American Terrorism is making a comeback.

I think there is a reason we haven’t had a major act of anti-government extremist, or white nationalist terrorism since the Oklahoma City bombing(1). It seems like some people have forgotten there even was such a thing. I believe the reason has something to do with the vigilance of the FBI and other federal authorities over the last 20 years.

If you look over this list Southern Poverty Law Center has gathered, here, you might notice these patterns:

  1. Most of the completed attacks were carried out by lone wolves, and typically required little planning.
  2. The attacks that involved a group of people, or were complex enough to require long-term planning and communication with a number of people for coordination and material were prevented.

The lone wolves are more difficult to catch, of course, but their capabilities working solo are limited. Any significant amount of cooperation or a group that spends a lot of time in planning is much more likely to be detected by authorities in the networks these groups operate in.

So it seems to me the FBI has been keeping a lid on American terrorist attacks for about 20 years now. Some observers have commented that racist and extremist groups are always infighting, and I think FBI involvement is one cause of that – most of these groups have been infiltrated by informants or actual agents. These organizations can be sabotaged easily with simple antics, like accusing the leadership of being Jewish. I have been lurking Stormfront for a long time, and the hand of federal authorities seems evident to me in a lot of the internal conflicts in the white nationalist sphere.

But now, WN’s have a reason to celebrate with Jeff Sessions running the Justice Department and the administration making clear that they intend to ignore white nationalist terrorism. The election has triggered a surge in recruiting in white nationalist and affiliated groups, and the formation of new groups, which will operate outside the attention of federal authorities.

Most of this post is probably not news to you; my purpose here is to make the simple point: It’s not some stroke of luck that we have gone this long without an attack on the scale of the Oklahoma City bombing – it is the result of diligence on the part of law enforcement. Without that diligent suppression in a few short years we should expect a return to abortion clinic bombings, and attacks on mosques and the offices of civil rights groups. And new for the 21st century, white terrorist groups that have been allowed to grow in complexity and metastasize will attempt progressively more sophisticated and larger scale attacks: we have the risk of dirty bombs, chemical/biological weapons, and cyber attacks from them as well.


  1. Most of this post formed while I was watching the recent pbs doc about the OKC bombing in 1995.
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