U.S. Hate Groups Seen As Bioterror Suspects

New York Daily News/October 18, 2001
By Paul H.B. Shin

If Osama Bin Laden and his terror cabal are not responsible for the nation's anthrax panic from both the real and fake attacks, then who? The answer may point to home-grown terrorism, those who watch hate groups said yesterday.

Neo-Nazi and other right-wing hate groups have stepped up their rhetoric since the Sept. 11 attacks on America, capitalizing on the nation's hysteria, the hate monitors told the Daily News yesterday.

And militant anti-abortion groups have cranked up the anxiety with anthrax threats of their own to more than 100 clinics nationwide.

"It's possible that someone in the American radical right is involved in some of these anthrax scares," said Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center, a nonprofit organization in Montgomery, Ala., that closely monitors such groups.

While some public officials have pointed to Bin Laden as the likely source of the confirmed anthrax poisonings in New York, Washington and Florida, Attorney General John Ashcroft and FBI Director Robert Mueller have said there is no specific evidence linking the anthrax scares to the hijackers.

The 1998 arrest of white supremacist Larry Wayne Harris, who was captured by the FBI with three vials of bacteria that cause bubonic plague, put law enforcement on alert then about the possibility of domestic bioterrorists.

Since the attack on the twin towers, radical right-wing groups nationwide have called for the expulsion of immigrants, especially those of Arab descent.

But many others have spread conspiracy theories blaming Jews for the attacks. "They are definitely trying to channel people's fear and anger about the attacks into prejudices," said Mark Pitcavage of the Anti-Defamation League. "They're trying to channel the hate."

Other Threats

Billy Roper of the National Alliance, for example, unapologetically cheered the attack on the twin towers on the group's Internet site: "Anyone who is willing to drive a plane into a building to kill Jews is alright by me ... I wish our members had half as much testicular fortitude."

Threats against abortion clinics in particular point to home-grown copycats, experts said. "It's very difficult to imagine that some Muslim fundamentalist terrorist is in the slightest bit concerned with American abortions," Potok said.

Since Sept. 11, Planned Parenthood has received 100 letters containing powders at its clinics and offices in 13 states, said Colleen McCabe, a spokeswoman for the abortion rights group. Among those, bacteria were detected in two - one in Florida and one in Indiana. Further tests are being conducted, McCabe said.

William Lutz, spokesman for the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League, said anthrax threats to several other clinics contained references to the Army of God, a militant anti-abortion group that has endorsed violence against clinics and doctors.

"They have shown in the past that anything goes," Lutz said.

But the call to arms by militia and separatist groups seems to have fallen largely on dead ears.

"There's virtually no evidence that Sept. 11 or its aftermath has reinvigorated these groups or brought new members into the movement," Potok said.

Richard Uviller, a hate crimes expert at the Columbia University Law School, said fomenting panic may backfire on these groups that consider themselves superpatriots.

"I don't think it would be in the interest of domestic groups to heighten the sense of anxiety at this point because it's playing into the hands of the terrorists," Uviller said.

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