Thirty Terror Plots Foiled Since Oklahoma City Bombing
Since the Oklahoma City bombing, almost 30 right-wing terrorist plots — most of them foiled — have been uncovered in the United States.
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.
Eventually, fugitive Eric Robert Rudolph — a reclusive North Carolina man with ties to deceased anti-Semitic Christian Identity figure Nord Davis — will be charged in all the attacks.
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.
1/16/97 -- Two anti-personnel bombs explode outside an abortion clinic in Sandy Springs, Ga., a suburb of Atlanta. Seven people are injured. Letters sent by the "Army of God" will claim responsibility for this attack and another, a month later, at an Atlanta lesbian bar.
Authorities later say that these attacks, the 1998 bombing of a Birmingham, Ala., abortion clinic and the 1996 Atlanta Olympics bombing, were all carried out by Eric Robert Rudolph, who eludes capture.
1/22/97 -- Authorities raid the Martinton, Ill., home of former Marine Ricky Salyers, an alleged white supremacist and Ku Klux Klan member, discovering 35,000 rounds of heavy ammunition, armor piercing shells, smoke and tear gas grenades, live shells for grenade launchers, artillery shells and other military gear.
Salyers, an alleged member of the underground Black Dawn group of extremists in the military, will be sentenced later in the year to serve three years for weapons violations.
3/26/97 -- Militia activist Brendon Blasz is arrested in Kalamazoo, Mich., and charged with making pipe bombs and other illegal explosives. Blasz allegedly plotted to bomb the federal building in Battle Creek, the IRS building in Portage, a Kalamazoo television station and federal armories.
Prosecutors will recommend leniency on his explosives conviction after Blasz renounces his antigovernment beliefs and cooperates with them. In the end, he is sentenced to more than three years in federal prison.
4/22/97 -- Three Ku Klux Klan members are arrested in a plot to blow up a natural gas refinery outside Fort Worth, Texas. The three, along with a fourth arrested later, planned to blow up the refinery, killing hundreds of people including children at a nearby school, as a diversion for a simultaneous armored car robbery. All four will plead guilty to conspiracy charges and be sentenced to terms of up to 20 years.
4/23/97 -- Florida police arrest Todd Vanbiber, an alleged member of the neo-Nazi National Alliance and the shadowy League of the Silent Soldier, after he accidentally sets off pipe bombs he was building. Officials find a League terrorism manual and extremist literature in Vanbiber's possession. He is accused of plotting to use the bombs as part of a string of bank robberies.
Vanbiber later pleads guilty to weapons and explosives charges and is sentenced to more than six years in federal prison.
4/27/97 -- After a cache of explosives stored in a tree blows up near Yuba City, Calif., police arrest Montana Freemen supporter William Robert Goehler. Investigators looking into the blast arrest two Goehler associates, one of them a militia leader, after finding 500 pounds of petrogel explosives — enough to level three city blocks — in a motor home parked outside their residence.
Six others are arrested on related charges. Goehler, who had previously been convicted of rape, burglary and assault, will be sentenced to 25 years to life in prison. An associate will be sentenced to three years.
7/4/97 -- Militiaman Bradley Glover and another heavily armed antigovernment activist are arrested before dawn near Fort Hood, in central Texas, hours before they allegedly planned to invade the Army base and slaughter foreign troops they mistakenly believed were housed there.
In the next few days, five other people will be arrested as part of the alleged plot to invade a series of military bases where the group thought United Nations forces were massing for an assault on Americans. All seven are part of a splinter group of the Third Continental Congress, a kind of militia government-in-waiting.
In the end, Glover is sentenced to two years on Kansas weapons charges, to be followed by a five-year federal term in connection with the Fort Hood plot. The others will draw lesser terms.
August '97 -- Packages containing fake bombs, carrying return addresses of Southwest Indian Nations and All Nations Militia, are mailed to prosecutors and federal judges in Colorado and New Mexico. The perpetrators are not caught.
12/12/97 -- A federal grand jury in Arkansas indicts three men on racketeering charges for allegedly plotting to overthrow the government and create a whites-only Aryan People's Republic, which they intended to boost through polygamy. Chevie Kehoe, Daniel Lee and Faron Lovelace are accused of crimes in six states, including murder, kidnapping, robbery and conspiracy.
