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August 12, 2015 Off

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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April 17, 2014 2

Westboro Baptist Church to Picket Kansas Shooting Victims’ Funerals

Shirley-Phelps-RoperThe vir­u­lently anti-gay, anti-Semitic West­boro Bap­tist Church has announced that it plans to picket the April 18 funer­als of two of the vic­tims allegedly killed by white suprema­cist Fra­zier Glenn Miller in Over­land Park, Kansas. The group sent out faxes, includ­ing to sev­eral Anti-Defamation League offices, declar­ing their inten­tion to protest at the funerals.

West­boro, based in Topeka, Kansas, is noto­ri­ous for hold­ing up hate­ful signs near the funer­als of sol­diers killed in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. They also draw atten­tion to them­selves by protest­ing at funer­als of vic­tims who were killed or died under other tragic circumstances.

Despite the March 2014 death of Westboro’s founder and leader, Fred Phelps, the group is clearly con­tin­u­ing his legacy of hate and divisiveness.

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April 16, 2014 Off

Overland Park Shooting Suspect Admired “Lone Wolf” Killers

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Glenn Miller on Joseph Paul Franklin

Fol­low­ing deadly shoot­ings at Jew­ish insti­tu­tions in Over­land Park, Kansas, on April 13, 2014, Over­land Park police soon arrested a sus­pect, Fra­zier Glenn Cross (more com­monly known as Fra­zier Glenn Miller or sim­ply Glenn Miller). A new ADL report reveals dis­turb­ing new details about his recent activities.

Miller is a long-time white suprema­cist whose extrem­ist career spans decades.   In recent years, Miller was active on the white suprema­cist dis­cus­sion forum Van­guard News Net­work (VNN), mak­ing over 12,000 posts to that site.  He expounded racist and anti-Semitic views on a vari­ety of sub­jects, but dur­ing 2009–2013 Miller repeat­edly made posts related to one rather dis­turb­ing theme:  sup­port for lone wolf white suprema­cists who had com­mit­ted vio­lent acts.

One lone wolf ter­ror­ist Miller admired was James Von Brunn, the 88-year-old white suprema­cist who opened fire at the U.S. Holo­caust Memo­r­ial Museum in June 2009, killing a secu­rity guard.  Miller also approved of Wade Michael Page, the white suprema­cist who embarked upon a deadly shoot­ing spree at a Sikh tem­ple in Wis­con­sin in 2012.  “Many thou­sands of would-be mud [i.e., non-white] immigrants…will decide not to come [after Page’s attack],” Miller wrote shortly there­after.  “Is that good or bad for white folks?  See?”

Another white suprema­cist mur­derer Miller admired was Keith Luke.  In early 2009, Luke embarked upon a mur­der­ous ram­page in Brock­ton, Mass­a­chu­setts, killing two West African immi­grants and shoot­ing and rap­ing a third.  Luke allegedly planned to attack a syn­a­gogue that evening, but police caught up to him before he could carry out the final act of his spree.  In early 2010, Miller described Luke as “a super coura­geous young white man with the guts to act, as opposed to yel­low cyber-space [white nation­al­ists] who only type, anonymously.”

When Nor­we­gian extrem­ist Anders Behring Breivik com­mit­ted bomb­ings and shoot­ings in July 2011 that killed 77 peo­ple, mostly chil­dren, Miller imag­ined an Amer­i­can equiv­a­lent.  “If some enter­pris­ing Amer­i­can fel­low went to a youth camp in the Catskills, Camp David, or Martha’s Vine­yard,” he wrote on the VNN forum that same month, “and ‘sprayed’ some young’uns belong to our immigrant-loving JOG [Jewish-Occupied Gov­ern­ment], I dare say I might not lose a whole lot of sleep…I just might sleep even bet­ter than my norm, pos­si­bly with a wide grin on my face.”

How­ever, if there was one mur­derer whom Miller par­tic­u­larly looked up to, it was Joseph Paul Franklin, the white suprema­cist ser­ial killer and death row inmate who in the 1970s had­com­mit­ted a num­ber of mur­ders and bomb­ings against African-Americans, Jews, and interracialcouples.

In August 2009, Miller pro­claimed that Franklin was “one hell of a [white nation­al­ist].”  Miller­soon actively urged other white suprema­cists to sup­port Franklin—whom he dubbed a “martyr”—by writ­ing him, send­ing him money, and other mea­sures (includ­ing brib­ing guards).  In early 2010, Miller announced on the VNN forum that he had received a let­ter from Franklin, “this liv­ing [white nation­al­ist] legend.”

By Sep­tem­ber 2013, just months before Franklin’s sched­uled exe­cu­tion date, Miller and Franklin had estab­lished a rela­tion­ship, with Franklin mak­ing reg­u­lar phone calls to Miller.   Miller ener­get­i­cally tried to raise money for Franklin and to pro­mote his rep­u­ta­tion.  Franklin, he claimed in a Sep­tem­ber 29 post­ing to VNN, was “the most coura­geous Amer­i­can war­rior for our race in our life­time.”  Two days later, Miller called Franklin, “a lone wolf hero.”

Miller even tried to put him­self into Franklin’s head when describ­ing some of Franklin’s vio­lent actions:  “This one in one-hundred-million white man, in total self con­trol, cool and con­fi­dent in him­self and his Aryan abil­i­ties, does not run away to safety.  No, no, no.  He calmly pulls over, con­fronts the n—–, and blows his black ass away, and the white assed, n—–loving bitch, too, AFTER rel­ish­ing, up close and per­sonal, the ter­ror in their eyes.  And then, and only then, he calmly dri­ves away while plan­ning his next hit.”  For a select few, Miller said in a dif­fer­ent post­ing, “it’s what makes life worth living.”

On Novem­ber 20, fol­low­ing Franklin’s exe­cu­tion, Miller announced his death, then pro­claimed that “Joseph Paul Franklin, mar­tyr, is born and will live for­ever in the hearts and minds of strong, loyal white men, women, and youth.  Hail Joseph Paul Franklin!!!”

Five months later, Fra­zier Glenn Miller allegedly embarked upon his own killing spree in Over­land Park, Kansas.

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