Bombs: Away

Rachel Maddow, the FBI and Aryans: brought together by the thwarted bomb.


Spokane’s backpack bomb has been shipped to an FBI lab in Quantico, Va., but word of the explosive device has made news-briefs pages around the world. And that’s about it — tiny blips buried somewhere in the first section of the paper.

Rachel Maddow, a popular host on MSNBC, is not happy about this.

“I still do not know why this is not a national story,” she told her million viewers. “This was the real deal and so far it has barely made a national ripple. Page A15 of the New York Times today, one wire service report.”

The Times wasn’t the only paper to run it small. The Washington Post, Time, the Guardian, the Los Angeles Times, the Malaysia Sun — all of them ran stories with the barest facts. An explosive device that could have killed multiple people was placed near the route for that day’s Martin Luther King Day parade in Spokane, but was neutralized.

The small bits online usually came with some snarky comments. “Whatever happened to the calibre of terrorist who supposedly pulled off 911 whilst living in a cave,” asked someone from Perth, Australia, on the London Daily Mail’s article. “Either things are going downhill in the terrorist world or there are more to these stories than the headlines.”

But what Maddow was looking for was some analysis.

She might have liked what she saw on The Nation’s website, which attacked ABC for its “restrained” coverage of the explosive device. Specifically, the progressive magazine went at the network because it didn’t mention “a connection between the bomb and the purpose of the parade.”

It goes on to say that we must connect “the dots between Spokane, Tucson, the rise of an extremist American Right and, yes, the uptick in violent rhetoric that feeds it.”

Is this a conspiracy? Or is it just that nobody is covering it because what could have been huge, horrible news turned out to be just the opposite? (Nicholas Deshais)


It makes sense that Spokane would be a bit jumpy, especially since no one has been arrested for the MLK Day bomb, and so it may not be entirely surprising that at least four suspicious packages were reported in the following week.

One was a suitcase left on a sidewalk.

Inside was women’s clothing. Later, someone spotted a metal coffee mug, thought it was suspiciously heavy and called police. Inside was, well, coffee.

“I hate calling them false alarms,” police spokeswoman Jen DeRuwe says. “They’re not really false. They certainly had indications they could be [dangerous].”

And the appearance of more bomb scares lately may be due in part to increased media attention.

“We respond a lot more than people realize,” DeRuwe says. Last year the Explosives Device Unit responded to 97 calls — nearly two a week. (Daniel Walters)


Frank Harrill, the senior agent in the Spokane FBI office, has this to say about the investigation into the backpack bomb case: “There isn’t much I can say publicly about that.”

On Jan. 18 about the detonation mechanism: “I can’t get into that.”

On race as a targeting factor: “It is too early to ascribe a particular motive … At the same time it is inescapable: the confluence of the march and the device placement. We are treating this as an individual act of domestic terrorism.”

On Jan. 20, asked about anonymous sources in news accounts saying the bomb was “the worst” in terms of deadliness: “That is hyperbolic. Recall, too, Oklahoma City.”

Again, on whether the bomb had a remote detonator: “I cannot comment on the method to which the device might have been actuated or detonated.”

On whether it contained shrapnel: “We are not in a position to comment …” In the vacuum of official silence, however, news agencies continue to find anonymous sources. One local TV station has even covered its own discovery of cigarette butts and a Lewiston store receipt on the roof of the Parkade parking garage, which the station found significant.

Asked if the FBI agrees, Harrill says, “I can’t comment on that.”

On Jan. 25, he did say, “There has been a lot of information from expert and anonymous sources that has been largely … well, some of it is specifically inaccurate,” Harrill says.

On Monday, agents were back at the corner of Main and Stevens, canvassing commuters, but that shouldn’t be taken as a sign that they are fresh out of leads. The FBI lips will be unsealed, Harrill adds, when court documents are filed against the perpetrator. (Kevin Taylor)


In one of the more unusual bomb-related sideshows, Morris Gullett, purported leader of the Aryan Nation movement, released a video decrying terrorism and violence. At least for now.

“We emphatically condemn the use of force and terror,” Gullett says, stressing the Aryan Nation does not condone the violence at the MLK march, citing possible injury and death, especially to children.

However, the video does not end there.

He goes on to disparage King and later mentions that when the “decaying” federal government collapses and results in race wars … well that’s when it will be OK to use violence and terror. (Kevin Taylor)

Pictures with Krampus @ Petunia & Loomis

Saturdays, 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Continues through Dec. 23
  • or

About The Authors

Nicholas Deshais

Nicholas Deshais is the Editor of the Inlander, where he oversees the entire editorial operation and supervises news coverage. He was a staff writer for the paper from 2008-12, and has worked for various news outlets, including Portland’s newsweekly Willamette Week, the Spokesman-Review, Northwest Public Broadcasting...

Kevin Taylor

Kevin Taylor is a staff writer for The Inlander. He has covered politics, the environment, police and the tribes, among many other things.

Daniel Walters

A lifelong Spokane native, Daniel Walters was a staff reporter for the Inlander from 2009 to 2023. He reported on a wide swath of topics, including business, education, real estate development, land use, and other stories throughout North Idaho and Spokane County.His work investigated deep flaws in the Washington...