Journalists or terrorists?

The antiabortion Nuremberg Files, notorious for what critics call its "hit list" of abortion providers, now plans to broadcast abortion providers and patients over the Web and wrap its actions in the First Amendment.

Published May 31, 2001 8:00AM (EDT)

The controversial antiabortion Web site the Nuremberg Files, infamous for what critics say is a hit list of abortion providers (with names of those murdered crossed out in black), has launched a new project likely to further enrage abortion-rights advocates: a plan to videotape the entrances of abortion clinics and broadcast footage of providers and patients over the Web.

Site architect Neal Horsley is trying to cast his new project as enterprising journalism. Based in Carrollton, Ga., Horsley is now advertising for antiabortion protesters to become "reporters, news photographers and camera people" for what he is calling "the Christian Gallery News Service." And as reporters, Horsley insists, "the full protection of the First Amendment Freedom of the Press is available as we provide this vital news service to the American people and the people of the world."

It's tough for his many critics to see Horsley as a journalist. He's been a leading frontman for the violent underground group Army of God, and his Christian Gallery News Service is probably the first and only news agency organized for the sole purpose of intimidating women from exercising their constitutional right to an abortion.

"Ask yourself this," Horsley writes: "If you were pregnant, would you be more or less likely to go kill your baby if you knew there was a possibility your picture would be published in a place where your friends and family and the whole world might see it. Only a liar would deny it: you would be less likely."

The Nuremberg Files may be best known for its part in a landmark federal lawsuit in Portland, Ore., Planned Parenthood vs. American Coalition of Life Activists (ACLA). The suit, brought by Planned Parenthood, the Portland Feminist Women's Health Center and several doctors, contends that publishing the names, addresses and photos and other personal information of abortion providers -- in the form of Old West-style wanted posters as well as the postings on Horsley's site -- constituted a threat to abortion providers.

A federal jury found for the plaintiffs, and ordered the ACLA and its leaders to pay $109 million in damages. The verdict led several Internet providers, including Mindspring and Hypermart, to ban Horsley's site. Then in March, a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously reversed the jury verdict and the injunction against continued publishing of the controversial materials. "Political speech may not be punished just because it makes it more likely that someone will be harmed at some unknown time in the future by an unrelated third party," the panel ruled.

The plaintiffs are seeking a hearing by the full court, which is expected to decide this summer whether to hear the case. Whatever the outcome, both sides expect it will eventually go to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Meanwhile, Horsley's efforts to wrap his webcam plan in the mantle of the First Amendment will probably only serve to further intensify the debate. "We intend to stream a steady collection of pictures showing the people who go out to where they slaughter babies for a living," Horsley announced in a recent letter to supporters. "Live Web Cams ( Are Now Rolling!"

In fact, no videos are yet rolling; so far the site includes only still photos of doctors and staff, as well as patients and clinic defenders, usually in front of clinics. But the photos and later the streaming images are being published on the same site where dozens of names of doctors, clinic workers and law enforcement officers are crossed out or printed in gray, depending on whether they were killed or wounded by antiabortion violence.

The tactic may represent a shift in focus for the militant wing of the movement as well. According to Horsley, the antiabortion movement has mistakenly viewed women as "victims" of an evil abortion industry. In a recent fundraising letter, he compares women seeking abortions to "serial murderers." He says that women know the difference between right and wrong and should therefore be "punished."

"Why," he asks, "should infanticides be treated differently?"

Horsley's site is named for the city where the German war crimes trials were held after World War II. As Horsley explains, "A coalition of concerned citizens throughout the USA is cooperating in collecting dossiers on abortionists in anticipation that one day we may be able to hold them on trial for crimes against humanity."

Many in the abortion-rights movement, of course, believe Horsley and his allies are the real criminals. Vicki Saporta, executive director of the National Abortion Federation, who is listed on the Nuremberg site, notes there have been seven murders and 17 attempted murders of abortion providers in the past decade. She believes that the site and the "wanted" posters "provide the information necessary for extremists to target abortion providers for violence."

The criticism of Horsley's site as a hit list escalated after he began crossing out the names of murdered doctors and clinic staff -- most infamously Dr. Barnett Slepian -- shortly after their demise. (The accused assassin of Slepian, James Kopp, is awaiting the outcome of extradition proceedings in a jail cell in France.) Among others, Shannon Lowney and Leanne Nichols -- clinic receptionists murdered by John Salvi in Brookline, Mass., in 1994 -- are listed and crossed out. Horsley has lately taken to additionally posting the struck-through names of women who have allegedly died from botched legal abortions, to blunt the charge that he's tallying only the deaths of abortion providers.

