The Hatewatch blog is managed by the staff of the Intelligence Project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, an Alabama-based civil rights organization.

New Evidence Trove Found in MLK Day Bomb Attempt

By Bill Morlin on April 8, 2011 - 2:25 pm, Posted in Anti-Black, Extremist Crime

Federal agents investigating the attempted bomb attack on a Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade in Spokane have found a pile of new evidence abandoned in a remote area near the U.S.-Canadian border.

Forensic comparison tests are now being conducted at the FBI lab on 75 items to see if they are tied to a “weapon of mass destruction” case brought last month against Kevin William Harpham, a 36-year-old unemployed ex-soldier.

Seizure of the 75 items on March 25 was first publicly mentioned Thursday at a U.S. District Court hearing in Spokane but federal prosecutors gave no particulars other than to say a search warrant wasn’t required.

“The items were seized in connection with the investigation,’’ Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph H. Harrington told Senior U.S. District Court Judge Justin Quackenbush, who asked when FBI reports would be provided to the defendant’s attorneys.

Hatewatch has subsequently learned a search warrant wasn’t needed because the items were left as abandoned property in a remote area where firearms or homemade explosives could have been tested or assembled. The location was not far from the suspect’s home, sources said.

It’s not clear whether it was a tip or other investigative leads that led FBI agents to the significant evidence seizure two weeks after Harpham’s arrest.  A specially assembled team of FBI agents, dressed and equipped as county road workers, made the arrest as the suspect drove away from his rural home near Addy, Wash., in Stevens County in the northeastern corner of Washington.

Harpham, who has past ties to the neo-Nazi National Alliance, faces federal charges accusing him of building and planting the backpack bomb in a bid to kill or injure marchers in a MLK “Unity Day” parade on Jan. 17 in Spokane.

It now appears he acted as a “lone wolf,” and additional arrests are unlikely.

The improvised explosive device – reportedly designed to be triggered with a remote car starter — was spotted and defused by a bomb squad as the parade was rerouted.

Since Harpham’s arrest on March 9, FBI agents assigned to a Joint Terrorism Task Force appear to have been scrambling to put together missing pieces.

To date, 2,014 pages of investigative files have been turned over to the defense, Harrington told the court, and another 1,500 pages should be released next week, while the FBI lab continues processing the newest potential evidence, generating more reports.

“This is and has been an ongoing investigation,’’ the prosecutor told the court in arguing to keep a court affidavit, detailing the probable cause for Harpham’s arrest, from public inspection.

Besides searching Harpham’s small and isolated home, about 55 miles north of Spokane, FBI agents also searched his father’s home and property, located a few miles away near the community of Kettle Falls.

What they found in those searches is detailed in court documents that remain sealed from public inspection.

Meanwhile, as The Seattle Times first reported last month, the U.S. Department of Justice is now considering whether to ask a grand jury to bring an additional civil rights hate-crime enhancement charge against Harpham. That could occur as early as later this month, possibly with a formal statement from the Attorney General Eric Holder or a senior member of his staff.

If convicted, the penalty enhancement – based on the notion that the crime was motivated by bias — would require a significantly longer prison sentence under federal sentencing guidelines.

The federal Hate Crimes Sentencing Enhancement Act of 1994 defines a hate crime as one in which “the defendant intentionally selects a victim … because of the actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, ethnicity, gender, disability, or sexual orientation.”

The potential of adding the civil rights enhancement to the indictment against Harpham may be the reason the Justice Department is keeping tight secrecy, hoping grand jury members don’t read or watch media accounts.

“At this point, there is a danger that [public] disclosure of the [documents] could jeopardize the ongoing investigation or hamper the ability of the grand jury to determine the appropriate charges,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office said in court filings.

If a new superseding indictment is returned, that would delay the scheduled May 31 trial for Harpham, who remains in jail without bond.

The suspect seemed to smile in court Thursday when the judge said he wasn’t about to unseal an FBI agent’s sworn arrest affidavit because it likely “contains hearsay” that could generate additional media coverage and jeopardize Harpham’s right to a fair trial.

Although key documents in the case remain sealed after the court hearing, it is widely believed that forensic evidence – fingerprints and DNA traces — found on the nearly-intact bomb led FBI agents to Harpham. He served in a U.S. Army artillery unit in 1996 and 1997, and his fingerprints most likely are in a Department of Defense database.

Without mentioning specific evidence, Federal Defender Roger Peven told the court during Thursday’s hearing that the defense team likely will want its own scientific tests done when the FBI finishes its work.

  • Ruslan Amirkhanov

    “I would be surprised that you are for randomly sending our military into foreign countries to fight an international terrorist organization (which is exactly what the CIA is for, not the army, that’s like trying to kill a mosquito with a cannon), but you evidently don’t care about the lives of the NATO soldiers that Manning endangered by revealing military tactical information.”

    If one participates in an imperialist invasion, you get what you deserve.

  • Kate De Braose

    We haven’t heard anything about the Manning affair except that he must be guilty. No evidence has been revealed of his purported involvement and I believe there is none. Nothing has been found or publicized to prove or disprove his innocence. That may be because of the possibility of incriminating someone else.

    Authorities have simply picked a fall guy in the same way they picked up a few bystanders to serve as suspects in the run up to the war on Iraq and to use Guantanamo as a huge concentration camp and an excuse to get large amounts in government contracts for certain businesses. And I believe that hugger mugger technique was also used to protect government heads and operatives like Oliver North in Iran/Contra.

