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Anti-Government US "Patriot Groups"
(research from Southern Law Poverty Center Intelligence Report)

The Rise and Decline of the Patriots

With the planned execution of Timothy McVeigh, a movement that roiled the 1990s comes symbolically to a close

Patriot Groups DeclineJohn Trochmann, a Militia of Montana leader who once claimed a following in the thousands, today leads a tiny organization that is derisively referred to as the "Mail Order Militia." Donald Beauregard, a Florida militiaman who asserted in 1995 that a map on a Trix cereal box revealed secret government plans, is now serving a five-year sentence for trying to blow up power stations. Jeff Randall, co-founder of an Alabama militia group and the man who embarrassed federal agents by exposing a racist event they’d attended, has left the "Patriot" movement and apologized.

More than seven years after it began, the so-called Patriot movement, characterized by gun-toting militiamen angry at the federal government, is a shadow of its former self. The scheduled May 16 execution of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh may well serve as a bookend to the militia phenomenon, marking the dying gasps of a movement that has dwindled away in favor of other groups.

In its latest annual count, the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Project identified 194 antigovernment Patriot groups that were active in 2000 — a drop of almost 9 percent from the year before, and the fourth consecutive decline since the Patriot movement peaked with 858 groups in 1996. The count marked the lowest ebb of a movement that throughout much of the 1990s captured the attention of the nation — and which was shoved into the international limelight with the 1995 attack that left 168 people dead in Oklahoma City.

People have left the militia movement for a variety of reasons. They have gone home, disillusioned and tired of waiting for the revolution that never seems to come. They have been scared off, frightened by the arrests of thousands of comrades for engaging in illegal "common-law" court tactics, weapons violations and even terrorist plots. And they have, in great numbers, left the relatively non-racist Patriot world for the harder-line groups that now make up most of the radical right.

"Although militia activity continues at a low level, the antigovernment Patriot movement is running out of steam," said Joe Roy, director of the Intelligence Project. "But at the same time, racist and anti-Semitic hate groups have been growing, thanks to former militiamen and others who have joined up."

Less Outreach from a Harder Core

Patriot outreach has shrunk, too. Although there have been recent efforts to expand Patriot short-wave radio programming, the number of Patriot sites on the Internet — the principal propaganda venue for most Patriot groups — has plummeted. The Intelligence Project identified just 155 Patriot sites on the World Wide Web in early 2001, a drop of 41 percent from the 263 Web sites counted a year earlier.

What remains of the Patriot scene today is generally harder core, with an increasing number of groups influenced by the racist and anti-Semitic Christian Identity theology favored by some American neo-Nazi groups. Many others have embraced another radical theology, Christian Reconstructionism. Typical of declining movements, the Patriot world is also increasingly dominated by profiteers — men and women who play on the conspiracy theories that characterize Patriot thinking to rip off their supposed brethren in the movement.

The life stories of many well-known Patriots help illustrate the changing shape of the radical right (see "False Patriots," also in this issue). Linda Thompson, a Patriot who once called for an armed march on Washington, D.C., and created a key propaganda film about Waco, has disappeared into obscurity in North Carolina. J.J. Johnson, at one time the militias’ favorite African-American, now says he doesn’t want to be black any more; he’d rather be a rebel, and so has taken up with "pro-South" groups.

Behind the Fears

It would be easy to dismiss the Patriot movement, with its outlandish conspiracy theories and childish fascination with guns, as a collection of nuts, people lacking basic reasoning skills whose arguments were naïve at best. But that would be too easy. In fact, America’s militiamen embodied real grievances and fears.

In many ways, the movement represented an alienated and distrustful response to a rapidly changing world — a rejection of the vision of the post-Communist world that was summarized in then-President Bush’s "New World Order" speech in 1990. In the heartland, Americans were not so quick as their country’s elites to endorse the drawing together of economies, races and cultures that globalism represents. Instead, they saw globalism as robbing America of its independence and culture, and threatening farmers, industrial workers and others economically.

Their anger, aimed at the government and all international bodies, was seen both in the "Republican Revolution" of 1994 — when a large number of candidates were elected on explicitly antigovernment platforms — and in polls which showed that more than half of Americans saw the federal government as an imminent threat to their civil liberties. Governmental power in general was under attack.

In particular, many in the West and Midwest mightily resented attempts to impose gun control — few actions helped spur the militia movement more than the 1993 Brady Bill — and to regulate the environment. They were also deeply angered by international trade agreements that seemed to be facilitating the transfer of jobs from America to cheap Third World labor markets. And they were infuriated by two events that seemed to show how the federal government treated dissenters.

Government as Villain

The first was the 1992 federal siege of white supremacist Randy Weaver, whose wife and son were killed at their Ruby Ridge, Idaho, home. It was in response to this that extremists convened at a key meeting — the "Rocky Mountain Rendezvous," held in Estes Park, Colo. —and laid out the contours of the militia movement. But what really ignited the militia movement was the federal siege of the Branch Davidians in Waco, Texas, which ended in a conflagration that left some 80 Davidians dead.

Consider the Oklahoma bombers. McVeigh, as he told the authors of the just-released book American Terrorist, was animated by Waco, and in fact blew up the federal building on the second anniversary of the fiery end of that standoff. McVeigh also had a foot in the neo-Nazi world, using the racist novel The Turner Diaries as the blueprint for his attack. Co-conspirator Terry Nichols, too, had deep roots in the radical right, renouncing his U.S. citizenship in 1992 and endorsing an array of Patriot theories first popularized by the racist Posse Comitatus in the 1980s.

Today, the state of the Patriot movement can be discerned in many ways. Patriot periodicals have almost all lost circulation. Former colleagues are finding themselves on opposite sides as some militias adopt Identity theology and others try to maintain a "moderate" image. Virtually every week, more people involved in the movement are sent to prison for crimes ranging from illegal gun possession to such common-law tactics as filing false property liens and passing fake checks. Official crackdowns have militiamen and other Patriots in constant fear of informers.

The Movement ‘Abandoned’

For years, Patriot heavyweights gathered twice a year in Shepherdsville, Ky., for the nearby Knob Creek Machine Gun Shoot. Members of militia coalitions like the Third Continental Congress and the Southeastern States Alliance set up tents there and filled meeting halls. But divisions persisted and worsened. In the end, even the best-laid plans for pulling together a national or even regional coalition of Patriot groups could not survive the pettiness and power plays of the would-be rebels.

