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[Cross posted from Talk to Action]

James Kopp, the Catholic antiabortion militant convicted of the sniper assasination of Dr. Barnett Slepian, was convicted today on additional federal charges of having violated the Federal Access to Clinic Entrances Act, (FACE).  Kopp has also been charged in Canada with the in the 1995 shooting of Dr. Hugh Short -- one of a series of shootings of abortion providers in their homes on or near Canada's Remembrance Day, in which Kopp remains a suspect.

Among those a attending his trial were two people who aided Kopp while he was on the lam in Europe -- and on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted list: Dennis Malvesi, himself a convicted clinic arsonist and his wife Loretta Marra. The Catholic couple served two and a half years of what could have been a long sentence, but they cut a deal with prosecutors.  Marra was asked by  The Buffalo News if she had any regrets in the role that she played in helping Kopp's run from the law,  she replied: "Only that I got caught."

Their story opened a window on the international antiaborion underground that encourages and supports domestic terrorism before, during and after the fact.

Marra was also asked if she thought Kopp was getting a fair trial:  

"This was a show trial, a shameful disgrace," said Marra, now 42, who had been arrested several times before with Kopp in anti-abortion protests and was once chained together with him for hours at a clinic.

 

The Buffalo News continued that Marra

bitterly complained that U.S. District Judge Richard J. Arcara did not allow Kopp to use a justification defense, that what he did was justified to prevent more abortions. Arcara had ruled against that defense, saying basically that abortion is legal and murder is not.

Indeed. Abortion is legal. The murder of doctors is not.

Marra's argument that the assasination of Dr. Slepian was justifiable homicide, is a notion that has been popular in Army of God circles since the early 90s, when antiabortion militant Paul Hill publicized it in defense of Michael Griffin, who had murdered Dr. David Gunn. Hill organized what was then called the Defensive Action Statement, signed by about 30 people who said the was murder justified. Hill gained national attention by talking about it on the Phil Donohue show. Hill's media consultant was Gary McCullough, a veteran of Operation Rescue, ts spin off, Missionaries to the Preborn, and many arrests.  McCullough called Griffin a "hero."

The FBI stayed hot on the trail to bring Kopp to justice.  The agency, reported The Buffalo News:  

used a paid informant, intercepted Kopp's e-mails to them from Europe, bugged their apartment and used a little-known technique at the time called a "sneak and peak" warrant.  The warrant allowed FBI agents to break into the couple's apartment while they were away, photograph evidence they found and then leave without telling them of the break-in until after they were arrested.  When Marra and Malvasi attended the January 2001 White Rose Banquet in Maryland as guests of honor they drove there with the informant in a van rented by the FBI, according to court documents.

 

I reported in 2002 about Marra and Malvesi for Salon.com,, from which the material below is adapted.

At the time, the ruins of the World Trade Center were still smoldering, and suddenly, domestic terrorism was no longer cool. For years convicted anti-abortion felons and their most vocal supporters publicly gathered  every year on the anniversary of Roe vs. Wade for the White Rose Banquet to celebrate their victories and raise funds for their imprisoned martyrs, called Prisoners of Christ. Typically about 100 veterans of militant and violent anti-abortion activism gathered to network, to raise funds, and to swagger and taunt the abortion rights groups and law enforcement agencies that monitored the event closely. Convicted clinic bomber Michael Bray, for example, described the attendees at the 1997 banquet as an "august cadre of conspirators."  The name of the banquet is misappropriated from a short-lived World War II-era anti-Nazi resistance group, and was usually held in Bowie, Maryland, just a few miles outside Washington, DC.  The 2002 meeting fizzled out in the wake of 9/11, and the annual gatherings have reportedly been small quiet affairs ever since.
But the January 2001 banquet featured a blatant appeal appeal from convicted arsonist and keynote speaker, Dennis Malvesi. He thanked those who had helped him -- without naming names:

I myself have been on the receiving end of all the above scenarios, good and bad. I will always be grateful to the "quartermasters", the ones who gave me moral and material support, before and after my arrest. I encourage you all to continue the noble work of supporting your local baby defender, from lock gluers to bomber, the Avon crowd, monkey wrench crews, arsonists and snipers. Your help makes all the difference in the world - to the babies themselves.

