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This morning’s attack by Joseph Andrew Stack against an IRS office building in Austin, Tex., is a reminder again of how extreme hatred of government can morph into violence. Since the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has documented 75 domestic terrorist plots, most of which involved individuals with extreme antigovernment views. One of the plots, if carried out, would have resulted in the deaths of some 30,000 people.
Stack’s actions come as the number of antigovernment “Patriot” and militia groups is rising fast, as revealed by the SPLC this past summer. In the 1990s, the combustible mix of rising antigovernment anger and the growth in militias was a recipe for disaster that ultimately resulted in the bombing of the Murrah Federal Building by Timothy McVeigh, who was motivated by antigovernment hatred.
“This attack comes amid the absolutely explosive growth of the right-wing militias and the larger antigovernment ‘Patriot’ movement, which includes thousands of so-called tax protesters who believe the federal income tax is illegal” said Mark Potok, director of the SPLC’s Intelligence Project. “There is a populist rage out there about what is seen as the coddling of rapacious elites, like the mortgage bankers who kept receiving multimillion dollar bonuses, even as working Americans seem to keep losing more and more.”
The IRS has often been the target of those filled with hatred for the government. The SPLC has documented five domestic terrorist plots against the agency between 1995 and 2009. In a July 1995 plot, the target was an IRS building in Austin, Texas.
Here are the details of each anti-IRS plot documented by the SPLC:
July 28, 1995
Antigovernment extremist Charles Ray Polk is arrested after trying to purchase a machine gun from an undercover police officer, and is later indicted by federal grand jury for plotting to blow up the Internal Revenue Service building in Austin, Texas. At the time of his arrest, Polk is trying to purchase plastic explosives to add to the already huge arsenal he’s amassed. Polk is sentenced to almost 75 years in federal prison.
December 18, 1995
An Internal Revenue Service (IRS) employee discovers a plastic drum packed with ammonium nitrate and fuel oil in a parking lot behind the IRS building in Reno, Nev. The device failed to explode a day earlier when a three-foot fuse went out prematurely. Ten days later, tax protester Joseph Martin Bailie is arrested. Bailie is eventually sentenced to 36 years in federal prison, with a release date of 2027. An accomplice, Ellis Edward Hurst, is released in 2004.
March 26, 1997
Militia activist Brendon Blasz is arrested in Kalamazoo, Mich., and charged with making pipe bombs and other illegal explosives. Prosecutors say Blasz plotted to bomb the federal building in Battle Creek, the IRS building in Portage, a Kalamazoo television station and federal armories. But they recommend leniency on his explosives conviction after Blasz, a member of the Michigan Militia Corps Wolverines, renounces his antigovernment beliefs and cooperates with them. He is sentenced to more than three years in federal prison and released in late 1999.
May 3, 1997
Antigovernment extremists set fire to the IRS office in Colorado Springs, Colo., causing $2.5 million in damage and injuring a firefighter. Federal agents later arrest five men in connection with the arson, which is conceived as a protest against the tax system. Ringleader James Cleaver, former national director of the antigovernment Sons of Liberty group, is accused of threatening a witness and eventually sentenced to 33 years in prison, with a release date of 2030. Accomplice Jack Dowell receives 30 years and is scheduled to be freed in 2027. Both are ordered to pay $2.2 million in restitution. Dowell’s cousin is acquitted of all charges, while two other suspects, Ronald Sherman and Thomas Shafer, plead guilty to perjury charges in connection with the case.
March 19, 2006
U.S. Treasury agents in Utah arrest David J. D’Addabbo for allegedly threatening Internal Revenue Service employees with “death by firing squad” if they continued to try to collect taxes from him and his wife. D’Addabbo, who was reportedly carrying a Glock pistol, 40 rounds of ammunition and a switchblade knife when he was seized leaving a church service, allegedly wrote to the U.S.Tax Court that anyone attempting to collect taxes would be tried by a “jury of common people. You then could be found guilty of treason and immediately taken to a firing squad.” In August D’Addabbo pleads guilty to one charge of threatening a government agent in exchange for the dismissal of three other charges of threatening IRS agents. He is sentenced to time served and released the same year as his arrest.