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Domestic Terror Gets the Silent Treatment

The Department of Justice may not consider white supremacist domestic
terror headline news. And after the way President Bush has confused the war
on terror with the occupation of Iraq, perhaps we should be thankful that
he seems to have no time for terror in his own home state.

But out here in Indian country, domestic terror strikes too close to home.
Many of the so-called militia groups favor the kind of remote areas where
many reservations are found. Prying eyes are fewer, law enforcement is
stretched thin, and the sparse population in remote areas means that fewer
people care what happens here. Therefore news outlets have fewer economic
incentives to report on it properly - fewer people watching means fewer ad
sales, and that seems to end the debate for our corporate-owned media.

So it goes throughout rural America, and so it wasn't considered news in
mid-2003 when a Texas couple was apprehended with a terrorist arsenal that
al-Qaeda would have envied.

But here is what William J. Krar and Judith Bruey were capable of amassing
on American soil, in and around the small town of Noonday, Texas: 500,000
rounds of ammunition; 60 pipe bombs; briefcase-like remote-control bombs;
hundreds of semiautomatic weapons; machine guns, pistols; mines;
explosives; sodium cyanide; acids used to release the cyanide as a lethal
gas; a chemical cyanide bomb; anti-Semitic, anti-black, anti-government
literature and coded references that could have been used for communication
with other people in other locales.

Would that be news in your neighborhood? Well, it wasn't worth a press
release to the Attorney General John Ashcroft. His Department of Justice
kept it close, perhaps not wanting to alert conspirators as its
investigation went forward, and most certainly not wanting to give American
voters another occasion to associate conservatism with its poor relations
on the extreme right. Among the major respected media outlets, not one
carried a timely word on the weapons cache or the domestic terror movement
it bespoke.

Only after guilty pleas did word get out, and then it didn't go far.
Finally, upon conviction, a few national outlets picked up the story, but
again it didn't go far. The international and informal online media have
actually given it better coverage than our own national news outlets.

The FBI happened onto the trail of Krar only by accident, when false
identification documents he'd created miscarried in the mail. Over the
course of a lengthy investigation, it turned out Krar's career signaled
involvement in a larger web of domestic terror. He had been arrested
previously with weapons and chemicals in his car. He had been detained on
weapons charges after the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, and reported on by
the FBI following 9/11. Sodium cyanide has been found in a home and car of
his in Tennessee, halfway across the country from Texas.

So how many sodium cyanide bombs, other weapons and false identities has
William J. Krar distributed? Will they have to be put to use for a
thrill-seeking media before domestic terror gets the full attention
al-Qaeda has?

A domestic terror attack on the scale of 9/11 would draw a world of
attention, just as it did in Oklahoma City. But somehow, while 9/11 led us
to declare war on those enclaves where atrocities like it are prepared, the
Oklahoma City bombing has not led us to similar levels of national
animosity toward our homegrown terrorists.

In fact, one finds a strong streak of tolerance in this country for
domestic terrorists, as long as they primarily espouse a hatred of
government. But when they take violent action, as a few did in Oklahoma
City in 1995, the American public can be counted on for a momentary
backlash against conservatism, whose far right phobias the domestic
terrorists have after all only expanded.

That, along with the Republican-led government shutdown of the same year,
is why Democrats did so well in the 1996 elections. That is why it was
major news in 1995 when the first President Bush resigned from the National
Rifle Association over its reference to federal law enforcement employees
as "jackbooted government thugs" - Republicans needed to show one of their
own standing up to the extreme right, in a clear statement to the U.S.
electorate (which was beginning to wonder in 1995) that "we're not all like
that!"

We'll believe them when the Bush administration stops playing politics with
domestic terror, and starts funding tribal homeland security programs.