The Terror Networks and the Hate Criminals

In response to Frazier Glenn Miller’s arrest in the murder of 3 people at Jewish targets the other day, Peter Bergen reminds that white supremacist terrorists have been more dangerous in recent years than Islamic terrorists.

Now let’s do the thought experiment in which instead of shouting “Heil Hitler” after he was arrested, the suspect had shouted “Allahu Akbar.” Only two days before the first anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombings, this simple switch of words would surely have greatly increased the extent and type of coverage the incident received.

Yet the death toll in the shootings in Kansas is similar to that of last year’s Boston Marathon bombings, where three people were killed and the suspects later killed a police officer as they tried to evade capture. (Many more, of course, were also wounded in the Boston attacks; 16 men, women and children lost limbs.)

In fact, since 9/11 extremists affiliated with a variety of far-right wing ideologies, including white supremacists, anti-abortion extremists and anti-government militants, have killed more people in the United States than have extremists motivated by al Qaeda’s ideology. According to a count by the New America Foundation, right wing extremists have killed 34 people in the United States for political reasons since 9/11. (The total includes the latest shootings in Kansas, which are being classified as a hate crime).

By contrast, terrorists motivated by al Qaeda’s ideology have killed 23 people in the United States since 9/11.

But, as Bergen notes, thus far these murders have been called “hate crimes,” not terrorism.

That’s particularly interesting given this remarkable report from HuffPo’s Ryan Reilly, while he was still at TPM. Back in 2012, Reilly interviewed Miller about his contacts with Kevin Harpham, the MLK bomber. As Reilly notes, Federal prosecutors had used Harpham’s contacts with Miller to argue for harsher sentencing.

Less than a week after 36-year-old Kevin Harpham was arrested for allegedly attempting a racially motivated bombing of a 2011 Martin Luther King Jr. parade in Spokane, white supremacist leader Glenn Miller sent him a letter offering to help start a legal fund on his behalf.

“Keep your chin up and stay strong,” Miller wrote in a letter dated March 14, telling Harpham that he and other members of an online white supremacist forum believed he’d “been set up.”


Federal prosecutors used Miller’s jailhouse letter and Harpham’s response — in which he said he might have Miller screen individuals as he looked for “someone to house sit for a while” — as one of the factors that “supports the imposition of a sentence that will maximize the time the Defendant is incarcerated and subject to judicial oversight.”

Evidently Harpham’s lawyers soon informed him it probably wasn’t a good idea to be sending letters to a well-known white supremacist while in jail accused of a hate crime, as he didn’t respond to any of Miller’s follow up letters.

“He’s kind of let me know he doesn’t want anything to do with me,” Miller said. “It’s not in his self interest to associate with me, and I can understand that, can’t you?” [my emphasis]

As I noted at the time, the FBI called Harpham a “lone wolf” “hate criminal.” That, in spite of the fact that the crime to which he plead guilty — attempted use of a WMD — is one of FBI’s favorite “terrorist” crimes with which to entrap young Muslims, and in spite of the fact that Harpham’s contacts with Miller and his abundant online activity showed him to be a part of a network sharing the same ideology.

Harpham was one of the few white people convicted of a terrorist enhancement crime (the 3 anarchists tied to Occupy who discussed bombing a bridge were also found guilty on WMD charges; both the Hutaree and Schaeffer Cox were initially charged with terrorist-associated crimes, but not found guilty of them; see this a post for Dianne Feinstein’s catalog of such crimes). Whether the FBI called Harpham one or not, he is technically a terrorist.

Just two years ago, they made a big deal out of Harpham’s ties to Miller and used that to substantiate the severity of Harpham’s crimes. Yet not only did the FBI not catch Miller in a sting before he killed. But they’re not even calling Miller a terrorist … yet.

Miller and Harpham were participants in the same kind of network the FBI uses, if they’re Muslim, to identify targets for increased law enforcement attention. Harpham was convicted as a terrorist, in part, based on his ties to Miller.

And yet no one stopped Miller before he (allegedly) killed.

25 replies
  1. bloopie2 says:

    I’m not sure of your point. If you complain a lot that “They let all these local guys go kill 2X people while spending all their time looking for foreigners who only kill 1X people”, they will then have more cause to expand the NSA surveillance network locally. And it is, of course, well suited to that purpose. I think you’re best to keep quiet.

    • P J Evans says:

      The point is that white men get treated as criminals, not as terrorists, even when they’re doing the same things – or worse! – than Muslims.

        • jerryy says:

          The feds take a lot of interest in hate crimes, because the issues cross state lines, for example the shootings at the Holocaust Museum, or the Unitarian Church in Tennessee. While statutes date back to 1969 (that I am aware of, perhaps the attorneys that visit here can illuminate the history and concepts better than my meager attempt) one such law is:
          Public Law #103-322A, a 1994 federal law, defines a hate crime as:
          “a crime in which the defendant intentionally selects a victim, or in the case of a property crime, the property that is the object of the crime, because of the actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, ethnicity, gender, disability, or sexual orientation of any person.”
          Most states do indeed have similar laws, but collectively we have an interest in letting states prosecute non-hate killings as they are local, but killings that are hate based need to collectively prosecuted.
          The big problem comes in when using the hate crimes laws to avoid prosecuting the crimes that should be prosecuted as terrorism.
          Yes, people should be treated equally, but are not.

