighs the number of international acts, says Mark
Pitcavage of the fact-finding department at the Anti-Defamation League.
"We do have home-grown hate in the United States, people who are just as
ill-disposed to the American government as any international terrorist
group," he says.
*Levitas estimates that there are approximately 25,000 right-wing
extremist members and activists and some 250,000 sympathizers. The
Southern Poverty Law Center counted 708 hate groups in 2002.*
(As I have noted many times in the past, the threat to America comes
from the conservative right-wingers. This is more confirmation. HK)
While Mr. Pitcavage was surprised the Krar case did not receive more
attention, "It is a fact that a lot of stories involving domestic
extremists get undercovered," he says. He points to a case he calls one
of "the major terrorist plots of the 1990s" in which militia from around
the country converged in central Texas allegedly to attack a military
base. They were arrested at a campground near Fort Hood on the morning
of July 4, 1997, with a large collection of weapons and explosives.
"There was virtually no media coverage of that incident either," says
Featherston speculates that the Krar case got little attention because
the arrests were made just after the war began in Iraq. "Excuse me, a
chemical weapon was found in the home state of George Bush," says
Levitas. "I'm not saying the Justice Department deliberately decided to
downplay the story because they thought it might be embarrassing to the
US government if weapons of mass destruction were found in America
before they were found in Iraq. But I am saying it was a mistake not to
give this higher profile."
For his part, Krar has remained silent. He will most likely be sentenced
sometime in February, and could receive up to life in prison. His
attorney, Tonda Curry, says the US government has no reason to be afraid
of him. "It looks a whole lot worse than it is. He had a lot of things
that most people would never have any desire to have, but much of what
he had was perfectly legal."
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