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Date: Sun, 31 Oct 1999 20:09:01 EST
Subject: AANEWS for Sunday, October 31, 1999
From: owner-aanews@atheists.org
Message-Id: <EMDMbro003220ccs@zip.mail-list.com>

subject: AANEWS for October 31, 1999

Details Emerge on "Project Megido" Warning of Y2K Violence

Christian Identity, Black Hebrew Israelites Among Groups Cited: But Is It Real?

From American Atheist News,
31 October 1999

The FBI is warning that all hell may break lose as we approach New Year's Eve.

As detailed last week in AANEWS, the bureau has compiled a secret report titled "Project Megiddo" which cautions that religious extremists, millennialist cults and political fringe groups could be preparing for violence in the new millennium. Word of the document emerged on October 23 in a front-page story carried by USA TODAY. The paper reported that "Project Megiddo" warned of "the potential for extremist criminal activity in the United States by individuals or domestic groups who attach special significance to the year 2000."

The "project" is named for an ancient battleground in Israel believed by many to be the site of Armageddon, the future confrontation between God and the devil. The report is considered so secretive that it is not presently being made public, and instead will be presented to a closed-door gathering at the International Association of Chiefs of Police meeting in Charlotte, N.C. on Tuesday.

Details about "Project Megiddo" are beginning to emerge, though. A possible authentic copy of the document was allegedly obtained by the Washington Post, which reported on it in today's "A" section. It states that the "Project Megiddo" summary is a 34-page document, which is at odds with the story from USA TODAY that claimed the manuscript ran to 40 pages. Even so, there are possible tantalizing glimpses into the contents of "Project Megiddo."

Is "Project Megiddo" another example of government authorities overreacting to unpopular, non-mainstream religious or political groups? Or is there a legitimate terrorist threat?

The organizations and sects known to be listed in the document are often mentioned in news reports, private intelligence surveys and other information sources. Most maintain sites on the world wide web, openly solicit members, and offer books, pamphlets, videos and other materials which range from the provocative to the very fringes of reason and common sense. But is there a genuine danger? It depends who you ask...

The head of the FBI's National Security Division, Neil Gallagher, told the Post that while New Year's Eve is not a red-flag for every extremist or apocalyptic group to charge the nearest target d'jour with guns blazing, "Project Megiddo" attempts to make local law enforcement agencies "more sensitive" to possible security risks.

"If a cult sells its property and personal effects and purchases guns and explosives, we need to be more concerned about what that cult will do on Jan. 1," Gallagher warned.

"The report says the risks will increase as Jan. 1 approaches," notes the Post. "The threat posed by extremists as a result of perceived events associated with the Year 2000 (Y2K) is very real," the FBI says. "The volatile mix of apocalyptic religious and (New World Order) conspiracy theories may produce violent acts aimed a precipitating the end of the world as prophesied in the Bible..."

Among other suggested details in "Project Megiddo":

  • The "Project" is based on a nine-month intelligence gathering campaign by the FBI's domestic terrorism unit, which processed reports from various field offices. The effort specifically targeted the activities of groups in connection with the approaching millennium.
  • Among the organizations identified as likely candidates for apocalyptic violence are sects and individuals who embrace "Christian Identity," and who believe that the "white Aryan race is God's chosen race." Identity fuses a bizarre interpretation of the Old Testament, with a belief in the idea that Anglo-Saxons are descendants from the lost tribes of Israel, and favored by God. Blacks and Hispanics are described as "mud people," and Jews are considered the tools of the devil. "Project Megiddo" claims that Identity is a "unifying theology" for a number of a fringe groups that reportedly pose a threat, along with "Odinists" and other white supremacists including the Aryan Nations sect.
  • Black extremists, including factions of the Black Hebrew Israelites pose a threat of millennialist violence, and "are preparing for a race war to close the millennium," says "Project Megiddo."

One possible BHI faction is the Stream of Knowledge, a sect implicated in a reign of terror during the 1980s according to an intelligence report by the Southern Poverty Law Center, a group that tracks extremist movements. The organization operated a network of Temples and other properties in 22 states worth an estimated $8 million; it was linked to the murder of 14 persons.

Dissenters within the group were allegedly killed on the orders of Hulon Mitchell Jr. who called himself Yahweh Ben Yahweh, Hebrew for "God, son of God." The report quotes a "senior New Mexico law enforcement official" who claimed, "Since 1992, we believe this group has been building up a tremendous arsenal for the war against whites they see coming." The Intelligence Reports adds: "Members allegedly are preparing for a race war they expect to end in black victory by the year 2000."

Mitchell was founder in the 1970s of a sect known as the Nation of Yahweh, and had formerly been associated with Elija Muhammad's Nation of Islam movement. Whereas the white racists of Christian Identity believe that the Anglo-Saxons are the lineal descendants of the lost tribes of Israel, the Nation of Yahweh reserved this status for blacks.

Ironically, Mitchell drew praises from white officials, including the Mayor of Miami, for building a business empire that owned everything from a printing shop and landscaping firm to a string of motels, boutiques, food markets and beauty salons. On Nov. 7, 1990, Yahweh Ben Yahweh was arrested along with 15 of his supporters, and indicted on a string of charges including sacrificial murder to racketeering.

According to the Boston Globe, membership in Mitchell's terrorist sect required that "an individual had to murder a 'white devil' and bring a severed body part to Mitchell as proof of the killing."