        • emptywheel says:

          The treatment of Muslims won’t change until whites are subjected to the same legal domestic policing techniques as Muslims are. That’s well before you get into eavesdropping, which one domestic groups already requires a much higher bar than whites, because of the way they’ve interpreted “international” terrorism.

  2. bloopie2 says:

    My other gripe here is about the waste of my taxpayer dollars getting the Feds involved with this “hate crime” stuff. I gotta believe there is an airtight State case against him for three premeditated murders, which would put him away for the rest of his life (or fry him if Kansas so allows). So, what would be gained by going Federal? Certainly not an enhanced punishment, and certainly not deterrence as to future haters. I’m not from Kansas. Let them spend Kansas dollars on Kansas prosecutors and Kansas courts and Kansas prisons. Let me, outside of Kansas, keep my taxes down.

      • bloopie2 says:

        I guess so, you’re right. Is this it? Even though he was involved in similar activities and networks, they ignored him because he was white? And as a result people died?

        If so, then, so what? Are you saying that they should have illegally surveilled and entrapped him, as they do Muslims? That’s not a result I want.

        Anyhow, so they knew he was a loony hater with guns. Tell me, what could they have done to stop this particular shooting event? All he had to do was grab his guns and head out the door one morning. How do you stop that?

    • John Casper says:

      bloopie, this is an aside about your federal tax dollars comment. Since it’s April 15

      “(Federal) Taxes for revenue are obsolete.”

      “…The necessity for a government to tax in order to maintain both its independence and its solvency is true for state and local governments, but it is not true for a national government. Two changes of the greatest consequence have occurred in the last twenty-five years which have substantially altered the position of the national state with respect to the financing of its current requirements.

      The first of these changes is the gaining of vast new experience in the management of central banks.

      The second change is the elimination, for domestic purposes, of the convertibility of the currency into gold.”

      For more see Modern Monetary Theory #MMT especially @stephaniekelton @wbmosler

      Now, getting back to your question, “what should change?”

      They should start following the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

      “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”

      Benjamin Franklin

      We’re a lot safer if U.S. Muslims feel safe going to authorities with possible information about extremists. Thanks to the destruction of civil liberties, they don’t.

  3. bell says:

    the point i take away from this is that if you are muslim – you get special treatment, as in – you get singled out very differently.. it supports the claim that the usa has cultivated a special hate towards those of the muslim faith.

  4. bloopie2 says:

    Love this quote from a Utah Supreme Court case cited in an ACLU brief on a current spying case in Utah. This puts it about as well as I have heard it.

    “This state’s settlers were themselves no strangers to the abuses of general warrants. Underlying the abuse of the general warrant was the perversion of the prosecutorial function from investigating known crimes to investigating individuals for the purpose of finding criminal behavior. A free society cannot tolerate such a practice.”

  5. RUKidding says:

    I feel conflicted about this, and some of the comments reflect my mixed emotions. OTOH, the USG refuses to label rightwing extremists, who mostly all white males, as terrorists. The Alphabets follow some of their activities but often not in enough time to prevent violence against innocent citizens.

    OTOH, the USG – via the same Alphabets – label just about anything Muslims do as terrorism, often (but not always) for activities that are not even close to being terrorist or even Hate Crimes.

    Do I want the USG/Alphabets to step up their surveillance of White Supremecists/Militias, etc? And call them terrorists? Not exactly, but it does often seem like these bigots manage to wreak some significant havoc over time, all while the Alphabets are caught snoozing.

    For sure, though, I’d much like to see Muslims treated *the same* as anyone else, and yes, wouldn’t it be nice if US Constitution, Bill of Rights and the actual for real Rule of Law was magically back in force again in the USA? I won’t hold my breath, but that’s really what is needed, at least for starters.

    • emptywheel says:

      That’s where I am. There has to be equal treatment (And I actually think Bush’s DOJ made a more concerted effort to do so than Obama’s, though there has been more white supremacist terrorists caught). I believe one way to reign in abuse directed at Muslims is just to treat everyone the same, because if, say, Nazis were criminalized in the way that mere mosques are now, there’d be an uproar. You can actually see some of this at work in what Rand Paul (and in even more concerning ways, Ted Cruz) do to mobilize people: they assume all Muslims are correctly targeted but assume white people should be entitled to their ugly speech (as they should).

      So, yeah, treat people the same. One way or another, I think it will lead to improvement.

  6. orionATL says:

    from miss wiki on federal hate crime legislation:

    “..On October 28, 2009 President Obama signed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, attached to the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2010, which expanded existing United States federal hate crime law to apply to crimes motivated by a victim’s actual or perceived gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability, and dropped the prerequisite that the victim be engaging in a federally protected activity…”

    now don’t go and try and convence me that prez was motivated by wanting to make it politically easier to continue using the unconstitutional legal strategy and prosecutorial overreach advanced in the patriot act and associated depredations of citizens’ rights. i won’t hear a word of it.

