When most Americans think of terrorism, they think of the thousands of Americans who perished on Sept. 11, 2001 at the hands of foreign-born nationals.
But the arrest of 36-year-old survivalist Eric Rudolph, wanted in connection with the bombing at the 1996 Olympics and attacks on abortion clinics, reminds us that there are a number of home-grown extremists in the United States, as well. Equally disturbing is the anti-government sentiment in Rudolph's North Carolina haunts — sentiments that very possibly enabled him to evade authorities for five years.
Rudolph, of course, is innocent until proven guilty. Considering that one man was falsely accused of the bombing at Atlanta's Centennial Olympic Park that killed a woman and injured 111 people, federal prosecutors must go to great lengths to ensure Rudolph's cases are handled with the utmost care and professionalism.
Rudolph is also accused in the attack of an abortion clinic in Birmingham, Ala., that killed an off-duty police officer and severely wounded a nurse, and two attacks in Atlanta, the bombing of an abortion center in Atlanta and an attack at a gay nightclub.
Some media reports speculate that Rudolph was aided by underground white supremacists who shared his abhorrence of abortion, interracial marriage and homosexuality. Some experts believe Rudolph was helped by a support group in the North Carolina hills who fed and clothed him as he eluded authorities.
While some may have shared Rudolph's ideology, they should have recognized that his methods of terror were no different, really, than those of the Oklahoma City federal building bombers or the international terrorists who felled the World Trade Center towers, crashed into the Pentagon and commandeered the commercial jet that crashed in rural Pennsylvania.
After millions had been spent on the federal manhunt for Rudolph, it was plain, old-fashioned police work that resulted in his arrest. A 21-year-old patrolman with the Murphy, N.C., police department thought he had spotted a probable burglar behind a Save-A-Lot grocery store. Little did Officer Jeffrey Postell know that the suspect was the most notorious fugitive on the FBI's most-wanted list.
Now that Rudolph is in the hands of federal prosecutors, they must work carefully and deliberately to bring him to justice for the crimes of which he is accused. Like-minded people must be made to understand this nation's system of justice and that the nation's sense of human decency will not tolerate those who act on their hate in this manner.