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August 26, 2015

Judge Thwarts Anti-Semitic Killer’s Attempt At Show Trial

As opening statements and testimony began this week in Olathe, Kansas, in the murder trial of white supremacist Frazier Glenn Miller (also known as Frazier Glenn Cross), the defense strategy of the former Klansman—who is representing himself—became clear.

Frazier Glenn Miller mugshot

Frazier Glenn Miller mugshot

Miller, who has admitted committing a shooting spree at two Jewish institutions in Overland Park, Kansas, in April 2014 that killed three people, including one child, indicated his intentions with his opening statements on August 24. Miller asserted to the jury that the murders were justified, describing his actions that day as “well-intentioned” and claiming that he had “good, moral reasons” for the slayings.

These statements echoed earlier remarks by Miller before the trial that he would attempt a “necessity” defense, claiming that the shootings were needed to halt the “Jewish genocide of the white race.” Though Miller had admitted that his intentions were to shoot Jews, none of the victims he killed at the Jewish institutions turned out to be Jewish.

Miller told the jury that white people “have a right to survive” and the right to preserve our heritage…and a safe future for white children.” This was a reference to the “14 Words,” a popular white supremacist slogan: “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children.” It refers to the widespread white supremacist belief that the white race is threatened with extinction because of a rising tide of non-white peoples who are controlled and manipulated by Jews.

However, Miller did not get far in his effort at an anti-Semitic show trial before Judge Kelly Ryan stopped him. Judge Ryan had earlier ruled that Miller could not introduce his anti-Semitic conspiracy theories into the guilt phase of the trial, which was to determine whether a crime had been committed, not why. The judge said that Miller could make such arguments during the penalty phase of the trial, if he were convicted.

As witnesses began to testify, Miller found other ways to introduce his anti-Semitic views, such as bringing certain books to court with him. At one point he had a copy of his own, self-printed autobiography, A White Man Speaks Out, displayed on the defense table. Another time during the trial he held up a book for people to see: They Dare to Speak Out: People and Institutions Confront Israel’s Lobby, an anti-Israel book written by Paul Findley, a long-time anti-Israel activist, in 1985.

Miller was a prominent white supremacist in the 1970s and 1980s, at one point heading a large Ku Klux Klan group, but the white supremacist movement ostracized him for providing testimony in a criminal case against other white supremacists. Miller has spent most of the past 15 years trying to get back in the graces of the movement, with little success. His shooting spree was apparently a final attempt.

Miller’s Overland Park attack was only one of a number of deadly shooting sprees by white supremacists in recent years. These and other murders have made white supremacists the most deadly extremist movement in the country, as detailed in ADL’s recent report, With Hate in their Hearts: The State of White Supremacy in the United States.

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August 12, 2015

From Charleston to Chattanooga: The Face of Terror in America

By Oren Segal and Mark Pitcavage
Directors of the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism

Terrorism is sometimes referred to as the “faceless enemy,” but it has hardly been faceless in the United States this summer.  Too many people have emerged from the shadows to inflict death and suffering.

The parade of violence has seemed unending, from Elton Simpson and Nadir Soofi, who attacked police officers providing security for the so-called “Muhammad Art Exhibit” in Texas in May, to John Houser, the Hitler-admiring man obsessed with the moral decay of America who recently opened fire at a Louisiana movie theater showing the movie Trainwreck.

Of the various killers and would-be killers this summer, two stand out.  The first is Dylann Storm Roof, the white supremacist who allegedly confessed to the June massacre at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, that left nine African-Americans dead.dylann-storm-roof-gun-confederate-flag-600

The second is Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez, who in July engaged in a shooting spree targeting a Chattanooga military recruiting center and a nearby naval reserve center.  Abdulazeez, who may have been inspired by radical Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, killed five people—all military personnel—before being killed by police.

In many ways, Roof and Abdulazeez personify America’s terrorist threat; they are the faces of the “faceless enemy.”  Most obviously, each represents a major source of terrorism.  Roof was a white supremacist who allegedly hoped to start a “race war” in which whites would prevail.  White supremacists have for decades been the most prolific source of domestic extremist-related lethal violence.  Along with the other main segment of the extreme right, anti-government militia groups and sovereign citizens, they are responsible for the great majority of extremist-related deaths in the U.S.

Abdulazeez, on whom there is less information regarding motivation, may well have latched onto the ideas of al-Awlaki—including his encouragement of attacks on military targets—as a way to atone for some of his personal demons, including drugs and alcohol.  Domestic Islamic extremists have in recent years attempted or conducted a large number of terrorist plots, conspiracies and acts, despite being fewer in number than right-wing extremists.

Both men also chose targets typical of their movements.  For Abdulazeez, it was the military; here he followed in the footsteps of Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad, who killed a soldier at a recruiting center in Little Rock, Arkansas, in 2009, and Nidal Malik Hassan, who killed 13 people at Fort Hood, Texas, that same year.  Other Islamic extremists have also recently plotted attacks against military targets in the U.S., though without success.mohammad-youssef-abdulazeez

Roof went on a shooting rampage against African-Americans.  Sprees of violence against racial, ethnic, or religious minorities are a common type of white supremacist terrorism.  In recent years, there have been a number of such episodes, including Frazier Glenn Miller’s attacks on Jewish institutions in Overland Park, Kansas, in 2014; Wade Michael Page’s rampage at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, in 2012, and Keith Luke’s attacks on African immigrants in Brockton, Massachusetts, in 2009.

