Ignoring the terror within
Twenty years after the Oklahoma City bombing, federal authorities have lost sight of domestic extremists and failed to prevent acts of terrorism. The lack of focus, funding and information-sharing across disparate agencies has led to fatal consequences for unknowing victims around the country. Meanwhile, the violence is metastasizing and the threat growing.
Tucked away in Suite 2105-B of the Century Towers building in northeast Kansas City is the Kansas City Regional Terrorism Early Warning Interagency Analysis Center. That’s “fusion center” for short. It’s one of 78 fusion centers set up across the U.S. and its territories since 9/11 to detect and prevent terrorist acts, as well as other crimes, by gathering and sharing information.
A number of groups have conducted studies that found shoddy intelligence being prepared at fusion centers, poor communication among intelligence groups and a move away from looking at domestic extremism.
The former police chief of West Memphis, Ark., spends his time telling other law enforcement officers about the day that turned his life upside-down, hoping it will prevent it from ever occurring again.
A Las Vegas couple who killed two police officers and a good Samaritan last year had been on the radar of a nearby fusion center whose mission was to thwart dangerous extremists. It’s difficult to tell whether the fusion center dropped the ball. But this much is noteworthy: A group of armed members of the “patriot movement” was more concerned about the couple than was the fusion center.
Since 9/11, more than 50 people have been killed and dozens injured in attacks by domestic extremists, including white nationalists, militias and sovereign citizens.
Today, at a time when much of law enforcement’s focus has shifted from domestic to foreign terrorism, a network of extremism is again spreading throughout the land. “The wall between extremism and mainstream has really come down significantly,” said Brian Levin, director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University-San Bernardino.
Twenty years ago, a truck bomb exploded outside the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, killing 168 people and wounding hundreds of others. The deadliest act of domestic terrorism to ever occur on American soil, it exposed a broad-based network whose followers feared the government was bent on taking away their weapons and other constitutional rights. Among them were these groups and individuals who made headlines after the April 19, 1995, blast.
The shootings a year ago at Jewish centers in Overland Park brought attention to the white nationalist movement, which authorities say has been responsible for an increase in violence in recent years.
Since it became notorious 20 years ago with suspicions about links to the Oklahoma City bombing, Elohim City seems frozen in time. But none of the suspicions swirling around the village is true, say John and David Millar, sons of the community’s late founder and patriarch, Robert Millar.
Sometimes referred to as “freemen,” sovereign citizens believe that the government is corrupt and out of control; therefore, they do not recognize local, state or federal authority.