"Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity" (Hanlon's Razor)

    This page provides an analysis of several selected case studies wherein, it is hoped, the interrelationships between terrorism and counterterrorism are illustrated.  Some of the cases involve political extremism, instead of terrorism.  This is done in order to point out the role that official action, or more precisely, overreaction, plays in the "circuitous, cyclic pattern" of "terrorism from above" leading to "terrorism from below" (Vohryzek-Bolden et. al. 2001).  Counterterrorism is hereby defined as any proactive, aggressive use of personnel and resources to preempt, disrupt, or destroy terrorists and their support networks (Kushner 2003).  There are many options in counterterrorism, from diplomatic overtures to negotiation, to intelligence and investigative operations, to moral superiority, to the blocking and freezing of assets, to militaristic SWAT team operations.  Conventional wisdom has it that it is never good to utilize the "soft" options (e.g., negotiating with terrorists), at least while terrorists are still engaging in violence, but it is often the case that this is more rhetoric than reality.  There is also controversy at the other end of the spectrum with the so-called "hard" options.  Take assassination, for example, which is typically a tool of terrorism and banned by most governments not only for practical reasons but because it would be fighting terror with terror.  As a counterterrorism strategy, assassination might or might not work, and there is much debate about that.  There is no U.S. law prohibiting assassination -- only an executive order that could be reversed.  There is international law making assassination illegal, but there is also philosophical support for a limited right to assassination, within limited rules and guidelines.  The general consensus, however, among most experts is that extremely "hard" counterterrorism tactics such as this only open up a Pandora's Box.

    In addition to policy arguments, there are significant questions about civil liberties.  The most troubling issues with respect to the symbiotic relationship between terrorism and counterterrorism come into sharp focus when "homegrown" terrorists; i.e., domestic terrorists, are considered.  Within the arena of domestic terrorism, there are serious, unfortunate precedents when counterterrorism goes horribly wrong.  Not only is the fragile balance of civil liberties upset, but the cycle becomes fed by the same paranoia and propaganda which led to the problem in the first place.  Wars cannot be won when fundamental civil liberties are eroded, and security at the expense of justice is no security at all.  Nonetheless, it is a common tactic, especially among domestic terrorists, to push or provoke the government into overreaction.  Whether or not this shows the "true colors" of a democracy is, of course, debatable.


    Ruby Ridge refers to an area in the Idaho panhandle where in August of 1992, there was a confrontation between Randy Weaver and his family with federal agents of the U.S. government.  Randy's wife and 14-year old son were killed during the incident along with one U.S. deputy federal marshal.  Randy Weaver was a former Green Beret and explosives expert.  The Weavers adhered to a belief system based on apocalyptic prophecy, a deep distrust of government, and anti-Semitism/racism.  They associated with members of the Aryan Nations in Hayden Lake, Idaho.  In part, because of their conspiracy beliefs, they stockpiled guns.  In October of 1989, Weaver sold two sawed-off shotguns to an ATF informant.  This informant then solicited Weaver to become an "unwilling agent" to conduct an ATF investigation of other militant separatists.  When told directly by the ATF that he could avoid arrest for the shotgun charges by agreeing to spy on the Aryan Nations in Hayden Lake, Weaver refused, and instead warned the Aryan Nations about the plot.  He was arrested in January 1991 and released on bond, but Weaver missed the court date in March 1991.  The federal government issued a warrant for his arrest, but kept him under surveillance instead of serving the warrant.

    The August, 1992 incident started while Weaver and some others were walking around their woods and spotted a surveillance team location manned by six federal deputy marshals.  A shoot-out resulted, and two members of Weaver's party (his son, a friend, and a dog) along with a U.S. marshal were killed.  The following day, over 100 authorities from a variety of jurisdictions surrounded the cabin.  An operations plan, which included special rules of engagement, was sent to Washington for FBI review.  These rules of engagement stated that under certain circumstances, some people "can and should" be the subject of deadly force.  Some FBI SWAT personnel on the scene interpreted these special rules of engagement as a "shoot-on-sight" policy.