Meanwhile, Horsley has posted a teaser version of his new "news" coverage. For now, it's just a still-photo montage of his view of the abortion wars: shots of doctors and clinic workers, gory fetus pictures and photos of antiabortion activists from Catholic Bishop Daly of Brooklyn, N.Y., to fugitive white supremacist Eric Rudolph, who remains on the FBI's Most Wanted list, following his indictment for the pipe bombing of the Atlanta Olympics and the bombing of a gay bar in Atlanta and of clinics in Sandy Spring, Ga., and Birmingham, Ala.

Most of the photos, like the videos he promises to webcast, were taken by antiabortion clinic protesters -- or "sidewalk counselors," as they often call themselves. One photo features Patricia Baird-Windle, shown in a 1994 photo arriving at the Melbourne, Fla., clinic she owned for 22 years. She is the coauthor of the just-published "Targets of Hatred: Antiabortion Terrorism," which tells the story of the abortion wars from the viewpoint of beleaguered abortion providers. "I think this is the wave of the antiabortion future," Baird-Windle, also a Nuremberg Files listee, told Salon. "And it wouldn't be tolerated if it were any other medical or social institution. The abortion exception," she believes, "has allowed the antis to engage in a form of mob rule."

Broadcasting via clinic cams has been one of Horsley's goals for a long time. While some clinic security experts suggest that he may not have the money and level of organization to do it yet, many abortion-rights advocates see even his preliminary version as an escalation. Some are so accustomed to the climate of harassment, violence and threats of violence that the prospect of clinic cams neither shocks nor surprises. Others are alarmed to find their pictures posted on the Internet as the implied threat becomes more personal.

Defenders of the site maintain that it is not intended to be a hit list, but Horsley is clearly very conscious of the intimidating effects of strategic assassinations. Pointing to Slepian's crossed-out name on his computer screen in one sequence in the recent HBO documentary "Soldiers in the Army of God," Horsley recalled his reaction to the murder of Dr. Slepian: "When I drew a line through his name, I said 'See, I told ya. There's another one. How many more is it gonna take?'"

"The evidence is at hand," Horsley declares. "There are people out there who [will] go out and blow their brains out."

Originally, the Nuremberg Files listed only abortion providers, but over time, the list has grown to comprise several hundred others whom militant antiabortion activists view as "abortionists" because of their political support for reproductive rights, or their efforts to enforce the law.

"Judges and politicians who pass or uphold laws authorizing child-killing or oppressing pro-life activists: These classes of individuals," among others, he declares, "are all committing various crimes to which they should answer. We regard them all as 'abortionists.'" Horsley is still adding names.

In addition to pro-abortion-rights actresses including Mary Tyler Moore, Cybill Shepherd, Jane Fonda and Whoopi Goldberg -- who are "blood flunkies," in Horsley's lexicon -- there is a long list of political leaders, current and former federal judges, law enforcement officers and government officials of both parties. The list is headed by former President Clinton and includes former Vice President Gore and Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Ted Kennedy; Republicans Bob Dole and Susan Collins; newly independent Sen. James Jeffords; former Surgeons General C. Everett Koop and Joycelyn Elders; and pro-choice leaders Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority Foundation, and Patricia Ireland, president of the National Organization for Women.

Horsley also lists three dozen federal judges under the heading "Judges: their shysters." Among these are Robert Jones, who presided over Planned Parenthood vs. ACLA, and six members of the U.S. Supreme Court: Justices Anthony Kennedy, Sandra Day O'Connor, David Souter, John Paul Stevens, Stephen Breyer and Ruth Bader Ginsburg -- who will ultimately hear the final appeal in this case.

Horsley's list is frequently updated, and is now queued up to post the names of 43 members of Congress, led by Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., who last month had the temerity to join the plaintiffs in requesting the full 9th Circuit Court to consider the case. Schumer, author of the 1994 Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act (FACE), said the decision of the three-judge panel undermines the legislative intent of the law, which made it a federal crime to use violence and threats to obstruct access to reproductive health clinics and to intimidate doctors who provide such services.

The original version of the Nuremberg Files listed some 225 doctors and abortion providers, along with their addresses, their photos, their license plate numbers and the names of their children and what schools they attend. The current (but ever-changing) version of the site is mostly more cautious. Horsley has collected and published detailed information about providers in Maryland, interestingly, but to date, listees elsewhere in the country don't include that personal information. But many names are hyperlinked to the pro-life section of, a topical commercial Web site, which then directs visitors to information about specific providers.

The section's editor, Christina Dunigan, worked as a researcher for the militantly antiabortion group Life Dynamics of Denton, Texas. Life Dynamics has collected intelligence about abortion providers to inform readers about what founder Mark Crutcher has called "opportunities before us which, if properly exploited, could result in an America where abortion may indeed be perfectly legal, but no one can get one."

Dunigan insists that the links between her site and the Nuremberg Files "do not constitute an endorsement of any views expressed on the Nuremberg Files," but because the controversial site, she writes, "is viewed by some citizens as an effort to incite violence, I would like to take this opportunity to point out that there is no endorsement of violence anywhere on that site."

