BIRMINGHAM, Ala (Reuters) - An Alabama blogger whose online novel was cited as inspiration for four Georgia men’s alleged plot to kill federal employees said on Thursday he had no connection to them and doubted they posed any real threat to the public.
Federal authorities arrested the four men, aged 65 to 73, this week and accused them of being members of a domestic fringe militia group that planned attacks using explosives and the deadly biological toxin ricin.
A federal grand jury indicted the men on Thursday. Frederick Thomas, 73, and Emory Dan Roberts, 67, were charged with conspiracy to possess an unregistered explosive device and possession of an unregistered silencer, court records show.
Samuel J. Crump, 68, and Ray H. Adams, 65, were charged with conspiracy to possess and produce a biological toxin and attempted production of a biological toxin.
The FBI said Thomas, described as the group’s leader, wanted to model their actions on the novel “Absolved,” in which small groups of citizens attack federal law enforcement officers and federal judges.
But the novel’s author, former militiaman Mike Vanderboegh, derided the group as the “Georgia Geriatric Gang” and said they misinterpreted the intent of his book.
“There is no mention of ricin. No mention of weapons of mass destruction. No non-targeted assassinations,” Vanderboegh told Reuters.
Thomas said he had compiled a “bucket list” of government employees, politicians, corporate leaders and media members he felt needed to be “taken out” to “make the country right again,” according to court documents.
Vanderboegh said writing about a fictitious civil war was his way of preventing a real one, using the scenario in his book as a warning of how people will rebel if federal laws continue to erode their personal liberty.
“If you want to maintain your liberty, the first thing you don’t engage in is Fort Sumters and Oklahoma Citys,” said Vanderboegh, 59.
Fort Sumter in South Carolina is where the first shots of the American Civil War were fired in 1861, and Oklahoma City was the site of the 1995 bombing of a federal building by Timothy McVeigh that killed 168 people.
A right-wing blogger on a site called Sipsey Street Irregulars, Vanderboegh regularly skewers the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and other government agencies.
Last year, he was denounced for his call for people to pelt their local Democratic headquarters’ windows with rocks to protest President Barack Obama’s health care bill.
Vanderboegh, who has served as a Minuteman on the U.S.-Mexican border, is retired and lives on disability checks in Pinson, Alabama, outside of Birmingham. He has been called “The Gray Eminence of the Constitutional Militia,” a title he prefers due to his full head of gray hair.
Vanderboegh said he was skeptical of whether the four jailed Georgia suspects were even capable of acts of domestic terrorism.
He also expressed suspicion about the credibility of the FBI’s confidential informant, who assisted authorities by recording the group’s conversations over many months this year. Court records note the informant faces pending state felony charges and gave “less-than-truthful responses” about the militia group’s activities during a polygraph test.
“They are old codgers who talk real big and got talked into foolishness by an FBI informant who could not pass a lie detector test,” Vanderboegh said.
Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Cynthia Johnston