No News is Bad News In Kansas
Frederick Clarkson printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Wed Jan 03, 2007 at 02:53:39 PM EST
In Kansas you can give a friend of organized criminals a top position in law enforcement -- and about all that will appear in the news media is that he is the brother of a prominent polititian.

Our story begins in the summer of 1991, when the militant antiabortion group, Operation Rescue invaded the city of Wichita, Kansas. Hundreds of people were arrested, and at its peak, televangelist Pat Roberston led a rally of 25,000 people. Among the protestors were two Oregon residents, Paul deParrie and Shelly Shannon. Both, it would turn out, would be members of the violent, antiabortiont underground group, the Army of God. Wichita attorney Don McKinney says he worked with deParrie to help get some of those arrested out of jail.

Shannon quietly networked with imprisoned clinic bombers, arsonists and murderers, and began to commit arson and other crimes against clinics across the west, sometimes in cahoots with others. Paul deParrie became the editor of a magazine called Life Advocate -- that served for a number of years as the voice of the overtly violent faction of the antiaborion movement. Paul deParrie published their views and celebrated their crimes. And what were those crimes?  The assasination of doctors. The bombings and arsons of Planned Parenthood clinics. The terrorizing of American citizens excercising their civil and constitutional rights to receive and to provide health care -- including abortion and other reproductive health services.  

In 1993, Shelly Shannon attempted to murder Dr.George Tiller, a prominent Wichita abortion provider. She only wounded him, and was soon captured, tried and convicted. In the ensuing investigation and trial, federal agents dug up the first known copy of what became known as the Army of God manual -- the first concrete evidence of the existence of the underground network. In a jail house interview, Shannon confessed to the attempted murder of Dr.Tiller to Wichita Eagle reporter Judy Thomas -- who was twice nominated for a Pulitzer Prize for her reporting on antiabortion militancy in Wichita. Paul deParrie called Shannon a "hero." Today, the Army of God has a web site that lists seventeen "Heroes of the Faith"  Sixteen of them are men and women (including Shannon), convicted of major crimes. One of them is the late Paul deParrie.  

On December 27th, outgoing Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline, appointed Don McKinney as a "special prosecutor" to focus on allegations against Dr. Tiller. The Wichita Eagle reported that McKinney is the brother of Kansas House Minority Leader Dennis McKinney, D-Greensburg. I may have missed something, but as far as I can tell, neither the Eagle nor any media in the state has reported Don McKinney's Operation Rescue ties or that he has personally protested in front of Dr.Tiller's clinic or that when deParrie died suddenly on May 20, 2006, the Wichita-based Operation Rescue posted tributes to the late leader including one by Don McKinney, who called deParrie his "true brother," and "a true Christian warrior," and that "he and I almost always agreed about everything -- from church issues to pro-life controversys (sic) to legal tactics."  

Does  Kansas' new special prosecutor also agree with deParrie that the woman who tried to murder Dr. Tiller was a hero? Or that the murder of abortion providers is, as deParrie believed, "justifiable homicide?"  

Again, I may have missed something, but as far as I can tell, the Kansas news media has not asked these questions. But then, that's not surprising, since they have not even reported the pertinent and readily available facts of McKinney's biography.  It took a blogger from Texas named Moiv, writing at Talk to Action to get the story.

As Moiv reported, McKinney has not only

"demonstrated with Operation Rescue at Dr. Tiller's Wichita clinic, but was a close associate and admirer of the late Paul "the Jackal" deParrie -- an Army of God veteran who publicly endorsed the murders of abortion-providing doctors in general, and the 1993 attempted murder of Dr. Tiller by Shelley Shannon in particular.

Shannon calls herself a "solider in the Army of God."

How easy is it for the local Kansas media to find the connection between Don McKinney and deParrie? Why, it is not only on the Wichita-based  Operation Rescue web site, McKinney's entire tribute was quoted by a commenter on the Wichita Eagle's own blog site on the day of McKinney's appointment -- but apparently the publisher, editors and reporters whose names and pictures appear on the blog, either don't read it or didn't think that information was important or even sufficiently relevant to take them where the facts might lead.

McKinney's tribute includes much more detail on his 15 year personal and activist relationship with deParrie, but the details pale in significance in the face of a larger question, at least to me: Is the biggest domestic terrorism story to come out of Kansas a past that must be buried such that the Eagle's own famously well-reported stories do not serve as a backdrop to reporting in this general area?  

Fortunately, there are sources outside of the memory hole that is Kansas today. Judy Thomas went on to coauthor a book, with New York Times reporter James Risen, titled Wrath of Angels that incorporates some of her reporting. There are lots of other sources as well, much of it owes a considerable debt to Thomas' ground-breaking reporting. An authoratative article on Shelly Shannon was published in The Body Politic magazine.  Here is an excerpt:  

The 1983 kidnapping of an Illinois doctor and his wife, 1984 death threats to Supreme Court Justice Blackmun, and a 1985 attempt on his life, have one common factor -- the Army of God, a loosely structured group of domestic terrorists whose mission is to stop abortion.