    In the same way and for the same reasons as the Iran conflict, the war on Iraq was conducted for political and monetary gain. Our press has been hobbled and persecuted everywhere so I see no way out of this problem.

    We still have not been fully informed about the assassination of President Kennedy and his Attorney General Robert Kennedy.

  • Jordan

    “As the CIA is a criminal organization, a fact well-established in its history, it does not matter if their lives were allegedly endangered. Manning followed his conscious against a murdering, criminal government. He will have to accept the the legal consequences of his actions, but we have to accept that he was right and demand an end to the atrocities he exposed.” You’re with the Sovereigns now? Kill the few to help the many? That’s no better than any of the groups that SPLC stands against. I would be surprised that you are for randomly sending our military into foreign countries to fight an international terrorist organization (which is exactly what the CIA is for, not the army, that’s like trying to kill a mosquito with a cannon), but you evidently don’t care about the lives of the NATO soldiers that Manning endangered by revealing military tactical information. And no, “we” don’t have to except that putting American citizens in harms way is “right”, it’s no more right than the bogus “anti-Sharia” movement with its fearmongering, or the police-killing sovereigns with whom you apparently agree. To expose crimes of war is an act of justice, to compromise the safety of over 300,000,000 is a crime against humanity.

  • Ruslan Amirkhanov

    As the CIA is a criminal organization, a fact well-established in its history, it does not matter if their lives were allegedly endangered. Manning followed his conscious against a murdering, criminal government. He will have to accept the the legal consequences of his actions, but we have to accept that he was right and demand an end to the atrocities he exposed.

  • Jordan

    “Bradley Manning is a martyr to Truth and Honesty in government.” I’m sorry, but as much as we don’t like the seedy underworld of the spy game, there are some things that he put out which unnecessarily endanger the lives of covert operatives. I do think he deserves a trial, but the government certainly has evidence against him, he endangered the lives of countless operatives and the military personal in their care when he posted the locations of clandestine CIA outposts in the middle east. Spilling political secrets is one thing (that thing being ‘not a crime’), but endangering the lives of not just U.S. but NATO and UN military and intelligence personnel is another matter all together.

  • swaneagle

    Sadly, the feds have called ELF and ALF terrorists, who have never killed anyone, yet have failed to refer to the white supremacists who have killed hundreds if not thousands (OK city bombing, etc.) as domestic terrorists. Seems corporations have more validity than those who are targets of the bigots.

  • Snorlax

    These lone wolves are dangerous and need to be tracked down before they strike. We got lucky this time.

    Americans need to know that not all terrorists are from somewhere else. We have home-grown ones right here.

  • JK

    Concerned Citizen: Hapham has not had a trial yet. You do want that, don’t you?

    The fact that he was seemingly smiling in his court hearing turned my stomach. 1) he got a court hearing; 2) he gets to show his face and get publicity.

    Bradley Manning, Wikileaks person, is in solitary being tortured at Quantico Marine Prison in Virginia and he hasn’t got a chance in hell of having a court hearing because his charges would not hold up in court and the government knows this. And they probably don’t want his face showing in a hearing because he’s either all bruised up or so traumatized he physically couldn’t stand up.

    So, a crackpot like Hapham makes me sick even if it isn’t proven yet that he intended to murder a lot of people. Manning’s not-crime was to release data that bureaucrats, presidents and military wanted kept secret because they are complicit in murders, torture, invasions, you name it, the Wikileaks are globally incriminating to power mongers worldwide. And they all want Julian Assange’s neck. Bradley Manning is a martyr to Truth and Honesty in government.

  • Concerned Citizen

    When will this cas ever end? Hapham got his deserves. Let’s hope this will close the case.

  • Ruslan Amirkhanov

    Damn, this guy got slapped down hard. What lesson can we take away from this? The law. Learn it.

  • Reynardine

    Search warrants aren’t needed for abandoned items or those in plain view, because there is no expectation of privacy in them.

  • Ruslan Amirkhanov

    Hey Mr. Rand, try this new thing all the kids are doing today, it’s called reading:

    “Hatewatch has subsequently learned a search warrant wasn’t needed because the items were left as abandoned property in a remote area where firearms or homemade explosives could have been tested or assembled. The location was not far from the suspect’s home, sources said.”

    When a person discards or abandons something in a place where they have no reasonable assumption of privacy, no warrant is needed.

  • Jordan

    Jonas Rand,
    “Why did they not need a search warrant?”
    “…a search warrant wasn’t needed because the items were left as abandoned property in a remote area…” If evidence is left in the open, the police do not need a warrant to retrieve it.
    “And why are they hiding so much from the public? Yeah, it’s for our protection.” No, it’s for his protection, how can Harpham get a fair trial if every possible juror has already pre-emptively decided on the verdict?

  • Gregg

    How about trying actually reading the article, Jonas? Your questions are answered there. But I guess they aren’t the answers you want to hear.

    Hatewatch has subsequently learned a search warrant wasn’t needed because the items were left as abandoned property in a remote area where firearms or homemade explosives could have been tested or assembled.

    The potential of adding the civil rights enhancement to the indictment against Harpham may be the reason the Justice Department is keeping tight secrecy, hoping grand jury members don’t read or watch media accounts.

  • Jonas Rand

    Why did they not need a search warrant? Who are they, the Gestapo? And why are they hiding so much from the public? Yeah, it’s for our protection. Keeping secrets is for our protection. Right.

  • Barbara Kuhn

    In the interest of fair trial and hearing, I would hope the defense team “would” rather than “likely” want its own scientific tests done.