'Terror' Against the Press

BOSTON—It looks like the FBI's Boston field office faked a threat of domestic terrorism just before the start of the Democratic National Convention by leaking "unconfirmed" reports of white supremacist groups readying an attack against media vehicles in Boston. Fox News, for one, reportedly was wildly trying to disguise its trucks by covering up its logos.

The effect of this probably was to make the press even more suspicious of anti-war demonstrators than it already is—to even view them as possible terrorists, and if not actual terrorists, then a crowd within which terrorists could operate.

All of this is taking place in an atmosphere of fear and tension whipped up by the Bush administration, with its reports of Al Qaeda "sleeping cells" preparing to strike against America in the midst of the presidential campaign. (See my July 16 article on a chilling Election Day scenario.)

The white supremacists on the far right have never shown any great interest in the war on terror, and they usually try to use the press, not attack it. Mark Potok, editor of the Southern Poverty Law Center's Intelligence Report, which tracks the far right, told Glynn Wilson of the serious-minded Southerner Daily News blog, "We have had no indication whatsoever, not an inkling, that there is any kind of violent action planned by the radical right in Boston. We follow these groups quite closely."

ABC News said last week (basing its report on anonymous sources) that, just before the convention opened on July 23, statements by a domestic group of college-age people in the Midwest triggered the FBI warning, according to Wilson. The ABC report said the group's members had not gone to Boston, Wilson noted. Other warnings of "a very real concern" about impending "violent action by white supremacists" emanated from the Secret Service, the Boston Joint Terrorism Task Force, and Boston police, Wilson said.

CNN reported July 23 that "authorities fear that some protesters are preparing to target the media" and that the "Boston Joint Terrorism Task Force is investigating." According to the CNN story, the FBI's Boston office issued a statement saying it had "unconfirmed information" that, as CNN put it, "a domestic group plans to attack media vehicles, possibly with 'explosives or incendiary devices.' "

Special Agent Gail A. Marcinkiewicz, the public affairs coordinator for the Boston FBI office, told the Southerner that the report of a "radical domestic terrorist group" planning an attack on media trucks in Boston was "unconfirmed."

Wilson noted that Boston authorities, according to ABC, were worried about two right-wing white supremacist groups in particular: Volksfront and White Revolution. Potok told Wilson that some members of Volksfront pleaded guilty last year in the beating death of a homeless black man, and the Volksfront online bulletin board recently carried a posting urging members to go to Boston and "rally."

"But there was no suggestion whatsoever of any violence," Potok told Wilson, "let alone violence against media trucks. . . . I find it extremely difficult to believe that White Revolution or Volksfront would be involved in an action like this."

Overall, the racist far-right would just love to get some publicity from the war on terror, but these people are stuck in the Stone Age when it comes to weaponry and ideas, and they are definitely not into suicide bombings. Such groups have always tried to manipulate the press, not attack it—except for such rare cases as the neo-Nazis' murder of Denver talk-radio host Alan Berg in 1984.

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