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The details sounded ominously familiar: a down-and-out loner with a professed hatred of the U.S. government dreams of bombing a government building—maybe even the U.S. Capitol—then sets about procuring the ingredients to carry out his scheme.
That was the plan hatched by Tennessee farmer Demetrius Van Crocker, whose views were no secret to people who knew him. But most discounted his extremist rants as just that, the ideological ravings of a former member of the right-wing National Socialist Movement.
Then in 2004, Van Crocker’s plan crystallized—he would buy materials to build a dirty bomb to blow up a state or federal courthouse. At that point a “concerned citizen” took him seriously enough to call the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, which in turn called the FBI.
A search of Van Crocker’s home turned up components for pipe bombs, a cache of loaded weapons, and right-wing paraphernalia. It took a jury 90 minutes to convict Van Crocker in April on five counts of trying to acquire chemical weapons and explosives to destroy government buildings. He was sentenced November 28 to 30 years in prison.
The case stands as an example of how far tips from the public go toward protecting the U.S. from terrorists, abroad and at home. The undercover agent said as much: “I’m firmly convinced that had he come into possession of the right stuff he would have done something.”