November 8, 2001
Health and Environment
FBI: High Priority To Anti-Abortion Anthrax Mail
Investigators who once dismissed anti-abortion anthrax threats now admit
it's possible that domestic white supremacist terrorists can be sophisticated
and well funded, not dolts working in a back woods shack, boiling up
anthrax in a black cauldron.
By Frederick Clarkson WEnews correspondent
(WOMENSENEWS)-At a time when the nation is obsessed with anthrax threats
and real anthrax, the Federal Bureau of Investigation is has finally
decided to make investigating and punishing perpetrators of the national
wave of anthrax threats to abortion clinics a top priority and assigned
the investigation to their counter terrorism unit.
Anthrax threats to clinics have come in two waves since September 11th.
In the first, some 250 clinics received letters, accompanied by white
powder claiming that the recipients had been exposed to anthrax. A second
wave of anthrax threats arrive at over 200 abortion rights organizations
and clinics nationwide on Thursday, in Federal Express letters. The National
Abortion Federation was also evacuated in response to a bomb threat.
The abortion rights organizations that received anthrax threats included
the Center for Reproductive Law and Policy, the Alan Guttmacher Institute,
and the Boston-based Abortion Access Project. The National Abortion Federation
and Planned Parenthood Federation of America were falsely listed as the
senders of the packages. Many of them included letters from the Army
The FedExed threats come at a time when investigators are turning their
attention to domestic white supremacist terrorists as possible suspects
in first wave of anthrax threats as well as those who have targeted media
and lawmakers with real anthrax according to federal law enforcement
officials who have spoken to national news organizations on condition
Some in the violent wing of the anti-abortion movement are concerned;
this isn't a good time to be linked in the public's mind with Middle
East terrorism. Ex-convict and Army of God member Joshua Graff has called
for a "temporary Cease Fire in our war on the baby killers." He has expressed
concern that "One or more of us has tried to capitalize on the national
fear, and while I applaud the sentiment, by doing so they may well have
left a deep association between us and that scumbag bin Laden."
Meanwhile the Attorney General John Ashcroft, an anti-choice Republican,
has so far avoided speaking directly about the anthrax threats to clinics
and has not met with alarmed abortion providers, preferring to delegate
such matters to subordinates.
Originally, most officials assumed that the attacks on government and
the media were the work of Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda network and that
the threatening mailings to clinics were the routine, if opportunistic
work of violent anti-abortion groups.
FBI and Justice Department sources have told reporters that the anthrax
attacks on media outlets and government buildings may be the work of
domestic neo-Nazi groups. In a typical account, a Justice Department
official told the London Observer "We have to see the right wing as much
better coordinated than its apparent disorganization suggests. And we
have to presume that their opposition to government is just as virulent
as that of the Islamic terrorists, if not as accomplished."
Since Oct. 15, almost 500 anthrax threats have now been mailed to abortion
rights organizations and clinics nationwide. Before that, abortion clinics
had received about 80 mailed anthrax threats since 1998.
So far, none of the envelopes containing anthrax threats has tested
positive for anthrax.
The October round of threatening mailings to women's health centers
contained a white powder and a note that read: "You have been exposed
to anthrax. We are going to kill all of you. Army of God, Virginia DARE
[sic] Chapter." The envelopes had false return addresses from law enforcement
agencies, including the "U.S. Secret Service" and the "U.S. Marshall
Service," and were marked: "TIME SENSITIVE: Urgent Security Notice Enclosed."
This suggests to Tracy Sefl, a sociologist at the University of Illinois,
Chicago, and an expert on the violent wing of the anti-abortion movement,
that the senders have a sophisticated knowledge of clinic security matters.
She says, for example, the first wave of mailings, which she has examined,
are shrewdly presented, "right down to the correctness of the look of
the envelopes, the clinics' names spelled out properly, nothing crude." "This
is not a crazed, ragged, fiery eyed bunch," she said in an interview.
Rather she, says in light of the second, FedExed letters, they seem to
be increasing in their "fluency," in clinic security. She points to "the
way they are able to draw upon resources, such as getting the air bills
and the account numbers to perpetuate this fraud."
"And with increasing fluency," she concludes, "comes an increasing urgency
to crack this."
Events have moved fast since the anthrax terror-by-letter campaign began.
