Experts doubt American hate groups are behind anthrax attacks

Saturday, November 10, 2001

Associated Press/Marco Di Lauro

Plumes of gray smoke rose from the Taliban-controlled village of Rahesh, 40 miles from Afghanistan's capital, Kabul, Friday after two U.S. aircraft strikes.The Associated Press

SPOKANE, Wash. -- American hate groups have talked for years about using anthrax to strike at the U.S. government.

But experts who monitor extremists doubt that neo-Nazi, Ku Klux Klan or domestic militia organizations have the scientific know-how or the financial means to carry out the anthrax-by-mail attacks.

"Obviously we don't know, but we have leaned toward a foreign explanation or a madman with a microbiology degree," said Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Ala., which tracks hate groups.

Some white supremacist, anti-Semitic organizations cheered the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, finding common cause with the Israel-hating terrorists.

While some extreme right-wing groups have talked about using anthrax to disrupt society since the 1980s, most such organizations have little money and their members are often misfits with little education, Potok said.

"You wonder if they could manage a pipe bomb," Potok said.

Brent Smith, a University of Alabama professor who studies domestic terrorists, said he, too, doubts domestic extremists had any involvement.

"The average Joe Blow redneck off the street is going to kill himself before he can make it," he said.

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