Since the mid-80s, little had been heard from this shadowy and secretive fraternity, until Shelley Shannon attempted to kill Dr. George Tiller in 1993. During the investigation and after executing a search warrant on her Grants Pass, Oregon home, copies of the manual were dug up on her property.  Ms. Shannon was convicted in the attempt to assassinate Dr. Tiller, but based on materials removed from her home and letters she wrote while in prison, the investigation continued, resulting in Ms. Shannon being charged on ten counts of arsons and butyric acid bombings in 1992. She pleaded guilty to all counts summer of 1995.

The sentencing report issued the end of August contained documents illustrating the descent of a woman from dedicated activism to advocating and attempting murder...  By publishing some of Ms. Shannon's writing, the Body Politic is attempting to educate the public about the rationale behind the series of murders and violence from the anti-abortion fringe and warn that these acts of mayhem are not the products of isolated, unbalanced minds. There is a network of men and women in America who advocate and will attempt violence, even to the point of murder, for their cause. These people easily classify as domestic terrorists who should be taken seriously. No matter how silly it may seem to the vast majority of people, whether they are for, or opposed to abortion, these individuals see themselves as soldier in a grand cause, The Army of God.

Shannon's case was a big enough deal that Court TV even aired a documentary:  "The Unlikely Terrorist: Shelley Shannon".  Court TV's web site has a special web page on the film that includes a run down of Shannon's  crimes with links to supporting archival documents including:

The Army of God manual. A 130 - page terrorist manual written for "the battle against abortion;" It was discovered by police, buried in Shannon's backyard. The manual provides instruction on how to disrupt and even destroy abortion operations. The chapters range from prank-like blocking a clinic's parking lot with garbage to details on how to make plastic explosives and home-made detonator caps.

There is much, much more to the story of the Army of God, the characters mentioned in this brief post, and the several concentric circles of support they have received from fellow "prolife" activists over the years.  But does any of this really matter? Not, apprently if you live in Kansas where Don McKinney, brother of the Kansas House Democratic Minority Leader, has just been appointed a special prosecutor by the state attorney general. It's no longer news. It's not even history.

[update] I did miss one item. OR spokeswoman Cheryl Sullinger, herself a convicted felon, told the Eagle:

Cheryl Sullinger, a spokeswoman for the anti-abortion group Operation Rescue, told The Wichita Eagle she has seen McKinney within the past year outside Tiller's clinic "praying for the babies."
Pretty good limited hang-out. Sullenger spun out a minimal version of the story, she had seen McKinney pray at the clinic, and and the Eagle printed it. No real reporting on McKinney's background -- just a stenographic rendering of the OR spin.

Since when does the pal of a leader in a domestic terror network get to be a top law enforcement officer in any state in America?

by Frederick Clarkson on Wed Jan 03, 2007 at 03:00:57 PM EST

Fred, I'm increasingly coming to feel that there is virtually no solid local media coverage, especially when it comes to reproductive rights issues.  Local media is dead and gone.  

For the longest time, the Kansas papers wouldn't even talk about Phill Kline's subpoena of women's medical records or his other sneaky activities (attempting to define teens kissing or fooling around as child abuse, for example) and refused to look critically at his activities. Now, this.

I think the local media is 1) intimidated by the attacks of anti-abortion people; and, 2) diminished in general with corporate managers, on one hand, and a paucity of money, reporters, and guts, on the other. The days of groundbreaking local reporting is history, and a lack of informed citizenry is the price.  

by cyncooper on Fri Jan 05, 2007 at 01:23:29 AM EST

I share your view, Cindy.  It is long past time that those who care about these things, adjust to the changed landscape and change tactics and strategy.  

The way a lot of folks intelletualize about minor matters, and play arm chair public relations, or resort to cheap snark and "this too shall pass" attitudes, one would think that war had not been declared on reproductive rights; that is is a long term war of attrition, and there are dediated organized cadre and violent cells deployed against it.  

That is why the dark memory hole at The Wichita Eagle is so outrageous. If a major newspaper cannot identify the people publicly linked to domestic terrorism in their own city... well, I am uncharacteristicly at a loss for words.

by Frederick Clarkson on Fri Jan 05, 2007 at 10:24:45 AM EST

And whatever happened to the Star?

Can't they report nabbing of confidential medical records of teenagers  by the Attorney's office? Heck, my salacious imagination has Phill wanking while reading the records, and I don't think I am the only one who would suspect a public official of voyeurism on teen girls.

Sorry for the rude language, but what can I say? Anything having to do with teen sex sells newspapers.

by NancyP on Fri Jan 05, 2007 at 11:54:24 AM EST

The brother has an awkward problem - how to get the family embarrassment back in the closet, without getting slimed in the process. Don may have dirt on the brother, which might inhibit the brother saying something like, "I love my brother, but he's many bricks shy of a load".

by NancyP on Wed Jan 03, 2007 at 03:02:18 PM EST
that we expect responsible leadership from people in both parties. We could begin with the Democratic Gov. Kathleen Sebelius.

by Frederick Clarkson on Wed Jan 03, 2007 at 03:29:52 PM EST

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