"You have been exposed to anthrax. We are going to kill you. Army of God, Virginia Dare Chapter"
Anthrax, Abortion Clinics, and The Army of God
Just over a month following the 11 September attack on and collapse of the World Trade Center (week of 14 October), a number of letters began to turn up with traces of anthrax (a number also turned out to be false positives, hoaxes, and mistakes). This, of course, created something of a panicwhich led to the mistakes due to hypersensitive reaction, understandable though it may be.
As of this writing, the anthrax laden letters have not been linked to the attacks of a month earlier, despite it seeming plausible ( correlation does not equal causation, of course). But it's undeniable that the concern is valid, regardless of the source and caution isn't always a bad thing. As could be expected, the media outlets carried the story everywhere, and awareness of the story became widespread.
But somewhere in there was another story. One that got less coverage in the media (not absent, but generally just getting a small mention as an addendum to another story or a little paragraph away from the front page). It also concerned anthrax and letters. Furthermore, it has a history going back to 1998.
On 15 October 2001, envelopes containing "threatening letters and an unidentified powdery substance" (Planned Parenthood news release) began to arrive at over 140 offices and clinics affiliated with Planned Parenthood and the National Abortion Federation (NFA) in 18 states and the District of Columbia. No one was infected by anything and, though one letter tested positive in the field, none actually contained anthrax.
The letters came with "Time SensitiveUrgent Security NoticeOpen Immediately" on them. They had preprinted return addresses of local Secret Service and US Marshall's offices and were mailed from four different cities: Columbus, Ohio; Atlanta, Georgia; and Chattanooga and Knoxville, Tennessee. One letter contained "articles on how anthrax can kill you and articles on abortion and clippings. There was that quote from Jerry Falwell, about how America brought the terrorist attacks on ourselves because of gays and civil liberties and abortion" (www.washingtonpost.com). Tests are continuing to be run (as of this writing) but it all indications are that it is a hoax.
Some also had what police in Miami described one there as "a rambling anti-abortion letter with references to 'Army of God.''' Also some had the line that began this writing: "You have been exposed to anthrax. We are going to kill you. Army of God, Virginia Dare Chapter."1
It's happened before
Very few of the letters were opened or handled a great deal. Not only because of the heightened concern recently or the reports of similar letters arriving elsewhere, but because Planned Parenthood and abortion providing facilities are used to the possibility of such threats (as well as other non-bio threats). In fact, this has happened before.
Between late 1998 and 2000, there have been anthrax threats at more than 80 clinics that provide abortions. So many that the NAF wrote and published a brochure, "Anthrax: Bioterrorism Against Reproductive Health Care Clinics," that was distributed around the country. People who open the mail are usually careful and are trained to spot suspicious mail and packages. As a director for a women's health center in Philadelphia put it "All clinics across the country have all sorts of protocols related to bomb threats, phone threats, mail threats, physical threats...we have protocols for all of these types of potential events" (qtd. at http://news.bbc.co.uk). Fortunately, all the letters have turned out to be hoaxes (which is a federal crime).
While the majority, by far, of pro-life activists relegate their actions to protests, picketing, handing out leafletsessentially nonviolent or noncoercive methodsthere are some extremist groups that take it much farther. According to the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League (NARAL) site, since 1977 there have been over 2500 reports of violence directed at abortion providers, including "bombings, arsons, death threats, kidnappings, and assaults" as well as 55,000 acts of "disruption" (included in that number are bomb threats and telephone harassment). Since 1993, seven people have been killed with sixteen attempted murders since 1991.
Enter the Army of God.
Army of God
The Army of God (www.armyofgod.com) is something of an underground pro-life extremist organization "run" by a Rev. Donald Spitz out of Chesapeake, Virginia (at least the post office box is there). Like many terrorist organizations (and that seems to be an accurate term), it is more or less a façade, a flag under which other "members" rally. There isn't much known about the group other than some people connected to it and some of the ideas advocated (whether explicitly or "only suggested").
