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Beheading plot thin, ATF says

Two white supremacists charged with plotting to behead blacks across the country and assassinate Barack Obama while wearing white top hats and tuxes were likely too disorganized to carry out the plot, authorities said, and their planning was riddled with blunders.

Paul Schlesselman, 18, of Helena-West Helena, Ark., and Daniel Cowart, 20, of Bells are accused of dreaming up the plan. While authorities say they had guns capable of carnage, documents show they never got close to getting off the ground.

Among the blunders: They drew attention to themselves by etching swastikas on a car with sidewalk chalk, only knew each other for a month and couldn't even pull off a house robbery – then a friend ratted them out to authorities.

“Certainly these men have some frightening weapons and some very frightening plans,” said Mark Potok, director of the Southern Poverty Law Center, who studies the white supremacy movement. “But with the part about wearing top hats … it gets a bit hard to take them seriously.”

Despite making sure the plot was stopped, authorities did not believe Cowart and Schlesselman had the means to carry out their threat to assassinate Obama, said a federal law enforcement official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the case publicly.

The two met online about a month ago, introduced by a friend and bound by a mutual belief in white supremacy, according to an affidavit written by a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agent who interviewed them.

Schlesselman's family said Tuesday that it was unlikely he was seriously planning an attack, even though he expressed hatred for blacks.

“The guy I saw on TV last night was not the same person that I knew, and I saw him about a month ago,” said Scotty Runions, 54, who supervised him. “This is something he's created in the past month — that's not the young man that we know.”

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