When you hear the phrase "domestic terrorism" – Americans committing acts of terrorism against other Americans – what image springs to mind? Unhinged loners mailing pipe bombs from a tar paper shack? "Freemen" compounds in Montana? KKK night raids? NWO-obsessed survivalists plotting to violently secede from the Union? Christian Identity white supremacists going on shooting sprees, bombing clinics, and blowing up Federal courthouses? That's what I picture. But I'm way off; this is domestic terrorism. Or this.
Our FBI considers "eco-terrorists" to be the "#1 domestic terrorism threat," apparently believing that arson-related property damage (oh my!) is a better indicator of future danger than the right-wing militia/survivalist/nutcase/racist movement's impressive body count over the past three decades. Despite 168 dead in OKC, Alan Berg , or a neo-Nazi driving around shooting every brown person he could find, these groups apparently have failed to convince our law enforcement establishment that they are a serious threat. They have had the good sense, among all the Jew-killing and courthouse-detonating and minority-terrorizing, to avoid torching any restaurants that serve foie gras or spray-painting any fur coats.
To wit: the FBI's 11 Most Wanted Domestic Terrorists. Let's quickly break down the list.
Rodney Bridgeforth: "Black Liberation Army", in connection with a 1971 assault
Joanne Chesimard: "Black Liberation Army", convicted of murder and escaped in 1973
Avelino and Noberto Gonzalez-Claudio: 1985 bank robbery for "Puerto Rican separatist group"
Leo Burt: 1970 Sterling Hall bombing in Madison in protest of Vietnam War
Elizabeth Duke: 1970s Baader-Meinhof style Marxist group; not wanted in connection with any violent crime
Daniel San Diego: Earth/Animal Liberation Front – arson
Rebecca Rubin: Earth/Animal Liberation Front – arson
Justin Solondz: Earth/Animal Liberation Front – arson
Josephine Overaker: Earth/Animal Liberation Front – arson
Joseph Dibee: Earth/Animal Liberation Front – arson
Those individuals, according to the FBI, represent the greatest threat to your safety among all of the Americans who wish to do harm to their own country and fellow citizens. Hippies who set fires, a burned-out Marxist who made fake IDs, and two black people wanted in 35 year-old homicide cases. Oh, and who could forget the Puerto Rican separatists? Can't turn on the news these days without hearing about Puerto Rico's violent separatists. Personally, I don't even feel safe leaving the house anymore, what with all the Puerto Rican separatist violence. Did I ever tell you about my dog Skip who was shot dead in cold blood by Puerto Rican separatists?
I am at a rare loss to figure out what motive the FBI could possibly have for this selective disregard of violent, dangerous, cop-killing, clinic-bombing right-wing extremists. I am sincere when I say that the GOP cannot possibly want to court votes out on those fringes; even the most far-out Republican would cringe at a ringing endorsement from Terry Nichols or the Michigan Militia. And the FBI must be well aware that they will take the fall if (when) additional Oklahoma City-style incidents occur. It is possible that right-wing domestic terrorists are collectively very stupid, easily captured, and therefore unlikely to be "Wanted." After all, Timothy McVeigh evaded capture for, what, 3 whole hours after the OKC bombing?** Absent any empirical data to back that up (and given the contradictory evidence that these groups remain quite active) it's more likely that we have yet another example of how often Americans are afraid of the wrong things.
Of course there is a chance that the ELF could eventually hurt someone; it would be foolish to argue that they represent no threat whatsoever. But listening to the FBI drone on about the grave danger they represent while ignoring the much more obvious and lethal threat on the right is a little like lecturing someone on the dangers of catching a cold while a knife-wielding lunatic is sneaking up behind them.
**He was pulled over and arrested because his getaway car had no license plate. Read that again. His goddamn getaway car had no goddamn license plate. I couldn't make that up if I tried.