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The Federal Bureau of Investigation has opened a hornet’s nest of controversy over a document issued to law enforcement agencies warning of potential violence by conservative religious groups.

Project Megiddo, distributed by the FBI in late October to police chiefs internationally, is described by the FBI as a study of potential criminality “by individuals or domestic groups who attach special significance to the Year 2000.” A 32-page redacted version of the report can be viewed on the FBI’s website.

The name “Megiddo” comes from the biblical location in Israel associated with the Battle of Armageddon, the final great battle between the forces of good and evil foretold in the book of Revelation.

Sent to police chiefs throughout the country in an effort to warn them of potential difficulties they may encounter in their local areas, the controversial FBI report describes a number of Christian-based groups that ostensibly pose a violent threat to society at the start of the Year 2000. Militia organizations, fundamentalist Christians and racial separatist groups are primary targets of the report.

“Religious motivation and the NWO (New World Order) conspiracy theory are the two driving forces behind the potential for millennial violence,” the report says. “As the end of the millennium draws near, biblical prophecy and political philosophy may merge into acts of violence by the more extreme members of domestic terrorist groups that are motivated, in part, by religion.”

The report particularly warns of the dangers being presented by certain “religious extremist” groups whose objective it is to hasten the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.

“The volatile mix of apocalyptic religions and NWO conspiracy theories may produce violent acts aimed at precipitating the end of the world as prophesied in the Bible,” says Project Megiddo, which speculates that groups could commit acts of millennial terrorism within the United States.

The majority of Project Megiddo focuses on domestic threats, but a portion also deals with Jerusalem, where a number of groups are said to be preparing for the end of the world — Armageddon.

“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,” the Megiddo study says.

Possible targets of violence include military facilities, United Nations buildings, various facilities associated with Jews and blacks, homosexuals, and foreign military personnel stationed in the U.S.

“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 report speculates, although no supporting evidence of such plans is provided.

FBI: We’re only after ‘violent extremists’

“The FBI realizes that the majority of militia members engage in and support law-abiding activities,” said Greg Rampton, special agent in charge of the FBI Denver office. “However, the FBI will investigate illegal activities coming within the purview of its investigative responsibilities. In fact, the FBI is fully cognizant of the fact that some militias have taken positive steps towards ridding themselves of violent extremist elements. It is these violent extremist elements that could be violating laws which could subject them to investigations by the FBI,” Rampton added.

Although Project Megiddo was distributed to all police chiefs and the press, and made available on the FBI website, Rampton said the document was not intended for the general public and should be read with the intended law enforcement audience in mind.

“Project Megiddo is the culmination of an FBI research initiative which analyzed the potential for extremist criminal activity in the U.S. by individuals or domestic groups who attach special significance to the year 2000,” said Rampton. “In an effort to educate investigators and officials in the law enforcement community about potential violence associated with or motivated by the arrival of the Year 2000, the FBI conducted extensive research into the various ideologies and concepts which serve to motivate groups or individuals with violent agendas,” he added.

The Anti-Defamation League was quick to claim a part in the Project Megiddo document, having issued a similar report describing a threat to America from extremists.

“The approach of the third millennium and its related Y2K computer problem has provided militia groups and other anti-government extremists — sometimes loosely referred to as the ‘Patriot’ movement — with a clarion call for their followers,” warns the Anti-Defamation League in its own document, “Y2K Paranoia: Extremists Confront the Millennium.”

Interestingly, according to the Anti-Defamation League report, “One of the books that has had the greatest impact on apocalyptic, conspiracy-oriented thinking is Hal Lindsey’s The Late Great Planet Earth,” one of the most popular best-selling Christian books of all time, having sold about 30 million copies. “Lindsey told readers that the establishment of the United Nations, the creation of the State of Israel, the unrest in the Middle East, and the rise of Satanism were sure signs of the End Times. He analyzed biblical passages to prove that these events and others signaled the coming of the Antichrist. Since Lindsey’s book was published, he and those who share his beliefs have continued to point to an increasing number of signs that the end of the world is near.”

Like Project Megiddo, the Anti-Defamation League document — which also was distributed to law enforcement officials — characterizes some conservative religious and political groups as potential instigators of violence during the rollover period between 1999 and 2000.

“John Trochmann, co-founder of the Militia of Montana (M.O.M.), does not fault the government for creating the problem,” says the ADL report. “He merely fears the results. On the M.O.M. website, he refers repeatedly to ‘secret’ reports issued by military branches of the U.S. Government which assess the potential fallout from Y2K on major American cities. He claims that both the Army and the Navy have kept these reports secret in a coordinated effort to make sure that Americans remain unprepared: ‘Folks, the deception has just been blown away. Branches of the U.S. government have known, apparently for quite some time, that Y2K was likely to result in major infrastructure failures in highly populated cities. They deliberately withheld this information from the American people,’” claims the ADL report.

