FBI was warned about Scott Roeder

Before George Tiller was murdered, an anonymous tipster cautioned that he was in danger

Published November 14, 2009 12:37AM (EST)

Roughly a month before the shooting death of Dr. George Tiller, the FBI received an anonymous letter warning that suspected killer Scott Roeder "would do physical harm" to the abortion provider, the Associated Press reports. The letter didn't offer a time-line, specifics or incriminating details -- just that the anti-abortion activist was going to hurt the late doctor. Here's where things get messy: The tipster, now revealed to be Mark Archer of Tunkhannock, Pa., and his wife were fighting for custody of Roeder's 7-year-old daughter. That's because his wife got pregnant by Roeder before she married Archer.

Clearly, Archer isn't an unbiased party. He admits that he wrote the letter in part to get the FBI to list Roeder as a domestic terrorist so that he couldn't fly from Kansas to visit his daughter in Pennsylvania. Despite being especially motivated to find dirt on Roeder, though, Archer was drawing conclusions based on facts, not fancy. There was Roeder's arrest in 1996 for possessing explosives; the comment he made to Archer's wife about being perfectly capable of blowing up an abortion clinic; and the numerous blog posts he allegedly wrote about putting an end to Tiller's work. The conclusion was rather obvious: Roeder was determined to harm the doctor.

It's understandable that the FBI wouldn't take a vague anonymous warning like this one too seriously -- after all, how many such tips must they receive every single day? But here's my question: If Archer could so easily figure out that Roeder was a threat to Tiller, why didn't the FBI?

By Tracy Clark-Flory

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