Uncovered In East Texas:
Nov 26, 2003
By Robert Riggs
With Investigative Producer Todd Bensman
CBS 11 Investigates Poison Gas Plot
play to view report
Federal authorities this year mounted one of the most extensive investigations of domestic terrorism since the Oklahoma City bombing, CBS 11 has learned.
Three people linked to white supremacist and anti-government groups are in custody. At least one weapon of mass destruction - a sodium cyanide bomb capable of delivering a deadly gas cloud - has been seized in the Tyler area.
Investigators have seized at least 100 other bombs, bomb components, machine guns, 500,000 rounds of ammunition and chemical agents. But the government also found some chilling personal documents indicating that unknown co-conspirators may still be free to carry out what appeared to be an advanced plot. And, authorities familiar with the case say more potentially deadly cyanide bombs may be in circulation.
Since arresting the three people in May, federal agents have served hundreds of subpoenas across the country in a domestic terror investigation that made it onto President Bush’s daily intelligence briefings and set off national security alarms among the country’s most senior counter-terror officials.
William J. Krar, originally from New Hampshire, last week pleaded guilty in Tyler federal court to possession of a chemical weapon near the East Texas town of Noonday. He faces up to ten years in prison. His common-law wife, Judith Bruey, pleaded guilty to lesser weapons charges and faces up to five years in prison.
Also arrested this past Spring was Newark, New Jersey resident Edward Feltus. The New Jersey Militia member has pleaded guilty to attempting to purchase fake United Nations and Department of Defense identity cards from Krar.
All three have steadfastly maintained their silence, even though talking could reduce their prison sentences, and the investigation has stalled for now. Evidence seized and the fact that none of the defendants will talk has given rise to speculation that unknown conspirators may be still be involved in a broader plot to use Krar’s home-built chemical weapons, government officials say.
“One would certainly have to question why an individual would feel compelled to stockpile sodium cyanide, hydrochloric acid, nitric acid, acetic acid, unless they had some bad intent,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Wes Rivers, who is prosecuting the case. “They certainly had the capacity to be extremely dangerous.”
Terrorism investigators suspect that Krar, who has paid no federal income taxes since 1988, made his living as a traveling arms salesman who pedaled illicit bomb components and other weapons to violent underground anti-government groups across the country.
Sources familiar with the investigation say authorities especially fear that Krar may have manufactured more than one sodium cyanide bomb and sold them. After a traffic stop earlier this year while Krar was traveling through Tennessee, state troopers seized sodium cyanide among other weapons, one government source confirmed.
During the same stop, troopers found notes in Krar’s car.
One of the notes titled “Trip” recommends, “You will need cash, pre-charged phone card, spare gas can and all planning in place.”
Another note titled “Procedure” appears to represent instructions for carrying out some kind of covert operation. It lists code words for cities where meetings can take place at motels. Other codes appear to be warnings about how close police might be to catching the plotters. “Lots of light storms are predicted,” for instance, means “Move fast before they look any harder. We have a limited window remaining.”
The same note goes on to recommend ways to divert pursuers and suggests, “We want all looking in the wrong direction.”
Since the attacks of September 11, 2001, counter-terrorism agencies have been consumed by national efforts to ferret out U.S.-based foreign terrorist cells whose members hail from the Middle East. Federal investigators were not looking for white supremacist groups when they stumbled across Krar by accident.
He drew the FBI’s attention when he sent a package of counterfeit ID’s for the United Nations and Defense Intelligence Agency to Feltus’ New Jersey home earlier this year. The package was mistakenly delivered to a Staten Island man, who opened it and called police.
A note found inside and signed by Krar stated, “Hope this package gets to you O.K. We would hate to have this fall into the wrong hands.”
The discovery led to surveillance operations in and around Tyler, and then search warrants that turned up the Sodium cyanide bomb and other illegal weapons at locations controlled by Krar.
Little is known about Krar and Bruey.
Two years ago, the couple quietly set up business as a gun parts manufacturer at a remote storage locker in Noonday, Texas. Krar apparently has similarly operated his businesses under the radar for years in other states before coming to Texas. As he did in Tyler, Krar rented local post office boxes and storage units.
In one affidavit for a search warrant, an FBI agent noted that Krar was “actively involved in the militia movement…a good source of covert weaponry for white supremacist and anti-government militia groups in New Hampshire.”
Until now, the little town just south of Tyler was best known locally for the sweet onions grown there.
Teresa Staples, who owns the storage facility, said Krar pretended to buy and sell army surplus goods at flea markets. Only later, when FBI agents swarmed the place, did she learn that the surplus goods hid dangerous chemicals and weapons.
“Why did they pick such a small storage facility? Why did they pick this town, because I know they’re from up north,” she said. “How did they find us?”
This was not the first time that Krar has drawn the attention of federal investigators. In 1995, the ATF investigated Krar and another man on weapons charges. The other suspect told authorities at the time that he and Krar shared an abiding hatred of the federal government and had been planning to bomb government facilities, court records show. But the suspect later recanted the story about plotting terror attacks with Krar. Krar denied the allegation and was not arrested, according to records.
According to a more recent FBI affidavit, on the day of the 9-11 terrorist attacks, Krar raised suspicion at a New Hampshire storage unit he was renting. An employee called the FBI that day and reported that Krar was “wicked anti-American.”
While authorities work for a new break in the case, some counter-terrorism experts question whether the government might be overlooking dangers closer to home while fighting the War on Terror in the Middle East.
The Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors domestic hate groups, says the number of openly violent groups dropped from more than 1,000 to about 100 after the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing because of negative public sentiment. Groups that call East Texas home include the Ku Klux Klan, the Aryan Nations and Christian Identity.
In 1997, the Dallas FBI broke up a terror plot by members of the Ku Klux Klan to blow up a Wise County power plant.
Former Dallas FBI Special Agent in Charge Danny Coulson was involved in the nation’s first stand-offs with domestic anti-government groups and mounted some of the first intensive domestic terror investigations. He cautioned that authorities should take care not to forget about domestic groups while concentrating on foreign ones.
“It’s scary when you look at their capabilities,” he said. “Look at the vulnerabilities of our society. We don’t have to concern ourselves only with foreign terrorists, but we need to concern ourselves with domestic terrorists too. And these guys are very dangerous.”
(MMIII, Viacom Internet Services Inc. , All Rights Reserved)
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