Project Megiddo was a report researched and written by the United States’ Federal Bureau of Investigation under Director Louis Freeh. Released on October 20, 1999, the report named followers of white supremacy, Christian Identity, the militia movement, Black Hebrew Israelites, and apocalyptic cults as potential terrorists who might become violent in reaction to the new millennium.
The report began:
“For over four thousand years, MEGIDDO, a hill in northern Israel, has been the site of many battles. Ancient cities were established there to serve as a fortress on the plain of Jezreel to guard a mountain pass. As Megiddo was built and rebuilt, one city upon the other, a mound or hill was formed. The Hebrew word “Armageddon” means “hill of Megiddo.” In English, the word has come to represent battle itself. The last book in the New Testament of the Bible designates Armageddon as the assembly point in the apocalyptic setting of God’s final and conclusive battle against evil. The name “Megiddo” is an apt title for a project that analyzes those who believe the year 2000 will usher in the end of the world and who are willing to perpetrate acts of violence to bring that end about.”
The report’s purpose was to warn other domestic law enforcement agencies to “the potential for extremist criminal activity in the United States by individuals or domestic groups who attach special significance to the year 2000.” The report also stated: “The threat posed by extremists as a result of perceived events associated with the Year 2000 is very real. The volatile mix of apocalyptic religious and (New World Order) conspiracy theories may produce violent acts aimed a precipitating the end of the world as prophesied in the Bible.”
The groups named as “potentially violent” were “biblically-driven cults,” “militias, adherents of racist belief systems such as Christian Identity and Wotanism, and other radical domestic extremists.” Regarding the “biblically-driven cults”, the report warned that: “less time spent on ‘Bible study’ and more time spent on “physical training” – indicate that the cult may be preparing for some type of action.” The report ends by discussing the possibility of terrorist attacks in the city of Jerusalem, saying, “The extreme terrorist fringes of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam are all present in the United States. Thus, millennial violence in Jerusalem could conceivably lead to violence in the United States as well.”
Insight on the News commented, “In a polemic presented as a threat report, the FBI has targeted religious groups and rightwing eccentrics as potential terrorists likely to go postal as the new millennium arrives…Even at the height of the Cold War during the seventies and eighties the FBI was not allowed to pursue openly declared revolutionary Marxists in this way, being required by the courts to show cause by establishing an actual attempt to commit illegal acts.”
The American Civil Liberties Union cited Project Megiddo in its defense of filmmaker Mike Zieper, whose film about a military takeover of Times Square was removed from the Internet due to FBI pressure. On November 10, 1999, the International Asatru-Odinic Alliance accused the FBI of violating its First Amendment rights to freedom of religion, free speech, and peaceful assembly. The reason given for this accusation was the propagation of “numerous false statements and innuendos” about Odinism in the Project Megiddo report.
On January 6, 2000, U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno said in response to a question at a news conference asking why the terrorist acts predicted in the report did not happen:
“I think that speculation as to why it didn’t — it — the nice answer would be that there was no threat. What we must all do, I think, is make sure that we pursue situations, consistent with the law, consistent with due process; that we take reasonable precautions; that we — when we have specific information that can inform the American people, that we advise them; and that America proceed in the way it has always proceeded, that it won’t back down, that it won’t be intimidated, that it will take reasonable precautions, and that we will see our laws honored.”
Executive summary, with hyperlink to the full text
On 1999-OCT-20, The FBI announced a report called “Project Megiddo”. It is intended to alert U.S. law enforcement to what they describe is “the potential for extremist criminal activity in the United States by individuals or domestic groups who attach special significance to the year 2000.” An accompanying FBI statement mentioned that “The threat posed by extremists as a result of perceived events associated with the Year 2000 (Y2K) is very real. The volatile mix of apocalyptic religious and (New World Order) conspiracy theories may produce violent acts aimed a precipitating the end of the world as prophesied in the Bible…” Their concept is that by creating widespread instances massive destruction, violence, and death, that the end of the world will be precipitated. This is not a new phenomenon within Christianity. Very similar beliefs were held during the time of the Roman Empire.
Data for the report were collected over a nine-month period of intensive intelligence gathering by the domestic terrorism unit of the FBI, The report is “considered so sensitive and secret that it will not be made public.” Fortunately, the Center for studies on New Religions (CESNUR) obtained a copy and placed it on the Internet. 4
We were surprised that the FBI included a hyperlink to our essay “Factors commonly found in doomsday cults.” as a footnote to Page 28.
The FBI report’s executive summary follows:
For over four thousand years, MEGIDDO, a hill in northern Israel, has been the site of many battles. Ancient cities were established there to serve as a fortress on the plain of Jezreel to guard a mountain pass. As Megiddo was built and rebuilt, one city upon the other, a mound or hill was formed. The Hebrew word “Armageddon” means “hill of Megiddo.” In English, the word has come to represent battle itself. The last book in the New Testament of the Bible designates Armageddon as the assembly point in the apocalyptic setting of God’s final and conclusive battle against evil. The name “Megiddo” is an apt title for a project that analyzes those who believe the year 2000 will usher in the end of the world and who are willing to perpetrate acts of violence to bring that end about.
1. EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
The year 2000 is being discussed and debated at all levels of society. Most of the discussions regarding this issue revolve around the topic of technology and our society’s overwhelming dependence on the multitude of computers and computer chips which make our world run smoothly. However, the upcoming millennium also holds important implications beyond the issue of computer technology. Many extremist individuals and groups place some significance on the next millennium, and as such it will present challenges to law enforcement at many levels. The significance is based primarily upon either religious beliefs relating to the Apocalypse or political beliefs relating to the New World Order (NWO) conspiracy theory. 5 The challenge is how well law enforcement will prepare and respond.
