20 May 1997
Source: Fax from John Painter, Jr.

The Oregonian, May 20, 1997, Metro Section P-1:

IRS says suspect discussed sabotage

An affidavit says a Vancouver man arrested Friday talked of sabotaging Portland's 9-1-1 computer and Bull Run water

By John Painter, Jr., of the Oregonian staff

Vancouver, Wash. -- A Vancouver man arrested Friday by Internal Revenue agents discussed sabotaging the computers in Portland's 9-1-1 center and talked about using a botulism toxin to contaminate the Bull Run water supply, a federal agent said Monday.

James Dalton Bell, 38, appeared Monday afternoon in U.S. District Court in Tacoma and was accused in an 18-page affidavit of scheming to overthrow the U.S. government.

U.S. Magistrate J. Kelly Arnold set Friday for a detention and preliminary hearing. The government has asked that Bell be held without bail because he is a danger to the community.

Bell, who describes himself as a libertarian, has a history of tax disputes with the IRS, which says Bell "has a large, outstanding unpaid balance."

Bell is the author of "Assassination Politics," a 10-part essay about a risk-free way of rewarding assassins who successfully kill designated public officials. The essay has circulated on the Internet.

The strategy, which Bell says he wrote and posted for discussion, involves uses of encryption to predict and confirm assassinations and electronic digital cash to pay for the killings.

Federal agents raided Bell's Vancouver home April 1.

He is accused of obstructing government officers and employees and using false Social Security numbers. But government agents think he is far more dangerous than the charges suggest, the affidavit filed by IRS Inspector Phillip G. Scott said.

Scott's affidavit said Bell, who has a chemistry degree from the Massaschusetts Institute of Technology, had discussions about using carbon fiber particles to attack computer systems with Greg Daly, a friend who is an electronics specialist overseeing Portland's 9-1-1 communications center.

"Daly stated that he and Bell had 'laughed' about attacking the 9-1-1 center with fiber," the affidavit said.

Daly also told IRS agents that he had hypothetical discussions with Bell about contaminating water supplies and about making botulism toxin from green beans, the affidavit said.

In the April 17 and 18 interviews with IRS agents, Daly said that as part of his job, he "has keys and direct access to the Portland Bull Run water treatment facility."

Daly said Monday that the conversations that he and Bell had were merely "intellectual fun-and-games discussions" between old friends who enjoy technical things.

"There's a difference between reasonable freedom of speech and unreasonable probability of attack," Daly said. "Standing around and flapping our lips about how it would be funny is way different from even contemplating actual attack."

Daly described his friend of 15 years as a "bit of an odd unit" but never dangerous and never serious about attacking the 9-1-1 systems or the Bull Run watershed.

"I'd rat him out in a heartbeat for that," Daly said.

Thursday, IRS agents searched the home of Robert East, a merchant radioman and a friend of Bell's. Among items seized was 3-foot length of carbon fiber.

The affidavit said East told agents that he and Bell had discussed "the possibility of putting the fibers down the air vents of a federal building" to kill its computers and about using the fiber against the IRS.

However, Bell has described himself as a "man of ideas, not action," and East said Bell was a "talker, not a doer."


Thanks to John Painter and The Oregonian. 

See April 3 story on James Bell.