In his interview with Tim Russert (Meet the Press, 2/8/04), George W. Bush said, "See, free societies are societies that don't develop weapons of mass terror." Putting aside the U.S. government's enormous stocks of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons—which Bush would presumably insist are not intended for terror—the statement also overlooks the fact that the U.S. also produces freelance domestic terrorists bent on creating weapons of mass destruction.
Russert might have reminded Bush of recent events in his home state of Texas, where William Krar was indicted in May 2003 for, among other things, possession of a weapon of mass terror. But it wouldn't have meant much to Russert's viewers, given that NBC—along with other broadcast networks, cable outlets and newspapers around the country—have virtually ignored this important story.
Krar and his wife, Judith Bruey, had assembled quite an arsenal in a storage facility in Noonday, Texas, including 500,000 rounds of ammunition, machine guns, pipe bombs, briefcase bombs and their own personal WMD: a cyanide bomb. Unfortunately for Krar, a package he sent in early 2003, containing fake U.N. and Defense Intelligence Agency IDs, went astray on its way to New Jersey militia member Edward Feltus. The accidental recipient alerted the FBI, leading to the arrest of Krar, Bruey and Feltus in May 2003. Along with various white supremacist literature, the FBI seized documents indicating that co-conspirators may still be at large, though the trio has continued to keep silent about all details, including their accomplices and intended targets.
As the Bush administration has been very effective in equating terrorism with Iraq and the Middle East in the aftermath of September 11, it's seldom recalled that Timothy McVeigh, a native-born American and a former soldier, carried out the second-deadliest terror attack on American soil, in Oklahoma City in 1995. At the height of the militia movement of the 1990s, McVeigh was just one of thousands of anti-government activists prepared for the possibility of waging war on their own government. As William Krar's activities indicate, the hard-core members of these groups did not disappear after international terrorists struck—yet the press has allowed them to fly under the radar.
Chip Berlet of Political Research Associates, an organization that tracks radical right-wing activities, says that government spin is in part to blame: "The Bush administration and conservatives in general have a double standard on the issues of terrorism, political violence and weapons of mass destruction," he says. "The hunt for WMDs in Iraq gets daily spin from the White House press office, while federal agencies carefully avoid describing caches of weapons and bombs and toxic agents found in this country in the possession of right-wing militants as being tied to terrorist threats or WMDs."
While the Krar story garnered coverage by various local media outlets, and remains alive on websites such as TheMemoryHole.org, a Nexis search reveals how little attention has been paid to this story by the national press. According to the search, the major news magazines—Time, Newsweek and U.S. News & World Report—have never reported on Krar. Neither has ABC World News Tonight, NBC Nightly News or PBS's NewsHour. The CBS Evening News (1/7/04) did one story on the sentencing of Krar and his wife.
The nation's major papers also shied away from the story. The Washington Post and USA Today had no coverage, while the New York Times never reported on it, but ran an op-ed by Daniel Levitas about it (12/13/03)—arguing, ironically, that such stories should get more coverage. The Los Angeles Times did run a front-page story on the plot (1/7/04), but that was the only time they approached it.
The all-news cable channels, despite their 24 hours of time to fill daily, hardly reported on the Krar story either. The story appears twice in CNN's Nexis transcripts (NewsNight With Aaron Brown, 12/11/03; American Morning, 12/30/03), only once in Fox News Channel's (Big Story With John Gibson, 12/29/03) and not at all in MSNBC's.
With the national press paying so little attention, it's no surprise that few in the public have any idea that while their government invaded Iraq over weapons of mass destruction that have not been found, white supremacists were seemingly prepared to use chemical weapons at home. Krar, Bruey and Feltus plead guilty to a variety of charges last year, and that seemed to end what little media interest existed in the story. Given the non-coverage of domestic terrorism, it might take another Oklahoma City before they return to the subject.
Richard Bottoms is a California-based researcher who focuses on militia activities.