The following report, entitled “Project Megiddo,” is intended to analyze the potential for extremist criminal activity in the United States by individuals or domestic extremist groups who profess an apocalyptic view of the millennium or attach special significance to the year 2000. The purpose behind this assessment is to provide law enforcement agencies with a clear picture of potential extremism motivated by the next millennium. The report does not contain information on domestic terrorist groups whose actions are not influenced by the year 2000.
There are numerous difficulties involved in providing a thorough analysis of domestic security threats catalyzed by the new millennium. Quite simply, the very nature of the current domestic terrorism threat places severe limitations on effective intelligence gathering and evaluation. Ideological and philosophical belief systems which attach importance, and possibly violence, to the millennium have been well-articulated. From a law enforcement perspective, the problem therefore is not a lack of understanding of motivating ideologies: The fundamental problem is that the traditional focal point for counterterrorism analysis — the terrorist group — is not always well-defined or relevant in the current environment.
The general trend in domestic extremism is the terrorist’s disavowal of traditional, hierarchical, and structured terrorist organizations. Even well-established militias, which tend to organize along military lines with central control, are characterized by factionalism and disunity. While several “professional” terrorist groups still exist and present a continued threat to domestic security, the overwhelming majority of extremist groups in the United States have adopted a fragmented, leaderless structure where individuals or small groups act with autonomy. Clearly, the worst act of domestic terrorism in United States history was perpetrated by merely two individuals: Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols. In many cases, extremists of this sort are extremely difficult to identify until after an incident has occurred. Thus, analysis of domestic extremism in which the group serves as the focal point of evaluation has obvious limitations.
The Project Megiddo intelligence initiative has identified very few indications of specific threats to domestic security. Given the present nature of domestic extremism, this is to be expected. However, this is a function of the limitations of the group-oriented model of counterterrorism analysis and should not be taken necessarily as reflective of a minor or trivial domestic threat. Without question, this initiative has revealed indicators of potential violent activity on the part of extremists in this country. Militias, adherents of racist belief systems such as Christian Identity and Odinism, and other radical domestic extremists are clearly focusing on the millennium as a time of action. Certain individuals from these various perspectives are acquiring weapons, storing food and clothing, raising funds through fraudulent means, procuring safe houses, preparing compounds, surveying potential targets, and recruiting new converts. These and other indicators are not taking place in a vacuum, nor are they random or arbitrary. In the final analysis, while making specific predictions is extremely difficult, acts of violence in commemoration of the millennium are just as likely to occur as not. In the absence of intelligence that the more established and organized terrorist groups are planning millennial violence as an organizational strategy, violence is most likely to be perpetrated by radical fringe members of established groups. For example, while Aryan Nations leader Richard Butler publicly frowns on proactive violence, adherents of his religion or individual members of his organization may commit acts of violence autonomously.
Potential cult-related violence presents additional challenges to law enforcement. The potential for violence on behalf of members of biblically-driven cults is determined almost exclusively by the whims of the cult leader. Therefore, effective intelligence and analysis of such cults requires an extensive understanding of the cult leader. Cult members generally act to serve and please the cult leader rather than accomplish an ideological objective. Almost universally, cult leaders are viewed as messianic in the eyes of their followers. Also, the cult leader’s prophecies, preachings, orders, and objectives are subject to indiscriminate change. Thus, while analysis of publicly stated goals and objectives of cults may provide hints about their behavior and intentions, it is just as likely to be uninformed or, at worst, misleading. Much more valuable is a thorough examination of the cult leader, his position of power over his followers, and an awareness of the responding behavior and activity of the cult. Sudden changes in activity – for example, less time spent on “Bible study” and more time spent on “physical training” – indicate that the cult may be preparing for some type of action.
The millennium holds special significance for many, and as this pivotal point in time approaches, the impetus for the initiation of violence becomes more acute. Several religiously motivated groups envision a quick, fiery ending in an apocalyptic battle. Others may initiate a sustained campaign of terrorism in the United States to prevent the NWO. Armed with the urgency of the millennium as a motivating factor, new clandestine groups may conceivably form to engage in violence toward the U.S. Government or its citizens.
Most importantly, this analysis clearly shows that perceptions matter. The perceptions of the leaders and followers of extremist organizations will contribute much toward the ultimate course of action they choose. For example, in-depth analysis of Y2K compliancy on the part of various key sectors that rely on computers has determined that, despite a generally positive outlook for overall compliance, there will be problem industries and minor difficulties and inconveniences. 1 If they occur, these inconveniences are likely to cause varying responses by the extreme fringes. Members of various militia groups, for example, have identified potentially massive power failures as an indication of a United Nations-directed NWO takeover. While experts have indicated that only minor brownouts will occur, various militias are likely to perceive such minor brownouts as indicative of a larger conspiracy. 2
The Senate Special Committee on the Year 2000 Technology Problem has stated that some state and local governments could be unprepared, including the inability to provide benefits payments. 3 This could have a significant impact in major urban areas, resulting in the possibility for civil unrest. Violent white supremacists are likely to view such unrest as an affirmation of a racist, hate-filled world view. Likewise, militia members who predict the implementation of martial law in response to a Y2K computer failure would become all the more fearful.
“U.S. Congress, Senate, Special Committee on the Year 2000 Technology Problem, Investigating the Impact of the Year 2000 Problem,” February 24, 1996, pp. 1-6.
Ibid, p. 3.
Ibid. p. 5.
The full text of the Megiddo Report is online at the Cesnur web site at: http://www.cesnur.org/testi/FBI_004.htm and on the FBI site at http://www.fbi.gov
CLICK HERE TO READ THE FULL MEGIDDO REPORT