[JURIST] A federal grand jury in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan [official website] on Monday returned a five-count indictment [text, PDF] against nine suspected members of the Hutaree "militia" group accused of plotting to kill police officers. The group members allegedly planned to kill [AP report] Michigan law enforcement officers by, among other methods, making phony 911 calls and ambushing those who responded. The members then planned to attack the funeral processions of the fallen officers. The charges against the nine individuals include seditious conspiracy, attempted use of weapons of mass destruction, teaching the use of explosive materials and possessing a firearm during a crime of violence. The FBI announced that eight of the nine members of the group are in custody [press release] and had been indicted, and the ninth member is a currently at-large. Andrew Arena, the Special Agent in Charge, commented on the national interest in these arrests, saying, "[t]he FBI takes such extremist groups seriously, especially those who would target innocent citizens and the law enforcement officers who protect the citizens of the United States." One of the counts of the indictment, attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction, carries a possible sentence of life in prison.
Right-wing nativist and so-called "patriot" anti-government militias such as the Hutaree are on the rise in the US, and a recent report by the Simon Wiesenthal Center [advocacy website] suggests that a lack of regulation on the Internet [JURIST report] is fueling this increased prevalence. A report by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) [advocacy website], released last year, noted that these groups are making a comeback [JURIST report] after declining in number for a number of years. The SPLC said that such groups are generally anti-tax, anti-immigration, and increasingly racially motivated since the election of the country's first African-American president, Barack Obama. The SPLC also warned that these groups could soon pose a security risk to the country, quoting one official as saying “[a]ll it's lacking is a spark. I think it's only a matter of time before you see threats and violence."