Texas Right-Wing Cyanide Bombers Plotted To Kill Thousands
By Paul Harris
William Krar and Judith Bruey appeared a perfectly normal couple. Certainly Teresa Staples thought so. She remembered a polite, sociable couple who always paid their rent on time for the three garages they rented from her.
So when the FBI showed up in the tiny Texas hamlet of Noonday demanding access to the garages, Staples thought they had made a mistake. But a few hours later, more FBI agents turned up, this time wearing biochemical warfare suits. When those guys showed up in spacesuits, I just knew something very bad had been found, Staples said.
She was right. Among a terrifying arsenal of guns, bullets and bombs, the FBI found a chemical cyanide bomb. Used in a shopping mall, a stadium or a subway, it could have killed thousands. I was terrified. I live here with my children and they had that terrible stuff in there, Staples said.
Krar and Bruey will soon be sentenced to lengthy jail terms, but their capture has revealed a gaping hole in Americas war on terror: the home front. The FBI fears that other chemical bombs, built by Krar, may already be in circulation. The case has now sparked the biggest domestic terror investigation since the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995.
Critics say the case shows that the authorities, obsessed with Islamic terrorists, have ignored the deadly assortment of domestic extremists. Americas right-wing groups, though diminished in numbers since 1995, have become bent on acquiring weapons capable of mass slaughter.
The radical right is going to seek ever more deadly and extreme forms of weapons, said Daniel Levitas, author of The Terrorist Next Door. Levitas estimates that far-right groups have about 25,000 members, with 10 times as many sympathizers. The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), which monitors hate groups, has identified 708 of them. Since Oklahoma City, more than 30 plots by U.S. terrorists have been uncovered, including attacks on oil refineries, politicians and army bases.
Just last month, a letter laced with ricin, a lethal nerve toxin, was sent to the Senate. One had been sent to the White House last November. Both are similar to one found in South Carolina earlier still, signed by someone called Fallen Angel. And the anthrax attacks of two years ago have still not been solved: the perpetrator is thought to be an American.
The FBI only found out about Krar by accident. He had mailed five fake ID cards, including one for the Pentagon and the UN, to a member of the New Jersey Militia. The cards included a note from Krar with the words: We would hate to have this fall into the wrong hands.
But it did, mis-delivered to a man in New York who called the police. That led investigators to monitor Krar and Brueys mail in the town of Tyler, where they lived, about 10 miles from Noonday.
Staples said Krar and Bruey visited their lock-ups every day. Each was piled high with clothes and gardening equipment, which she believed they resold at flea markets. I thought they just dealt in rakes, old clothes, stuff like that, she said.
But FBI agents uncovered the cache of weapons hidden behind them. More weapons were found at Krar and Brueys secluded home in the pine woods that surround Tyler. Eventually the haul totaled 500,000 rounds of ammunition, more than 60 pipe bombs, other remote-controlled bombs disguised as brief cases, and dozens of machineguns, silencers, pistols, mines and explosives.
And, inside an ammunition canister, was the sodium cyanide, next to quantities of acid that would act as a trigger for the device, reacting with the cyanide to release a cloud of lethal gas.
Worryingly, the investigation exposed numerous instances when Krar had appeared on the police radar. In 1985, he had been arrested for impersonating a police officer. He had paid no tax since 1989. In January 2003, he was stopped in Tennessee by a state trooper, who found chemicals and weapons in his car.
Krar was also the subject of an investigation in 1995 which showed he had wide links to a network of right-wing extremists, but the inquiry was later dropped.
Now all that previous evidence is being re-examined. Investigators are desperate to work out what Krar has been doing for the two years he lived in Tyler. Plans found on him when he was arrested provided a clue. They included a code for setting up meetings in Pennsylvania, Virginia, Tennessee, Mississippi and Louisiana. They also include coded warnings to avoid police surveillance.
No one knows why the pair chose to live in Texas, but the area is home to cells of the Ku Klux Klan and the white power group the Ayran Nations.
One theory is that Krar had been acting as a traveling salesman of covert weapons for extremists. But the nightmare scenario is that Krar has already made and distributed other chemical bombs. More sodium cyanide was found at Krars house and in his car in Tennessee.
So far, more than 150 subpoenas have been issued, and more are expected. This is an ongoing investigation, said one source close to the case. Krar and Bruey have so far refused to co-operate with investigators. However, sentencing has been set for Mayan unusually long time away, which has had some experts speculating that Krar and Bruey have cracked and are revealing details about their network in the hope of receiving less jail time.
If true, that would be a breakthrough in the war on terror as big as anything gleaned from al-Qaeda suspects in Iraq or Afghanistan. Krar had weapons that were capable of killing just as many people as died on September 11, said Mark Potok, editor of The Intelligence Report, an SPLC newsletter. They are a reminder that all terrorists do not come from abroad. Some of the scariest ones are 100 per cent, red-blooded Americans.
The Observer, March 21, 2004