    Federal agents opened fire on the cabin during the afternoon of August 22, 1992, exactly when Weaver and some others were going out to a shed where his son's body had been placed.  Weaver himself was hit in the shoulder, another member of the party was seriously wounded, and additionally, Vicki Weaver was shot in the doorway of the house while holding a ten-month-old baby.  In the days which followed, the Weavers stayed in the cabin while more authorities surrounded the house and dozens of sympathizers gathered near the area.  The incident was now deemed a hostage negotiation situation.  Bo Gritz, a former Green Beret, agreed to serve as a negotiator, and after lengthy negotiations, Gritz was able to convince them to end the confrontation and walk out of the cabin on September 9, 1992.  The famous defense attorney Gerry Spence agreed to serve as defense counsel, and the verdict resulted in the government receiving a fine and Weaver only guilty of failure to appear and violating terms of bail.  He served eighteen months in prison, and was released in December, 1993.  One civil lawsuit won $3.1 million for the Weaver family, and further lawsuits are still pending.      


    The Waco Siege refers to a 51-day raid and assault on a religious compound (the Branch Davidian Complex) in Mt. Carmel, Texas, located about 9 miles east-northeast of Waco, TX.  The initial raid, in late February of 1993, resulted in the deaths of four federal agents and five Davidians.  By the time the siege ended on April 19, 1993, fire had completely destroyed the complex, killing 76 people, including 27 children and Davidian leader David Koresh.  The length and magnitude of the siege made it one of the largest law enforcement actions in U.S. history, only paralleled by the likes of a lengthy 1985 raid on a back-to-nature, African-American commune called MOVE in Philadelphia where a rooftop bomb burned down 62 houses in the area and left six adults and five children dead.

    The distinguishing feature of the Branch Davidians is their communal social structure and personal loyalty to their charismatic leader.  Koresh is the Hebrew word for Cyrus, the Persian king idolized for bringing about the Arab golden age.  David Koresh (real name: Vernon Howell) had been groomed for Davidian leadership ever since 1981 under Branch Davidian leader Lois Roden.  The Branch Davidians split from the regular Davidians back in 1959 when an apocalyptic event did not happen.  Both are movements within the Seventh-Day Adventist Church. 

    Allegations of child abuse, sexual abuse, psychological abuse, and material deprivation had been made about the Mt. Carmel complex for some time.  The Texas Child Protective Services investigated in 1992, and the evidence seemed to confirm the claim that Koresh had fathered more than twelve children by several wives who were as young as 12 or 13 when they became pregnant.  The ATF got involved because Mt. Carmel was amassing weapons and substantial quantities of black powder.  Warrants were issued for the arrest of Koresh and search of the premises, to be served on February 28, 1993.  Service of the warrants by about eighty armed federal agents failed, and during the attempt, four ATF agents died, sixteen others were wounded, and about five or six residents of the compound were killed.  The 51-day seige began, and the FBI became the lead agency, sending in it's Hostage Rescue Team (HRT), some members of which were the same personnel on the Ruby Ridge team.

    Verbal negotiations failed, shutting off power to the compound failed, illuminating the compound with bright lights failed, and mobilizing armored vehicles around the compound failed.  By Week Five of the seige, Attorney General Janet Reno (who assumed office just 23 days previously) met with Delta Force commandos to review a tear gas plan.  The plan was approved at the highest levels, and on April 19, 1993 (subsequently becoming "Militia Day" for militia groups), the plan was executed.  High winds dispersed the gas well, but occupants shot out the windows rather than exit the compound.  Simultaneous fires seemed to erupt at three or more different locations within the compound.  The flames consumed the entire complex.  Of the 80 individuals inside, 25 were children.  Most died from asphyxiation, others from falling debris, and still others from signs of suicide or homicide.  In 1994, eleven survivors were tried in federal court.  All were acquitted of the most serious charges, but five were convicted of aiding and abetting manslaughter and/or conspiracy.  Sentences ranged from three to twenty years.        