It turned out that Malvesi wasn't asking anyone to do anything he wouldn't do himself. He had been secretly assisting then-accused assassin James Kopp, who was on the lam in Europe. But while while Malvesi was in Bowie, Md., bucking-up the White Rose banqueteers, the FBI was searching his apartment in Brooklyn. They eventually captured Kopp by tracking Malvesi's efforts to wire him money in France.

The highlight of each year's banquet was an auction featuring relics of terrorist acts and handicrafts by convicted felons. The announcement for the 2002 banquet, for example, reminded prospective attendees:

"Items donated by prisoners in the past have included: handicrafts, pencil sketches, including calligraphy of the Ten Commandments, by Paul Hill; artwork from Shelley Shannon; the black leather jacket worn by James Mitchell as he burned a baby killing center in Northern Virginia; denim jacket Joshua Graff wore while performing his acts of kindness towards the unborn; and the watch used by Dennis Malvesi to time his incendiary device to blow up Planned Parenthood in NYC."

Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of the banquet was that it was visible proof that there exists more than just a loose association of individuals or small groups utilizing the name of Army of God. "Nothing secret about that meeting anymore," observed Tracy Sefl, a sociologist at the University of Illinois who has studied the nexus of these groups. It's so obvious, she says, that the White Rose Banquet might as well be called the "annual above-ground meeting of the Army of God."

But it was long past time that the Army of God should be viewed as more than a confederacy of lone nuts, according to Sefl. She saw the Army of God and its constituent parts as displaying considerable "rationality and organization" -- particularly in the staging of the White Rose Banquet.
"If an organization exists to create order, to plan, to articulate a message," she said, "these are all things that we see in the Army of God." Other characteristics of organization evident in the Army of God are such things as "commonality of language, shared tools, identifiable leadership, and fund-raising," she observes. "The hook? Prisoners of Christ."

The Army of God had evolved, she believed. "As the political climate has changed around clinics, so has the Army of God. It's a classic case of organizational behavior," she says. "It adapts to its environment."

My report in Salon appeared in January of 2002 -- just a few months after 9/11 changed everything.  Since then, the White Rose banquet is no long publicly held, and the swagger has gone out of the propaganda of the Army of God and its hangers on.  It is no longer cool to be a terrorist in America. The environment has changed.
 
That's why it was probably smart of Washington, DC Christian Right PR entreprenuer Gary McCullough to stop administering Prisoners of Christ. He has since passed the Prisoners of Christ function directly to the Army of God. Indeed, McCullough's client list at the Christian Communication Network is a virtual Who's Who of the organizations of the religious right, such as Focus on the Family, Concerned Women for America, and the American Family Association, and of course, Operation Rescue. No doubt, many of McCullough's clients have no idea that their Washington media consultant or press release distributor, has long been a leading promoter and apologist for antiabortion terrorism, and the former administrator of the support fund for members of the Army of God who had been caught and convicted for major crimes.
 
But Paul Hill and Prisoners of Christ are not McCullough's only major controversial clients. McCullough also served, along with Randall Terry as a spokesperson and media consultant for the Schindler family during the Terry Schiavo affair, and despite his high profile in a rivetting national controversy, the media, with a few exceptions, failed to notice or comment on McCullough's unsavory background -- much of which is findable through a simple Google search.

That McCullough has been able to obscure his past with so little effort, has meant that some unlikely organizations are signing up for McCullough's services. For example, the Institute on Religion and Democracy, a Washington,DC-based neoconservative group, often uses McCullough to distribute its press releases: most recently, for example a release in which IRD blasted United Methodist Bishops for opposing the placement of the Bush presidential library and think tank at Southern Methodist University, was widely picked-up. Other notable clients that might have second thoughts about patronizing McCullough's firm include the Anti Defamation League, Faithful Democrats, Zogby International, The Discovery Channel, the California Science Center, and the Religion Newswriters Association.

