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Thursday, August 28, 2008

The Legacy of the Order and the Failure of the Profile

Media reports have connected Aryan Nations and The Order to a group of would-be assassins allegedly targeting Presidential candidate Barack Obama (story).

The Order traces its roots back to the 1980s. The group has been the subject of a series of revivals and survivals. For the story of one such group (or rather collection of groups), see Intelwire's exclusive report on the PATCON operation.

Members of both the original Order and the so-called Second Order are still very much alive and active. Very few of the wider network's top leaders have ever been charged with a crime.

Authorities have tried to downplay the threat presented by the three would-be killers -- Tharin Gartrell, Nathan Johnson and Shawn Robert Adolf -- who were arrested on a traffic stop after driving erratically with a carload full of guns, ammo and drugs. On the basis of the latter factor, apparently, federal authorities have publicly dismissed the seriousness of the threat.

  • Indictment of Tharin Gartrell
  • Indictment of Nathan Johnson
  • Indictment of Shawn Robert Adolf

    However, Timothy McVeigh was at least casually acquainted with methamphetamine. McVeigh was also arrested after a similarly careless traffic stop. He was in custody for hours before the police even realized he was connected to the Oklahoma City bombing.

    In short, these suspects clearly match the historical precedent and any reasonable profile of a terrorist.

    If they had been Pakistanis, the country would be whipping itself into an unparalleled frenzy over the latest terrorist threat (as noted earlier today by Mark Hosenball, investigative correspondent for Newsweek, on NPR's Talk of the Nation).

    This is a critical error, in my view.

    These three suspects were certainly capable of carrying out the threat -- at least from an armaments point of view. The drug use is not a disqualifying factor. In fact, meth has some history as a deliberately chosen inciting device for planned violence.

    The operating pattern for U.S. white supremacists groups is decentralized "leaderless resistance" which is essentially identical to the structure of the current "Al Qaeda movement" and very similar to the modus operandi in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.

    For all these reasons, the cavalier law enforcement posture in this case is troubling. The response to this event should be the same as if the three men had been Egyptians or Saudis or Sudanese.

    Racism and sloppy assumptions are not just wrong -- they're dangerous.

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    Views expressed on INTELWIRE are those of the author alone.



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    INTELWIRE is a web site edited by J.M. Berger. a researcher, analyst and consultant covering extremism, with a special focus on extremist activities in the U.S. and extremist use of social media. He is a non-resident fellow with the Brookings Institution, Project on U.S. Relations with the Islamic World, and author of the critically acclaimed Jihad Joe: Americans Who Go to War in the Name of Islam, the only definitive history of the U.S. jihadist movement, and co-author of ISIS: The State of Terror with Jessica Stern.


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