25 November 1997
Thanks to Anonymous for the three articles
See USA v. Bell court docket: http://jya.com/jimbell-dock4.htm
The Columbian, November 21, 1997, Section A
TACOMA - A federal judge this morning delayed the sentencing of "Assassination Politics" author James Dalton Bell of Vancouver.
Bell, 39, who pleaded guilty in July to obstructing the Internal Revenue Service, has been in custody in Tacoma since his arrest in Vancouver last May.
In a hearing in U.S. District Court in Tacoma this morning, Bell's public defender and an assistant U.S. Attorney recommended a 6-to-12-month jail sentence for Bell as part of a plea-bargain agreement.
But federal probation officers recommended a sentence of 27 months.
In doing so, they said they were looking at the "totality" of Bell's behavior, including the threatening nature of his Internet essay, "Assassination Politics."
As a result, U.S. District Court Judge Franklin D. Burgess said he was uncomfortable with the situation. "Somehow I am getting a feeling that somebody knows more about something than I do," Burgess said.
Burgess continued the sentencing until 10:30 a.m. Dec. 12 in Tacoma.
Bell's mother, Lou Bell, told The Columbian this morning that officials are wrong in thinking her son is dangerous. "A lot of people are jumping to conclusions," Lou Bell said. "He didn't ever do anything to anybody. He just likes to debate and talk and exchange ideas."
Bell and his mother and father reside at 7214 Corregidor Road in Vancouver's McLoughlin Heights.
Last July, in his guilty plea, Bell admitted collecting the names and home addresses of IRS employees; proposing the "Assassination Politics" scheme that alluded to murdering federal employees; stink-bombing the IRS's Vancouver office with a mercaptan chemical last March; and using false Social Security numbers.
Federal agents say they were faced with a dilemma in the investigation of Bell last spring.
Should they arrest Bell for relatively minor felonies, including obstructing IRS agents, or wait and see if Bell would put his dark thoughts into real practice?
"We chose not to wait until he followed through on what we believe were plans to assassinate government employees," IRS Inspector Jeffrey Gordon said Thursday.
"We had a choice of interrupting him prior to the possibility of his killing someone or allowing him to proceed and taking a chance of someone getting hurt."
"We were extraordinarily concerned about Mr. Bell," Gordon said. "If someone had done a search warrant on Timothy McVeigh six months before Oklahoma City, what would they have found? They would have found the exact same types of things we found in the Bell case."
Although Bell is not accused of hurting anyone, Gordon also compared him to Theodore Kaczynski, the Unabomber suspect now on trial, as a highly educated person who is angry at the system.
Even after Bell serves his sentence for obstructing IRS agents and using false Social Security numbers, officials hope to keep tabs on him, Gordon said.
"In the federal system, probation can be very strict," Gordon said. "We are hopeful Mr. Bell's experience with the legal system will modify his behavior."
The Bell saga began in 1989, when the home he shared with his parents, Lou and Samuel Bell, was raided by police. Officers first said they'd found a methamphetamine lab. After further inspection, police said they'd found 10 barrels of an industrial chemical that can be used to make meth. Bell ended up pleading guilty to a misdemeanor, failure to report receiving the controlled chemical.
Gordon, the lead investigator in the current Bell case, said Bell first came to his attention in October 1996. A local law-enforcement agency said he was putting the home addresses of IRS agents on the Internet for the antigovernment "patriot" community. Bell also wrote to the IRS a year ago, asking for a tax refund and threatening to turn the matter over to an antigovernment common-law court in Portland.
He admitted attending meetings of the self-appointed "court," which agents say has put government officials on "trial" in absentia and awarded bogus "judgments."
April 1, in a surprise raid at Bell's home at 7214 Corregidor Road in Vancouver's McLoughlin Heights, the IRS seized three semi-automatic assault rifles and a handgun. The agents also confiscated deadly chemicals including sodium cyanide and an alleged nerve-gas precursor.
Several of Bell's computers also were seized. Much of Bell's writings on computers were encrypted and could not be deciphered, according to a recently unsealed court affidavit.
Bell admitted writing "Assassination Politics," the lengthy Internet essay that alluded to the proposed the murder of government employees. "Untraceable digital cash" would go to anyone, presumably the assassin, who accurately "predicted" the time of an official's murder.
As Bell himself described the plan:
"Imagine for a moment that, as ordinary citizens were watching the evening news, they see an act by a government employee or officeholder that they feel violates their rights, abuses the public's trust or misuses the powers that they feel should be limited.