It seems the earliest "mention" of the group occurs from August 1982, when Dr. Hector Zevallos and his wife (of Granite City, Illinois) were kidnapped by a group of men that called themselves the Army of God. The two were held for eight days in an abandoned ammunition bunker until the doctor promised to stop performing abortions. The men were later captured and sentenced for the crime and others (the leader, in addition to his 30 year sentence, got another 30 years for two arson jobs on clinics in Florida). According to them, they had been told by God to "wage war on abortion" (www.newwave.net). In 1984, the initials "AoG" were found on the wall of a firebombed clinic. Not long after, another clinic was torched and a man claiming to represent the group called to claim responsibility.
Despite those and similar incidents, the group hasn't been directly implicated for the most part because those like-minded individuals who are "members" act on their own or organize away from the spotlight, giving the group "plausible deniability."
That is not to say they haven't forcibly put themselves into cases as suspects. They have claimed responsibility for the four bombings that have been linked to the fugitive Eric Rudolph.2 They also actively support Clayton Waagner, an extreme pro-lifer who was about to go on a cross-country rampage of killing when he was stopped for driving a stolen vehicle. Later he escaped jail (he claims God helped free him, that the "Lord answered my prayers. He simply told me how to get the door open"3) and, at the time of this writing, is at large.
The AOG's quote of the month is from Waagner: "I'm an abortionist bomberthat's what I do." A copy of a message he sent to the message board there is far more explicit. He admits to being a "terrorist" to abortionists. His holy war is clear: "I don't plan on talking them to death. I'm going to kill as many of them as I can." The only alteration being that he will no longer target doctors because it is too "difficult." He'll target everyone else: "It doesn't matter to me if you're a nurse, receptionist, bookkeeper, or janitor, if you work for the murderous abortionist I'm going to kill you." Simple and to the point. His long ramble includes a call to pray for him and his crusade and to pray that "every one I kill causes a hundred to quit."
"Brother Clayton," as he is referred to, is all but likened to a hero, using the analogy that if someone had saved the people on the airplanes on 11 September, that person would be a hero. The point being that killing the abortionists (or "babykillers," an apparently favorite compound word) is comparable to killing the terrorists on the planes and saving the passengers (and those in the buildings).
Another "hero" is James Charles Kopp (affectionately known to as "Atomic Dog," the page providing the appropriate animated GIFs). Kopp, who recently was arrested and extradited from France where he was in hiding, is awaiting trial for the 23 October 1998 murder of an Amherst, New York doctor named Barnett Slepian. The doctor was an abortion provider and it is charged that Kopp bought the rifle used to kill him (under an assumed name) and then murdered Slepian. A little over a week later, the first of the "anthrax letters" began arriving. Not necessarily a connection, but an interesting possibility.
There are claims, almost exclusively from the more fringe pro-life groups, that it is a cover-up and that he is being targeted because of a "pro-abortion" agenda (which is alleged to have been in place in policy and action during the Clinton administration). While some of the claims (a possible alibi and questionable ballistics results) are intriguing, the source is hardly without bias (or an agenda) of its own. (Pending trial and a review of the evidence on both sides, it is difficult to determine how valid those claims are.)
One page from the site contains an essay attempting to suggest that "pro-aborts" may have assassinated him (some allege that Slepian was considering converting to Roman Catholicism partly due to "qualms" about his work). The page also speaks of the FBI in J. Edgar Hoover's time in glowing terms so as to show that it is now "corrupted" and a "political force" (again Clinton is to blame). The record of just how "stellar" Hoover was should not be necessary (unless we really needed to be concerned about such potential insurrectionists as Robert Mitchum or Martin Luther King Jr, whom Hoover felt more dangerous that Malcolm X and other gems).
There is also a "poem" entitled "Ode to Slepian" which ends:
A true American hero slipped away into the darkness having the honor
to be chosen as an instrument in the hand of the LORD our God.
Yet rather than honoring such a "true American hero," they are busy complaining about his capture and the conspiracy in place to railroad him.
Also notable is that all three have been on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list.
The Army of God Manual
Another disturbing thing on the website (aside from suggestive Bible quotes4 and the ubiquitous link: "To View helpless babies murdered by babykilling abortionists") is the "Army of God Manual." Described as an "anonymous work available to anti-abortionists since the beginning of the movement to stop the legal murder of innocent babies" and provided because it is a "historical document of the anti-abortion movement" (going on to say that the AOG wishes it not be "construed as sanctioning any group or individual to perform any action"maintaining its plausible deniability).