    9/11 was not the first attack on the World Trade Center (WTC).  The 1993 World Trade Center attack (or WTC I as it is abbreviated) occurred on February 26, 1993 when Brooklyn-resident Islamist terrorists exploded a particularly nasty homemade bomb in the underground parking garage of Tower One, in hopes that cyanide gas would kill the people in that Tower and the explosion would make Tower One fall into Tower Two.  Six people were killed, about 300 others were immediately injured, and about 1,040 others suffered subsequent injuries, mostly from smoke inhalation.  The bomb was the largest homemade explosive device ever used on U.S. soil.  The attack was the first and worst attack of international terrorism on U.S. soil.  The eventual arrest and prosecution of those responsible turned out to be the first time in known memory when prosecutors would try using sedition and treason laws to convict those responsible.  Six levels of the parking garage were destroyed by the blast, and the 22-story Vista Hotel above the blast took most of the brunt.  Subsequent injuries were high because an evacuation plan was not followed or failed, a plan that survivor Rick Rescorla later upgraded and implemented (Rescorla, the "man who predicted 9/11" was the late security director for Morgan Stanley who died while heroically saving hundreds of lives during the second World Trade Center attack).

    The 1993 WTC I attack represents a time of change -- a time when America lost its long-standing sense of invulnerability to terrorism.  The FBI determined that the bomb was the largest homemade device ever seen in the United States, and the bomb was easily built, composed of agricultural fertilizer (with ammonium nitrate) enhanced with compressed hydrogen and sodium cyanide.  There were many agencies involved in the investigation, and forensic examination of the scene afterwards was dangerous and tedious.  A key piece of evidence was a March 5th letter received by the New York Times claiming responsibility by a group calling itself "Liberation Army, Fifth Battalion."  The FBI later linked a similar draft of the letter from an erased file on a computer belonging to one Nidal Ayyad, one of six conspirators initially indicted in September (the main two being Ahmad Mohammad Ajaj and Ramzi Ahmed Yousef) -- see Findlaw Terrorism Cases Background and look for case of United States v. Salameh (first WTC bombing trial).  Salameh was the arrestee who tried to collect his deposit money on the rental van used in the attack.  Ayyad, Salameh, Ajaj, and Abouhalima were convicted and sentenced to life in prison, primarily under the Pinkerton doctrine of conspiracy law.  Abouhalima's defense involved the claim that he was tortured in Egypt after being arrested there (extradition through rendition).  Yousef, the mastermind along with Ajaj, became one of the world's most wanted fugitives with a $2 million bounty on his head, and was eventually arrested in Pakistan during 1995, the years in-between carrying out subsequent attacks and plotting to kill the Pope.  In court, Yousef said "I am a terrorist and proud of it" (see Wikipedia: Ramzi Yousef). He was sentenced to 240 years plus life.  Another key defendant was the blind Shiek Omar Abdel-Rahman (see Wikipedia: Omar Abdel-Rahman) who preached to many of the WTC I attackers and was involved with another cell planning to attack the Lincoln and Holland Tunnels in NYC as well as other landmarks (according to FBI recordings of his preaching).  From his mosque where Shiek Omar preached, the most prominent part of the NYC skyline was the WTC.  Shiek Omar is currently in U.S. custody at one of the CIA's classified facilities; i.e., "black sites."          


    The deadliest terrorist attack on U.S. soil (prior to 9/11) occurred on April 19, 1995 when the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, a U.S. government office complex in downtown Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, was destroyed by a truck bomb, killing 168 people (plus an unidentified leg indicating a possible 169th victim), including 19 children.  Over 500 people were injured.  To this day, the Oklahoma City bombing remains the deadliest incident of domestic terrorism in U.S. history.  Timothy McVeigh was found guilty and executed in 2001 for his role in the bombing, and a co-conspirator, Terry Nichols, was sentenced to life in prison on all charges in 2004.  Immediately after the bombing, authorities suspected attackers of Middle Eastern descent, and even released some preliminary sketches.  After all, the car bomb method was similar, involving a rented Ryder truck packed with agricultural fertilizer (ammonium nitrate) mixed with high-octane fuel oil (a mixture known as ANFO).  However, 90 minutes after the explosion, Tim McVeigh was pulled over by a state trooper for driving with an obscured license plate.  In his possession, he had a copy of a novel called The Turner Diaries (which provided a model for the attack) and was illegally transporting weapons.  Authorities thought McVeigh was implicated somehow, and the next day, released sketches of a John Doe No. 1 and a John Doe No. 2.  These sketches resulting in Terry Nichols turning himself in hours before the April 21st release of McVeigh on bail. Terry Nichols implicated McVeigh, and another Army buddy, Michael Fortier, was also picked up and implicated McVeigh.  Fortier received a 12 year prison sentence, primarily for failing to notify authorities about plans for the bombing.  The McVeigh and Nichols trials were held separately under a change of venue to Colorado. 

