An intelligence report from a terrorism institute suggests an old threat has new clothes: Immigration and eminent domain radicalism are the heirs of Timothy McVeigh.
The message on the Yahoo Web group, "Americans with a Spine" is unrelenting and unmistakable:
"This group is for those who have HAD IT! NO MORE will WE pay for some illegal piece of crap to have a bastard baby here and allow it to become a citizen! NO MORE will we allow the terms racist, Nazi, bigot, redneck and all the other derogatory names to affect us! WE are Americans with a SPINE and pair of BALLS who are standing up to this TURD WORLD CRIMINAL SCUM!!" the Web site proclaims.
"Whether it is illegals, blacks, gooks or jews, POST IT HERE! WHITE AMERICA NEEDS TO KNOW HOW TO FIGHT FIRE WITH FIRE!"
The numbers of hate groups on the Web are legion, but this posting has an Oklahoma connection. It posted a notice for an "Immigration Reform Summit" in Austin, Texas, featuring a speaker from the anti-immigration group "Immigration Reform for Oklahoma Now," or IRON.
"I've never heard of them," said Carol Helm, IRON's director. She spoke at the conference, but said no group called Americans with a Spine attended. "I didn't meet everybody, but that doesn't ring a bell with me. I'm sure they weren't there."
An attempt to contact the Americans with a Spine group via e-mail was unsuccessful.
Helm said IRON has no truck with violence. She said IRON attempts to change immigration laws, opposes illegal immigration and otherwise tries to influence the immigration debate by legislative means.
"I have no idea what this means, but if they are talking violence "¦ if that's what they are doing "¦ Oh, golly, no." Helm said.
The scenario is unsurprising to David Cid, the deputy director of Oklahoma City's Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism, or MIPT, which recently issued a report on counterterrorism. The truly dangerous radicals, he said, are attaching their views to the immigration debate, with possibly violent results.
"The truly radical elements on the far right are using a legitimate issue to leverage their influences within these groups," Cid said. "You get these things together and you begin to get this witches' brew of political concern, people with a tendency toward violence and a legitimate problem that prompts that violence, then that leads to a tendency, we think, to perhaps more violence."
MIPT's report, "The Path to a Counterterrorism Doctrine," said that intelligence strategy " not just wiretaps, metal detectors or checking everyone's shoes at the airport " needs to be a priority to prevent the next large terror attack in the U.S.
While most signs still point to foreign radical Islamism as the major concern for the U.S., the report also pointed out the growing anger among the same sorts of movements that spawned Timothy McVeigh and the Oklahoma City bombing. Cid said that although McVeigh's actions horrified groups on the right, like the militia movement " and caused them to turn away their radical elements " the radicals are now back and growing.
In addition to immigration, violent radicals have also attached themselves to the debate over eminent domain, or the actions of a governmental body seizing property without the consent of the owner.
"The radical right, long quiescent, is re-animated around immigration and eminent domain," the report states. ""¦ The question that keeps public safety professionals awake is this: What will be the next worst thing?"
Cid said there are no specific groups yet in Oklahoma that appear to be dedicated to violent acts in the anti-immigration movement, but they are communicating with more radical elements that are.
"You can infer from that there is a strong possibility that the threat from violence is increasing in Oklahoma based upon these issues," Cid said. "When you get an atmosphere where there are calls to arms, and you encourage the more radical elements, the chance they will become more violent increases."
FILL IN THE GAPS
Surveillance of such groups through intelligence gathering and monitoring are necessary in proportion to the threat they might pose, Cid said. Americans can't put metal detectors in every mall or guards in front of every residence " the country can never be perfectly safe. Intelligence gathering can fill in the gaps, Cid said.
"Because we are vulnerable in many places, and we cannot mitigate that vulnerability, we have to be attentive. The way we are attentive is though the use of intelligence," he said. "The more precise the intelligence is, the better it is, the more intelligently we use it, the less we have to do all this data mining and sifting through all this private information hoping to find some nugget to leads us to the next terrorist plot."
He said such monitoring could be controversial, such as some aspects of the Patriot Act.
"The issue is that there is always a balance between freedom and security. As a nation, we've reset that balance a number of times based on circumstances. We are very good as a nation of recalibrating that balance as circumstances allow," Cid said.
Meanwhile, Helm said her group plans to be on the lookout for violent elements that want to join their cause. She took down the name of "Americans with a Spine" and said she plans to follow up on it.
"We will watch for them," she said. "Ben Fenwick