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Oregon Plots Reveal Dual Terror Threats

November 28, 2010

This weekend, Americans learned of a new domestic terror threat in Oregon. According to the FBI, Somali-born student Mohamed Osman Mohamud planned to detonate a bomb during the annual Christmas tree lighting in Portland. But while all eyes are now fixed on the tree lighting plot, down the road in Salem the trial of alleged father and son bank bombers Bruce and Joshua Turnidge is nearing its end. Sadly, these latest plots from jihadists and right-wing extremists won't be the last from either.
The holiday plot isn't the state's first experience with would-be Islamic terrorists. In October 2002, the "Portland Seven" were indicted for planning to travel to Afghanistan in order to fight U.S. troops. (One of those charged died there; the other six were convicted and sentenced to terms between three and 18 years.) But it was the December 2008 bombing of a Woodurn, Oregon bank by the wannabe militiamen which produced death and destruction, killing two policemen and wounded two others.
As the Oregonian reported, what seemed like a botched bank robbery at a Woodburn Wells Fargo in the days just after the election of Barack Obama allegedly had a much more sinister motivation:

Bruce and Joshua Turnidge had long harbored anti-government feelings, but the November 2008 presidential election of Barack Obama served as a "catalyst" for the father and son to plant a bomb at the West Coast Bank and plan a bank robbery, prosecutors said today.

The two men feared that the Obama administration would impose a slate of new restrictions on gun ownership, Marion County deputy district attorney Katie Suver said in opening statements in the aggravated murder trials for the two men. Bruce Turnidge, years ago during the Clinton administration, had similarly anticipated a crackdown on Second Amendment rights and sought funding to start his own militia, she said.

Prosecutors assert that from even from the beginning of their investigation, Bruce Turnidge wasn't shy about his political beliefs:

When the FBI went to Bruce Turnidge's house the first time, he struck up a conversation with one of the agents ranging from his support of the Second Amendment to the origin of a racist slur against African Americans. Suver said that Turnidge then told the agent, "Now we have one in the White House."

Turnidge, prosecutors claim, also "had told others that the Oklahoma City federal building bombing was a good thing that would keep the government in check."
If this all sounds frighteningly familiar, it should. After all, Holocaust Museum killer James Von Bruun declared, "Obama does what his Jew owners tell him to do." Richard Poplawski, who murdered three Pittsburgh policemen in April 2009 was said to have feared "the Obama gun ban that's on the way" and "didn't like our rights being infringed upon." And Gellman reported, Maine dirty bomber James Trafton "had filled out an application to join the National Socialist Movement and declared an ambition to kill the President-elect." And Byron Williams planned an attack on the offices of the Tides Foundation, a group which Glenn Beck described as "bullies" and "thugs." Williams' hoped-for bloodbath was averted only by a shoot-out with police in which two officers were wounded.
Oregon is no stranger to right-wing terrorism. In the 1990's Shelley Shannon torched abortion clinics across Oregon, Idaho, Nevada, and California. (In 1993, she shot Dr. George Tiller in both arms, an act which inspired Tiller's later assassin, Scott Roeder.) And as the New York Times recounted in 1995, Shannon was quite clear as to whether she considered her crimes terrorism:

Handcuffed and nondescript in jailhouse blues, Shelley Shannon, a housewife from rural Oregon, stood before a Federal judge here on June 7 and admitted waging a terrorism campaign against abortion clinics and doctors.

Now fifteen years later, father and son extremists Bruce and Joshua Turnidge apparently have joined Shannon in Oregon's pantheon of right-wing terrorists.
And nationwide, they have a lot of company. Even as the domestic terror threat from Al Qaeda and its sympathizers remains very real, so too does the risk from the increasingly dangerous ranks of anti-government extremists, white supremacists, tax deniers, gun rights activists and anti-abortion radicals. As Barton Gellman explained in "the Secret World of Extreme Militias" last month, the "Obama's ascendancy unhinged the radical right, offering a unified target to competing camps of racial, nativist and religious animus." Like the father and son in Oregon.


Jon Perr
Jon Perr is a technology marketing consultant and product strategist who writes about American politics and public policy.

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