    There was a defense attempt to cast McVeigh as suffering from bipolar disorder, but the diagnosis would not hold beyond "mild delusional thinking" (and then a court-appointed psychiatrist disputed that).  Michel & Herbeck (2001) report that McVeigh suffered from rage and frustration caused by a troubled relationship with his mother, problems with bullies in school, and difficulties in establishing relationships with women. He collected guns and spent many hours in target practice. He joined the Army and had a successful military career, including combat in Iraq.  His commander evaluated him as a "soldier's soldier."  However, he became disenchanted with Army life primarily because no one else shared his belief that the Army was a sacred cause.  McVeigh failed to pass the physical for special forces, and soon after, left the Army but failed to make an adaptation to civilian life.  He became involved with gun-rights activists who viewed the U.S. government as the enemy.             

    The aftermath of the Oklahoma City Bombing was extensive.  For one, almost all federal buildings started putting up Jersey Barriers between their front doors and parking lots.  Many of these old-style guard-rail barriers were eventually replaced with concrete or sturdier barriers.  The humanitarian response was immense, but a not-unimportant consequence was the large number of victims, survivors, and first responders who suffered (and still suffer) from post-traumatic stress disorder.  Additionally, authorities started cracking down on militia groups, effectively abolishing some of them, but driving others to the radical fringe.  The bombing also spawned numerous conspiracy theories e.g., that the bomb had to go off from inside; a third Arab man (John Doe #3) was involved; some government workers were warned not to go to work that day; and ATF knew about the attack before it happened.  April 19 remains a symbolic date for the radical right.


    Following a ranch foreclosure in late 1994, about 21 people near Jordan, Montana started calling themselves Freemen and claiming their land as sovereign territory.  They set up their own system of government, banking, and currency, and became well-known for their relatively peaceful 81-day standoff with U.S. federal marshals from March 25 through June of 1996.  Two Freemen leaders, LeRoy Schweitzer (57) and Daniel Petersen (53) received the brunt of federal attention, 22 1/2 years behind bars and 15 years behind bars, respectively.  All together, seven leaders of the anti-government Montana Freemen were sentenced to stiff prison terms.  Nine subsequent Freemen were convicted in subsequent trials.  Schweitzer and five others refused to participate in their trial, and were allowed to watch the proceedings via TV from a holding cell.  Charges included multiple counts of conspiracy, bank fraud, threatening a federal judge, illegal possession of firearms, and an armed robbery of an ABC-TV crew covering the Freemen.  Besides believing that they are not subject to federal or state laws, the Freemen also claimed that God intended white people to rule the Earth, that blacks are animals, and Jews are descendants of Satan, although exactly what the Freemen stand for (Christian Patriotism is the best guess) is not quite clear, as one of their websites, Freedom Domain, illustrates the diversity, as does a supporting group, Police and Military Against the New World Order.  The Freeman used Internet swarming (call to arms) tactics during the seige, and also made relatively sophisticated videos for the media. 

    Authorities sought to not repeat the errors made at Ruby Ridge and Waco, and were largely successful.  Several attempts to negotiate were made by relatively highly-placed politicians, and a familiar character, Bo Gritz (from Ruby Ridge fame) was also called in to help out.  One by one, and in small groups, Freemen started to walk out and surrender, especially after authorities cut the power 71 days into the standoff.  Christian Patriots normally believe in a variety of legal theories (usually involving reference to the Magna Carta) that lawyers have somehow usurped the authority of the United States government, and further, that in some metaphysical sense, one needs to achieve enlightenment in order to see the current world as an illusion obscuring some deeper (often legal) reality.         


