Hate groups applaud terror attacks, watch reaction warily

Boston Globe/October 28, 2001
By Robert Schlesinger

Washington -- The lyrics are written to the tune of ''America the Beautiful,'' but the message is far different. The song on the Aryan Nations Web site sums up the violent reaction that the Sept. 11 attacks have spurred in the extremist fringe.

Entitled ''America the Sinful,'' one verse reads:

O', wicked land of sodomites,

Your World Trade Center's gone.

With crashing planes and burning flames,

To hell your souls have gone.

America, America,

God's wrath was shown to thee.

Most Americans express an inability to understand the hatred that motivates Osama bin Laden and his followers. But for the fringe of far-right hate groups in the United States, the attacks are seen as retribution, inspiration, or the start of the next revolution.

Paul R. Mullet, Minnesota leader of the Aryan Nations, is, if possible, blunter still. ''The current events ... have caused me to activate my unit,'' he said, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks extremist groups and compiled statements from such sources as Internet chat rooms and e-mail. ''Please be advised that the time for Aryans to attack is now, not later.''

As more anthrax cases appear, some officials are wondering whether they are coming from home-grown terrorists. While top US officials, including President Bush, have said they haven't ruled out any suspects, they have also said there is no evidence tying the anthrax incidents to bin Laden.

The anthrax-laced letters sent to government agencies are ''indicative of either a lone psycho in the US or a small cell of one of the hate groups like Aryan Nations or Christian Identity,'' said Vincent Cannistraro, former head of CIA counterterrorism operations.

Ian Cuthbertson, a terrorism specialist with the World Policy Institute, said he suspects that '' it's somebody piggybacking on Sept. 11 for their own reasons, rather than anything to do with Al Qaeda or Osama bin Laden.''

Rocky Suhayda, chairman of the American Nazi Party expressed admiration for the suicide bombers. The Southern Poverty Law Center quoted him as saying, ''If `we' were one-10th as `serious' ... we just might start getting somewhere.''

In online postings and other media, the fringe groups spread their message that the terrorist attacks were the result of US policy that they view as being dominated by Israel and Jews. At times, the rhetoric sounds as if it were coming from bin Laden.

''We, of the Aryan Nations, condemn the acts of the USA, being nothing more than a puppet government of Israeli [sic], in the attacks against the Taliban Freedom Fighters and the Islamic people of Afghanistan,'' said one statement on the Aryan Nations Web site, condemning the US airstrikes. ''We believe that it was the Ruling Elite, the Jews; i.e., Mossad, the so-called New World Order, behind the attack of the WTC on Sept. 11, to further enslave us in a total police state.''

Many on the fringe express the fear that the war on terrorism will be used as an excuse to further take away their rights.

''If this beast system looks to us to plunder, arrest, and fill their detention camps with, then by all means fight force with force and leave not a man standing,'' wrote August B. Kreis III, minister of information and propaganda of the Aryan Nations.

As some terrorism specialists wonder whether domestic hate groups produced the recent anthrax attacks, they point to tell-tale signs in the letters.

Cannistraro noted that the slant of the lettering is indicative of someone used to writing left to right, not someone whose first language is Arabic, which flows from right to left.

He also noted that the phrases employed - ''Death to America,'' ''Death to Israel,'' ''Allah is great'' - are ''almost a parody ... of what a foreign terrorist would write.''

The letters were also dated Sept. 11, although they were mailed several days afterward, another clue in the estimation of some specialists.

''That's someone trying so hard to connect to Sept. 11,'' said Clint Van Zandt, a former FBI profiler. ''They either think you and me and everyone else in America is too dumb to make that connection ... or they are trying so hard to make that connection it makes me uncomfortable.''

The date itself was written in the American style, 09-11-01, rather than the European and Arabic 11-09-01, Cannistraro said.

Even if the author of the anthrax letter is American, that does not necessarily mean that fringe groups are responsible. But specialists point out that right-wing hate groups have a history of using nonconventional weapons.

''A variety of right-wing groups have tried to get various chemical and biological weapons and toxins,'' Cuthbertson said.

In 1972, he said, neo-Nazis were arrested outside Chicago on charges of plotting to contaminate Chicago's water supplies with typhoid bacillus. He cited other incidents, including a 1985 Department of Justice raid on the compound of a group called the Covenant, Sword, and Arm of the Lord that found large quantities of potassium cyanide, as well as plans to use it to poison the water supplies of several cities.

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