Group: MLK parade bomb suspect was avid neo-Nazi

AP News
|
Posted: Mar 11, 2011 5:27 AM
Group: MLK parade bomb suspect was avid neo-Nazi

When a bomb was found along the route of the Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade in Spokane, some law officers suspected a possible white supremacist link. Now, an organization that tracks hate groups says the man charged this week in the failed attack was an avid contributor to a supremacist Internet forum and a reputed member of a neo-Nazi group.

The Southern Poverty Law Center said Thursday that Kevin Harpham, 36, made more than 1,000 postings on the Vanguard News Network site, many of them under a pseudonym.

Harpham was arrested Wednesday after being charged with one count of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction and one count of possessing an unregistered explosive in a case that raised worries that racist activities may be on the rise again in the Inland Northwest. Spokane and adjacent northern Idaho for several decades had been home to hate groups, although activities by such groups have dropped dramatically in recent years.

Harpham remained in the Spokane County Jail after waiving bail during a Wednesday court appearance.

Three city workers discovered the backpack bomb on a bench just before the start of the Jan. 17 parade, and it was defused without incident.

U.S. Attorney Mike Ormsby in Spokane said his office is reviewing copies of the Internet postings, and will decide if they should be included in the upcoming indictment process, perhaps under hate-crime laws.

Harpham's lawyer, federal public defender Roger Peven, said he has heard about the Internet postings, but had not seen them. He said he would not be surprised if prosecutors altered the original charges.

"I would expect that what we see in the complaint is not necessarily what we will see in an indictment," Peven said.

The authenticity of the Web postings could not be immediately confirmed, but two factors pointed to Harpham as their author. In one 2008 posting, someone wrote as "Kevin Harpham" seeking technical assistance in accessing his "Joe Snuffy" account.

The other factor, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, was that in one post, well-known white supremacist Glenn Miller wished the account's owner a happy birthday _ on Harpham's actual birthday, May 1. "Happy Birthday Joe Snuffy!!!" that posting said.

The website's administrator did not return e-mails from The Associated Press seeking comment.

Harpham apparently contributed financially to Miller's white nationalist newspaper, The Aryan Alternative, said Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center. In 2007, Miller wrote to Harpham on the Vanguard News Network, "You rank among the top 5-6 VNN'ers in total amount of money contributed."

In 2006, "Joe Snuffy" posted in response to video footage of anti-racists protesting white supremacists in Germany, saying it nearly made him snap. The post complained that the police cared only about the protesters and "turned their loaded guns on the neo-Nazis."

"Videos like that bring me closer to it every time I watch them," the post said. "Fear of death is the only thing stopping me and it is a fear that is hard to get over if you can relate to that."

Potok said racists often use pseudonyms to hide their identities from employers and others.

A writing from last year that was attributed to Harpham expressed his disappointment that the race-war novel "The Turner Diaries," by the founder of the National Alliance, William Pierce, did not include plans for making a bomb. Harpham was a member of the National Alliance in 2004, the Southern Poverty Law Center said.

But Erich Gliebe, chairman of the National Alliance, based in Hillsboro, W.Va., has said Harpham is not a member.

The FBI agent in charge of the Spokane office, Frank Harrill, said Thursday that bomb technicians' decision to disable the explosive, rather than detonate it, helped lead to Harpham's arrest. Investigators were able to obtain evidence from the bomb itself, he said.

He declined to specify what type of evidence was taken from the bomb.

"The explosive disposal unit here in Spokane displayed an extraordinary amount of expertise and courage that enabled us to process a complete device," Harrill said.

By all indications, the Army veteran lived a quiet life on 10 acres of land north of Addy in rural Stevens County. Property records show he bought the land in 1997 and built a small house in 2007.

Harpham served from 1996 to 1999 as a fire support specialist with the Army's 1st Battalion, 37th Field Artillery Regiment at what is now Joint Base Lewis-McChord, said base spokesman Joseph Piek, who emphasized that Harpham ended his service 12 years ago.

The government's evidence will be presented to a federal grand jury on March 22. If they indict Harpham, an arraignment will be held the next day and a trial date will be set. If Harpham is not indicted, a probable cause hearing is scheduled on March 23, where federal agents must testify about the evidence they have to support the charges.

___

Johnson reported from Seattle.