Bombs for Babies

Stephen Jordi planned to blow up abortion clinics. Does that make him a terrorist?

"Well, buddy," Welch responded, "if all we can do is two or three--"

"That would be something."

"It would be something, but it wouldn't be--"

S. Romero
Stephen Jordi said he had a plan to firebomb abortion clinics.
Stephen Jordi said he had a plan to firebomb abortion clinics.

"It would be something, if you can save a couple of lives and make an issue."

"Yeah, yeah, make an issue, but think about how in the next two years, how many children will [die]."

"Yep," Jordi admitted, "there's a war going on, with casualties."

He couldn't have known then that a part of the war was already being waged: His new friend was an FBI informant intent on bringing him down.

Stewart Welch doesn't exist. Not really. Stewart likely isn't even his real name. In court documents, the FBI describes the man Jordi befriended as a paid informant who, since the early '90s, has provided information that has "resulted in the arrest of numerous individuals for federal felony offenses." In other words, Welch is a professional human chameleon who can endear himself to unsuspecting federal targets.

"He might show up as a Donnie Brasco with the Mob next," says Neal Horsley, a Georgia man who is among the de facto leaders of a militant anti-abortion movement known as the Army of God. "He's a mercenary who's not officially employed by the FBI, because by working as a private contractor, he can do things that the FBI is not presently allowed to do, even with the awesome license of the Patriot Act. They can't entrap someone. He can."

Horsley has been investigated by the FBI but never indicted. He and others assert that the group is not an association but an ideology. The FBI thinks otherwise, describing the members as "loosely affiliated extremists [who] can mount high-profile, highly destructive attacks." Informants such as Welch have long tried to infiltrate its ranks, Horsley says. The group's history dates to 1982, when Don Benny Anderson and brothers Matthew and Wayne Moore kidnapped and then released unharmed an Illinois abortion provider and his wife, crediting their actions to the Army of God. Two years later, Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun, author of the Roe v. Wade opinion, received a death threat from the shadowy organization. Around the same time, several abortion clinics across the nation were bombed. "Army of God" was written at one of the clinics.

In 1993, after a Wichita housewife named Rachelle "Shelley" Shannon attempted to murder an abortion doctor, law enforcement discovered in her backyard a draft of the Army of God manual. The text, which is now available online, provides tips and information on how to attack abortion clinics. The manual describes the organization as "a real Army, and God is the General and Commander-in-Chief."

Vicki Saporta, president of the National Abortion Federation (NAF), which represents clinics in the United States and Canada, has a different point of view. "The Army of God is a small group of extremists who believes that it's justifiable to murder abortion providers," she explains. "They actively recruit and train people to commit these acts of violence."

The Army of God's most infamous soldier is Paul Hill, who in 1994 gunned down an abortion provider and his bodyguard as they walked toward a clinic in Pensacola. Hill, who grew up in Coral Gables before moving to the Panhandle, surrendered peacefully to authorities. A former Presbyterian minister, Hill drafted while in prison a doctrine that has become the Army of God's theological cornerstone: "defensive action." It maintains that God condones murder if committed to protect unborn fetuses.

"It's to protect the children that that abortionist is going to kill," explains Horsley, who maintains a website that publishes the names and personal information of abortion providers. "The point of defensive action is to save the babies from being murdered."

Two Army of God soldiers followed Hill. In 1996, Eric Rudolph allegedly bombed Atlanta's Olympic Park, an abortion clinic, and a gay nightclub before leading federal authorities on a five-year manhunt. In 2001, following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Clayton Waagner sent more than 550 anthrax threat letters to abortion clinics and was subsequently captured by the FBI. Waagner received 30 years in prison; Rudolph faces the death penalty if convicted.

Jordi had long told family members and fellow churchgoers that he admired Hill, Rudolph, and Waagner, according to the FBI. If he were going to bomb abortion clinics, Jordi told Welch, he'd hide in the woods while authorities searched for him in the cities. Jordi explained that he wanted to be "on the run" and "go Lone Ranger." Authorities would find collaring him as difficult as "trying to catch a cockroach in a house," Jordi said.

But if he were caught, Jordi had a plan. He wanted to be famous. He wanted to be the next Paul Hill. "I told my wife, when I get to prison, she needs to save all my letters," Jordi told Welch.

Yet last September, as the Florida Department of Corrections was about to put Hill to death, Jordi appeared wise enough not to let on about his violent plans when he traveled to the prison in Starke, north of Gainesville. With him were Welch, Horsley, and other purported members of the Army of God. Strangely, through Welch, the federal government had financed Jordi's trip, even though his presence would later be used against him.

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