ADL Says Ricin a Popular Tool for Domestic Extremists

New York, NY, April 17, 2013 … Ricin, the deadly biological toxin that is in the news once again after letters containing the deadly powder was mailed to U.S. Senator Roger Wicker and the White House, has long been a subject of fascination with domestic extremists, according to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL).

“While it is still not known what individual or group is behind the letters mailed to congressional offices and the White House, it is deeply troubling that ricin was involved in both of these incidents,” said Mark Pitcavage, ADL Director Investigative Research and an expert on domestic extremists. “Because it is so readily available and easily prepared, ricin has been an attractive tool for domestic extremists and terrorists.”

Ricin, a toxin made from castor beans, is deadly if inhaled or ingested. 

According to a report on Extremists and the Ricin Threat, first issued in 2011 by ADL’s Center on Extremism, the ease with which people can manufacture ricin, and the extremist interest in the deadly substance, has created a track record in the United States of extremist-related ricin incidents that dates back nearly 20 years.

Many ricin incidents have stemmed from homegrown extremists, particularly right-wing extremists such as white supremacists and anti-government extremists. However, other ricin incidents have been unrelated to a specific ideology.

In the U.S., both anti-government extremists and white supremacists have long had a fascination with ricin, according to ADL. At gun shows, survivalist expos, and across the Internet, extremists can easily purchase or down manuals such as The Poor Man's James Bond, Ragnar's Action Encyclopedia of Practical Knowledge and Proven Techniques, Silent Death, The Catalogue of Silent Tools of Justice, and The Poisoner's Handbook

Many of these manuals were written by or for right-wing extremists; all include ricin-making instructions and sometimes advice on its use.  The author of The Poisoner's Handbook, for example, suggests the poisoning of IRS workers by lacing tax return forms with ricin.

The Anti-Defamation League was founded in 1913 to stop the defamation of the Jewish people and to secure justice and fair treatment to all. Today it is the world’s leading organization combating anti-Semitism, exposing hate groups, training law enforcement on hate crimes, developing anti-bias education programs for students, countering cyber-hate and relentlessly pursuing equal rights for all.

More from this Section