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Is the anthrax scare homegrown?

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Date published: 11/3/2001


WHILE THE PREVAILING assumption is that Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaida network are behind the anthrax outbreak, the FBI and CIA are taking seriously the possibility that domestic terrorists are responsible for the biological attacks.

"Everything seems to lean toward a domestic source," an official told The Washington Post last week. "Nothing seems to fit an overseas terrorist-type operation."

"We've been zeroing in on a number of hate groups, especially one on the West Coast," a source at the Justice Department told The Observer newspaper in London.

Authorities are investigating whether the bioterrorists could be far-right extremists or U.S. residents who sympathize with bin Laden--or some combination of the two.

As insane as it may seem, groups in our midst such as Aryan Action have fused white supremacy, anti-Semitism and support for bin Laden's war on the United States. "Either you're fighting with the Jews against al-Qaida or you support al-Qaida fighting against the Jews," the group's Web site spews.

Although this may be nothing more than abhorrent rhetoric, authorities know that extreme-right crackpots have demonstrated an interest in branching out from bombings and shootings and trying their hand at bioterror.

In 1998, FBI agents arrested two men at a medical complex in Henderson, Nev., and found flight bags containing anthrax. Although the form of the anthrax turned out to be nonlethal, one of the suspects, Larry Wayne Harris, was a known white supremacist who had bubonic-plague bacteria in his possession during a prior arrest in 1996.

After Harris was arrested in 1998, an FBI agent told the online magazine Salon that the United States was "completely vulnerable" to biological attacks from people such as the former Aryan Nations lieutenant.

Grace Sparks, executive director of the Virginia League for Planned Parenthood, fears that antichoice extremists might resort to bioterror if they gain access to lethal germs. After all, she says, they've already shown that "they're not afraid of murdering people" by other means.

Sparks is referring to the antichoice terror campaign that has claimed the lives of two clinic workers, three doctors, a clinic escort and a security guard since 1993.

At the center of antichoice terrorism is the Army of God, a shadowy group that has claimed responsibility for several attacks
on abortion providers.

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