  7. RexFlex says:

    What would Nate Silver say?
    Minority report?
    FGM could have yelled Betty Crocker.
    FGM killed people. What in God’s name did his previous thoughts have to do with this crime?
    I could have been a Nazi, but I became a Republican.
    Who’s left to hold up the right of free speech, Samoa?
    If we don’t, as a nation torture, then how can this be called a hate crime and done so with a straight face?

  8. Bitter Angry Drunk says:

    Wasn’t it determined that NSA or FBI is in fact (illegally) collecting gun purchase records? What the hell is the point, if it’s not to identify dangerous white supremacists like this guy…

    • emptywheel says:

      Lots of evidence to think so, not confirmed yet. We need an FBI Edward Snowden to confirm.

      • bloopie2 says:

        I disagree. This guy already had a federal gun conviction, and was a well-known extremist. Keeping track of him through a gun purchase registry would have been meaningless; he (as anyone) could easily obtain new guns covertly. All you could have done was physically watched him 24/7 – not feasible.

        So long as guns are available to practically everyone, there’s little you can do to prevent these types of things.

  9. Ben Franklin says:

    Marcy; Is it true you have disconnected yourself from Intercept?

    i wouldn’t blame you. Ebay seems to have purloined the message and messagers.

    It’s a devastating blow, imo, that the castration seems complete.

  10. chronicle says:

    quote:”Wasn’t it determined that NSA or FBI is in fact (illegally) collecting gun purchase records? What the hell is the point, if it’s not to identify dangerous white supremacists like this guy…”unquote

    The point? To identify EVERY SINGLE gun owner in the US. That point. It’s only a matter of time before the Monopoly of Violence reduces the 2nd Amendment to ashes and begins gun confiscation as guns are the very last fence between the people and Totalitarianism. Given the NSA surveillance state is already in place, don’t tell me that this is precisely where this country is headed. One only need drive through a DHS checkpoint within the 100 mile “constitution free” zone around the perimeter of the United States to stare tyranny in its ugly vile face. Add the militarization of every one horse town Law enforcement, 80 THOUSAND SWAT assaults on American homes per year, even a cave man can see the writing on the wall. Add weaponized drones over the US and Obama’s pig sucking Holder’s declaration of the right to murder American citizens without so much as an “imminent threat” proof..well, if you don’t see the world your children and their progeny are facing..then you are an idiot.

    • P J Evans says:

      Turn off the talk radio and Faux and take a week without them. You’re sounding like a RWNJ.

      • chronicle says:

        quote”Turn off the talk radio and Faux and take a week without them. You’re sounding like a RWNJ.”unquote

        And you sound like a clueless moron. I don’t listen to talk radio asshat. In reality, your grandchildren will spit in your face for not paying attention. Meanwhile, take your next dose of synthetic lobotomy serum so you can ignore what the entire planet sees.

        • P J Evans says:

          I am a pissed off long-time reader of this blog.

          It’s only a matter of time before the Monopoly of Violence reduces the 2nd Amendment to ashes and begins gun confiscation as guns are the very last fence between the people and Totalitarianism.

          Read that again, and tell everyone here that it isn’t RW talk-radio bull.
          NO ONE is going to confiscate your masculine-enhancement devices. If there’s any amendment that isn’t going to be touched, it’s the second.

  11. RUKidding says:

    To be redundant: I agree about equal treatment for Muslims. I do also support, within reason, the First Amend rights of Nazi’s & White Supremecists. I see nearly every day on certain rightwing sites I monitor the excoriation of ALL Muslims as totally violent people who’s only goal in life is to overthrow the USG (or to inflict terrorist acts all over the nation) & impose Sharia Law on all US citizens. I see this kind of crap every day.

    And we can witness how the Alphabets treated friends – even rather distant and tangential acquaintances – of the Tsarnaev brothers after the Boston Marthon bombing. Firstly, it’s not clearly proven that the Tsarnaev brothers did the bombing, and secondly, killing and wholesale deporting (as has been done) people that were distant friends and acquaintances of these brothers definitely borders on a Police State.

    Equal treatment under the Rule of Law should be the standard. Unfortunately, a significant minority of the populace are deliberately misled to view every single Muslim as violent terrorist hell-bent on destroying the USA. Not even slightly true.

  12. Saul Tannenbaum says:

    Last night, I had the, ah, pleasure of listening to Lisa Monaco talk about violent extremism and new efforts to intercede in the radicalization process, with a specific focus on online stuff, like HipHop videos targeted to ensnare our youth. This was preceded by having spent much of the day meeting with Muslim community leaders trying to find “trust”.

    I wish I had the presence of mind to ask her about violent extremism and the aging racist demographic.

    (In an abundance of fairness, I’ll note that the new initiative Monaco mentioned is being driven by Harvard’s Berkman Center, which gives me hope that it will be both more nuanced and respectful of civil liberties than Monaco’s soundbites indicated.)

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