Four arrested in plot to commit mass murder

Two weeks ago, I posted an article on the need for the federal government to take non-Islamic domestic terrorism more seriously because anger in the right wing extremist movement is currently reaching white-hot levels. Four days ago, four right wing extremists were arrested for plotting to kill government employees, law enforcement, and civilians living in five cities around the nation.

The following details were gleaned from FBI Affidavits, the federal indictment, and various public postings made by the defendants in the months leading up to their arrests.

The Players

  

Like most right wing extremists, Fred Thomas, Dan Roberts, Sam Crump, and Ray Adams were furious at the current state of the United States.

  • Frederick W. Thomas, age 73, thirty-year veteran of the US Navy with experience in explosives, also worked as an aerospace engineer with top security clearance.  Thomas was an Oathkeeper, a Three Percenter, and an active member of the TeaParty.  He was also the ringleader of the group.
  • Samuel J. Crump, age 68, former contractor with the US Center for Disease Control (CDC)
  • Ray H. Adams, age 55, former lab tech with the US Department of Agriculture
  • Emory Dan Roberts, age 67, retired sign maker and commanding officer of the 440th squad of the Georgia Militia

Thomas, posting under the name “Ahab,” wrote the following on the blog of the author whose book inspired the defendants’ plan.

There is no question that this Congress and this administration need replaced, en masse! If we rebell against them outside the ballot box, and we are successful, they will be hung from lamp posts up and down Constitution Avenue, which is proper for the wrongs they’ve committed against the people; but, who will guarantee we can roll back all the damage they’ve done, restore America to the Constitutional Republic that was founded with the signing in 1787? Will there be an America left when the blood stops running?

Crump even joined a Facebook page that prayed – presumably in a weak attempt at humor – for the death of President Obama.

DEAR LORD, THIS YEAR YOU TOOK MY FAVORITE ACTOR, PATRICK SWAYZIE. YOU TOOK MY FAVORITE ACTRESS, FARAH FAWCETT. YOU TOOK MY FAVORITE SINGER, MICHAEL JACKSON. I JUST WANTED TO LET YOU KNOW, MY FAVORITE PRESIDENT IS BARACK OBAMA. AMEN

The Plot

According to court documents, five men, all members of an extremist subgroup of the Georgia Militia that called itself the “Covert Group,” hatched a two-pronged plan. One member, unnamed in the court filings, was facing state felony charges some time prior to March 2011, and wore a wire at the various meetings held by the group, presumably in exchange for a reduced sentence.

  • Prong 1: Assassinate hand-picked people on their “Bucket List” with a particular focus on Department of Justice attorneys, federal judges, IRS employees, ATF employees, corporate leaders, and individuals in the press. To carry through on this plot, the defendants owned several guns, were purchasing and planning to steal silencers for those weapons, and had purchased what they thought was a powerful car bomb from what turned out to be an undercover FBI agent. Future plans to kill federal employees included blowing up the IRS building in Atlanta and the ATF building in DeKalb County “like Timothy McVeigh.”  The first assassination was scheduled to take place on November 2, 2011, but they were arrested before it could happen.
  • Prong 2:  Cook up enough of the toxic biological weapon ricin to distribute in five major cities with a goal of killing as many Americans as possible. The targeted cities named were Washington DC, Atlanta, GA, Newark, NJ, Jacksonville, FL, and New Orleans, LA.  Adams, a retired lab technician from the Department of Agriculture, would create the ricin with Crump, the retired CDC contractor.

The Reaction to the Arrests

Considering the chilling nature of the conspiracy outlined in court filings, I had expected a wave of press stories scrutinizing both the defendants who planned to commit mass murder and the movement that spawned them. After all, according to defendant Thomas, their acts of domestic terrorism were designed to act as a “line in the sand” to shock other extremists in the growing movement into launching similar attacks against the US government.  This was the same goal that Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols had when they bombed the federal building in Oklahoma City in 1995.

Instead, I was dismayed by the press’ bizarre fixation on the age of the conspirators.

“Meet The Senior Citizen Militia Members Arrested In Georgia Bio Attack Plot”
“Four Elderly Terror Suspects Have Trouble Hearing Judge”
“Four Senior Citizens Plotted Killing Spree At A Waffle House”
“Elderly men charged in government attack plot”
“Keystone Pops”
“The geriatric terrorists: Georgia militia pensioners busted for ‘bucket’ hit list and plot to spray deadly ricin over U.S. cities”

The family of the defendants and the defense attorneys assigned to case (paid for tax dollars, of course) continued the refrain.

Yes that is my Father in law that is on the news, but i think it was all talk, Please dont Judge Sammy, or Me or Joey until we all know the truth, dont think he could harm anyone at his age – Crump’s daughter in law

and

These were just grumpy old men talking – Roberts’ defense attorney

The Rant

Does painting these men who plotted to commit mass murder as harmless old geezers make the plot by Americans to kill Americans more palatable?  Does pointing out the fact that they held a couple of their planning meetings in a Waffle House somehow make the plot less lethal because they must be nothing more than dumb Southern rednecks?

The men were 55, 65, 68, and 73 and all of them had backgrounds that added to the lethal potential of the plan.  Anyone who thinks that a man in the 55-73 year old age group is geriatric, incompetent, or too fragile to push a button detonating a car bomb needs to get out and mingle with the retirement age crowd a bit more.  Here’s a good place to start.

  • Secretary of Defense (just retired in 2011) Robert Gates: age 68
  • Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta: age 73
  • Vice President Joe Biden: age 69
  • Attorney General Eric Holder: age 60
  • Secretary of State Hillary Clinton: age 64
  • Former CA Governator Arnold Schwarzenegger: age 64
  • Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus: age 63

By playing up the harmless old kook card, the press is downplaying the seriousness of this extremist plot to kill both government employees and innocent civilians.

These harmless old kooks weren’t just talking trash at the Waffle House, they were ready to roll.  Their plan was to use a gun with silencer and/or car bomb on their first target(s) on November 2, 2011 (prong 1 of their plan) and prong 2 wasn’t far behind.  According to the affidavits attached to the search warrants, the FBI found the following at the defendants’ homes:

Laptop computer, castor beans, “white powder in a cup,” books on safety regulations, hazardous materials and emergency response, buckets containing seed pods, toxic plant guides, a container of acetone, castor bean plants, instructions for making ricin, some form of explosives, a machete and at least a dozen guns

The second part of the plan was only one ingredient away from having what they needed to manufacture a deadly biological weapon, a missing item that can easily be purchased at Amazon.com for $6.99/pound.  It is most commonly used in crafting homemade candles.

Some experts have opined that such unsophisticated retirees couldn’t possibly have succeeded in making ricin, but this is not the first time that a right wing extremist group has chosen this particular biological weapon as part of their domestic terrorism plans.

  • In 1992, four men in a tax protest group called the Minnesota Patriots Council successfully created a small batch of ricin which they planned on using on a US Marshal and sheriff’s deputy. They had ordered a “ricin starter kit” from a right wing magazine.  Like the Covert Group above, they had also planned to bomb federal buildings.
  • In 1993, right wing extremist Thomas Lavy was driving from Alaska to Arkansas. When his car was searched at the Canadian border, they found 20,000 rounds of ammunition, weapons, and enough ricin to kill 130,000 people.

There is no antidote for ricin, and the current defendants were far more qualified professionally (Department of Agriculture lab tech, contractor for the CDC, aerospace engineer, and militia leader) than the Minnesota Patriots Council or Thomas Lavy to successfully create the weapon.

Summary

Right wing extremists are spitting mad, willing to die for their cause, and willing to kill for it.  It’s time to take them seriously.