    For about 17 years (from 1978 until capture in 1996, a brilliant 53-year old ex-college professor of mathematics (Harvard & Berkeley) terrorized universities and airlines with his 16 ingenious letter bombs that killed 3 people and injured 29 more.  For many years, Theodore John Kaczynski waged a one-man war against industrialization and technology. His targets were scientists, businessmen, and quite often, innocent people, the latter a matter of no great concern to him.  Depending upon your point of view, the Unabomber is either an ecoterrorist, an anarchist, or a serial or "spree" killer.  In 1995 the New York Times and Washington Post published his Manifesto, and the FBI spent over $50 million in the largest manhunt in agency history. In 1996, he was found living in a one-room plywood shack in the mountains of western Montana.  Brought to court in 1997, he was declared as suffering from paranoid schizophrenia (a "provisional" diagnosis which was disputed by other experts, particularly geneticists), but competent enough to stand trial and almost competent enough to defend himself as the defendant initially wanted. The charges were murder and illegally transporting, mailing, and using bombs. The prosecution sought the death penalty (in spite of the provisional diagnosis), but Kaczynski avoided trial by pleading guilty to a sentence of 4 life terms with no possibility of parole.  He is currently being held in the “Supermax” prison at Florence, Colorado where many other domestic terrorists serve their time. 

    The Unabomber targeted university professors with research specializations in computer science, genetics, engineering, and psychology. He also targeted corporate executives in the airline and advertising industries. In one case, he targeted the owner of a small computer store. He tried to throw off investigators with pieces or fragments of his bombs containing the initials FC, which stand for Freedom Club, a known terrorist organization opposed to all forms of science and technology. His Manifesto, entitled Industrial Society and Its Future, claimed an affinity with anarchists and radical environmentalists opposed to the industrial technological system. Scholars who have analyzed his manifesto find it little more than a remake of 1960's counterculture ideas taken from Jacques Ellul's book, The Technological Society.  One psychiatric argument says his mental condition stems from an ambivalence toward women (he couldn't reconcile the fact he was good-looking but couldn't maintain any lasting relationships). Others say he secretly sought to become a woman. He presents himself as extremely concerned about the loss of human emotions in an age where super computers are taking over the world.  Kaczynski tried to hang himself in his cell in 1998. 

    According to the Kaczynski family, Ted was always a solitary boy. At one point as a teenager, his IQ was measured in the 160 range (above genius), about the time he won a scholarship to Harvard at the age of 16.  At age 26, he abruptly resigned from a prestigious teaching post at Berkeley and dropped out of society.  He carried out his first attack three days after his 36th birthday. According to his younger brother, David, who tipped off authorities that the Manifesto's author might be Ted, the Unabomber lived a life with no friends and would withdraw whenever he sensed rejection.  Partly through David's advocacy, Ted escaped the death penalty.  To this day, Ted refuses any contact with his family and has never expressed remorse for his actions.  He is serving his time without the need for any medication for schizophrenia.

The Unabomber's Crime Pattern

May 25, 1978 – Bomb #1 - parking garage of the Science and Engineering Building at the University of Illinois, Chicago Circle campus; addressed to E.J. Smith, a professor of rocket science. Exploded on a suspicious campus security officer the next day, slightly injuring the guard. Ted intended it to blow somebody's hand off.
May 9, 1979 – Bomb #2 - Northwestern University’s Technological Institute in Evanston; slight injury to a graduate student. Ted intended to blind or maim somebody.
November 14, 1979 – Bomb #3 is an altitude-sensitive bomb mailed from Chicago to Washington D.C. It started smoking inside American Airlines flight #444, and forced an emergency landing. Passengers were treated for smoke inhalation, and only a faulty timing mechanism prevented the bomb from exploding.
June 10, 1980 – Bomb #4 is sent to Percy Wood, United Airlines president, at his home in Lake Forest, Illinois. After opening the package Percy was seriously wounded.
October 8, 1981 – Bomb #5 is left in Bennion Hall Business Building, Salt Lake City, Utah, and a University of Utah student calls campus security, and the bomb squad detonated the bomb without any injuries.
May 5, 1982 – Bomb #6 is mistakenly addressed to Professor Patrick Fischer at Penn State University, and then forwarded to Fischer at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN.  Fischer’s secretary opened the bomb and was seriously injured, receiving serious burns and injuries to her face. The bomb had the initials FC stamped on it.
July 2, 1982 – Bomb #7  The director of the Electronics Research Laboratory at the University of California at Berkeley, found an odd-looking package left on the floor of a classroom in the Cory Hall Mathematics Building. The Molotov cocktail-like explosion shredded his arm and burned him severely.
May 15, 1985 – Bomb #8 - disguised as a spiral binder and left in a classroom on the Berkeley campus of Berkeley.  A graduate student and captain in the Air Force lost four fingers and vision in one eye.
June, 1985 – Bomb #9 is backdated and opened at Boeing Aircraft Fabrication Division, Auburn, Washington without incident since the bomb was faulty and did not explode.
November 15, 1985 – Bomb #10 - University of Michigan professor James V. McConnell at Ann Arbor, Michigan, and his assistant are both injured when they open the package addressed to them.
December 11, 1985 – Bomb #11 - left in the parking lot behind Rentech, a computer rental store in Sacramento, CA, and the store owner was killed when he picked up the package which was a nail- and splinter-loaded bomb.
February 20, 1987 – Bomb #12 - left in the parking lot of a small computer store in Salt Lake City, Utah. This bomb is the same type that killed before, but the store owner was only badly injured.
June 22, 1993 – Bomb #13 - addressed to the Marin Co. California home of Dr. Charles J. Epstein, world-renowned geneticist. Severe injuries result.
June 24, 1993 – Bomb #14 - addressed to Yale professor David Gelernter at the Computer Science Department of Yale University. Severe injuries result.
December 10, 1994 – Bomb #15 - addressed to the New Jersey home of an executive in the public relations firm of Burson-Marsteller, who opened the package and was killed.
April 24, 1995 – Bomb #16 - addressed to the former president of the California Forestry Association in Sacramento, CA, and opened by his successor, who was killed when the bomb went off after opening it.