WorldNetDaily contacted Trochmann, who denied he has any plans for violence of any kind, during the Year 2000 or at any other time, and suggested the Anti-Defamation League and the FBI are looking for a scapegoat.

“They blamed the Oklahoma bombing on us, and they’ll do the same thing again if anything happens,” said Trochmann.

The ADL also faults organizations for selling information about the Y2K computer bug and preparedness supplies for “profiteering,” and is highly critical of groups predicting major problems due to Y2K.

Rampton admits that the Anti-Defamation League provides information to the FBI for investigations, but denies the organization had a role in the writing of the Project Megiddo document.

Groups demand hearings, answers from FBI

The negative focus on Christians in the FBI report has raised widespread concerns. In fact, a consortium of 32 organizations are demanding that House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., “obtain a copy of the classified version of the report and pursue hearings.”

The organizations ask the FBI to explain why, since terrorist acts have been committed by the political left — the Unabomber, for example — how does the FBI determine that the religious right is a threat? Other questions directed to the FBI include: How does the bureau distinguish between the religious right and “extremists,” what other organizations are listed in the “classified” version of the Project Megiddo report, and was the Project Megiddo report authored, in whole or in part, by outside left-wing advocacy groups like the Anti-Defamation League and the Southern Poverty Law Center.

While voicing alarm, many Christians acknowledge Megiddo cuts both ways. Lisa S. Dean of the Center for Technology of the Free Congress Foundation expressed concern that the FBI is “one of the most politicized agencies under Bill Clinton,” and is worried that there may actually be a genuine domestic terrorism threat that could end up being blamed on peaceful, law-abiding Christians by inference.

“The FBI should be concerned about terrorism and have mechanisms in place to combat it. If they keep fanatics, ‘Christian’ and non-Christian alike, from committing acts of domestic terrorism, they will be doing legitimate believers across the nation a great service. If they do not succeed, domestic terrorists, in the name of Christianity, may end up ushering in an era of Christian persecution, unseen since the days of the Roman Empire,” Dean predicted.

“This presents a problem for the rest of us believers, because if these individuals and groups who call themselves Christian and who seek to hasten the Second Coming are not kept in check, it will spill over and reflect upon all Christians in general. Just as those who were responsible for the bombings in Oklahoma City hurt responsible militia groups and caused many, who have a legitimate suspicion of government, to become suspect by that government, so also will fanatical Christians impact on legitimate believers.”

Dean said she is concerned that “Christian” may soon become a “dirty word.”

Since Project Megiddo has been described in various news reports as containing varying numbers of pages, many now surmise there is more than one version of the document. An FBI spokesman confirmed that the version on the FBI’s website is 8 to 10 pages shorter than the “classified” law enforcement version.

Looking for a fight?

“Those that would take away our rights are using the violence in our schools and other places as a vehicle to promote their agendas,” said retired Coos County, Oregon Sheriff Michael E. Cook, commenting on Megiddo. Like many, Cook believes the government has an agenda to demonize gun-owners and create a climate conducive to the eventual confiscation of privately-owned firearms.

“I will tell you this right now, if they try to take firearms from most of the gun-owners I know, including me, it will be another civil war here in America. The last one had a high body count, and this one will be even higher. There will be law enforcement officers, military personnel and civilians lost in this war. This is one fight I am not looking forward to and I know it will destroy America,” said Cook.

But it doesn’t have to happen, he added, if corrupt politicians can be removed from office or arrested.

Cook and others like him believe there is an effort to create a violent conflict. He does not plan to attack anyone or anything, he says, but simply plans to defend what he sees as his right to private ownership of firearms.

Are the plans of millions of Americans to be prepared for Y2K disruptions — and to provide for their self-defense if necessary — being interpreted by the FBI and major advocacy groups like the Anti-Defamation League as evidence that violence is intended or planned by the individuals or groups?

“Millennial cults, extremist groups and racial ideologues this year are bringing their assorted baggage to the Y2K happening,” said Abraham H. Foxman, the Anti-Defamation League’s national director. “The heightened expectations of the year 2000, mixed together with the widely reported possibility of computer meltdown, have generated a barrage of predictions and hysterical propaganda from those on the farthest fringes of society. While not all of these groups call for explicit action, many of their followers are hoping, expecting or preparing for the worst. We can only hope that these people will not act rashly or violently on their fears and expectations.”

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