Thousands still attend the Kentucky gun events. But at the most recent "shoot," there was virtually no antigovernment sentiment on display other than a sticker on a backpack that proclaimed its owner a "Militia Sniper" — a sticker that may well have been meant as a rhetorical jab rather than a boast. In a similar way, what were once billed as Preparedness Expos — events where survivalist goods were sold to Patriots fearful of "Y2K" disasters — are seeing far fewer Patriots. Reflecting the change in audience, the fairs were recently renamed Lifeline Expos.

To some, it all amounts to a sad state of affairs.

Norm Olson, a Michigan gun shop owner who began one of the earliest and largest militias, was spurned recently when he offered to bring armed Patriots to help defend Indianapolis Baptist Temple (IBT), which was about to be seized by officials for refusing to pay withholding taxes (see p. 49). "All day long I’ve heard reports that the IBT was seized," Olson wrote bitterly after federal agents finally moved in last February. "This is not true. The IBT was not seized or taken, it was given away… . [I]t was abandoned by people who once swore that they would stand."

Clearly, the Patriot movement is not what it once was; in fact, this particular expression of the American radical right is almost certainly fizzling. But that does not mean that radical antigovernment sentiment is going away. Antigovernment ideology has been with the United States since its founding, and it is certain to remain a permanent fixture in our culture. The only question is precisely what form the antigovernment extremist right will take in the decades to come.

 

‘Collateral Damage’

A new biography that purports to explain Oklahoma bomber Timothy McVeigh is interesting, but misses key points

Facing imminent death in an execution chamber, Timothy McVeigh is happy to take responsibility for the Oklahoma City bombing — in fact, he minimizes any role that co-conspirator Terry Nichols and others may have had. He talks about how he considered murdering the members of a federal agent’s family or going on an assassination spree instead of setting off the bomb. He discusses the media exposure the bombing was designed to attract, and frets that the deaths of 19 children — "collateral damage," in McVeigh’s unforgettable phrase — may have distracted from his message.

But the subject of a new book, American Terrorist: Timothy McVeigh & the Oklahoma City Bombing, is at pains to insist that he did not know that the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building contained a day-care center filled with children. "If I had known it was there," he says, "I probably would have shifted the target."

Well, maybe. And maybe not.

A week after the book was released amid great fanfare, a defense psychiatrist interviewed by its authors spoke to ABC’s "Good Morning America." "Tim told me he was down looking over the building, there was light from somewhere," Dr. John Smith told the program. "And that he saw the shadow of a crib on the wall."

That’s the problem with American Terrorist. Again and again, it seems to tell McVeigh’s story as he would want it told. Details that McVeigh finds inconvenient, like the children in the federal building, are explained away.

McVeigh, who at one point says that he enjoys a "good nigger joke," concedes that he briefly joined a Klan group in North Carolina — but adds he had no idea what the Klan was about. He says he told many people that the government had secretly implanted a microchip in his buttocks — but then claims that he told that story merely to put on gullible people. He writes his sister, Jennifer, that he was asked to help "the CIA fly drugs into the U.S." — but then, in the words of the book’s authors, calls that the letter "his way of introducing Jennifer to his mind-set at the time."

Ultimately, McVeigh is not interested in discussing anything other than his heroic motivations. "Death and loss are an integral part of life everywhere," is his view of the destruction he caused. "We have to accept it and move on."

 

FALSE PATRIOTS

Reaching its peak in 1996, the antigovernment "Patriot" movement was a particular form of the American radical right that was characterized by paramilitary militias, opposition to gun control and the federal government, and belief in an array of conspiracy theories about the so-called "New World Order." Patriots were drawn from all walks of life and though only some were explicitly racist, many of the key militants and ideologues of the movement had long histories of involvement in white supremacist groups. In the late 1990s, Patriot groups began to dwindle as members left the movement, joined other kinds of radical groups, were imprisoned or, in a few cases, died in confrontations with law enforcement authorities. Here, along with a timeline tracing the history of modern militias, are brief profiles of 40 people involved in the Patriot movement whose life stories over the last few years help illustrate the changing shape of the radical right.

Commander Zero: Rick Ainsworth, 50

Working days as a Florida Department of Revenue investigator, Richard "Rick" Ainsworth has spent the rest of his time in recent years trying to make himself into a major militia leader — a goal that his abrasive personality derails every time. Starting out as the "Republic of Florida" delegate to the Patriot government-in-waiting known as the Third Continental Congress, Ainsworth wound up heading that group before going on to lead another coalition called the Southeastern States Alliance. In both cases, he ended up angering colleagues and ultimately quitting over what he perceived as personal slights. On the way out, he made a habit of accusing his many detractors of being government informants — invective frequently hurled back at him by his erstwhile friends. Kentucky militia leader Charlie Puckett, for instance, reacted to an attack by describing Ainsworth as an "IDIOT" and relating how Ainsworth once told him he "wanted control of all the Militia’s [sic] in the United States!" After alienating most of his former pals, Ainsworth recently began looking for new underlings in the burgeoning neo-Confederate movement, helping to start a group called the Confederate States of America (CSA) with another militia veteran, Bill Cox. But Ainsworth had a falling-out with Cox last fall, accusing him and another CSA official of being informants.

 

The Hawaiian Ambassador: Elizabeth Broderick, 58

A remarkable aspect of the antigovernment Patriot movement of the 1990s was the way so many "constitutionalists" engaged in ideologically dressed-up scams that boiled down to plain, old-fashioned rip-offs. Mary Elizabeth Broderick, who already had been convicted of running a pyramid scheme in Colorado, became a Patriot in a big way after learning how to create fake financial instruments from the Montana Freemen. Court records show that Broderick, who had a well-developed taste for expensive jewelry and other luxuries, offered her own workshops to dupes who were charged $200 apiece to learn how to create fake checks — checks that cost another $200 each. Ultimately, Broderick and her three accomplices issued about 8,000 phony checks totaling millions of dollars; her personal take was $1.2 million. Broderick, who gave herself the title of the "Lien Queen," told people taking her classes that the checks were backed by $1 billion in liens against the federal government. In federal court, Broderick told the judge that he had no jurisdiction because she was "an ambassador of the Kingdom of Hawaii" — a remark that drew snickers. In the end, the judge sentenced her to 16 years in federal prison, but not before telling her, "You’re not a patriot. You defrauded thousands of people … who were desperate."