    The July 27, 1996 explosion of a pipe bomb hidden in a knapsack near the base of a concert tower at the Summer Olympics killed 2 people and injured 111 more as part of a series of attacks carried out by Eric Rudolph, a Christian fundamentalist, political extremist, and anti-abortion activist.  It is believed this event was the first of Rudolph's attacks. Sentenced to life in 2005, Rudolph confessed to a series of 1997-98 bombings of abortion clinics and gay/lesbian nightclubs in Atlanta and within the state of Alabama. His bombs consisted of dynamite surrounded by nails.

    Rudolph claims to be a devout Christian. His statements include: (1) "Abortion is murder, and when the regime in Washington legalized, sanctioned and legitimized this practice, they forfeited their legitimacy and moral authority to govern;" (2) "The lesbian nightclub attempted to force society to accept and recognize this behavior;" and (3) "I apologize for the Olympic Park bombing and did not intend to harm innocent civilians. It was an opportunity to shame the United States for its legalization of abortion. The goal was to knock out Atlanta's power grid and shut down the Olympics." In Florida, Eric's father died when Eric was 11, and the family moved to NC where Eric was homeschooled but attended a year at Western Carolina before joining the army where he was kicked out after a year for smoking marijuana. Afterwards, he grew marijuana and helped out his brother's carpentry business as he became increasingly paranoid and extremist.  Timothy McVeigh and his conspirators also smoked marijuana, and did many of the Freemen.


    No sooner than a week after 9/11 (in two separate attack waves during late September and mid-October), letters containing anthrax bacteria were mailed to several news media offices and two U.S. Senators' offices, killing five people and sickening seventeen others.  For a long time, the crimes were unsolved, but in February 2010, the FBI closed the case after years of false leads.   It represents America’s most baffling case of bioterrorism; and further, America's most potentially disastrous attack since a teaspoon of anthrax could potentially wipe out the whole United States.   Investigators initially focused on seven letters containing anthrax spores.  Four of these letters were mailed on the same day and addressed to major media outlets.  Two letters were recovered while the rest were discarded.  The two recovered letters did not have a return address but were postmarked September 18, 2001 in Trenton, New Jersey. These letters contained messages reading: “09-11-01, THIS IS NEXT, TAKE PENICILLIN [sic] NOW, DEATH TO AMERICA, DEATH TO ISRAEL, ALLAH IS GREAT.”  Investigators who profiled these letters came to believe the attacker was NOT Arab or Islamic origin because a true Muslim would have used the words "Allah Akbar" and put them on top.  They believed it was an American who wanted to incite violence or concern over the relatively large Arab-American population in Trenton.  Talcum powder hoax letters were also mailed from a Florida address.  Investigators believed these two events were related, with perhaps two individuals working together from different addresses.  However, the talcum powder connection turned out to be a false lead.  The anthrax spores were not your ordinary "off the cow" basic spores; instead, they had been engineered or laboratory designed to be more dense, prolific, and deadly than ordinary spores.  In short, they were "top of the line" military-weapon-grade spores.

