Do 3 arrests justify ADL fears

NEW YORK — The Anti-Defamation League has long received threats from anti-Semitic extremists.

What's changed recently, said the group's national director, is the increased seriousness with which U.S. law-enforcement officials take these claims.

Since the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and 1995 attack on the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, "there's a greater awareness" on the part of these officials that American soil is vulnerable to terrorist attacks, said Abraham Foxman.

Foxman made these comments after three men were arrested Feb. 23 for plotting to bomb the ADL headquarters in New York, the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Ala., and the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles.

The FBI caught the men with the help of a man who became an informer after he was asked to help in the scheme.

The three suspects — an ex-Ku Klux Klan member, a retired Illinois prison guard and a construction worker — also are accused of forming a "hit list" that included a federal judge, planning to rob banks to finance their schemes and contaminating a water supply with cyanide to create a diversion.

The three men are charged with one count of conspiracy to possess and make machine guns and destructive devices. They are being held without bond and could face up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Their trial has been set for April 27.

A fourth man was also named in the indictment, and is in federal custody.

The three men are reportedly members of an extremist group, the New Order, which models itself after a now-defunct neo-Nazi group, the Order. The Order, according to the ADL, used as one of its blueprints the novel "The Turner Diaries," which was reportedly a basis for the operations of convicted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh.

The plot did not come as a surprise to Foxman.

"We're in the business of exposing and challenging bigots, racists, anti-Semites and extremists," he said. "It's par for the course."

In April 1996, a federal jury convicted three men on charges of plotting to blow up the ADL office in Houston, among other targets.

Awareness of terrorist attacks "is part of the American landscape. And we've said it has to become part of the Jewish landscape," Foxman said.

It's advice that one of the organizations apparently targeted in this latest plot is following: The Wiesenthal Center has increased its already-tight security in recent weeks.

"We are used to threatening calls and hate mail, which we get on a monthly basis, but we take this latest threat much more seriously," said Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean and founder of the center.