Critics argue the legislation “essentially guts” Idaho’s Terrorist Control Act

By Daniel Walters / InvestigateWest

The 2014 photos, snapped by a Reuters photojournalist, had turned Idaho’s Eric Parker into a kind of legend on the far right: They showed Parker, in body armor and a trucker cap, laying on his belly on the bridge above the Bureau of Land Management’s base camp in Nevada, pointing his semi-automatic rifle through the gap in the concrete toward the federal agents gathered below. 

At that moment, the government’s attempt to seize Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy’s cattle for unpaid grazing fees had become a national rallying point for the right, as militants like Parker flooded onto Bundy’s ranch to stand up to what they saw as government tyranny. 

Parker’s decision to point a gun at government officials got him accused of “domestic terrorism” by the FBI. He spent 19 months in prison. He went through two federal trials. But it also gave him the kind of fame that he’s been turning into political influence ever since.

And now, Parker, head of the Real Three Percenters of Idaho, a militia movement group, is casting himself as a key architect of Senate Bill 1220, an Idaho bill to change the state’s definition of terrorism.

This new bill “essentially guts” the state’s Terrorist Control Act, said Jim Jones, a Republican who served as Idaho’s attorney general from 1983 to 1991. Jones said he convinced the Legislature to pass the act nearly 40 years ago, in the wake of a bombing of a North Idaho priest’s home by violent white supremacists. It gave the state the power to charge criminal acts that are “dangerous to human life” and intended to influence government policy through intimidation as an “act of terrorism,” carrying elevated criminal penalties. 

This bill would change the law to apply only to those who commit violent acts who are associated with federally designated foreign terrorist organizations, like ISIS or Hamas, making it inert against actual homegrown domestic terrorists. That new definition of “domestic terrorism,” notably, would exclude Parker and the other militants at the Bundy ranch.

In multiple phone interviews over the past week, Parker, a 40-year-old construction worker, spoke with InvestigateWest about his role in pushing the legislation behind the scenes for over three years. 

Eric Parker, known as the “Bundy ranch sniper” for his role in the 2014 armed confrontation between federal officials and supporters of Nevada cattle rancher Cliven Bundy, wants to limit Idaho’s terrorism statute. (Courtesy of Eric Parker)

As early as February 2022, according to a screenshot shared with InvestigateWest, Parker was texting with Sen. Chuck Winder, president pro tempore of the Idaho Senate, asking to “touch base on the domestic terror language now that [he] had some time to think about it.” 

Winder, a Boise Republican, responded by encouraging him to connect with Senate Majority Leader Kelly Anthon, R-Burley, who ended up sponsoring the bill three years in a row. Neither senator responded to InvestigateWest’s interview requests about the extent of Parker’s involvement with the bill.

On Tuesday, Parker testified in an Idaho House committee hearing to argue that, as it stood, the Terrorist Control Act could be “weaponized” to accuse ideological opponents of being terrorists. He also argued the bill to change the language would protect left-wing protesters as well. 

But Parker’s own past has long alarmed organizations that track extremism, like the Western States Center. 

“Federal authorities have considered Eric Parker to be an anti-government and paramilitary extremist who belongs in prison” for his actions at Bundy’s ranch, said Amy Herzfeld-Copple, Western States Center director. “Why would the Idaho Legislature be listening to and taking policy cues from someone who pointed a rifle at law enforcement?” 


Parker walked into a January 2018 meeting of the Idaho Legislature as a free man. Two trials over his role in the Bundy standoff had resulted in two hung juries. He’d copped to a misdemeanor plea of obstruction to avoid a third. 

Rep. Dorothy Moon, R-Stanley, announced Parker was in the room and praised him for “everything he’s done for the citizens of Idaho and Nevada.” Dozens of Republican members of the Legislature responded with a hail of applause

Moon and more than 50 of her Idaho Republican legislative colleagues had signed a 2017 letter urging the charges against Parker be dropped, arguing they represented government overreach. Today, Moon is the head of the state GOP.