    The attacks resulted in extensive decontamination procedures, especially at the US Capitol.  The Senate letters had a return address suggesting they were from school children.  The type of Anthrax sent in the letters came from what is known as the Ames strain, a relatively high standard of strain, and modern spray drying techniques were used instead of the older method of milling that weaponizes the spores.  Radiocarbon dating found the spores to be relatively new  -- not more than two years old.  The Daschle sample was denser than other samples, with some of the larger spores clumped together so much they would have had difficulty penetrating human lungs.  The Leahy letter had smaller spores and was coated with a high-tech bioweapons-grade substance to prevent clumping. 

    In October, 2001, Dr. Ayaad Assaad, an Arab-American scientist and a former researcher at Fort Detrick, Maryland, was called in for questioning, but the FBI cleared him.  In January 2002, Attorney General John Ashcroft declared a Louisiana State University professor, Dr. Steven J. Hatfill, to be a “person of interest."  Not being a suspect, but a "person of interest" would eventually catch on in police and legal circles.  The Justice Department effectively had Dr. Hatfill fired from his job, and in civil action had to pay a multimillion-dollar settlement.  FBI interviews and polygraphs cleared Dr. Hatfill.  Amateur investigations argued that disgruntled truck drivers were involved, lone individuals were involved, and/or international terrorists were involved.

    In February, 2010, the FBI declared the case closed, concluding that Army scientist Bruce Ivins acted alone.  Bruce Ivins worked on the Ames spore batch.  Bruce Ivins killed himself in 2008 as prosecutors prepared to indict him for the attacks, but he had long denied involvement, and his family and friends insisted he was innocent.  He passed a polygraph in 2002, but the FBI believed Ivins to be a troubled researcher.  The Army scientist played a cat-and-mouse game with investigators, repeatedly offering to help the FBI catch the killer.  Even though the FBI considers the case closed, there are still some lingering issues, such as the following:

Center for Studies on New Religions
CNN: The Montana Freemen
CourtTV: David Koresh
CourtTV: Randy Weaver
Introduction to the Branch Davidians
PBS: Waco, the Inside Story
Profiles of the Oklahoma Bombing Conspirators
Ruby Ridge Hearing: FBI Director's Opening Statement
Wikipedia: 2001 Anthrax Attacks
Wikipedia: Centennial Olympic Park Bombing
Wikipedia: Lockerbie Air Disaster
Wikipedia: Oklahoma City Bombing
Wikipedia: Ruby Ridge

Wikipedia: Ted Kaczynski
Wikipedia: Waco Siege
Wikipedia: WTC Bombing

Abanes, R. (1996). American militias. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
Dees, M. & Corcoran, J. (1996). Gathering storm: America's militia threat. NY: Harper Collins.
Hamm, M. (1997). Apocalypse in Oklahoma. Boston: Northeastern Univ. Press.
Kushner, Harvey. (2003). Encyclopedia of terrorism. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
McCann, J. (2006). Terrorism on American soil. Boulder, CO: Sentient Publications.
Michel, L. & D. Herbeck. (2001). American terrorist: Timothy McVeigh & the Oklahoma City bombing. New York: ReganBooks.
Nacos, B. (1996). Terrorism and the media. NY: Columbia Univ. Press.
Schwartz, A. (Ed.) (1999) Danger extremism: America's far right fringe. NY: ADL.
Thomas, P. (2003). "The anthrax attacks." NY: Century Foundation.
Vohryzek-Bolden, M., Olson-Raymer, G. & Whamond, J. (2001). Domestic terrorism and incident management. Springfield, IL: Charles C. Thomas.
Walter, J. (1995). Every knee shall bow: Ruby Ridge and Randy Weaver. NY: Harper.

Last updated: Dec. 22, 2011
Not an official webpage of APSU, copyright restrictions apply, see Megalinks in Criminal Justice
O'Connor, T.  (2011). "Significant Events in the History of Domestic Terrorism," MegaLinks in Criminal Justice. Retrieved from