Anti-Government Extremists: Lacking Explosive Expertise

An NJOHSP review of anti-government attacks in the United States indicates such groups and individuals are largely inexperienced in constructing explosive devices to conduct attacks, allowing law enforcement to disrupt their attempts in advance. Over the past five years, anti-government extremists—or individuals who assert the US political system is illegitimate and force is justified to bring about change—have attempted to execute attacks using explosives on 10 occasions, resulting in one successful attack.

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  • In August, the FBI arrested Jerry Drake Varnell—a self-proclaimed militia member—during an undercover operation when Varnell attempted to detonate what he believed to be explosives near a bank in Oklahoma City. The month before, Benjamin Don Roden placed a pipe bomb outside an Oklahoma Air Force recruiting center during off hours. The bomb exploded, but there were no injuries. 
  • In October 2016, three members of a Kansas-based militia group called “the Crusaders” plotted to attack a mosque using homemade explosives they paid an undercover FBI operative to construct. Their experience with building explosives consisted of information acquired from YouTube videos and “The Anarchist Cookbook,” according to the criminal complaint.

NJOHSP assesses that anti-government extremists will continue using small arms and readily available weapons to target law enforcement, government employees, and civilians. Since 2012, anti-government extremists have used small arms in 78 percent of incidents—five of which occurred this year.

  • In August, a self-identified sovereign citizen shot a rifle at law enforcement and highway workers after a property dispute in California. Earlier that month, authorities identified and arrested a sovereign citizen in Indiana for shooting at constables attempting to serve him with an eviction notice.
  • In June, an individual with anti-government sentiment shot a rifle at government officials practicing for the annual Congressional Baseball Game for Charity in Alexandria, Virginia, injuring six. In October, the lead prosecutor of Alexandria called the shooting an act of terrorism under Virginia law.


For more information, please contact NJOHSP's Analysis Bureau at or 609-584-4000.