Naked City

What Tyler Terror Bust?

Imagine this: The FBI nails a couple of major terrorism suspects, in possession of a weapon of mass destruction -- a sodium cyanide bomb -- as well as about 100 other bombs, bomb components, machine guns, chemical agents, and 500,000 rounds of ammunition. Additionally, they find documents detailing an apparent scheme to actually use these weapons, some indicating other suspects might still be at large. And to top it all off, the suspects plead guilty.

Big story, right? Huge, right? John Ashcroft throwing the curtain over the naked lady statue so that he can crow at the top of his lungs about how his Justice Department is keeping America safe, right?

So why haven't you heard about it? Well for starters, it could be because Ashcroft is not crowing about it, nor is anyone else at Justice. Not one press conference. Just a quietly issued press release. If that defies explanation, some Ashcroft critics think they have one: The suspects were named William J. Krar and Judith L. Bruey, not Mohammed or Omar or Khalid. They aren't Muslims, but alleged white supremacists. And they were caught right here in Texas.

Without the DOJ bringing the Krar case to national attention, the media silence has been deafening. A search of Nexis and other news databases reveals scant coverage. An Associated Press wire story got picked up in a few Texas newspapers, mostly as a short news brief. The only coverage of any real length came from the Tyler Morning Telegraph -- the bust was made in tiny Noonday, just outside of Tyler -- and KTVT television in Dallas. The only national coverage has been a Dec. 13 New York Times guest editorial and the Pacifica Network's Democracy Now! radio program, which, while quite popular among lefty circles, certainly doesn't enjoy the kind of audience that CNN or Fox News does. (DN! is carried in Austin on cable access Channel 16, 6-7pm weekdays.)

On DN!, Assistant U.S. Attorney Brit Featherstone, UT journalism professor Robert Jensen, and the KTVT reporter who broke the story all agreed that this was a major terrorism bust. But Jensen said, "Cases like this, of domestic terrorism, especially when they involve white supremacist and conservative Christian groups, don't have any political value for an administration, especially this particular administration. ... On the other hand, foreign terrorism and things connected to Arab, South Asian, and Muslim groups, well those have value because they can be used to whip up support for military interventions, which this administration is very keen on. So I think the politics are very clear here."

Featherstone replied, "I'll say that this information was out there to the media, and they failed to pick it up. I don't see how we blame other people because the media failed to actually put it on the air."

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

terrorism, Justice Department, FBI, sodium cyanide, John Ashcroft, William J. Krar, Judith L. Bruey, Tyler Morning Telegraph, KTVT, Noonday, Democracy Now!, Robert Jensen, Brit Featherstone

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