It is a sort of pro-life extremist Anarchist's Cookbook. The online version does not include "appendices" because of "the lack of real free speech on the net, and the hysteria of the Federal Government in protecting the baby killing industry and persecuting anti-abortionists." One can only wonder (and dread) what those appendices contain (in the body of the manual, a way to make a homemade silencer is alluded to).
In the "History" section, with a bastard version of Nino Rota's Godfather theme playing in the background (it does on all the "manual" pages), Spitz claims to have first heard of it in the early 1980s when given a copy by a fellow "anti-abortionist" and that it had been in circulation "for some time." Of course he doesn't know anything beyond that. He writes that a copy turned up buried in the back yard of Shelly Shannon in the course of the FBI investigation for her attempted murder of a clinic physician in 1993.5
According to Spitz, under the provisions of the Task Force on Violence Against Abortion Providers (VAAPCON; also a result of the evil Clinton administration), Spitz and other "anti-abortionists" were subpoenaed before a grand jury and had to bring all their copies of the manual with them (Spitz noting that they were not returned later). He again asserts that the manual is presented only for "historical purposes."
The manual states that it is "a How-To Manual of means to disrupt and ultimately destroy
Satan's power to kill our children, God's Children" and was the result of a document that was "originally edited from many sources" by someone called the "Mad Gluer."6 While it pays lip service by saying that the ideas contained are "obviously the ideas of little babies," ideas that one would expect "from our own offspring if they were asked how to deal with such an enormously unthinkable problem of evil as baby killing." That said, it hardly condemns those ideas even in passing, by continues to suggest how Christian and Christlike waging this war of "covert activism" (the activists are called " termites"more nicknames) against the "God-hating, mother-molesting, baby-killing Amerikan system" is.
The bulk of the manual is titled "99 Covert Ways to Stop Abortion" and mockingly attributed to Margaret Sanger and Faye Wattleton.7 It runs the gamut from the disruptive but relatively benign to more extreme and potentially dangerous tactics. The more typical protest-type suggestions are along the lines of phone harassment, dumping cow manure on the steps, locking oneself to parts of the building, spreading butyric acid around and such. More vandalistic ideas are spilling tar all over, using glue on stuff, spray painting, running a garden hose through the mail slot, drilling holes in the roof to cause water damage, or cutting power. Even significantly higher property damage ideas like crawling into the sewer and with the help of Nerf soccer balls and concrete, plugging the sewer line to the building.
Then there are potentially dangerous ideas. Despite saying things like "nonviolence is important," some of the suggestions are quite the opposite and could cause harm (while not specifically stating that). One suggestion is to use the toxic chemical pyridine (later on misspelled "pyradine"), which isn't dangerous in very small quantities"the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has set an occupational exposure limit of 5 parts of pyridine per million parts of workplace air (5 ppm) for an 8-hour workday over a 40-hour workweek" (www.atsdr.cdc.gov)it has also been established that "1000 ppm be considered immediately dangerous to life and health. This is the exposure level of a chemical that is likely to cause permanent health problems or death." The manual notes that it could be "deadly if exposed to...for long periods of time," though seems to feel that the real danger lies with a staff person at "the murder house who doesn't have the good sense to get away from the awful fumes."
There is an anecdote of a pro-life person who bought an army surplus amphibious vehicle. The "accidentally" ended up in the lobby of an "arbortuary." Then it mentions how everyone has heard stories about kids hot-wiring a bulldozer ("easy to do") and the damage that ensued as it "plowed into a bulding...tragic, simply tragic." Another tactic involves dropping bricks onto the clinic from an ultralight flyer (the only safety considered here is of the pilot).
Shooting out windows is another suggestion. BB guns or pellet guns; .22s for thicker glass (the problem here is that the firearm makes too much noise, not that a weapon is being fired at the building). It goes on to add that hollow points might be more effective on glass but that "a trusty shotgun can also serve the purpose." A second gun tactic involves a high powered rifle, silencer, and armor piercing bullets to be used to shoot into the engine block of the "killer's vehicle." It says that if the car is at his home, "then all the better." Another bit of nastiness involves describing how to rig propane tanks to explode. And the tactic called "Terminal Courage" wherein the person finds he has only a few months to live so he sets out to destroy clinics. A possible scenario involves "[committing] to torching 2 killing chambers every other day in different (random) cities for eleven weeks." Another hero for the cause and a martyr, as well.