"What if they could go to their computers, type in the miscreant's name, and select a dollar amount. The amount they, themselves, would be willing to pay to anyone who `predicts' that officeholder's death. That donation would be sent, encrypted and anonymously, to a central registry organization and be totaled, with the total amount available within seconds to any interested individual. If 0.1 percent of the population, or one person in a thousand, was willing to pay $1 to see some government slimeball dead, that would be, in effect, a $250,000 bounty on his head."
Bell, accused of advocating murder in his essay, said he was only theorizing and had no plan to implement the idea.
In an unsettling discovery in the April raid, however, agents said they found the home addresses of about 70 IRS employees. Gordon has described it as a "hit list."
In May, the IRS raided the Vancouver home of Bell's friend, Robert W. East, a merchant seaman. In the raid at 711 W. 20th St., agents seized computers, 16 firearms, lock-picking tools and metal-coated carbon fibers believed capable of disabling computers.
East, who allegedly discussed deadly poisons including ricin with Bell, has not been charged with any crimes.
Also in May, Bell was arrested.
In court documents, the IRS revealed a Pandora's box of insights into Bell's thoughts, writings and actions.
A friend of Bell's, Greg Daly, told agents he and Bell had "hypothetical" discussions about contaminating water supplies. Daly, a former employee of the City of Portland, said he had keys to the Portland Bull Run water-treatment plant.
Daly said Bell told him he planned to make sarin, a deadly military nerve gas, and showed him a catalog of the necessary chemicals. He said Bell experimented with deadly botulism toxin.
The Columbian, November 20, 1997, Section B
James Dalton Bell, the Vancouver man who proposed a scheme to murder federal officials, will be sentenced Friday.
Bell, 39, has been in custody since his arrest in Vancouver last May.
July 18, Bell pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court to obstructing the Internal Revenue Service and using false Social Security numbers.
His sentencing is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. before U.S. District Judge Frank Burgess in Tacoma.
The maximum sentence is five years in prison and fines up to $250,000. However, after a plea bargain, prosecutors are expected to recommend a six- to 12-month jail sentence and a fine of up to $20,000.
The actual charges against Bell are relatively minor compared to the fears he generated before and upon his arrest. Bell had been living in his parents home at 7214 Corregidor Road in Vancouvers McLoughlin Heights.
In the raids, agents said they seized firearms and chemicals including sodium cyanide and an alleged precursor to the deadly military nerve gas, sarin.
In a lengthy essay called Assassination Politics, Bell outlined a computerized system to reward people who correctly predicted the time of death of federal officials. After the murder, they were to be rewarded anonymously by untraceable digital cash.
Bell admitted writing the essay and posting it on the Internet . However, he said he was only theorizing and was a talker, not a doer.
But an assistant U.S. attorney told a judge Bell had developed a political justification for the assassination of public officials.
In April raids at Bells home, agents said they found the names and home addresses of about 70 federal agents. Bell, who frequented meetings of the Multnomah County Common Law Court, an anti-government group with no legal authority, is alleged to have told members he was trying to collect the home addresses of all IRS agents in the area.
Bell also admitted stink-bombing the Vancouver IRS office last March, using a powerful mercaptan-type chemical that caused several employees to be sent home.
Although he is not accused of actually hurting anyone, much of the evidence found in the case was deeply troubling to federal officials, who have alleged from the start that he is dangerous.
Bell's bizarre story is featured in the Nov. 17 issue of the magazine U.S. News & World Report. The story, entitled Terrorism's Next Wave, describes the threat of nerve gas and deadly germs and their potential for mass murder.
Characters like James Dalton Bell are giving federal officials fits these days, the magazine article said. Bell, they believe, is one of a new generation of tinkerers and technicians, of college-educated extremists threatening to use biological, chemical, or radiological weapons to achieve their goals.
Bell, besides allegedly trying to manufacture sarin, the nerve gas used in the 1995 Tokyo subway attack by Japanese cultists, also is alleged to have tried to make deadly botulism toxin by fermenting green beans.
Bell, a former electronics engineer, has a degree in chemistry from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
He first came to the attention of the IRS a year ago when he wrote to them asking for a tax refund and threatening to take the matter to an antigovernment common-law court.
In other alleged schemes, Bell is believed to have discussed using nickel-plated carbon fiber, which he called silent dust, to infiltrate the air and short out computers in the Portland 9-1-1 center.
