Saturday, January 10, 2004

But for a Fluke ...

One evening two winters ago, a man in Staten Island, N.Y., absent-mindedly flipped through his mail. Inside one envelope was a stack of fake documents, including United Nations and Defense Department identification cards, and a note: "We would hate to have this fall into the wrong hands."
It had. The package, intended for a member of a self-styled militia in New Jersey, had been delivered to the wrong address.

From that lucky break, federal officials believe they may have uncovered one of the most audacious domestic terrorism plots since the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing that killed 168 people. Starting with a single piece of mail, investigators discovered an enormous cache of weapons in Noonday, in East Texas, including the makings of a sophisticated sodium cyanide bomb capable of killing thousands of people.

Three people - William Krar, a small-time arms dealer with connections to white supremacists; Krar's common-law wife, Judith L. Bruey; and Edward S. Feltus, the man who was supposed to have received the forged documents - pleaded guilty in the case in November. They are being held in a Tyler, Texas, detention facility and are scheduled to appear before a federal judge for sentencing next month.

But what is typically the end of a criminal case may be only the beginning in this one. Some government investigators believe other conspirators may be on the loose. And they readily acknowledge that they have no idea what the stash of weapons was for - though they have tantalizing and alarming clues of a "covert operation or plan," according to an FBI affidavit.
The case began to unfold in January 2002, when the package was mistakenly delivered to Staten Island. Investigators traced it to a mailing and business center near Tyler, then to Krar and Bruey, who lived together in Noonday.

With Bruey's permission, they searched a storage facility the couple had rented. The firepower inside shocked law enforcement officers.

Investigators found nearly 500,000 rounds of ammunition, 65 pipe bombs and briefcases that could be detonated by remote control.

Most distressing, they said, was the discovery of 800 grams of almost pure sodium cyanide ? material that can only be acquired legally for specific agricultural or military projects.

The sodium cyanide was found inside an ammunition canister, next to hydrochloric, nitric and acetic acids and formulas for making bombs. If acid were mixed with the sodium cyanide, an analysis showed, it would create a bomb powerful enough to kill everyone inside a 30,000-square-foot facility, investigators said.

Also discovered were anti-Semitic, antiblack and antigovernment books and pamphlets, according to the FBI's affidavit.
Revelations, however, that many questions remain unanswered in the case have made it the target of the new, post-Sept. 11 politics of terrorism.

Critics of the Bush administration say federal officials and the mainstream media are suffering from tunnel vision -that they are so focused on international threats that they have failed to give sufficient attention to threats at home.

At most, the critics say, increased attention to this case could have brought more answers. At the least, they say, if the defendants in this case had been people with foreign backgrounds or Muslims, U.S. Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft himself would have announced the arrests and the guilty pleas.

Instead, details of the case were revealed in a half-page press release sent to local media. Officials say the case was at one point included in President Bush's daily security briefings, but it remains virtually unknown outside East Texas - even though, critics point out, it represents an instance in which federal authorities discovered a weapon of mass destruction.
David Neiwert over at Orcinus has been on top of this from the start and is even quoted in this article here:
"If anyone wanted evidence that the 'war on terror' is primarily a political marketing campaign - in which war itself is mostly a device for garnering support - they need look no further than the startling non-response to domestic terrorism by the Bush Administration," one blog, called Orcinus, said recently. The blog, which uses a killer whale as its mascot and targets the nexus of politics, culture and journalism, is written and compiled by David Neiwert, a Seattle resident and former journalist.
And if the envelope had been delivered to the intended recipient? Exactly.


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