Kehoe and Lee also face state charges of murdering an Arkansas family, including an 8-year-old girl. Kehoe will ultimately receive life on that charge, while Lee will be sentenced to death. Separately, Kehoe's brother, Cheyne, will be convicted of attempted murder in a shootout with police and sentenced to 11 years in prison, despite his role in helping authorities arrest his brother.
1/29/98 -- An off-duty police officer is killed and a nurse is critically injured when a nail-packed bomb explodes outside a Birmingham, Ala., abortion facility, the New Woman All Women clinic. Letters to media outlets and officials claim responsibility in the name of the "Army of God," the same group that took credit for the bombing of a clinic and a lesbian bar in the Atlanta area.
The attack also is linked by authorities to the 1996 bombing at the Atlanta Olympics. Eric Robert Rudolph, who will be charged in all four attacks, will remain at large, although some officials suggest that he has very likely died.
2/23/98 -- Three men with links to a Ku Klux Klan group are arrested near East St. Louis, Ill., on weapons charges. The three, along with three other men arrested later, allegedly plotted to assassinate a federal judge and civil rights lawyer Morris Dees, blow up the Southern Poverty Law Center that Dees co-founded and other buildings, poison water supplies and rob banks.
In the end, all six plead guilty or are convicted of weapons charges, drawing terms of up to seven years in prison.
4/18/98 -- Three members of the North American Militia of Southwestern Michigan are arrested on firearms and other charges. The men conspired to bomb federal buildings, a Kalamazoo television station and an interstate highway interchange, kill federal agents and a black radio talk show host, and attack aircraft at a National Guard base.
The group's leader, Ken Carter, has described himself as a member of the neo-Nazi Aryan Nations. Carter will later plead guilty, cooperate with the government and be sentenced to five years, but the two others will be convicted and handed sentences of 40 and 55 years in federal prison.
5/29/98 -- A day after stealing a water truck, three men allegedly shoot and kill a Cortez, Colo., police officer and wound two other officers as they try to stop the suspects. After the gun battle, the three — Alan Monty Pilon, Robert Mason and Jason McVean — disappear into the canyons of the high desert.
Mason will be found a week later, dead of an apparently self-inflicted gunshot. In October 1999, the skeletal remains of Pilon will also be found and show that he, too, died of a gunshot to the head. McVean will remain at large, although some suspect he may have died as well.
7/1/98 -- Three men are charged with conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction after threatening President Clinton and other federal officials with biological weapons. Officials say the men planned to use a cactus thorn coated with a toxin like anthrax, fired by a modified butane lighter, to carry out the murders.
One man will be acquitted of the charges, but Jack Abbot Grebe, Jr., and Johnnie Wise — a 72-year-old man who had attended meetings of the separatist Republic of Texas group — eventually will be sentenced to more than 24 years in prison.
7/30/98 -- South Carolina militia member Paul T. Chastain is charged with weapons, explosives and drug violations after he allegedly tried to trade drugs for a machine gun and enough C-4 plastic explosive to demolish a five-room house. The next year, Chastain will plead guilty to an array of charges, including threatening to kill Attorney General Janet Reno and FBI Director Louis Freeh, and be sentenced to 15 years in prison.
12/5/99 -- Two California men are charged with conspiracy in connection with an alleged plot to blow up two 12-million-gallon propane tanks, a television tower and an electrical substation in hopes of provoking an insurrection. In early 2001, Kevin Ray Patterson and Charles Dennis Kiles — both members of the San Joaquin Militia — will be still awaiting trial.
In January 2001, the former head of their group, Donald Rudolph, will plead guilty to plotting to kill a judge and blow up the propane tanks.
12/8/99 -- Donald Beauregard, the head of a militia coalition known as the Southeastern States Alliance, is charged with conspiracy, providing materials for a terrorist act and gun violations in connection with a plot to bomb energy facilities and cause power outages in Florida and Georgia.
After pleading guilty to several charges, Beauregard will be sentenced to five years in federal prison.