Rep. Dorothy Moon, R-Stanley, wrote a letter urging feds to drop its charges against Bundy ranch militant Eric Parker.

Parker left the Capitol in Boise that day, he said, with a new fondness for the political possibility. He said he began to sense the influence he could have by meeting with those who held the reins of power. 

“I want to actually look at legislation and make a difference, not just screaming,” Parker said. 

Parker started trying to sway policymakers. It meant showing up to the Boise statehouse, shaking hands and making arguments in person. While his own attempts to run for state office had resulted in resounding defeats, he had “plugged in with a whole network across the state” that could get him the meetings with the leaders he wanted. 

By 2022, Parker had become such a fixture at the Idaho Capitol that far-right legislators and politicians were seeking his advice on legislation, according to audio reporter Heath Druzin’s podcast series about the militia movement. 

Parker doesn’t call himself far right. He prefers to think of himself as a militant moderate, caught between fascists on one side and Maoists on the other. 

When conservative legislators have asked him about white nationalism in recent months, he said he’s told them that there really is a problem with that ideology in North Idaho.

“I’ve been telling legislators to stay away from that,” Parker said.

But ever since his arrest, he’d been interested in one issue in particular: Court proceedings had revealed internal FBI documents that tagged him and the group he was affiliated with, the Idaho Three Percenters, with the phrases “militia extremism” and “domestic terrorism.” But he hadn’t been charged with domestic terrorism.  

Federal law often makes it much easier to go after domestic extremists using federal terrorism charges if they have connections to foreign terrorist groups. 

That, he said, gave him an idea about how to limit Idaho’s own terrorism statute: By adding a definition for “domestic terrorism” to the Idaho law that only included local terrorism connected with existing foreign terrorist organizations, he thought he could help prevent Idaho law enforcement from, in his view, recklessly accusing people of terrorism.

But Jones, the former attorney general, said the bill’s definition is nonsensical enough to effectively destroy Idaho’s Terrorist Control Act if it passes. It passed the Senate in January, though it hasn’t been voted out of committee yet in the House. 

“Hamas, or ISIS or Al Qaeda is not going to want to get involved in a terrorist act in the state of Idaho,” Jones said. “You might as well repeal it.” 

In fact, Parker said, he would behappy if the Legislature did just that. He doesn’t think crimes should be treated differently because they may have a political motivation. But eliminating the Terrorist Control Act entirely, he felt, was too politically difficult, so he pushed to make it as narrow as possible instead. 

He didn’t try to convince the bill’s sponsor, Anthon, directly. Instead, he said he asked for help from Anthon’s constituents, urging them to appeal to the senator.

By 2022, Parker said Anthon had introduced the exact bill he was looking for. 


In 2023, a similar bill to redefine terrorism passed the Senate, but didn’t get out of the committee in the House. But the legislator who Parker said stopped the bill last year didn’t win re-election. Most of the Republican representatives at Tuesday’s hearing seemed supportive. 

“It really is a due process bill,” Rep. Douglas Pickett, R-Oakley, said at the hearing. “Common, ordinary Idahoans are unfairly being labeled domestic terrorists.” 

In his testimony, Parker cited the American Civil Liberties Union’s concerns about the “highly problematic trend of both the federal and state government using domestic terrorism powers to punish dissent,” the national ACLU wrote last year. 

Dozens of left-wing protesters of a police training center near Atlanta, he notes, had been charged under Georgia’s “domestic terrorism” law after the reach of the law was expanded to include property crimes. 

Similarly, when Oregon legislators were debating legislation to expand the definition of domestic terrorism to include damage to critical infrastructure, the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon fought hard to try to stop it. 

But when Julianne Donnelly Tzul, advocacy director with the ACLU of Idaho, got up to testify on Tuesday in Boise, she made clear that her organization was opposed to the Idaho bill. By narrowing the law to focus on those with potential ties to “foreign terrorist groups,” she argued that the bill could lead to new powers of surveillance at the state level. Foreigners, refugees and religious minorities could ultimately be hurt. 