Of course, abortion-rights advocates disagree strongly, but the three-judge panel that reversed the ruling against the ACLA sided with Dunigan and the Nuremberg Files. In its opinion, written by Judge Alex Kozinski, the panel noted that intimidating speech had played a crucial role in American history, from the War of Independence through the abolition, labor and civil rights movements. The judges noted that the wanted posters and the Nuremberg Files make no direct threat of violence, and that the perceived threat derives from the context of violence against abortion providers, including some who were murdered after the wanted posters were published.

"If political discourse is to rally public opinion and challenge conventional thinking," the panel declared, "it cannot be subdued. Nor may we saddle political speakers with implications their words do not literally convey but are later 'discovered' by judges and juries with the benefit of hindsight and by reference to facts over which the speaker has no control."

Even some abortion-rights advocates agree with Kozinski. The ACLU filed a brief supporting portions of both sides of the lawsuit. Still, it's easy to see why advocates believe Horsley's words convey a direct threat of violence, especially given his ties to the Army of God, the shadowy network of antiabortion terrorists in whose name clinic bombings and assassinations have been carried out since the early 1980s. Horsley was not only featured in "Soldiers in the Army of God," but he is a forceful advocate for the AOG on his warren of related Web sites.

For example, in an essay titled "Understanding the Army of God," Horsley describes the enemy as a culture and a country that have fallen away from God's laws. As such, he considers the U.S. government illegitimate, and calls for a revolutionary secessionist movement under the Calvinist doctrine of the "lesser magistrate."

"If the American people woke up," Horsley argues in the HBO documentary, "and realized that they had to choose between legalized abortion, legalized homosexuality and legalized all the rest of the desecration -- or civil war which would cause the rivers to run red with blood -- hey, you know we will see legalized abortion go like that! We'll see legalized homosexuality go like that! Because the American people," he concludes, "are not willing to die for homosexuals."

Horsley sees the AOG as holy warriors, and embraces their "terrorist actions" because "the government of the USA has become a godless and apostate body." Therefore, he declares, "the people who rise up in arms against such idolatry deserve the name 'The Army of God.'" In this regard, he seeks to "realize our power to use the Internet against Satan's plans" to "destroy God's plan for government."

And the above-ground group of spokespersons for the Army of God seems to have morphed out of the now defunct ACLA, the defendants in the Portland case. After serving four years in prison for clinic bombings in the 1980s, the Rev. Michael Bray, author of the antiabortion manifesto "A Time to Kill," emerged as an ACLA leader in the 1990s, and was involved in the launch of ACLA's "Deadly Dozen" wanted posters campaign in 1995 and the Nuremberg Files project in 1996. In "A Time to Kill," Bray advocates "the principle of revolution and the goal of establishing or preserving a Christian government," and declares that "Revolution may well be justified in our time of legalized sodomy, national apostasy (in the name of separation of church and state) and taxation to support child slaughter." Horsley currently hosts Bray's Web site.

Bray and his accomplices also bombed the Washington offices of the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Abortion Federation in 1984. Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, headed the Washington office of the ACLU at the time of the bombing, and recalls how bomb fragments ripped a poster promoting the Bill of Rights that hung in his office. "These threats need to be taken seriously by anyone whose ideas run counter to these extremist groups."

Federal law enforcement agencies have already investigated many AOG members in the course of criminal investigations of clinic violence. And some are also responding to the broader threat. Last year, Secret Service agents visited Horsley pal Bob Lokey, a 60-year-old Army of God member from Opp, Ala., out of concern for the safety of the president and the Supreme Court. In "Soldiers in the Army of God," Lokey played a tape recording of the visit in which he says he had no intention of hurting anyone, but that when the civil war comes, well, he really can't say what will happen. On his Web site, he discusses how to utilize "homemade weaponry such as pipe bombs," which could be "thrown into an abortion factory," or "delivered in a briefcase and deposited wherever appropriate."

The first photo on Horsley's test Web video site is of Lokey's painting of a fetus hanging on a hook dangling from the arm of Uncle Sam.

While some of this is braggadocio and psychological warfare, it may be impossible to tell where intimidation leaves off and violence begins. During the Portland trial, defendant and ACLA leader Andrew Burnett testified: "If I was an abortionist ... I would be afraid ... I believe abortion kills a human being. I also believe, as most Americans do, there's such a thing as a justifiable homicide."

But for now, Horsley is trying to depict himself as someone whose activities are protected by constitutional free-speech protections, and the latest court decision on the matter took his side. "All, really, anybody has accused us of doing," Horsley has said, "is printing factually verifiable information. If the First Amendment does not allow a publisher to publish factually verifiable information, then I don't understand what the First Amendment is about."

By Frederick Clarkson

Frederick Clarkson is a senior research analyst at Political Research Associates, a progressive think tank in Somerville, Massachusetts.

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