The FBI point man on the anthrax threat, Ruben Garcia, has met with security
staff from the National Abortion Federation, Planned Parenthood Federation
of America and the Feminist Majority Foundation. The FBI says it is intensifying
its investigation; assigning the cases to a special unit of its domestic
terrorism division and is coordinating the investigation out of its Philadelphia
Ann Glazier, director of clinic security at Planned Parenthood Federation
of America, is pleased with these developments, especially since the
sophistication of the Army of God tactics has grown. "Someone has the
ability to carry out massive letter campaigns by mail," she said. "Law
enforcement needs to learn how to catch them quickly."
"The problem," she said in an interview prior to the latest round of
threats, "is that we are a FedEx society and anything can be delivered
by 10 a.m. And I think it's to our great disadvantage if we don't take
these kinds of things very seriously."
Glazier is concerned that many Americans, don't believe that "domestic
terrorists could be smart or have money. It's so much easier for our
psyche," she says, "if we label them as dolts working out of a little
shack in the woods, boiling-up their anthrax in a black cauldron."
This is not the first time officialdom has turned from the Middle East
to the heartland to determine who is behind acts of terror on American
After the bombing of the Federal Building in Oklahoma City, the theory
that the attack originated in the Middle East quickly evaporated following
the arrest of Tim McVeigh. Investigative attention then turned to neo-Nazi
and militia groups. Investigations into anti-abortion violence during
the same time period unearthed many interconnections among different
stripes of the violent wing of the far right.
American neo-Nazis have long sought to destabilize the U.S. government.
Some groups have used the neo-Nazi novel, "The Turner Diaries," as a
blueprint. The novel depicts how the blowing up of a federal building
provided the catalyst for a race war in the U.S. - and is believed to
have inspired Tim McVeigh.
Now, neo-Nazi leaders are praising the attacks on the World Trade Center
and the Pentagon. The National Alliance's Billy Roper, wrote for example: " The
enemy of our enemy is, for now at least, our friends. . .anyone who is
willing to drive a plane into a building to kill Jews is all right by
Pastor August B. Kreis, denounced the "war against Islamic Freedom Fighters" in
a posting on the web site of the Aryan Nations, and warned " Be prepared
folks, for the blood is soon to run deep here in the streets of America.
. .Hail HIS Victory!"
Although the Army of God has waged a 20-year campaign of bombings, arsons
and assassinations against abortion providers before the advent of the
anthrax letter threats, no one had ever heard of a Virginia Dare chapter
of the Army of God. Virginia Dare was the first white child born in the
New World in 1557. Nevertheless, Army of God spokesman Rev. Donald Spitz
has said that while he doesn't know who is responsible for the anthrax
threats, he called it a "great idea."
In fact, leading white supremacists have long advocated and endorsed
anti-abortion violence. The most famous example is Eric Rudolph, who
has been indicted in the pipe bombing of the 1996 Summer Olympics in
Atlanta, as well as the pipe bombing explosions at two abortion clinics
and a gay bar. He has been on the FBI's Most Wanted List since 1998.
Letters claiming responsibility for some of the crimes were signed, "Army
Pastor August B. Kreis a leader of the white supremacist, tax protest
network called the Posse Comitatus declared Rudolph "is of the Identity
faith. If he has done what the jewsmedia/government [sic] has been accusing
him of. . .he did it in the name of Our Glorious Father YHVH! He knew
exactly what needed doing and he did it."
The Aryan Nations' web site currently links directly to the Army of
God web site run by Rev. Donald Spitz, Army of God spokesman.
= = =
Frederick Clarkson has reported on the intersection of religion and
politics for 20 years. He recently received the Leo J. Ryan Education
Foundation's 2001 Media Award for his writings on "fundamentalist and
cult intrusion into politics and society." He is the author of "Eternal
Hostility: The Struggle Between Theocracy and Democracy," Common Courage
To read another Women's Enews article by Frederick Clarkson:
Anti-Abortion Escapee Joins Bin Laden on FBI List (Septemer 28, 2001) http://www.womensenews.org/article.cfm/dyn/aid/668/context/archive
For more information:
Federal Bureau of Investigation http://www.fbi.gov/mostwant/topten/fugitives/rudolph.htm
Army of God http://www.armyofgod.com/Claytonnewpaper.html
Aryan Nations http://www.aryan-nations.org/
Feminist Majority Foundation http://www.feminist.org/news/newsbyte/uswirestory.asp?id=5902
Planned Parenthood Federation of America http://www.plannedparenthood.org/
Political Research Associates http://www.publiceye.org/
"Eternal Hostility: The Struggle Between Theocracy and Democracy," by
Frederick Clarkson http://www.commoncouragepress.com/clarkson_eternal.html
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