Tuesday, December 18, 2001

Terrorism shows up at home

        As the terrorist smirked and bragged about his murderous plans, were we outraged? Were we thoroughly disgusted, as Americans? As humanitarians? As law-abiding citizens? Did we demonstrate public support for those engaged in the dangerous work of trying to capture this criminal?

        Were we determined to bring him to justice? Along with those who would shelter him? Have we demanded to know who financed his crusade? And those in his army of terrorists? Or do we believe he is part of a holy war? That while his methods might be extreme, his cause is just?

"Warrior' for God

        This terrorist, who describes himself as an anti-abortion “warrior” for God, was caught Dec. 5 — not in labyrinthine caves halfway around the world, but in a Kinko's store in Springdale. He was on the lam after escaping Feb. 22 from an Illinois jail.

        Clayton Lee Waagner appeared here in federal court, joking with reporters, who described him as “jovial” and “relaxed.” He seemed to be having a pretty good time. In fact, he appears to be a good-time kind of guy, staying at fancy hotels and driving a stolen Mercedes.

        Meanwhile, authorities say, he compiled a list of 42 people he planned to kill, and sent messages to a Web site operated by the Army of God, an anti-abortion group. He is suspected of mailing fake anthrax letters to clinics in October and November.

        Planned Parenthood locations in Springdale and Clermont County received threats in early October, and Oxford and Hamilton centers were targeted in November, according to Sue Momeyer, CEO of Planned Parenthood of Southwest Ohio and Northern Kentucky. “We'd been warned,” she says, “but we regularly inspect our mail anyway.”

        At Christmastime two years ago, Ms. Momeyer says, she received a package containing an explosive device. Someone in the mail room spotted the package, the building was evacuated and the package was defused. The agency's Auburn Avenue location was torched in 1985. John Brockhoeft, who was convicted of the firebombing, was honored at an Army of God banquet in Washington, D.C., in 1999.

Homeland security

        This is certainly not to say that all those who are opposed to abortion are violent — any more than that all those who are oppose U.S. policy in the Mideast would crash a plane into a building full of people. “I firmly believe that people of goodwill can disagree about abortion, but choose to express themselves nonviolently. And legally,” Ms. Momeyer says.

        Since abortion was legalized in 1973, there have been 2,400 reported incidents of violence against doctors and clinics. Seven people have been killed, and more than 150 clinics have been bombed or set on fire. Are we sufficiently horrified by this affront to our Homeland Security? Are we alert to danger?

        “Part of the real security is everybody being vigilant, taking responsibility,” Ms. Momeyer says. “I admire the clerk who recognized him and called authorities.”

        Seeing this guy in the store who was on the FBI's Most Wanted List must have been terrifying. Dry-mouth, heart-pounding scary. The name of the person who called police has not been released. So we don't know his or her politics. We don't know the clerk's position on the abortion issue. But we know that somebody at Kinko's can recognize a dangerous criminal when one walks in the door.

        E-mail lpulfer@enquirer.com. Past columns at Enquirer.com/columns/pulfer.

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