 

Worst Nightmare: Donald Beauregard, 33

Like many people in the militia movement, Donald Beauregard embarked on an ideological voyage that took him from the ridiculous to the truly dangerous. Even as he worked at a discount store and later managed a Hickory Farms shop at a St. Petersburg, Fla., mall, Beauregard built a second career as one of the most active militiamen in the Southeast. He was the leader of the 77th Regiment Militia, a group that in 1995 raised the alarm over a "secret map" displaying how the United Nations planned to take over America — a map, the group explained, that mistakenly had been printed on the back of a Trix cereal box (where, presumably, a breakfasting militiaman discovered it). The next year, an associate of Beauregard’s distributed a 77th Regiment document entitled "Project Worst Nightmare" to other militias that suggested kidnapping "key federal leaders" if the FBI siege of the Montana Freemen ended violently. In 1998, the FBI said later, Beauregard decided to follow through by blowing up Florida power stations — a fact exposed by Beauregard’s "security chief," Rich Ganey, who turned out to be an informant. Ultimately, in July 2000, Beauregard was sentenced to five years in a federal plea agreement. His lawyer in the case was Nancy Lord Johnson, who is married to J.J. Johnson — a militia sympathizer listed as an unindicted co-conspirator in Beauregard’s indictment.

 

Conduct Unbecoming: Steven Barry, 45

A fervent Catholic given to unfiltered Camel cigarettes, Bushmill’s Irish whiskey, and spending time in his North Carolina home wearing nothing but a kilt, Steven Barry is a former Special Forces sniper who once described himself as a "defector in place." Animated by the standoffs at Ruby Ridge, Idaho, and Waco, Texas, Barry began editing an extremist publication, The Resister, and distributing it secretly at Fort Bragg. He also created a secret group called the Special Forces Underground. Although the Army was less than forthcoming with Congressional investigators of extremism in the military, it ultimately took a close look at Barry and issued him a career-wrecking reprimand in 1996, a year after Oklahoma bomber Timothy McVeigh was arrested with a copy of The Resister in his car. Today, Barry is out of the Army and has become an open neo-Nazi. From a house decorated with old military signs like "Colored Officers’ Showers," he publishes his journal and attends gatherings of a variety of extremist groups ranging from the League of the South to the Council of Conservative Citizens to the neo-Nazi National Alliance. Although the Alliance has described him as its "military coordinator," Barry says he let his membership lapse some time ago. "Hitler," Barry opined recently, "was good for Germany."

 

The Eighth Angel: Ron Cole, 31

Most everyone on the radical right professed great sympathy toward the Branch Davidians led by David Koresh in Waco, Texas, but there was only one person who actually took up the faith of the beleaguered denizens of Ranch Apocalypse. Ronald David Cole came to Waco to cover the 51-day standoff for The Jubilee, a tabloid of the racist and anti-Semitic Christian Identity movement. Within months of the fiery end of the standoff, Cole had produced a self-published book on the episode, Sinister Twilight: A Tragedy Near Waco, and a Sinister Twilight in America. Cole and a surviving Davidian also fruitlessly invited other survivors to join them in restarting the Waco group at their home in Colorado. And soon after that, Cole, describing Koresh as the seventh in a succession of angels marking the end-times, declared himself the eighth. "God sent a message to me, and I suspect I am that heir," Cole told a reporter. "God has given me a gift." Cole also said he was "wing commander" of the Colorado First Light Infantry, a Patriot group with a membership of three. In 1997, Cole moved to a Denver suburb, apparently in order to attend the trial of Oklahoma bomber Timothy McVeigh, who Cole claimed to have once met. Two months into the trial, Cole was arrested at his home with a large illegal arms cache — allegedly including a grenade hooked up to his front door — and was sent to federal prison for more than two years.

 

Star Trekker: William Cooper, 56

While many militiamen were concerned about illegal aliens, Vietnam veteran William Cooper fretted about aliens of another kind. In a 1991 book that became a movement classic, sold in mainstream bookstores as well as from militia fair booths, Cooper described how his research proved that President Dwight Eisenhower signed a secret treaty with beings from outer space allowing them to abduct humans in return for advanced technology. Behold a Pale Horse also spoke of the scheming cabals and global elites, familiar to all Patriots, whose final aim was the institution of the much-feared "New World Order." "A grand game of chess is being played on a level that we can barely imagine," Cooper wrote. Cooper also ran a short wave radio show called "Hour of Time" and produced a periodical. Today, Cooper says he was wrong about aliens. The truth, he explains, is global elites are using fears of aliens to control Americans, in particular through the "Star Trek" tv series, which he says is "an indoctrination into the concepts of socialism through subliminal initiation of the youth of the nation." Currently, Cooper is wanted for tax evasion and bank fraud and has been holed up in his hilltop home in Eagar, Ariz., for three years. He recently E-mailed militia friends saying he’d learned an arrest was imminent, but that he’d "kill as many [agents] as I can before they kill me. You can all count on me."

 

Eating Their Young: Paul Darland, 29

Late one night in September 1994, police in Fowlerville, Mich., pulled over three combat fatigue-clad militiamen who, it turned out, had been surveiling police and carrying a major arsenal in their car. Rather than show up at their arraignment, the men — who said they were bodyguards for a hard-line militia propagandist, Mark Koernke — hid out at the farm of a fellow militia sympathizer and waited for promised help from Koernke. But as they waited, two of the group — farm owner John Maurice Stephenson and Paul David Darland — grew increasingly agitated and angry at Koernke for failing to deliver. As they talked, they decided that 26-year-old comrade William Gleason, who faced weapons charges along with Darland, had been secretly informing on them to Koernke. Telling Gleason that they needed to dig a grave for Koernke, they got Gleason to help. When Gleason took his turn, Darland stood behind him and murdered him with a single shot to the head. Stephenson was arrested in 1996 and eventually pleaded guilty to being an accessory. Darland got away to Indiana, where he took a fake name and married a woman who had no idea who he really was. But police, knowing Darland’s taste for topless bars, finally caught up with him in a Fort Wayne club, and in early 2001 he was convicted of murder.

