Ten years ago today, the Murrah Federal Building was destroyed in a crime of violence and insanity. At the time, it sent the Federal government in the direction of domestic terrorism, but there were lessons which might have been learned in dealing with international terrorists as well. Unfortunately, the Clinton Administration, especially as commanded by Attorney General Janet Reno, was much on show and very, very weak on results; to this day, there is reasonable concern about whether all of the conspirators and participants in the Oklahoma City Bombing have been brought to justice, or whether the attack was handled with so much politicization, that other groups saw opportunity instead of deterrence.
To be sure, the FBI undertook heavy lifting to weed out the most dangerous of domestic groups, working as much on prevention and cooperation with local law enforcement, as they did in pursuing known groups of violence. Under Director Freeh, the FBI greatly reduced threats from a number of fanatical groups, like the Bandidos motorcycle gang, the Montana Militia, and Ervil Lebaron’s deranged Mormon splinter sect. However, Reno’s desire for political capital wasted some of the gains by closing out cases before they were fully resolved, allowing some groups to escape capture, and others to learn the methods and priorities of the Clinton Administration. One significant lesson, was that resources were pulled from Foreign Terrorism offices to accommodate Domestic Terrorism programs, rather than maintaining both.
There will be future domestic terrorists. The free nature of our society, matched with the diversity of opinion and the political correctness which demands threats only be addressed under ‘acceptable’ oversight, makes this inevitable. But we are by no means prohibited against learning from the past.