Fredrick Thomas, 73; Ray Adam, 65; Dan Roberts, 67 and Samuel Crum, 68 appeared in court without entering a plea and were jailed for a bail hearing. Thomas and Roberts were charged with conspiracy to buy an explosive device and an illegal silencer, although prosecutors refrained from confirming whether or not these items were successfully obtained. Adams and Crump were charged with conspiracy to create ricin, a biological airborne toxin.
Ricin is a castor bean extract that has been used as a biological weapon in the past. Court documents accuse Crump of planning to use the substance to attack people in Washington; Newark, New Jersey; Jacksonville, Florida; Atlanta, and New Orleans.
The plotters have been found in possession of books and documents containing instructions for ricin extraction, and were allegedly attempting to find a source to obtain castor beans.
Of the group, two are former government employees: Ray Adams, a lab research for Department of Agriculture and Samuel Crump, a maintenance worker for the Center of Disease control. Dan Roberts is a neo-Confederate activist and a “captain” in the 440 squad of the Georgia Militia.
“There’s no way for us, as militiamen, to save this country, to save Georgia, without doing something highly illegal: murder,” group leader Fredrick Thomas is reported to have said, according to an affidavit released by the FBI.
Reports state that over past months, the men plotted various targets, conducted surveillance, bought weapons and committed to what they believed to be “necessary violence” to save the constitution.
“Let’s shoot the bastards that we discover anti-American…I could shoot ATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives) and IRS all day long,” Thomas said, “All the judges and the DO [justice Department] and the attorneys and prosecutors.”
The men had also made a “bucket list” of government officials to target. According to the affidavit, when Thomas asked who among them was willing to commit murder, Adams responded, “I am… I’d say that first ones that need to die is the ones in the government buildings… When it comes down to it, I can kill somebody.”
Federal investigators had the group under surveillance for months, monitored their meetings and found evidence of their plans to extract ricin from castor beans, which prompted the arrest.
The group claims their actions were be inspired by underground novel “Absolved,” self-published online by Mike Vanderbough, an Alabama militia leader in the 1990s. In the novel, right-wing militia members frustrated with gun control attack the US government.
Vanderbough has since stated on his blog that the book was solely a piece of fiction. “I’m glad that the FBI has apparently short-circuited some weak-minded individuals from misinterpreting my novel,” he said. He also stated that he does not advocate violence against the government, yet recognizes it as possible if the government attacks citizens first.
Although the four men have not divulged their affiliations, they have been speculated to belong to the Georgia Militia, which identifies Roberts as a contact on its website. Among the links found on this website are conspiratorial materials from other anti-government Patriotic groups; the Council of Conservative Citizens, a group opposing inter racial marriage and openly insulting black people; and American Patrol, a racist anti-immigrant hate group.
In the past year, there have been at least three unsuccessful militia plots targeting law enforcement officers: the Hutaree from Michigan, and the Alaska Peacekeeper’s Militia, who were indicted of targeting a judge and an IRS agent.
According to a recent report by the Southern Poverty Law Centre (SPLC), a non-profit civil rights group that investigates hate groups, anti-government militia bodies are regrouping across the US and are trending towards rapid growth.
Bart McEntire, a special agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, told SPLC that this is the most rapid growth witnessed in over a decade.
SPLC’s report states that while anti-government sentiment has been on the rise over the past two years, threats and violent acts have not yet reached the level witnessed in the 1990s, when right wing militias were gaining numbers and influence rapidly.
In a five-year threat projection last year, the US Homeland Security Department warned of an increase in militia activity. “White supremacists and militia are [now] more violent and thus, more likely to conduct mass-casualty attacks on the scale of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing,” the threat projection stated.
Such organizations went on the rise in 2008, when there were 149 such groups. In 2010, the Southern Poverty Law Centre recorded an increase to 824.Currently, American militias are concentrated in the Midwest, Pacific Northwest, and the Deep South, according to the SPLC. Recruiting videos on the internet are also on the rise.
FBI officials have stated the necessity of identifying those groups that potentially aim to move beyond articulating discontent, to engage in violence.
While Thomas’ group was discovered and their plans were intercepted in time, the possibility of similar attacks in the future remains. To fully decipher this threat and the motivation behind such violence, a greater study of economic and social correlations must be conducted.
According to the Census Bureau, white people will lose their majority by 2050, a fact that has been tied to the growth of hate groups and anti government organizations. Stresses linked to a poor economy and a liberal administration led by a black president have also been shown as influential factors for this growth.
While Thomas’s group did not elaborate on a reason for their attacks, their affiliation with the racist and white supremacist Georgia Militia indicates their discontent with US policies, arguably those in specific which are making the country increasingly multicultural and multi ethnic. Their motivation renders the plotters’ anti-government violent intent a hate crime, stemming from racial intolerance, and needs to be recognized as such. While there are issues with the economic system and the efficacy of various government policies can and must be debated, legislation that renders the American population more diverse and multi cultural does not fall within this category.
With economic issues to contend with already, increasing social violence that stems from intolerant groups fabricating calls to action from a work of fiction is unacceptable. The use of malicious weapons is not the answer to social issues, as historical analyses prove entirely too often. While the use of police surveillance is constantly under attack, the existence of malicious intent as exemplified by the Georgia Militia members makes the motivation and need for the same, all too apparent.