 

Glass Houses: Helen Chenoweth, 62

Remarkably, the militia movement of the 1990s found many defenders in public office around the country, especially county officials and sheriffs in the western states. But none were so high-ranking as Republican Helen Chenoweth, the three-term Idaho congresswoman who became famous as the "poster girl for the militia movement." Elected during the "Republican Revolution" of 1994, Chenoweth wasted little time before outraging many. She defended Samuel Sherwood, a key militia leader, after he was quoted saying, "Go up and look your legislators in the face, because one day you may be forced to blow it off." She proposed a bill to strip federal agents of their arrest powers without prior consent by local officials. A bitter opponent of environmentalists, she said it was "the white, Anglo-Saxon male" who was truly endangered. She explained that the reason that Idaho has few minority residents is "the warm-climate community just hasn’t found the colder climate that attractive." And she angrily attacked President Clinton during the Monica Lewinksy scandal, saying, "Personal conduct does count." Then came a revelation: Chenoweth had herself carried on an affair with a married man for six years. It was a relationship, she conceded, that she "came to regret" — but she insisted that it was different from Clinton’s affair, as it had predated her election.

 

God, Guns and Guts: Charles Duke, 58

A Colorado electrician turned politician, Charles Duke was truly the militiaman’s representative. Serving six years in the state House and almost four in the state Senate, the Republican from Monument was also honorary chairman of the National State Sovereignty Coalition, a Patriot outfit. He wrote a weekly column for a key Patriot publication, The Free American. Duke once outraged constituents by asking a crowd how many thought the federal government was behind the Oklahoma City bombing. He told The Wall Street Journal that "an executive order is being prepared by President Clinton to suspend the Bill of Rights." He suggested that gop House Speaker Newt Gingrich was involved in bugging his home. And he tried to broker an end to the Montana Freeman standoff. Then came an epiphany. After a summer in a cabin hidden deep in the woods, Duke emerged to say "the Lord God almighty" had suggested that he drop out of politics and instead learn "how to survive in a country devoid of freedom." For a time, he did. But last year, he was spotted at "America’s Tea Party 2000," a kind of conspiracy theorists’ convention. And he never did give up his fondness for guns. In November, he was arrested as he tried to enter a Denver public building and charged with illegally carrying a concealed 9mm pistol.

 

Stormy Weather: Bob Fletcher, 57

One of just five militiamen to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee in the aftermath of the Oklahoma City bombing, Bob Fletcher served up some of the more amazing Patriot theories to his audience. As Fletcher described a secret United Nations weather machine hidden in Brussels that he said switches charges in the ionosphere, Sen. Herbert Kohl (D-Wisc.) appeared slightly befuddled. "You’re saying the government has created weather-tampering techniques so the ‘New World Order’ will be able to starve millions of Americans and control the rest?" the senator asked. "I know that seems kind of like Space Rangers kind of talk," Fletcher replied. "Unfortunately, we’ve got all the proof." Fletcher, then spokesman for the Militia of Montana, also offered up a chilling prediction elsewhere after the Oklahoma attack: "Expect more bombs." Later, Fletcher purchased a West Coast radio station and ran his own talk show, also rich with conspiracy theory. He produced hot-selling videos with titles like "Exotic Weapons of Mass Control," "Bombs of Oklahoma," "Drugs, Government Officials & the CIA" and, relatively recently, "Government Secrecy & UFOs." "We’ve permitted a secret government to develop," Fletcher told one Idaho audience. "If any of you think this is not happening, you’re damned naïve."

 

Posse to Prison: Darrell Frech, 57

Although many of those who joined the militia movement were not racist or anti-Semitic, the ideology that they embraced derived directly from groups that were. Few people illustrate this connection better than Darrell Frech, who had been deeply involved with the anti-Semitic and often violent Posse Comitatus in the 1970s and 1980s. When the antigovernment Patriot movement picked up steam in the mid-1990s, Frech was quick to jump on board, and he brought with him from his Posse days the ideology of "common-law courts" — courts that have no legal standing but nevertheless were set up to reach "judgments" against Patriot enemies. Waving a copy of the anti-Semitic Protocols of the Elders of Zion, Frech presided over a common-law court in Alfalfa County, Okla., explaining that Washington, D.C., was a "Satanic principality" that is encircled by a highway 66.6 miles long (as in the Biblical "mark of the beast’). Between 1993 and 1997, Frech and his wife Sally engaged in a scheme, originated by a group called We the People, that involved convincing some 1,500 Patriot sympathizers to give them $300 apiece in order to qualify for millions of dollars worth of "damages" from the government. Their take: $400,000 in profits. Although Frech told the judge in his case that America had been "controlled since 1860 by the Crown of England," the court did not hesitate to send him to prison to serve a nine-year sentence. His wife got nearly five.

 

‘Ninja Wannabes’: Brad Glover, 60

In the conspiratorial world of the Patriots, one key myth was that foreign troops were secretly being trained on U.S. bases to join in an invasion of America led by the United Nations. While some Patriots were skeptical, Bradley Playford Glover, who claims to be a former naval intelligence officer, was not one of them. Glover first took up with the 7th Division Constitutional Militia of Kansas as its "brigadier general," telling one reporter in 1995 that he had an improbable 1,000 followers who would surely "whip" the U.S. military during the coming invasion. "We can take out the so-called ninja wannabes," he boasted. "We’ll beat ’em quick." When his group disbanded over bad publicity following the Oklahoma bombing, Glover moved on to a Patriot umbrella group called the Third Continental Congress, where he finagled a promotion to "Minister of War." But he and a few cohorts found the Congress too tame, and decided the time for battle had arrived. Armed to the teeth, Glover and another man headed for the Army’s Fort Hood base in Texas, determined to attack and wipe out the scheming foreigners. But being late sleepers, they were roused by FBI agents on the morning of the planned Independence Day 1997 attack as they slept in tents at a nearby campsite. Arrested with a cache of weaponry, Glover would finally be sent to federal prison in 1999 to serve a five-year sentence for firearms violations.

 

Aryan Microbiologist: LarryWayne Harris, 48

A bearded microbiologist from Dublin, Ohio, Larry Wayne Harris once spent his days testing food and water for contaminants — and cooking up some of the more paranoid fantasies to engage the minds of the Patriot movement. In 1995, Harris ordered three vials of freeze-dried Yersinia Pestis, better known as bubonic plague. After federal agents raided his home — finding the plague vials, many weapons and a certificate identifying Harris as a lieutenant in the neo-Nazi Aryan Nations — he insisted he was no terrorist. On the contrary, Harris said, he was deeply concerned about an "invasion from Iraq of super-germ-carrying rats." Elsewhere, he said Iraqi terrorist women planned to smuggle deadly toxins into the United States in their vaginas. Harris wrote Bacteriological Warfare: A Major Threat to North America, a book that he said gave Americans the weapons to fight back — but which also could be read as a bio-terrorist’s how-to manual. On probation for lying in order to get the plague vials, Harris got into trouble again in 1998 when an informant told the FBI Harris boasted of having enough anthrax to "wipe out" a city. But it turned out he merely had legal anthrax vaccine. In the end, Harris’ doings convinced the Congress to pass laws making it harder to obtain deadly pathogens like bubonic plague.

