Thirty Terror Plots Foiled Since Oklahoma City Bombing
The April 19, 1995, Oklahoma City bombing proved to be the opening shot in a new and deadly phase of right-wing terrorism in this country. In the six years since that attack left 168 people dead, the domestic radical right has spawned a frightening number of other terrorist plots.
Conspiracies hatched since the Oklahoma City attack have included plans to bomb buildings, banks, refineries, utilities, clinics and bridges; to assassinate politicians, judges, civil rights figures and others; to attack Army bases, National Guard armories and a train; to rob banks, armored cars and other criminals; and to amass illegal machine guns, missiles and explosives.
The FBI, which shortly before Oklahoma was working about 100 domestic terrorism cases, has since the late 1990s been carrying at any one time close to 1,000. Almost every major U.S. law enforcement agency has developed a task force or other unit aimed at combating the threat. Following is an overview of six years of terror.
9/12/95 -- Antigovernment extremist Charles Ray Polk is indicted by a federal grand jury for plotting to blow up the Internal Revenue Service building in Austin, Tex. At the time of his arrest, Polk is trying to purchase plastic explosives to add to a huge illegal arsenal he's already amassed.
He will be sentenced the following year to almost 21 years in federal prison, although an appeals court eventually reduces that term by five years.
10/9/95 -- Saboteurs derail an Amtrak passenger train near Hyder, Ariz., killing one person and injuring many others. An antigovernment message, signed by the "Sons of Gestapo," is left behind. The perpetrators will remain at large.
11/9/95 -- Oklahoma Constitutional Militia leader Willie Ray Lampley, his wife and another man are arrested as they prepare explosives to bomb numerous targets, including the Southern Poverty Law Center. The three, and another suspect arrested later, will be sentenced to terms of up to 11 years in 1996. An appeals court will uphold Lampley's sentence the following year.
1/19/96 -- Peter Langan and Richard Guthrie, members of the underground Aryan Republican Army, are charged as the main suspects in a string of 22 bank robberies in seven Midwestern states. After pleading guilty and agreeing to testify, Guthrie commits suicide in his cell. Langan is ultimately sentenced to a life term in one case, plus a term of 55 years in another.
Eventually, Mark Thomas, a leading neo-Nazi in Pennsylvania, pleads guilty for his role in helping to organize the robberies and agrees to testify against Langan and other gang members. In the end, Thomas is sentenced to eight years in prison. Another man, Kevin McCarthy, also pleads guilty to conspiracy charges in Pennsylvania and agrees to testify against his co-conspirators, ultimately drawing a five-year sentence.
4/11/96 -- Antigovernment activist Ray Hamblin is charged with illegal possession of explosives after authorities find 460 pounds of the high explosive Tovex, 746 pounds of ANFO blasting agent and 15 homemade hand grenades on his property in Hood River, Ore. Hamblin will be sentenced to almost four years in federal prison.
4/26/96 -- Two leaders of the Militia-at-Large of the Republic of Georgia, Robert Edward Starr III and William James McCranie Jr., are charged with manufacturing shrapnel bombs for distribution to militia members. Later in the year, they will be sentenced on explosive charges to terms of up to eight years. Another Militia-at-Large member, accused of training a team to assassinate politicians, will be convicted of conspiracy.
6/11/96 -- Tax protester Joseph Martin Bailie is arrested for trying to blow up the Internal Revenue Service building in Reno, Nev. He will be sentenced to 36 years.
7/1/96 -- Twelve members of an Arizona militia group called the Viper Team are arrested on federal conspiracy, weapons and explosive charges after allegedly surveiling government buildings as potential targets. Ten members will plead guilty to various charges, drawing sentences of up to nine years in prison.
One is ultimately acquitted of explosives charges while a mistrial will be declared on conspiracy charges against him. The last defendant will be convicted for conspiracy and sentenced to almost six years.
7/27/96 -- A nail-packed bomb goes off at the Atlanta Olympics, seen by many extremists as part of a Satanic New World Order, killing one person and injuring more than 100 others. Investigators will later conclude the attack is linked to the 1997-98 bombings of an Atlanta area abortion clinic, an Atlanta lesbian bar and a Birmingham, Ala., abortion facility.
7/29/96 -- Washington State Militia leader John Pitner and seven others are arrested on weapons and explosives charges in connection with a plot to build pipe bombs for a confrontation with the federal government. Pitner and four others will be convicted on weapons charges, while conspiracy charges against all eight will end in a mistrial.
Pitner will later be retried on that charge, convicted and sentenced to four years in prison.
10/8/96 -- Three "Phineas Priests" — racist Christian Identity terrorists who feel they've been called by God to undertake violent attacks — are charged in connection with two bank robberies and bombings at the banks, a Spokane newspaper and a Planned Parenthood office. Charles Barbee, Robert Berry and Jay Merrell are eventually convicted and sentenced to life terms.
Brian Ratigan, a fourth member of the group arrested separately, will draw a 55-year term.
10/11/96 -- Seven members of the Mountaineer Militia are arrested in a plot to blow up the FBI's national fingerprint records center in West Virginia. In 1998, leader Floyd "Ray" Looker, will be sentenced to 18 years in prison.
Two other defendants are later sentenced on explosives charges and a third will draw a year in prison for providing blueprints of the FBI facility to Looker, who sold them to a government informant.