The Seatlle Times, Feb. 9, 2003
By Mike Carter, Seattle Times staff reporter
Nearly a decade has passed since a truck bomb killed 168 people in Oklahoma City, although the passage of time and the horror of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks have dimmed that tragedy in the American psyche.
But terrorism experts say the arrest of a retired Washington Army National Guard intelligence officer and his ex-wife in Spokane last week on accusations that they illegally possessed secret military documents and sold them to the radical right serves as a stark reminder that the threat of terrorism in the U.S. does not come only from al-Qaida, Iraq or North Korea.
“While it is true that membership in the militias has dwindled, those who are left are about as radical and extreme as you can imagine,” said Leonard Weinberg, a professor of political science at the University of Nevada-Reno and one of the foremost authors of academic studies on terrorism.
“While we focus on the threat outside our borders, it would be foolish to ignore the continuing threat from within.”
Consider these events from the past month in the Northwest:
• On Jan. 18, the FBI arrested James D. Brailey, an Olympia man who had recently returned from a meeting of the Christian Identity movement in Arkansas. Brailey was arrested on firearms charges and is accused of plotting to kill Gov. Gary Locke.
• Ten days later, two Oregon Army National Guard soldiers, just back from peacekeeping duties in Egypt, were arrested and charged with hate crimes for beating a Medford, Ore., hotel owner who they thought was an Arab. The soldiers told investigators they were on a mission to “clean up” Medford.
• Last Tuesday, the FBI in Spokane arrested 51-year-old Rafael Davila and his ex-wife, Deborah Cummings Davila. Federal prosecutors allege some of the secret materials they possessed were intended to go to white supremacists and anti-government radicals.
Rafael Davila had served for years as an Army intelligence officer and was a decorated Vietnam special-forces veteran. Before his retirement in 1999, he had served in the 341st Military Intelligence Battalion and was its senior intelligence officer, with a top-secret rating in the Guard’s 92nd Troop Command.
Federal law-enforcement sources have said that, over the years, Davila had drifted to the radical right.
Davila had told the FBI that he took home boxes of secret documents to study. Up to 15 boxes of security documents — some involving chemical, nuclear and biological-warfare strategies — are missing, federal agents say.
Deborah Davila, a teacher, is believed to have collected at least $2,000 for mailing more than 300 documents to addresses in North Carolina, Texas and Georgia, according to court documents.
Deborah Davila told agents she was told by “a mysterious man” in a phone conversation that one thick envelope of secret papers would reach Kirk Lyons, a North Carolina lawyer who has represented such groups as the Ku Klux Klan, the White Patriot Movement and the Posse Comitatus.
Deborah Davila attended Lyons’ wedding, which was performed by the Rev. Richard Butler, founder of the Church of Jesus Christ-Christian and founder of the Aryan Nations. According to federal court documents, Davila lied about knowing Lyon.
Lyon has denied he received the documents and also denied being an adherent to extremist beliefs. He has not been charged with a crime.
Rafael and Deborah Davila remain in federal custody to face espionage charges. A federal magistrate on Friday refused to release them on bail because they are a flight risk.
The FBI has said that the missing documents pose a “huge threat” to the security of the United States and that they would be worth millions of dollars on the black market.
Not knowing where the documents are now, acknowledged FBI Special Agent in Charge Charlie Mandigo, makes the threat even more disconcerting.
A shared hatred
Weighing on investigators’ minds is a disturbing — if not bizarre — commingling of the radical right and Islamic extremists, with the hatred of Jews binding them together.
In the early 1990s, a handful of German neo-Nazis, led by neo-Nazi and former German military officer Michael Kuhnen, volunteered to go to Iraq “to fight against America and Zionism” in the Persian Gulf War.
Weinberg, the University of Nevada-Reno terrorism expert, pointed out that adherents to the radical right and Islam have speculated that the Sept. 11 attacks were a Zionist conspiracy.
“There is a similarity in conspiratorial thinking between the Islamists and the far right,” he said. “They have a common cause, built around their hatred of the Jews.”
One of the most compelling instances was uncovered in the Northwest during the investigation of James Ujaama, the Seattle Muslim convert indicted for allegedly conspiring to set up an al-Qaida training camp in 1999 on a small ranch near Bly, Ore.
“The line between international and domestic terrorism is becoming blurred,” said retired Gen. Dennis Reimer, the director of the National Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism, in Oklahoma City. Domestic hate groups have sort of fallen off the radar screen for the public, Reimer said, “but those elements are out there, and they are capable of violence.”
Ultimate goals differ
Phil Anderson, a senior fellow and director of the Homeland Security Initiative at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C., acknowledges the potential for a nexus between the far-right and radical Islam. There is a significant divergence, however, in their goals.
The domestic radicals in the patriot and white-supremacist movements seek only to change the U.S. government to fit their beliefs.
Radical Islam, he said, wants to destroy it absolutely.
What remains clear, and to some degree is a constant through all of the permutations, is that the military offers fertile ground for extremists nearly 10 years after Timothy McVeigh, a disenchanted and decorated Gulf War veteran who set the fuse on the Ryder truck outside the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building.
In the late 1990s, one of the key figures in the takeover by radical Muslims of a central Seattle mosque — whose members included Ujaama and others who visited the ranch in Bly, Ore. — was a former Marine who had converted to Islam while stationed in Saudi Arabia during the Gulf War.
“Nothing has changed,” said Anderson, a 23-year Marine Corps veteran who retired as a colonel.
“The military is still the place where these people get their training and where they continue to espouse all the things about America they believe needs to be changed,” he said.