 

Of Bombs and Beaches: John Hassey, 50

As more and more Patriots went to jail on a wide variety of charges, many of even the most committed left the movement in fear for their futures. John Hassey, a key leader of Alabama militia groups, appears to be a case in point. For several years, Hassey headed up the Central Alabama Militia, a group that changed its name in 1995 to the Alabama Constitutional Militia, reflecting what Hassey described as a group more focused on politics than guns. Two years later, Hassey was one of about 15 militiamen to travel to Memphis to support a couple who was fighting government eviction as part of an airport expansion project — one of many such "government vs. the people" scenarios favored by Patriots. The same year, Hassey was a key player in the formation of the Southeastern States Alliance, a coalition of Southern militia groups. He was so well known in the movement that his Elmore County home came to be referred to as "Camp Hassey." But in late 1999, the Southeastern States Alliance leader, Donald Beauregard, was arrested in an alleged plot to attack utilities in Florida — and Beauregard’s indictment noted an unindicted "co-conspirator’s farm in Alabama" where explosives were to be stored. Assuming the farm was his, a worried Hassey said he would not fight police who might come for him, and departed for a cooling-off period on a boat off the Florida beaches.

 

Desperately Seeking Satan: Ted Gunderson, 73

After 27 years in the FBI including stints running the Memphis, Dallas and Los Angeles offices, Ted L. Gunderson embarked on a tour of the weird. Retiring in 1979, Gunderson started a security and investigations firm and eventually wound up as an investigator in the ill-starred McMartin Preschool sexual molestation case, where he became fixated on the idea that children are regularly subjected to Satanic ritual abuse. (In the end, seven years of trials produced no convictions, and the case was widely denounced as a destructive witch hunt.) From there, it got truly strange. Entering the Patriot world as a leading conspiracy-monger, Gunderson made videos alleging an invisible cabal called the Illuminati had plans to run the world. He sold his services shielding people from "Electrostatic Sensory Manipulation" and testing for "brain implants, tracking chips and resonant cavities." He claimed a government official told him that he did the Oklahoma bombing, saying, "That’s my bomb." He said a cure for Down’s syndrome is being kept from the public, that the government practices mind control, and that his children had dna extracted by aliens in the infamous Area 51 of ufo fame. And Gunderson accused a well-known, ufo-oriented talk show host of molesting children, an accusation that recently brought him a libel suit.

 

Rambo for Christ: Bo Gritz, 61

While many Patriots avoided contact with the mainstream press, James "Bo" Gritz had no such compunctions. Variously describing himself as the most decorated Green Beret to fight in Vietnam and the inspiration for the movie character Rambo, Gritz has done his best to put himself at the center of almost every major Patriot drama. He was successful just once, talking white supremacist Randy Weaver out of his Ruby Ridge cabin after the 1992 deaths of his wife and son during a standoff with federal agents. Gritz boasted often of his forays looking for missing Vietnam era pows, but four trips to Southeast Asia did not produce a single prisoner. In the Patriot world, he became famous for his paramilitary training courses and for failed attempts to negotiate an end to the Montana Freemen standoff and a surrender from accused clinic bomber Eric Rudolph. Seen by many as a huckster, Gritz hyped up "Y2KHAOS" paranoia and then sold his survivalist wares — along with land plots in Idaho — to survive the feared hard times. In 1998, he shot himself days after his wife of 24 years left him. Gritz has long denied being a racist, but has made a number of anti-Semitic remarks. In 1999, after moving to Sandy Valley, Nevada, he married Judy Kirsch. Since then, Gritz seems increasingly to have taken up a relatively soft-line version of the Christian Identity religion that his new bride was raised in.

 

The Nazi Debutante: Carol Howe, 31

Many of those who entered the radical right during the 1990s were accused of being mentally unstable, but very few went on to have major motion pictures made about them. Carol Elizabeth Howe, debutante daughter of a wealthy Oklahoma City businessman, took up with veteran white supremacist organizer Dennis Mahon after supposedly being attacked by two black men. It was not long before she acquired a swastika tattoo on one arm and moved to the white supremacist Elohim City compound. But after quarreling with Mahon, Howe seemed to change her allegiances, signing up as a paid informant for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) while still at Elohim City. Soon, however, the ATF fired her because of her "instability." But after the Oklahoma bombing, Howe was temporarily brought back as a government informant and proceeded to spin a confused story about ex-boyfriend Mahon’s and other Elohim City denizens’ alleged involvement in the attack. Even though she testified at McVeigh accomplice Terry Nichols’ trial, she was contradicted by much evidence. By 1997, she had taken up with another white supremacist, James Veifhaus. She and Viefhaus were charged with conspiracy over an apparent bomb threat left on their answering machine, but she was acquitted (he was not). Today, Howe has changed her name to Amanda Bryn Collins, talks of law school, and is the subject, incredibly, of a Columbia Pictures movie project.

 

Well-Armed Martyr: Michael Hill, Deceased

The American radical right has long had a penchant for martyrs, and on June 28, 1995, former Canton, Ohio, police officer Michael Hill entered the pantheon of those who supposedly have died for the movement. At the age of 25, Hill had been a National Guardsman who was called up during antiwar demonstrations at Kent State, where four students were shot to death; he later co-authored a book about his experience entitled I Was There: What Really Happened at Kent State. By the 1980s, Hill was ensconced in the thriving far-right scene in Ohio. In 1987, he and his wife barricaded themselves in their house outside Canton when city officials came to evict them because it was so filthy that the city considered it uninhabitable. Hill later became the chaplain of the Ohio Unorganized Militia. In 1995, he was stopped by a Frazeysburg police officer for driving without a license plate, having only a homemade card reading "MILITIA 3-13 CHAPLAIN." Hill drove off and was stopped again, exiting the car this time with both hands on a .45-caliber pistol. He was shot three times in a killing later ruled justified. In the aftermath of his death, Hill was memorialized by some of the hardest right figures in America. Nord Davis, an anti-Semitic ideologue, hauled a 7,200-pound granite memorial from North Carolina to a spot near the site where Hill died, and militiamen still gather there on "Mike Hill Memorial Day."

