Tuesday, December 19, 2006

The "Other" Terrorists

It can be tempting to think primarily of terrorists as al Qaeda types. But a recent terrorist case in Tennessee demonstrates that other threats are still out there. The AP reported:

A white supremacist was sentenced Nov. 28 to 30 years in prison for attempting to acquire Sarin nerve gas and C-4 explosives that he planned to use to destroy government buildings.

Demetrius Van Crocker, 40, a farmhand from the small town of McKenzie, Tenn., near Jackson, was arrested in 2004 after an FBI undercover agent posing as an employee at the Pine Bluff Arsenal in Arkansas, delivered a water-filled Sarin canister and a small quantity of explosives.

Crocker appeared to be obsessed with poisonous chemicals and showed an above-average knowledge of basic chemistry, which he said he acquired while working in an electroplating factory.

"I ain't gonna quit trying," he said of his desire to acquire a dirty bomb.

When he talked about casualties, Crocker said they "can't be helped." In a separate conversation with an informant, he said, "Let God sort 'em out."

The online magazine Salon also reported on the story, although in a more politicized way. Their article provided some of the backstory on how local authorities found out about Crocker:
According to court documents, the investigation of Demetrius Crocker began in early 2004, around the time he told a man named Lynn Adams that Timothy McVeigh "[did] things right." Adams, who had met the Mississippi-born farmhand through a mutual acquaintance, began to hear from Crocker about his plans for mass murder.

Adams was a former sheriff's deputy and a confidential informant for the Carroll County drug task force. At first, Adams didn't take Crocker seriously, but as their relationship progressed, Adams began believing Crocker was more than just talk.

At that point, the Carroll County Sheriff's Department passed the case on to the FBI. Steve Burroughs, an FBI agent, began working undercover.

But tapes of the conversations between Crocker and Burroughs reveal that Crocker knew what he was doing. He had made a version of Zyklon B, the gas used in the gas chambers in Nazi concentration camps, and he accurately described its manufacture. He had made nitroglycerin. He had the ingredients for a rudimentary bomb in his home ...

The Crocker case was brought in by old-fashioned police work. A confidential informant passed on a tip and a sting was conducted by an FBI agent careful to make sure the plan was real and not a creation of the government.
One of the truths of today's terrorism is that technology is making it easier for small groups and "lone wolf" terrorists to do much more damage than they could in the past. This is true for both Islamist terrorists like al Qaeda as well as others.

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