Case-Study of US Domestic Terrorism


The United Freedom Front


In the early 1980s, a group known as the United Freedom Front was active in the north-eastern United States. When broken, the group appeared to be very much like a fringe European group, a tiny cell known of the sort known in France as a groupuscule. This provides a useful basis for a case-study, as the UFF represents one common type of terrorist group or movement, that is very distinct from other types that would also be generally known as "terrorist".


This has important implications for law-enforcement, as a counter-terrorist tactic designed for application in one case might be wildly unsuccessful if used against another type of movement. Imagine for example the very different tactics that might be required to deal with one of the following comparable types of organization active in the 1970s and 1980s:


  1. a groupuscule, a tiny cell of a dozen or less members, tightly knit by long-standing ties and almost impossible to infiltrate. 


  1. A local branch of a much larger international group, probably tied to governments and their intelligence services.


  1. A mass, domestically based  group firmly rooted in the wider community.


Note the variables that decide the shape of a particular group (and the three above represent only a few of the possibilities):


1. Scale

-size and numbers


2. Theater of operations


-active in the group's own country, or any international links/ alliances


3. Objectives

-nature of targeting - civilian or military; attitude to causing physical  casualties


4. Audience

-nature of ideology and propaganda. Left and right; separatist, communal, nationalist? religious?

-do they seek and or receive public support? How does the group publicize its views and opinions?

-does the group have legal front organizations or ties with legitimate political parties? Does it have a supporting newspaper or radio station?

-Is there a wider basis of activist supporters who support and assist the overt military acts of the militants?

-does the group seek to recruit?


5. Official Connections

-pro or anti-government? Connected with security forces or intelligence in some clandestine fashion?

-state connections, either domestic or foreign.

-how does the group obtain its arms?


6. Goals

Also what are they trying to achieve, and how they define success or victory?


The United Freedom Front

With these considerations in mind, let us now look at the United Freedom Front. The group was formed in the early 1970s by Thomas Manning and Raymond Levasseur, two Vietnam veterans who were both in a Massachusetts prison at Walpole. Manning was convicted of robbery; Levasseur for dealing marijuana. On release, the two became active in a Maine prison reform organization. In 1974, the two formed a "Sam Melville/Jonathan Jackson group, a militant organization named after two black leaders in the prison struggle c 1970-1971. The group expanded very slowly, incorporating a select group of spouses and close friends. The respective wives of Manning and Levasseur joined in 1974. Jaan Laaman and Christopher King joined in 1980. Richard Williams joined in 1981, Barabra Curzi in 1982


By 1982, the group had a maximum of eight members, though the Levasseurs and Mannings both traveled with their several children The core members were all in their early thirties by the late 1970s:


Thomas Manning (born 1946) and his wife Carol Ann Manning (1956)


Jaan Laaman (1948) and his wife Barbara Curzi-Laaman (1948)


Richard C Williams (1948)


Raymond Levasseur (1946) and his wife Patricia Gros (1955)


Christopher King (1951)


The group was  active - albeit on a very low level - over much of the north-east, and over a nine year period (1975-1984) In all, the group was accused of nineteen bombings and attempted bombings; plus ten bank robberies which netted some $900,000 in cash to fund operations. A total of ten bombings and one attempted bombing occurred between December 1982 and September 1984. Banks robbed included targets in Maine, Connecticut, Vermont, New York, and Virginia. From 1976 to 1979, the "Sam Melville/ Jonathan Jackson group" undertook some eight bomb attacks. From 1982, the group took the name United Freedom Front, and intensified their campaign.


Their ideology can be described as generic New Left. Manning is quoted as saying that "We are revolutionary anti-imperialist freedom fighters". Richard Williams justified violence as "aggressive self-defense, that if you're attacked, you attack back". Levasseur asked, "Who are the real criminals? Those who oppose racist acts in South Africa or those who support government interests in South Africa?" Imperialist wars were another target of their rhetoric.


The UFF Campaign

They undertook the following attacks:


1975 - attempted murder of a Portland, Maine police officer after a bank robbery


April 1976 - bomb at Suffolk County Courthouse, MA.


December 1981 - murder of New Jersey state trooper.


February 1982 - attempted murder of two Massachusetts state police in North Attleboro.


Bombing attacks occurred on courthouses - eg Middlesex County in Lowell, MA; on corporate offices - Union Carbide in Needham MA and Tarrytown, NY;


-Mobil Oil in Wakefield and Waltham, MA., and Eastchester, NY.


-South African Airways procurement Office in Elmont, LI.


-two IBM corporation buildings in Harrison, NY


-Honeywell Corporation and Motorola in Queens, NY


and military facilities. eg Army Reserve Centers in Uniondale, LI and the Bronx; Naval Reserve Center in Queens, NY.


Investigation intensified in late 1981 with the murder of the Jersey  trooper, and the increased awareness of domestic terrorism after the Nyack Brinks robbery. An interstate/ federal task force was established in 1983. In 1984, a crucial breakthrough occurred when investigators checked aliases used to register a car in Connecticut. This led to another use of the UFF name in Ohio, where five members were arrested in Cleveland in November 1984. Thomas and Carol Manning were seized in Norfolk, VA in April 1985. Explosives and automatic weapons were seized. (Note incidentally that both sites were on the fringe of the main area of operations in the north-east). For several years after that, the activists  ("the Ohio Seven") were involved in repeated trials, including the murder of the New Jersey trooper; and a major bomb trial in Brooklyn, NY. The most dramatic trial occurred in 1987, when the group was acquitted of the draconian charge of seditious conspiracy - that is, an attempt or conspiracy to overthrow the US government. Sentences  were very steep: Manning for example got life in the trooper murder, and 53 years for the New York city area bombings. Williams was acquitted in the murder.


Other American groupuscules were active in the mid-1980s, under names such as the Red Guerrilla Resistance, Armed Resistance Unit and Revolutionary Fighting Group (all these may in fact be names for one group).


For Manning’s commentary on these events, see


See also