 

Riches to Rags: Emilio Ippolito, 75

The Patriot movement played heavily on Americans’ antigovernment sentiments — feelings that often stemmed from some purely personal dispute but were enlarged in certain minds into major political struggles. In Tampa, Fla., Emilio Ippolito and his family were once the largest landholders in Hillsborough County. But starting in the 1970s, Ippolito, a domineering and stubborn man by all accounts, became embroiled in litigation over code violations — battles that he fought with such single-mindedness that the family wound up losing the bulk of its property. In the early 1990s, Ippolito took up with the "common-law" court movement, starting his own panel called the Constitutional Court of We the People. Over the years, Ippolito or his followers sent letters to judges accusing them of treason, threatened a jury foreman with death, and discussed abducting federal judges. Ippolito dragged his daughter, Susan Mokdad, through it all, first bringing her into court at 5 years old and having her make her first presentation to a judge at age 14. Finally, in 1997, Ippolito was convicted of sending threats, conspiracy and owning a weapon with the serial number removed. He was sentenced to 11 years in federal prison, while his weeping daughter, who was then 41, got 10. Ippolito’s final words: "I don’t ever want to see another legal document again."

 

Mark, from Maintenance: Mark Koernke, 42

In the days after the Oklahoma bomb exploded, reports from Florida militiamen pegged bomber Timothy McVeigh as the bodyguard of a virtually unknown janitor in Michigan. Although the reports were almost certainly false, they helped bring the nation’s media to the door of Mark Koernke, who, when he wasn’t working in the University of Michigan’s maintenance department, broadcast a daily dose of short-wave conspiracy theory as "Mark from Michigan." Koernke, who claimed a background in military intelligence, also produced videos alleging Hong Kong police had been secreted in America for a United Nations takeover. Koernke got into his first real scrape with the law in 1997, when he allegedly attacked a man coming to serve him with a subpoena in a murder case involving several Koernke associates. After being charged with assault, Koernke jumped bond and was only arrested months later as he tried to swim across an icy lake to freedom. After being convicted of bail jumping, Koernke got into trouble again in 2000, when he sped off as police tried to question him as he sat in front of a bank that had just been robbed. Although the paranoid Koernke was uninvolved in the robbery, he ended a 50-mile chase by crashing into a tree and jumping, again, into a pond. In March of this year, he was convicted of fleeing police and resisting arrest and faces up to five years in prison.

 

Militiaman in Black: J. J. Johnson, 39

The militia movement was widely seen as overwhelmingly dominated by angry, white men — and it was. James "J.J." Johnson, who offered a black militia face to the tv cameras during a 1995 Senate hearing into the movement, was a rare exception. Johnson co-founded the first well-known militia in Ohio, the Ohio Unorganized Militia, and described militias as "the civil rights movement of the nineties." As journalists increasingly pictured the movement as almost all-white, Johnson became an ever more popular speaker, appearing at more than 200 militia gatherings. During the Montana Freeman standoff, he was one of several men signing a declaration warning that militia leaders in 10 states would consider it an "act of war" should any of the Freemen be hurt. But in 1997, after divorcing his wife Helen and marrying Nancy Lord — the 1992 Libertarian vice-presidential candidate — Johnson left the militia movement, saying it was "ineffective." Moving to Nevada, he ran for local sheriff and lost. By last year, Johnson had become a favorite speaker on the circuit of neo-Confederates — another milieu dominated by whites. He pleased many new friends with his essay, "I Don’t Want to be Black Anymore."

 

The Extermination Act: Martin Lindstedt, 43

Hailing from Granby, Mo., professional truck driver and perennial candidate Martin Linstedt typifies the mix of racism and antigovernment attitudes that characterized much of the Patriot movement. Linstedt, who while with the U.S. Army helped run a tactical nuclear missile system in Germany, has been for many years the leader of the 7th Missouri Militia. But at the same time, he ran for a variety of posts, including state representative, governor and U.S. senator, on the Libertarian ticket — until the Libertarians finally booted him out of their party over his homophobia. During his 1998 Senate run, he listed his top priority as a bill he called The Extermination of Regime Criminals Act, prescribing death for corrupt politicians and lawyers, along with the elimination of public schools. In 2000, like many other racist radicals, Linstedt came into the Reform Party, running for U.S. senator a second time under presidential candidate Pat Buchanan. "I want [white] Republicans where they either got the choice of joining the [neo-Nazi] Aryan Nations or becoming some black boy’s bitch," Linstedt, a Christian Identity adherent, told a reporter at the time. "A few people in the Reform Party told me, ‘Martin, you gotta tone down the racism,’ but I said, ‘You guys are trying to go after the moderates, who… [will not] vote for you. At least I got a strategy.’"

 

Looking Bad: Ray Looker, 59

A real estate appraiser and former missionary who used Prozac to control his anxiety, Floyd "Ray" Looker led one of the more radical militia groups of the 1990s. His West Virginia Mountaineer Militia used a manual outlining how to attack trains, highways and power plants. Two months after the 1995 Oklahoma bombing, 26 "county commanders" of Looker’s militia and another from Pennsylvania met at a farm where Looker identified a massive FBI fingerprint facility near Clarksburg as one of three potential bombing targets. A deputy who was a volunteer in the local fire department photographed blueprints of the facility kept in a locked room and gave them to Looker, who began with other militia members to stockpile plastic explosives, grenades and homemade bombs. But all the while, an FBI informant who Looker selected as his group’s "security officer" was collecting tapes of 430 conversations. In the end, an undercover agent posing as a broker for a fictitious Middle Eastern terrorist group bought the facility blueprints from Looker, prompting Looker’s prosecution under a new federal anti-terrorism statute. Although it turned out that the blueprints were public documents, Looker pleaded guilty to "providing resources" to a terrorist group, and in 1997 was sentenced to 18 years in prison.