Mitchell/Yahweh received an eighteen-year sentence and a $20,000 fine. More details on the bizarre group can be found in Donna Kossy's book, "Kooks, A Guide to the Outer Limits of Human Belief" (Portland, 1994).

Unlike other Black movements, including civil rights groups or the original Black Panther Party, sects like the "Hebrew Israelites" often mirror the racism of their white counterparts in Christian Identity, and fuse this with an apocalyptic religious agenda. Suliman Hyang, an expert on black history at Howard University, says, "The racism, paranoia and millennialism that they have is very flammable. They want to take on the entire system, the entire world that they think is evil and against them. The line between reality and imagination doesn't exist for them."

Another focus of potential millennialist violence, according to "Project Megiddo" is homosexuals. Presumably, this would originate with extreme Christian and Christian Identity fundamentalists who have a record of demonizing gays and lesbians. The Post delineates "targets of domestic violence" that include "military facilities; United Nations buildings and personnel; institutions associated with the African American and Jewish communities and other racial and religious minorities; gay men and lesbians; and foreign military units residing on U.S. bases."

The reports claims: "Armed with the urgency of the millennium as a motivating factor, new clandestine groups may conceivably form to engage in violence toward the U.S. Government or its citizens..."

The FBI says that the moniker for the intelligence gathering operation -- Megiddo -- "is an apt title for a project that analyzes those who believe the year 2000 will usher in the end of world and who are willing to perpetrate acts of violence to bring that end about."

The Post and wire service reports say that while most of "Project Megiddo" focuses on the potential for domestic violence, an "entire portion" is devoted to the cultural and religious situation in Jerusalem. Anywhere between two million and six million visitors, many of them "religious pilgrims," are expected to flood the Middle East and particularly Israel in celebration of the year 2000. Some are expecting to see the Second Coming of Christ, and already Israeli officials have established a special unit under the direction of Shin Bet, the Israeli internal security service, to prepare for possible millennialist terrorism.

"The study (Project Megiddo) ... says violence in Jerusalem, a holy city for Christians, Jews and Muslims, could lead to problems in the United States and around the world," notes the Post.

The FBI report observes: "Israeli officials are extremely concerned that the Temple Mount, an area already seething with tension and distrust among Muslims and Jews, will be the stage for violent encounters between religious zealots. Additionally, several religious cults have already made inroads into Israel, apparently in preparation for what they believe to be the endtimes (sic)."

Indeed, Israeli police detained 21 people last week on suspicion that they were members of an apocalyptic group intent on carrying out acts of violence. Most of the religious pilgrims, though, while waiting for the Second Coming and other events they say are prophesied in the Bible, have no plan for religious terrorism, says James Tabor, a University of North Carolina authority on millennialist sects.

"They believe in the secret rapture, that the next thing to happen is Jesus taking them up to heaven," he told the San Francisco Chronicle. "That's a harmless view."

He added that many of the millennialists pouring into the Holy Land are "on the 50-yard line for the apocalypse."

A spokeswoman for the Israeli Consulate in San Francisco, though, told the Chronicle that "There are some Christian apocalyptic groups that have clearly demonstrated violent tendencies."

The FBI's Gallagher told the Washington Post that he will warn the International Chiefs of Police gathering that they should begin preparations for what the paper described as "the unusually wide range of interpretations people may bring to random events occurring on or near Jan. 1, 2000..." Also singled out is the "role that the Internet may play in spreading information -- or misinformation -- rapidly."

Major search engines currently yield little information on "Project Megiddo," but there have been dozens of exchanges on various discussion boards and news groups.

One writer charged that "under this report all Y2K preparers are potential terrorists," and advised others to "make sure you've stocked up on guns and ammo as well... If the government can burn down a church in Waco, kill innocent people and run over the ruins with tanks it can do the same to your house."

Another compared "Project Meggido" to "Kristalnacht," the night of terror unleashed against German Jews in the early days of the Nazi regime.

"Authoritarians are digging in for Y2K trouble in the U.S. and abroad," observed one poster. He compared the FBI warning in "Project Megiddo" to the actions of the Chinese government in its crackdown on the Falun Gong and other groups. "Why are officials in Washington and Beijing so scared of what's coming? Why are they both preparing crackdowns on dissidents in anticipation of the year 2000?" he asked.

So, how reliable is "Project Megiddo" in its warning of possible millennialist violence? Some may seem a parallel with the COINTELPRO scandal of the 1960s and 1970s, when the FBI attempted to infiltrate and provoke dissident political groups -- a program that led to congressional probes, revelations of inappropriate, even dangerous conduct by federal officials, and considerable embarrassment for the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Others may see "Project Megiddo" as good cautionary advice in a different time, as apocalyptic sects hunker down for the ultimate confrontation between good and evil.

Unfortunately, the fact that this document is being released only to a select group of government officials without public review or more open news media scrutiny suggests that we may not get the answer to this question. What is certain is that many groups see the arrival of the new millennium -- whether it is begins this New Year's Eve as popular culture dictates, or next year as a more precise and historically accurate temporal assessment requires -- as an event overflowing with eschatological, religious significance. Millions believe that we are truly entering the end times, and with a profound, even disruptive and calamitous convulsion in human affairs.

For those transfixed on that temporal odometer, the transition to the year 2000 ... and possibly the end of the world as we know it ... there are 61 days left.

For further information"
http://www.mille.org (Center for Millennial Studies)


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