“We shouldn’t be targeting our citizens for their speech or thought, and this bill seems to invite that,” Donnelly Tzul said. 

One woman tearfully recalled friends who died in Timothy McVeigh’s bombing of a federal office building in Oklahoma City in 1995, and called it an affront that even an act like that wouldn’t be considered “terrorism” under the proposed bill. 

Another woman, Tawny Crane, identified herself as the daughter of LaVoy Finicum — the militant who was shot and killed during the 2016 armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon — and said that labeling her dad a domestic terrorist may have helped get him killed. It’s become a frequent part of the far-right mythos surrounding Finicum — that he was a martyr for a cause, instead of a militant who made poor decisions. 

Neither the supporters nor the opponents of the bill cited the rare cases — such as the Nampa, Idaho, man sentenced to 15 years in prison in 2019 for making fake sarin gas bomb threats — where the Terrorist Control Act has actually been used in Idaho. 

After all, it’s the federal government that keeps the big list of domestic terrorists that Parker landed on, not the state of Idaho. 


In the decade since the Bundy ranch standoff, anti-extremism groups like the Western States Center have continued to track Parker closely. 

“He claims to have had several meetings in D.C. with members of Congress,” Herzfeld-Copple said. “It looked like he met with Utah Sen. Mike Lee.”

In recent months, Parker believes he’s found some sympathetic ears on a U.S. House subcommittee created to investigate alleged FBI bias against conservatives. 

The House Judiciary Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government was formed by former Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy as a concession to the hard right elements of his party. Democrats have mocked it as a “tinfoil hat” committee, little more than a delivery vehicle for conspiracy theories. 

But Parker said he’s been talking to committee staffers about how labels of “terrorist” from federal agencies can trickle down to state and local law enforcement. When local police pull somebody over, if they’ve been designated as suspected domestic terrorists by the federal government, that pops up on their police computer screen. Parker worries that can make traffic stops riskier.

He said he’d been recruited to get involved with the committee by Mark Herr, co-founder of the Center for Self Governance, which itself is labeled an anti-government group by the extremism experts at the Southern Poverty Law Center. Herr had interviewed Parker extensively for a documentary on the trials of those charged in the Bundy ranch standoff. And Parker, in turn, had taken a government and civics class from Herr. 

Herr had pioneered the intentionally provocative term “label-lynching” — used in recent years by far-right Idaho legislators like Sen. Tammy Nichols and Rep. Heather Scott to argue that even terms like “far-right” are smears that can potentially put them in danger. 

In a text message to InvestigateWest, Herr wrote that he expects Parker to be interviewed by the committee, though there’s nothing scheduled yet. 

Parker credits Herr with shaping his philosophy to be less partisan and teaching him effective ways to influence policy makers. 

They’re both pursuing the same strategy: In a 2022 press release, Herr’s organization recommended defining a domestic terrorist as someone connected to a foreign terrorist group as one of their “solutions with actions” to combat government “weaponization of labels.” 

A very similar domestic terrorism bill as the one Parker has been pushing in Idaho passed overwhelmingly in North Dakota last year. 

In a text message, Herr said it’s ironic that his group is accused of being “anti-government” when they’re working with the government to change policy. 

But Herzfeld-Copple said that’s not unusual. 

“It’s not uncommon for anti-democracy actors to… infiltrate and engage directly in the democratic institution they’re seeking to weaken,” Herzfeld-Copple said. “It’s part of their strategy: engaging government to enact their exclusionary and authoritarian worldview.”

FEATURED IMAGE: Erik Parker was accused of “domestic terrorism” by the FBI after pointing his rifle at federal agents during the 2014 Bundy standoff. (Reuters/Jim Urquhart photo)

InvestigateWest ( is an independent news nonprofit dedicated to investigative journalism in the Pacific Northwest. A Report for America corps member, Daniel Walters covers democracy and extremism across the region. He can be reached at