The last section of the manual is an "interview" with the "Army of God" by the Mad Gluer. AOG states his purpose as being to "drive the abortion industry underground with or without the sanction of government law." His favorite method? "Explosives, predominantly." When questioned about the use of violence, it is explained that "I am not truly violent by causing my neighbor no longer to be able to murder innocent citizens." The recommendation for "concerned citizens" that AOG gives is for
every Pro-Life person should commit to destroying at least one death camp, or disarming at least one baby killer. The former is a relatively easy taskthe latter could be quite difficult to accomplish. The preferred method for the novice would be gasoline and matches.... You've kind of got to pour and light and leave real fast because of the flammability factor. Kerosene is great, but a little more traceable....
It has been suggested that the "manual" was originally dreamed up more for publicity (propaganda) purposes but became much more than that over time. Regardless, despite all the "apparent" words about nonviolence and saving lives, it is clear that anyone in the way either deserves it or is a regrettable casualty in a greater war (and it is always spoken of in those terms: war).
On the page is a response for one called "Linda Wolfe" (another apparent pseudonym) "writing from the western United States." It is to one "misguided soldier" who apparently had the gall to suggest that they "[call] for a cease fire and said 200+ anthrax letters to abortion mills is bad timing." She claims that a cease fire would suggest that babies aren't worthy (or are less worthy) of "protection." That they "have been recipients of chemical warfare for some time." And that "there are no fewer innocent American children being butchered than before September 11th." She ends it with "We do not justify the taking of any innocent life. That should make it clear to anyone the difference between us and the enemy of the U.S.A." It is signed "Servant of Jesus Christ... Linda."
Given that the reply email address is to LindaWolfe@ArmyofGod.com, it is the closest thing to an acknowledged connection to the threats. As for Spitz' reaction, a phone interview quoted in the LA Times has him calling it a "good thing" and that it was a "brilliant move. Some of the abortion mills were forced to shut down, so they couldn't kill babies today." He denied responsibility or knowledge of who may have done it: "We have learned not to tell one another what we have done." Operating just like terrorist cells, in order to avoid the organization going down because of a weak link.
Even if the threats are not from the "organization" itself, it is clear that such behavior is sanctioned by it and also given the extremist nature of the words, ideas, and manual, as well as admitted actions by those with either connections to the group or who are held in its highest esteem, the potential of going beyond merely a threat to actual bioterrorism is not implausible. And should be a concern.
(Special thanks to kto9 for bringing this story to my attention)
Update 30 November 2001:Waagner is now the prime suspect in October's anthrax hoax letters (according to the FBI, he was considered a suspect already), following a brief "resurfacing" to claim responsibility for the letters and warn of a imminent series of assassinations against the usual targets.
On 23 November 2001, Waagner visited the Georgia home of self-proclaimed "abortion abolitionist" and founder of the Creator's Rights Party (www.christiangallery.com/creator.html), Neal Horsley. The CRP is basically a ultraconservative Christian group whose main purpose involves antiabortion activity and advocating. Additionally, itin very blunt terms and graphicsis anti- "the usual suspects": homosexuals, liberals, et cetera.
The site also hosts the infamous Nuremberg Files, which listed names and locations of abortion providers. The Slepian incident (above) brought it to the attention of the authorities and others when his name was crossed out the day of the murder (the page has been "removed" on several occasions due to legal pressure; it is currently "down" because of the Waagner situation). Another thing the group advocates if "succession" which will "[result] in the establishment of a new government, one that can obey God's plan for government instead of destroying God's plan for government as is done by the present government of the USA."
Waagner, who was supposedly armed (all according to Horsley), showed evidence that "proved that, not only had he actually sent hundreds of anthrax threats to hundreds of abortion clinics, Planned Parenthood, The National Abortion Federation, etc. offices, but he had also staked out 42 abortion workers so that it was only a matter of time until he would assassinate them all." He allowed the "interview" to be recorded and tied Horsley up with duct tape before leaving (why?). Horsley called 911 and gave the tape to authorities.