McCullough's web site no longer mentions Prisoners of Christ, however the web archive "Wayback Machine" shows (at the bottom of the page) the link to Prisoners of Christ in October 2001, for anyone who would like to see for themselves.

The Bush adminsistration has failed to designate the Army of God as a domestic terrorist organization. But that does not alter the fact that for a quarter century, we have seen a wave of bombings, arsons, and assasinations (and much more) targeting people who are exercising their legal right to provide reprodutive health services -- including abortion. And those domestic terrorists and those who help them, walk among us, undesignated and unrepentant.

Originally posted to Frederick Clarkson on Thu Jan 25, 2007 at 05:31 PM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Turning a blind eye to domestic terrorism (15+ / 0-)

    allows the individuals and ideology of domestic terrorism to infect our public discourse, and for its agents to move through society, unnoticed and unremarked upon.

  •  OT- I thought of you today when I heard this (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    bronte17

    interview with author Chris Hedges today on NPR's Talk of the Nation.  You're probably already aware of this new book, and I'm sure the author is aware of your work, but just thought I'd leave this here for you to listen if you're interested.

    If we don't have fairness and social justice as part of our platform, there is no real reason to be a Democrat. inclusiveheart

    by station wagon on Thu Jan 25, 2007 at 06:16:06 PM PST

    •  thanks (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      bronte17

      I haven't read Hedges yet, and yes, he ordered a copy of my book directly from me.

      My general feeling that his emphasis on making the analogy to fascism ends up being a distraction that does not really advance the thinking that we need to do about these things. But then again, no one has taken the time and space to actually make a serious argument it in the past, which has been mostly glib name calling. I look forward to reading the book.

  •  Thank you, FC. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Frederick Clarkson

    What an amazing and chilling compilation you have done. As much as I have read about these people, this is still chilling.

    Why do people still hire this guy? I'm stunned.

    Blessed are the arrogant...for they shall be really impressed with themselves.

    by homogenius on Thu Jan 25, 2007 at 07:16:59 PM PST

  •  McCullough has advocated violence (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Frederick Clarkson

    Here are Gary McCullough's words:
    "In America, we have failed to protect the preborn infants. When violence comes, it will be justified."

    For the source, see Talk to Action.

  •  Operation Rescue hires the terrorists, too (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Frederick Clarkson

    Cheryl Sullenger is the outreach and media coordinator for OR.  She was convicted in 1988 for conspiring to blow up an abortion clinic.

    Children are just lobbyists who get political favors in return for being adorable-Stephen Colbert

    by djtyg on Fri Jan 26, 2007 at 10:25:05 PM PST

  •  Are we in the "Crowded Theater?" (0+ / 0-)

    When I hear attitudes like this, I have to ask if we're in the theater Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes used in the Schenck decision: "The Right of Free Speech does not protect those who would falsely shout Fire in a theater and thereby start a panic."

    Among those a attending his trial were two people who aided Kopp while he was on the lam in Europe -- and on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted list: Dennis Malvesi, himself a convicted clinic arsonist and his wife Loretta Marra. The Catholic couple served two and a half years of what could have been a long sentence, but they cut a deal with prosecutors.  Marra was asked by  The Buffalo News if she had any regrets in the role that she played in helping Kopp's run from the law,  she replied: "Only that I got caught."

    I'm not advocating an immediate crackdown, but the leaders of the Anti-Abortion movement should acknowledge the danger of their incendiary rhetoric. In the 34 years since Roe v. Wade, they have not seriously tried to persuade people that Personhood begins at conception; they've committed the plures interrogationes fallacy of assuming the issue was already settled. I strongly believe their Politics of Insult has substantially contributed to the mindset of extremists like Paul Hill, Michael Griffin, and Eric Rudolph.

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