Terrorists Go for Broke

By Stefan H. Leader

Three years after the bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City, a review of domestic terrorist groups and right-wing extremists suggests that while frontal attacks on government properties remain a serious threat, indirect attacks on the government’s financial stability are also a major concern. Indirect attacks are being mounted against U.S. financial institutions and systems using everything from pipe bombs and other traditional weapons to less conventional paper instruments of destruction, such as bogus checks. These acts are committed both to raise funds for their cause and to disrupt the establishment.

According to recent FBI testimony before Congress, major U.S. financial institutions believe that more than half of all frauds to which they have fallen victim can be attributed to professional and organized group efforts. While some of these groups are in it purely for the money, others are intent on furthering their philosophical agendas.

Before the financial community can develop ways to counter these growing threats, it must become familiar with the various groups and their ideologies. Groups tend to be either religiously based or politically oriented. Of most concern, the FBI says, are small groups and loners, whose movements and methods are difficult to predict.

Religious groups. Nothing is quite so dangerous as a religious fanatic who believes he has a direct line to God and is carrying out the Lord’s will. Generally, religiously motivated terrorists have been more violent than other terrorists and more willing to kill people seen as enemies of their faith. Islamic extremists may come readily to mind, but the United States has its own homegrown religious terrorists, a sampling of which are examined here.

Christian Identity. Members of the Christian Identity movement trace their roots to an obscure nineteenth century doctrine called Anglo-Israelism, which held that white Anglo-Saxons are descended from the ten lost tribes of Israel and that England and the United States are the true promised land of the Bible. Despite professed links to tribes of Israel, followers of this movement believe that white Anglo-Saxons are the true “chosen people” and that Jews are descendants of Satan.

They also believe in white supremacy and refer to the federal government as “ZOG,” for “Zionist Occupation Government.” They believe that “people with supreme allegiance to Israel rather than America have seized power here, and now rule us,” according to an Anti-Defamation League (ADL) publication.

Followers also believe that the banking system is dominated by Jews and that the Federal Reserve violates God’s law and is illegal. (As indicated throughout this article, variations on these views are widely held among members of the extreme right, not just among religious groups.) Generally, Christian Identity believers are not violent, but the movement has spawned terrorist organizations.

Aryan groups. One such offshoot of the Christian Identity movement is Aryan Nations, a right-wing group centered in Idaho but scattered throughout the country. Some experts have estimated that the group may have 15,000 members.

While the whole group isn’t violent, individual members and factions have been implicated in criminal activity and terrorism. According to Klanwatch (, a project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, Aryan Nations will continue to be an extremely dangerous group.

In December 1997, three men were charged in a Little Rock, Arkansas, federal court with planning a revolt against the federal government with the goal of creating a white “Aryan Peoples Republic.” Two of the three had been previously charged in a state court with the murder of an Arkansas gun dealer, his wife, and his young daughter during a robbery apparently intended to finance their terrorist agenda.



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