Obama Assassination Plot

Reports from several Colorado sources (although, curiously, not yet WaPo or the NYT) about an assassination plot against Barack Obama has the blogosphere abuzz.

Denver’s CBS 4 appears to have broken the story:

CBS4 has learned at least four people are under arrest in connection with a possible plot to kill Barack Obama at his Thursday night acceptance speech in Denver. All are being held on either drug or weapons charges.

CBS4 Investigator Brian Maass reported one of the suspects told authorities they were “going to shoot Obama from a high vantage point using a … rifle … sighted at 750 yards.”

Law enforcement sources tell Maass that one of the suspects “was directly asked if they had come to Denver to kill Obama. He responded in the affirmative.”

The story began emerging Sunday morning when Aurora police arrested 28-year-old Tharin Gartrell. He was driving a rented pickup truck in an erratic manner according to sources.

Sources told CBS4 police found two high-powered, scoped rifles in the car along with camouflage clothing, walkie-talkies, wigs, a bulletproof vest, a spotting scope, licenses in the names of other people and 44 grams of methamphetamine. One of the rifles is listed as stolen from Kansas.

A video report is available here.

Denver’s NBC affiliate, 9NEWS, adds:

Police say it is possible there could be more arrests. They also say some of the people arrested could have ties to a white supremacy group.

NBC News has learned that federal officials are downplaying the arrests, saying when one of the men was arrested, he made a threat against Obama, but they do not believe it was based on any kind of plan or actually intent.  “It looks like one guy just made a remark trying to act important,” one federal official told NBC News.

[…]

A third man, 33-year-old Shawn Adolf of Greeley, was arrested at Cherry Creek Hotel in Glendale on Monday. NBC News reports that when police knocked on his hotel door, Adolf jumped out a sixth floor window. He landed on an awning and then jumped down to the ground, injuring himself. He ran into nearby bushes where officers apprehended him. Authorities say he had weapons.  He was taken to Denver Health Medical Center where he was treated.  Adolf was wanted on seven outstanding warrants totally more than $1 million.

Thankfully, this was apparently a false alarm. Rocky Mountain News:

The U.S. Attorney for Colorado said authorities are “absolutely confident” three men arrested on weapons and drug charges posed no threat to presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama.

Aurora Police held a news conference Monday to announce the arrests and said that during their investigation officers seized a bullet-proof vest, two rifles — one of which was stolen; another had a hunting scope — plus ammunition, drugs and walkie-talkies.

“We’re aware of the matter discussed tonight by the Aurora Police Department,” said Colorado U.S. Attorney Troy Eid in a statement late Monday night. “Federal law enforcement is working hand-in-glove with the Aurora Police Department. Because this matter is currently under investigation, there is little we can say right now.

“We can say this: We’re absolutely confident there is no credible threat to the candidate, the Democratic National Convention, or the people of Colorado.”

Of course, as Bill Clinton taught us, the key here is what the meaning of the word “is” is.  Is there no threat because these men have been caught?

Or was there no threat to begin with?

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Bithead says:

    Drudge has some upates on this. Apparently there was never any serious threat.

  2. Dave Schuler says:

    Even if the plot was more aspirational than operational IMO it’s a good thing that these characters have been arrested.

  3. James Joyner says:

    Even if the plot was more aspirational than operational IMO it’s a good thing that these characters have been arrested.

    Oh, no disagreement there. But it sounds like these are just low-lives rather than conspirators in a serious assassination plot.

  4. carpeicthus says:

    Well, if Major Terrorist Threats are people who gather to talk about taking down the Brooklyn Bridge with a blowtorch, then I guess these are deadly assassins.

  5. Dave Schuler says:

    That’s been true of the last several “Al Qaeda terrorist plots” broken up here, too. I think there’s something of a larger issue: there will always be a possible complaint about anything that resembles crime prevention.

    My own view is that it’s neither an either-or nor a slippery slope to prevent politically motivated violence. It does require judgment and oversight, however.

  6. Michael says:

    But it sounds like these are just low-lives rather than conspirators in a serious assassination plot.

    The only difference between the two definitions is whether or not they were successful.

  7. Michael says:

    Well, if Major Terrorist Threats are people who gather to talk about taking down the Brooklyn Bridge with a blowtorch, then I guess these are deadly assassins.

    Or trying to bring down the WTC with box cutters.