Frazier Glenn Miller, the 73-year-old suspect in Sunday’s fatal shooting of three people outside a Jewish Community Center near Kansas City, Mo., has a decadeslong record of virulent white supremacism and anti-Semitism. He went to prison in the 1980s for weapons charges and for plotting to kill Morris Dees, founder of the Southern Poverty Law Center. In the same decade, Miller founded the Carolina Knights of the Ku Klux Klan and the White Patriot Party. Running for senate in Missouri in 2010, he talked about his views with Howard Stern (our politicians “are all a bunch of whores for Israel”), and he talked to Talking Points Memo in 2012 (“Jews call the shots. But white people, we have no power at all").
Miller called out, “Heil Hitler!” after being escorted into a cop car on Sunday afternoon, and the investigating authorities are treating the shootings as a hate crime. None of the victims were Jewish, but the local police chief said of Miller, “We believe that his motivation was to attack a Jewish facility.” He was charged with murder on Tuesday.
So why didn’t anyone stop him?
The answer is that you can’t arrest someone until you know he is plotting to commit a crime. (The other way lies thought police and Minority Report.) Despite all the evidence that Miller hated Jews, there’s no evidence, so far, that Miller was conspiring with other people to commit last weekend’s shootings. Still, there was plenty of evidence that he might have wanted to, which is why it’s surprising that, despite Miller’s history, the government wasn’t keeping tabs on him. “The fact of the matter is that little attention is paid by federal law enforcement to white supremacism as a trigger for domestic terrorism,” Heidi Beirich, director of the Intelligence Project for the Southern Poverty Law Center, told me over the phone. The SPLC had Miller on its tracking list for hate groups and extremists, but it’s a nonprofit organization with no law enforcement power. “I was a little shocked when someone told me local law enforcement had never even heard of him.”
According to Peter Bergen and David Sterman of CNN, “since 9/11 extremists affiliated with a variety of far-right wing ideologies, including white supremacists, anti-abortion extremists and anti-government militants, have killed more people in the United States than have extremists motivated by al Qaeda’s ideology”—34 deaths to 23. Yet Beirich says the government has remained focused on Islamic groups. “You’d want this guy to be on your radar,” she said. But “the Department of Homeland Security doesn’t have a domestic security intel op anymore.” After a DHS report about right-wing extremism leaked in 2009, the backlash from conservatives led the agency to withdraw it. DHS hasn’t issued another report on the topic since. That means “we are more vulnerable,” says Daryl Johnson, the former DHS official who wrote the report and has since left the agency.
Under the name “Rounder,” Miller posted more than 12,000 times on the supremacist Vanguard News Network. He also gave the news site money, Beirich says, and helped with distribution. “He was not just an Internet warrior,” she told me. “He was out on the streets for them.” Update, April 16, 2014: Since my original reporting for this piece, the Southern Poverty Law Center has posted audio of Beirich talking to Miller.
This built on a lifetime of similar activism. In the early 1980s, when Miller started his Carolina Knights group in North Carolina, the Southern Poverty Law Center brought a civil lawsuit against him and the group for harassing and pointing guns at black people, and also white people who were friends with black people. The suit resulted in a 1985 consent decree that blocked Miller and the groups from operating a “paramilitary organization” and from harassing, intimidating, threatening, or harming “any black person or white person who associates with black persons.” But according to the SPLC, Miller kept at it, changing his group’s name to the White Patriot Party. He was found guilty of violating the consent order, sentenced to six months in prison, and barred for three years from associating with members of his group or other racist groups.