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Produced & Maintained by Idaho Mountain Express, Box 1013, Ketchum, ID 83340-1013 
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Copyright © 2001 Express Publishing Inc.
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For the week of  October 10 - 16, 2001

  Opinion Column

A deadly ‘enemy’ 
from within?

Commentary by PAT MURPHY

Americans are jittery about foreign terrorists and another sudden, ghastly, brutal surprise attack. But another serious threat to the safety of Americans is with us and thus far has not been publicly discussed: Homegrown terrorists.

They go by various names — so-called survivalists, patriots, militia, eco-terrorists.

But they all share an irrational paranoia and resentment of the U.S. government and what they see as police state tyranny.

They’ve made no secret of their virulent antipathy toward Uncle Sam. Their threats to pick up arms to try to overthrow the government if and when they decide that Washington asserts too much control over our lives are well publicized.

Well, the stage is set.

Washington is imposing tighter controls over American life in the wake of Sept. 11. Even Supreme Court Associate Justice Sandra Day O’Connor concedes that Americans will soon find some of their liberties shrinking. The forecast is for tighter security for years to come.

Increased surveillance and wiretaps of telephones. Armed troops at airports. New laws for detention for suspicious persons. Less privacy with bank accounts.

Of such grist the militia/patriot/survivalist mentality seethes.

Even as Washington warns of possible new terrorist attacks from Osama bin Laden "sleeper" agents hiding in the United States, local law enforcement agencies are dealing with incidents involving Americans that would be considered of terrorist origin were foreigners involved.

In the first, a drunken Alaskan shot a hole in the Alaska pipeline. Nearly 300,000 gallons of oil were spilled before a clamp could be applied. Because the shooter is American, should his sabotage of a vital energy supply line be treated any less harshly than a terrorist from another country?

Police discovered five camper vehicles in rural Illinois packed with bomb making materials and 12,000 rounds of ammunition belonging to a so-called "survivalist" group. Should the owners be treated less seriously than foreigners? Bombs and 12,000 rounds of ammo are not the customary stocks of rabbit hunters.

And eventually the Federal Aviation Administration must confront this: should passengers tipsy with booze be banned from boarding airline flights and/or should in-flight alcoholic beverages be drastically limited or banned for the duration of the "war" to avoid air rage incidents that could be as disastrous as a terrorist skyjacking?

As patriotic and supportive as virtually all Americans are during these tense times, some are not as civil or as loyal to the government’s or public’s well-being.

Cheerless armed militias that skulk around the woods in camouflage gear practicing with sniper rifles and swapping dark suspicions about the government might exploit today’s tensions to conduct guerrilla warfare against the U.S. government, hoping to blame Muslim terrorists.

Remember, the deadliest terrorism on U.S. soil before Sept. 11 was inflicted by an American, Timothy McVeigh, at Oklahoma City. Other U.S-born bombers in our midst have taken their tolls, too — Unabomber Ted Kaczynski, who killed three and wounded 23 others in 16 incidents; abortion clinic bombers, and the fugitive Atlanta Olympics bombing suspect and anti-gay religious zealot, Eric Robert Rudolph.

The unpleasant, unavoidable fact is that some violent enemies of Americans and their way of life are not strangers from abroad, but from within, and shouldn’t be disregarded lightly because they’re one of us.

The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.