Both Roof and Abdulazeez used firearms for their attacks, which is also typical of American terrorism.  Although the public usually thinks of terrorism in terms of bombs, terrorists like Ted Kaczynski and the Boston Marathon bombers are rare in America.  The vast majority of extremist-related murders involve guns—easy to acquire, simple to use, and deadly.  This is why Charleston and Chattanooga number among the 10 deadliest extremist-related attacks of the past 50 years.  Indeed, with the exception of the Oklahoma City bombing, the “top 10” attacks all involved firearms.

Abdulazeez and Roof were both young men, disaffected, facing personal stresses of different kinds (Abdulazeez also suffered from mental illness).  Although terrorism knows no age limits—Nidal Hasan was 39 at the time of his Fort Hood rampage, while white supremacist James Von Brunn, who attacked the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2009, was in his late 80s—many of the attacks and plots in recent years by both Islamic and right-wing extremists have been committed by men in their mid-20s or younger.

Like Abdulazeez and Roof, a number of these extremists committed their attacks as lone wolves, unattached to any particular group.  Overall, the number of lethal lone wolf attacks in the past two decades has been fairly low, numbering only a few dozen, but in recent years, lone wolves seem to have been emerging at a faster rate.  One reason may be the increasing role played by the Internet in facilitating self-radicalization.  It was through the Internet that Roof educated himself in white supremacy; it was via the Internet that Abdulazeez downloaded recordings of al-Awlaki.

Here one can see a significant difference between right-wing extremists and domestic Islamic radicals.  While they can both easily immerse themselves in a sea of on-line propaganda designed to instill and reinforce extreme views, right-wing extremist Internet sources are primarily based in the United States and, therefore, must watch what they say.  White supremacists who openly use the Internet to encourage violence and terrorism open themselves up to criminal investigation and, if violence occurs, possible civil liability; as a result, their encouragement of violence is often more implicit than explicit.

Domestic Islamic extremists, in contrast, receive most of their radicalizing messages from abroad, from terrorist groups and like-minded supporters who are freer to use the Internet to call for violence and terrorism within the U.S.  Propaganda from Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, for example, was an inspiration for the Boston Marathon bombing.  In the past two years, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has taken such tactics to a new level altogether, employing a virtual army of on-line recruiters who use social media platforms to reach and radicalize susceptible individuals across the globe.  Seeking to instill a deep sense of community and purpose, ISIS supporters encourage Americans to come to the Middle East to help it fight its wars—many of the 80+ U.S. residents linked to Islamic extremist activity since 2014 have made such attempts. But ISIS also urges people to launch attacks in the U.S.

Roof and Abdulazeez were both cold-blooded killers.  Their attacks deeply affected the citizens of Charleston and Chattanooga and, indeed, the whole country, though not always in the same ways.  In particular, the Chattanooga shootings, like some similar attacks before them, stirred anti-Muslim sentiments directed at America’s entire Muslim community, a disturbing phenomenon for which there is no parallel with regard to white supremacist attacks.

But their attacks were similar in that they were both essentially futile, able to achieve little but death and misery.  Indeed, the reactions to the attacks illustrate just how ineffective they actually were.  The Chattanooga attack, for example, inspired an outpouring of support for the U.S. military. The Charleston response was even more powerful.  Far from starting a “race war,” Roof’s slaughter not only brought Charlestonians of all races together but also resulted in a bipartisan effort to remove the Confederate flag from the South Carolina capitol.

American extremists, of whatever stripe, can hurt and even kill, but the one thing they can’t do is win.

Mr. Segal is an authority on Islamic extremism and terrorism in the United States; Dr. Pitcavage is an expert on right-wing extremism and terrorism in the United States.

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June 10, 2015

ADL Submits Testimony to House Committee on Homeland Security

The House Committee on Homeland Security held a hearing on June 3, 2015, on the increasing efforts by extremists, such as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), to use sophisticated social media and other Internet platforms to recruit members, share propaganda and inspire attacks.Terrorism Gone Viral The Attack in Garland, Texas and Beyond

ADL, which tracks how terrorist groups exploit new technology, works closely with the Internet industry and trains law enforcement around the country, submitted comprehensive testimony for the hearing record highlighting the extensive efforts of terrorists to harness new technology for recruitment and radicalization.

The League’s statement included details on the unprecedented number of individuals living in the United States linked to plots, conspiracies, and other activity on behalf of foreign terrorist groups thus far in 2015.

The hearing, titled “Terrorism Gone Viral The Attack in Garland, Texas and Beyond,” focused on the attempted violent attack at a Garland, Texas, community center last month. One of the apparent shooters, Elton Simp­son, main­tained an active pres­ence on Twit­ter, with at least eight accounts that he used to net­work with ISIS sup­port­ers prior to the attack. Simpson is believed to have interacted with Mohamed Abdul­lahi Has­san, a per­ma­nent U.S. res­i­dent that may have inspired as many as 11 peo­ple liv­ing in the U.S. to take action in the last two years.

Led by Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-TX), Members heard from three subject matter experts: John Mulligan, Deputy Director of the National Counterterrorism Center, Francis X. Taylor, Under Secretary in the DHS Office of Intelligence and Analysis and Michael B. Steinbach,  Assistant Director of the FBI, on these issues.

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