The first week of the Citizen’s FBI Academy began with a history of the FBI, and a description of how it is organized and functions. Quite simply stated, it is the investigative arm of the Department of Justice. Included within its purview is domestic terrorism. A significant amount of time was spent defining this topic and explaining what the major foci are. Terrorism is defined as the unlawful use of force or violence against person or property to intimidate or coerce a government or any kind of entity to further a particular agenda. Domestic Terrorism feeds on fear. It is the fear that you are vulnerable and unable to be protected. It tends to occur on the extreme fringes of groups that can be categorized as follows: White Supremacists, Sovereign Citizen Extremists, Militia Extremists, Single Issue Groups, and the Lone Offender.
WHITE SUPREMACISTS: This is the biggest of the groups. It believes white people are the superior race. It is frequently passed on from one family member to another. It feeds on economic displacement. Joseph Thomas who was recently arrested in Mendota Heights had alleged ties to a White Supremacist group that allegedly was collecting weapons and ammunition to attack the government, minorities, and others. His actual arrest was precipitated by the apparent distribution of methamphetamine.
SOVEREIGN CITIZEN EXTREMISTS: This group tends to attract people in poor financial straits. It is anti-tax and anti the currently established government. This group creates their own common law courts, has its own law enforcement, may claim diplomatic status, issue its own license plates and passports. It may try to bypass law enforcement, courts and airports with their own documents and id’s which can look remarkably legal. Minnesota’s Robert Beal, the former CEO of Comtrol, fell into this category. He was a tax protestor who ended up threatening the life of the judge who sentenced him.
MILITIA EXTREMISTS: These are organized paramilitary groups who are ready to fight the takeover of the United States by an alien government. They hate gun legislation and taxes, are upset about Waco and Ruby Ridge, and believe in a New World Order. They recruit, run training exercises, and stockpile weapons.
SINGLE ISSUE EXTREMISTS: These groups are attempting to change a single aspect of society. Under the umbrella of this group fall the Animal Rights
Extremists, Eco Terrorists, Anarchists and Abortion Extremists. Not too long
ago Woodbury struggled with an ordinance to prevent picketing outside personal
residences in the city. Animal Rights Activists were picketing the homes of
various 3M employees. At that time 3M had ties with a business that was doing
experiments on animals. St. Paul had its own experiences with the Anarchists
during the Republican National Convention.
THE LONE OFFENDER OR “LONE WOLF”: This person could be a member of any of the above mentioned groups. He or she feels that the group wasn’t aggressive enough and has struck out on their own. During the RNC, the FBI arrested Matthew Depalma. He admitted to plotting to bomb the electrical lines at the Xcel Center in order to halt the convention. He was a classic “Lone Wolf.”
The FBI believes there are indications when a member of a particular group goes from being simply a group member to a violent extremist or terrorist. Typically it begins with what is “above ground” activity. This may include sit ins, picketing and the like.
At some point there is a misdemeanor at one of the activities (a rock is thrown through a window for example) and the ante is upped. Next there is a move to undercover misdemeanor activity. This might mean keying the cars of their targeted victims or gluing the locks shut on car doors. When the activity moves further to an undercover felony, it is at this point that the FBI thinks a fringe group member is becoming a terrorist. The next step is predictably a violent crime or arson.
My question of the presenter was this: how do you become aware of these people and how do you track them? The answer surprised me a little. The FBI depends on tips from the public. They come from a variety of sources. It may be their own group members who have become uncomfortable with the member’s rhetoric or actions. It could be simply a citizen who sees or hears something they think is unusual or suspicious. It can come from someone who would like money for their information or from an individual who is trying to get less “time” for an offense in return for information. The FBI spends a lot of time following “leads.” Some yield critical information. Some lead to only a false end, but still must be investigated.