 

The Paper Terrorist: Rick McLaren, 47

While thousands during the 1990s used the Patriot "common-law" tactics of filing fraudulent liens and spurious lawsuits against their enemies, few matched Richard "Rick" McLaren for volume and sheer audacity. The self-styled "chief ambassador" of the Republic of Texas (rot) — a group that claimed that Texas is a sovereign nation that was never legally annexed by the United States — was fond of lawsuits, however, long before he hooked up with the separatist group. Looking like something of a mad scientist, McLaren harassed his neighbors with obnoxious lawsuits for years even before he became an rot leader. He also amazed them with complaints that space rays — not lack of water — were destroying his nearby vineyard. McLaren and other Republic leaders claimed the government owed them $93 trillion in "war reparations." They tried to pass $3 million in fake checks and placed bogus liens on people including Pope John Paul II. They "ordered" then-Gov. George W. Bush to vacate his Austin offices. In the end, McLaren’s handful of followers kidnapped a neighbor couple, injuring the man badly and precipitating a six-day standoff with hundreds of Texas Rangers. The militias that McLaren said would come from 22 states to help him never showed — other than a pot-smoking crew arrested in a van as they approached — and McLaren was sent to prison on state and federal charges.

 

Aiding and Abetting: Jack McLamb, 56

Of the sprinkling of law enforcement professionals who supported the Patriot movement, retired Phoenix, Ariz., cop Jack McLamb became by far best known, speaking at Patriot events around the country. Describing himself as the most highly decorated officer in the history of his police department, McLamb ran an outfit called Police Against the New World Order that he claimed had a highly unlikely 6,300 members. He produced a periodical called Aid & Abet Police Newsletter and, most famously, a 75-page conspiracist document entitled Operation Vampire Killer 2000: American Police Action Plan for Stopping World Government Rule. McLamb embraced a panoply of conspiracy theories. He told a 1996 rally that government officials were smuggling drugs into the country in a bid to incite racial hatred. In 1999, he asserted that Vice President Gore intended to reduce world population by 90% through some kind of end-of-the-millennium y2k plot. He suggested that Communist-led Latinos planned to take over the Southwest. Along with his friend, Green Beret-turned-Patriot James "Bo" Gritz, he sold plots of land in Idaho as the perfect place to survive the coming troubles. But when the much ballyhooed "y2k" collapse failed to materialize, McLamb began to peddle his ideas on the tax protest circuit, instructing students last fall that "Taxes are Voluntary!"

 

‘Itching for a Standoff’: Norm Olson, 53

From the very beginning, Norman E. Olson was a radical among radicals. After starting the Michigan Militia in April 1994 as one of the first major militia groups, Olson helped make his home state one of the leading spots for Patriot activity. He drew widespread attention after reporting Oklahoma City conspirator Terry Nichols had attended one of the meetings of the Michigan Militia, which he claimed counted 12,000 members. But Olson, a Baptist preacher who spends time in his Alanson gun store wearing a camouflage military outfit, alienated his colleagues after Oklahoma by offering reporters an incredible theory: The Japanese government had bombed the federal building there as a return favor for the sarin gas subway attack that he said the U.S. government carried out in Tokyo. Unceremoniously booted out by his comrades-in-arms, Olson started another group, the Northern Michigan Regional Militia, while attacking his former friends as "too moderate." In the run-up to the millennial date change, Olson predicted government collapse and worse as a result of the "y2k" computer bug — a collapse he welcomed. "We’re itching for a standoff someplace," he told The Washington Post in late 1999. "Any movement needs a good and noble rallying point, an Alamo or a ‘Remember the Maine,’ and this could be it."

 

The Price of Truth: John Parsons, 51

Many thousands of people left the Patriot movement in the late 1990s, tired of waiting for the revolution that never came, scared off by arrests or diverted into harder line groups. John Parsons left because he had to. As early as 1995, the head of the Tri-States Militia of South Dakota — a national umbrella group that grew to have affiliates in 32 states — told a reporter that his followers "despise terrorists." In July of that year, he organized a summit of militias from 18 states, creating a free hotline number to quash "rumors about purple spaceships and U.N. vehicles on a freight train across the Atlantic." Parsons believed in many militia articles of faith, in particular the threat of a coming New World Order, but he faced a moral dilemma when an Oklahoma militant approached his group for help in building bombs. After a long period of soul-searching, which included standing before the bombed-out federal building in Oklahoma, Parsons decided to tell authorities about Willie Ray Lampley’s plans to bomb the Southern Poverty Law Center and offices of the Anti-Defamation League. Even harder, he agreed to testify in court, where it came out he’d been on the FBI payroll. After Lampley was convicted, the FBI told Parsons his life might be in danger. In 1996, Parsons appears to have disappeared, quite likely, as is widely rumored in the militia world, into the witness protection program.

 

The ‘Two-Bomb’ General: Benton Partin, 74

Patriot ideologues have long scoffed at the work of scholars and specialists, but like conspiracy theorists everywhere, they love a credentialed expert who is on their side. Such was the case with retired Brig. Gen. Benton Partin, a 31-year Air Force veteran who provided Patriots with their core theory about the Oklahoma bombing. In press conferences, at Patriot gatherings and in letters to politicians, Partin expounded on his idea that the truck bomb driven by Timothy McVeigh "could not possibly" have destroyed the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building by itself. Claiming long experience in weapons design, Partin — who retired in 1979 — said photographs of the damage convinced him there were other bombs inside the building. Although Partin didn’t say so, other Patriots expanded on this theory to accuse the government of bombing its own building to create an excuse for passing draconian anti-terrorism legislation. Ultimately, Partin became a proponent of a whole pantheon of conspiracy theories. He claimed that federal agents used explosives to breach the Davidian compound in Waco — a charge for which there is no evidence. He produced a hyper-conspiratorial video entitled, "Globalism: The Program." And, never one to pass up a possible plot, he said twa Flight 800 was hit by a surface-to-air missile. Partin did finally present his Oklahoma bomb theory to a grand jury, which roundly rejected the concept.

 

Church as State: Howard Phillips, 60

Many who wound up in the strange world of Patriot ideology began their journey in more conventional right-wing politics. Howard Phillips, who ran for president in 1992, 1996 and 2000, cut his political teeth working for Sen. Barry Goldwater’s ill-fated 1964 run for the presidency after graduating from Harvard. Although he would later head the Office for Economic Opportunity under Richard Nixon, Phillips quit when Nixon declined to cut funding for certain social programs. Phillips went on to create the Conservative Caucus, a group instrumental in encouraging the creation of Rev. Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority. A British newspaper reported that during the early 1980s, Phillips visited South Africa annually on "promotional tours" meant to boost the morale of defenders of apartheid. In 1992, he created the U.S. Taxpayers Party (USTP) — which prescribed the death penalty for abortionists — as a vehicle for his presidential aspirations. Fundamentally, USTP — renamed the Constitution Party in late 1999 — is notable for its Christian Reconstructionism, an extremist theology that calls for the "reconstruction" of society under Old Testament law. Phillips was close to the late Rousas Rushdoony, who called for stoning incorrigible children to death and who spoke frequently to the USTP. Today, Phillips, who has proposed junking the Voting Rights Act, is involved in racist neo-Confederate groups that also have been pushing versions of his Reconstructionist theology.