In the interview, Waagner explained how those targeted could avoid danger. Since "I know where you live; I know what you drive; I actually don't know all your names, but I've got your car license and I've followed you home, so I've got your street address," those targeted (not that they would know) can become part of the "escape clause" by emailing Horsley (firstname.lastname@example.org) with the following information: first letter or number of license plate, state, and first letter or number of home address. A message board at Horsley's www.christiangallery.com will also to be provided. The persons must quit their jobs in the industry. And how might someone "know" he is a target? According to Waagner: "The Holy Spirit will tell them."
Because of little media attention in the first days following the "visit" and the informing of the authorities, Horsley is suggesting (28 November) that Waagner is essentially being "dared" to start killing. The next day was the official announcement. Authorities claim to have found his fingerprints on some of the letters sent in October.
(Quotes from www.christiangallery.com)
1The significance of "Virginia Dare" seems to come from a few places. Of course the Army of God is "headquartered" (that's the address to write to Rev. Donald Spitz and "Pro-Life Virginia") in Virginia. Dare was reputedly the first English (so possibly the first "white") child born in the "New World." Because she was the first Christian, she was named Virginia (after Mary, whom Catholics believe to have been a perpetual virgin). Dealing with a pro-life group, both the idea of a child and Christianity are important symbols. While some extremist pro-life groups (a very small minority) seem to have a bit of virulent racism about them or connections to groups that do Christian Identity Movement, for examplethat might be stretching as a conclusion. (The site has a specific page devoted to being anti-racist, while branding pro-choice people in those terms.)
2Three near Atlanta, Georgia: the Olympic Park bombing, a bombing at a lesbian bar, another at an abortion clinic where a police officer died and the fourth in Birmingham, Georgia where an off-duty police officer working as a security guard died and a nurse was injured. Following the second two, a letter was sent to Reuters. It stated (all misspellings are in the original): "We will target sodomites, there organizations, and all those who push there agenda" (in reference to the club) and the much longer rant:
We declare and will wage total war on the ungodly communist regime in New York and your legaslative-bureaucratic lackey's in Washington. It is you who are responsible and preside over the murder of children and issue the policy of ungodly preversion thats destroying our people.... Death to the New World Orer. (www.newwave.net)
3This, of course, is the same God he invoked as an insanity defense, from whom he claimed that he was receiving messages to kill abortion doctors.
4Including: "...he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one" (Luke 23:36); "Cursed be he that doeth the work of the LORD deceitfully, and cursed be he that keepeth back his sword from blood" (Jeremiah 48:10); "The righteous shall rejoice when he seeth the vengeance: he shall wash his feet in the blood of the wicked" ( Psalm [sic] 58:10); "Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man" (Genesis 9:6)
5Her full name is Rachelle Ranae Shannon. Acording to the Department of Justice, additional charges were "arson, interference with commerce by force, and interstate travel in aid of racketeering. ...injecting butyric acid, a noxious, foul-smelling substance, into the walls of clinics in Reno, Nevada, and Chico, California, and using napalm in the firebombing of a Sacramento clinic." A firefighter was injured in the Sacramento incident. Shannon, given the colorful nickname of "Shaggy West," is referred to as a "soldier in the army of God."
6In fact, the dedication page reads like the list for an AOL chatroom with names like: Iron Maiden, Cannonball, Blockman, Sweaty Palms John, Baby Huey, Road Warrior, Pensacola Cop Hugger, Lobster Jim, Joanie the Wonder Girl, Waterbabies Alice...the list goes on.
7Sanger founded Planned Parenthood in 1942pro-life sites make much use of racist comments made by herand Wattleton headed the organization from 1978-1992. That they are both women suggests they are felt to be even greater traitors to children.
(Sources: www.armyofgod.com, www.salon.com, www.villagevoice.com, www.cnn.com, www3.plannedparenthood.org, www.prochoice.org, www.naral.org, www.usdoj.gov, www.washingtonpost.com, www.latimes.com, www.newwave.net/~haught/army.html, www.britannica.com; a number of online versions of newspapers were also consulted)