See earlier John Painter report of May 20, 1997: http://jimbell2.htm
The Oregonian, November 20, 1997, p. C02
JOHN PAINTER JR. of the Oregonian Staff
Published correction ran: 11/21/97: * James Bell of Vancouver will be sentenced today in U.S. District Court in Tacoma on two felonies: interfering with a federal officer and using false Social Security numbers. A headline in a story on Thursday's Clark County page misidentified his place of residence.
Summary: James Dalton Bell faces sentencing for felonies, but an inquiry points to an assassination scheme
A man who will be sentenced in Tacoma Friday for two low-level felonies was scheming to kill more than 70 IRS employees, other federal agents and local police, his chief investigator believes.
James Dalton Bell will be sentenced by U.S. District Judge Franklin D. Burgess on the twin felonies of interfering with a federal officer and using false Social Security numbers.
On their face, the charges to which Bell, 39, has pleaded guilty appear to be relatively innocuous.
But special investigator Jeff Gordon of the IRS's internal security unit in Portland said he believes that Bell's activities were part of a far darker scheme to assassinate IRS agents and topple the U.S. government.
As part of his plea bargain, Bell has admitted compiling lists of the names and addresses of 70 IRS agents and their families, and the home addresses of FBI, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agents and police in Clark County.
Gordon said he believes evidence gathered during the Bell investigation strongly points to an assassination or murder-for-hire scheme with links to Bell's activities in the Multnomah County Common Law Court.
In January, a common law court jury heard the case of a court participant who had filed a $635,000 action against the IRS and a local judge.
Search warrant affidavits filed in the Bell investigation, including one recently unsealed in Tacoma, say that IRS employees have received "court orders" and "notices to appear and defend" that were issued by the Multnomah County Common Law Court.
Gordon said in the recently unsealed affidavit that he believed the "orders" and "notices" violated Oregon and federal criminal laws that prohibit interference with government officials performing their duties.
The investigation of Bell involved three search warrants -- for his home, and that of friend Robert East, both in Vancouver, and a home in Portland.
The newly unsealed affidavit was for the May 15 search of East's residence.
The affidavit disclosed for the first time that an undercover IRS agent was used during the Bell investigation and provided the link that led to East.
The affidavit also said that officials tied Bell to a militia group through his computer documents.
"From April 1995 to November 1995, Bell had written press releases for the Northwest Independent Militia Training Association, which met in Vancouver," the affidavit said.
As part of his plea, Bell admitted that he had gathered the names and addresses of IRS employees to intimidate them in the performance of their official duties.
Elements of the intrigue included:
* "Hypothetical" discussions about contaminating Portland's Bull Run water system with the deadly botulism toxin with a city employee who had keys to the facility.
* The manufacture of sarin nerve gas, like that used by religious fanatics in the 1995 attack on the Tokyo subway system that killed 12 and sickened more than 5,000 persons. Gordon believes that Bell, at least once, successfully made the gas from easily obtained chemicals.
* Publication on the Internet of "Assassination Politics," a 10-part essay that proposes an elaborate procedure for successfully killing government officials, including IRS agents, and avoiding identification and capture.
In the recently unsealed affidavit, Gordon said Bell wrote on his computer that, "If enough IRS agents were killed, many others would resign and the entire government would collapse. . . ."
* The short circuiting of government computers by introducing tiny nickel-coated carbon fibers into air conditioning systems of federal buildings. Bell ordered such fibers, the affidavits say.
Bell's destructive musings are the centerpiece of a report called "Terrorism's Next Wave" in the Nov. 17 issue of U.S. News & World Report. The article describes federal officials' concerns over the domestic potential for zealots and madmen using nerve gas and germs for terrorism or extortion.
The man with whom Bell had his hypothetical discussions about poisoning Portland's water supply was identified in the affidavit as Greg Daly, who worked for the Bureau of General Services, communications division, in Portland.
Among other things, the general services bureau does maintenance for Portland's radio communications, including 9-1-1, and on radio transmission towers in the Bull Run watershed area.
He confirmed such discussions to Gordon. Daly said that in the late 1980s Bell had tried a secret home experiment to make the botulism toxin from green beans.
Daly was terminated for cause in September, said Dave Kish, director of the general services bureau.
Gordon said that Bell faces no more serious charges because no evidence exists that Bell actually harmed someone.
The maximum penalty for interfering with IRS agents is three years in prison and a $250,000 fine and five years and $250,000 for using phony Social Security numbers.