 

Eight Lanes Out: Larry Pratt, 58

Larry Pratt, a gun rights absolutist whose Gun Owners of America (goa) has been described as "eight lanes to the right" of the National Rifle Association, may well be the person who brought the concept of citizen militias to the radical right. In 1990, Pratt wrote a book, Armed People Victorious, based on his study of "citizen defense patrols" used in Guatemala and the Philippines against Communist rebels — patrols that came to be known as death squads for their murderous brutality. Picturing these groups in rosy terms, Pratt advocated similar militias in the United States — an idea that finally caught on when he was invited for a meeting of 160 extremists, including many famous white supremacists, in 1992. It was at that meeting, hosted in Colorado by white supremacist minister Pete Peters, that the contours of the militia movement were laid out. Pratt, whose goa has grown since its 1975 founding to some 150,000 members today, hit the headlines in a big way when his associations with Peters and other professional racists were revealed, convincing arch-conservative Pat Buchanan to eject him as a national co-chair of Buchanan’s 1996 presidential campaign. The same year, it emerged that Pratt was a contributing editor to a periodical of the anti-Semitic United Sovereigns of America, and that his goa had donated money to a white supremacist attorney’s group. Pratt is today close to the extremist Constitution Party and its radical theology.

 

Amazing Adventures: Jeff Randall, 36

Like old soldiers, most of those who left the militia movement simply faded quietly away. But not Jeff Randall, a self-employed machinist and co-founder of Alabama’s Gadsden Minutemen. In May 1995, a year after the group was created, Randall and two other Minutemen infiltrated a gathering of agents of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) — the bête noire of the militia movement — near the Ocoee River in Tennessee. They left the annual "Good Ol’ Boys Roundup" with a videotape showing what they later described as "an orgy of racism," including shots of a "Nigger Check Point: Any Niggers in That Car?" sign. After ex-cop Randall released the video to the media, several ATF and other law enforcement officials were disciplined. Four months later, the Minutemen’s other co-founder, Mike Kemp, was arrested after 14 marijuana plants were found in his home. Randall quit after the bad publicity, rejoined a week later, and quit for good a year after that. "I got tired of people … wanting me to assemble armies for them," he told reporters. "The whole militia movement is either conspiracy kooks or criminals." Randall even apologized for releasing the Roundup tape, which he said hurt many good officers. Randall now runs Randall’s Adventure and Training, which offers jungle tours in Latin America — and which was featured last year on the Travel Channel’s "Amazing Adventures."

 

Grounded Eagle: Dave Rydel, 51

An early player in the particularly active Michigan militia scene, Dave Rydel was, at various times, a "lieutenant general" in the Michigan Militia, leader of the Michigan Militia Theater Command, head of the Eagles and, in the end, organizer and leader of something he called the United States Theater Command. Although he was very much a true believer, and even signed a document threatening the use of "necessary force" should the Montana Freemen be injured, Rydel was clearly a moderate in the factional infighting that still typifies the Michigan Patriot scene. In 1995, he turned in a man who proposed attacking the Michigan National Guard’s Camp Grayling because foreign military equipment was supposedly being stockpiled there for the eventual subjugation of the American people. Rydel’s chief importance, however, was in creating one of the first and most famous movement E-mail lists, a popular forum for militia calendar items and discussions called "Eagleflight." In 1998, after attempting to unify the movement with his U.S. Theater Command, Rydel was accused by other militia leaders of being a federal agent. Alabama militiaman Mike Kemp administered a "voice stress analysis" test and announced Rydel had passed "with flying colors," but Rydel’s group nevertheless broke apart and vanished.

 

Licensed to Kill: Roy Schwasinger, 67

Perhaps more than any other figure of the 1990s, former Nebraska meatpacker Roy Schwasinger is responsible for the proliferation of get-rich-quick schemes that used the antigovernment rhetoric of the Patriot movement. After starting We the People in 1993, Schwasinger claimed that he had won a class action suit against the government alleging that the country had gone bankrupt in 1933 — a suit that meant most Americans were now eligible for tax-free settlements of more than $20 million apiece (conveniently, he said, Delta Force commandos had brought back $600 trillion from overseas banks). There was only one catch — Schwasinger needed a $300 fee in order to file a claim. Along with others, Schwasinger victimized at least 6,832 people; Schwasinger’s personal take, officials said, was more than $300,000. At a 1992 seminar, Schwasinger taught LeRoy Schweitzer of the Montana Freemen how to create fake financial instruments — a skill that Schweitzer then passed on to hundreds. Schwasinger was also a conspiracy fabulist. In one videotape, according to research on the Militia Watchdog Web site, he announced that he and We the People "have a license to kill," and in fact had recently executed 170 judges and lawyers at a secret base. In another tape, the group said a gold molecule had been developed that could make steel beams levitate — a molecule used by Christ to heal the sick. Schwasinger today is serving lengthy federal and state prison terms in connection with his scams.

 

The Accidental Theorist: Eugene Schroder, 52

Returning home to Campo, Colo., after finishing veterinary school in the 1970s, Eugene Schroder found local farmers losing their land in a devastating recession and decided to do something about it. With his father and friends, Schroder founded the American Agricultural Movement, which in 1978 organized a famous "Tractorcade" protest in Washington, D.C. Schroder soon grew more radical, however, allying himself with the anti-Semitic Posse Comitatus and adopting many of the Posse ideas that would later animate the "common-law" court movement. In 1992 and 1995, he outlined in two books a core Patriot theory: Using the 1917 Trading With the Enemy Act and the 1933 Emergency Banking Act, President Franklin Roosevelt imposed martial law that still remains in effect today, benefiting a secret cabal of Washington, D.C., plotters. Schroder heavily promoted common-law courts, helping to organize a 1995 Wichita, Kansas, meeting that helped spread the pseudo-legal bodies throughout the country. He also wrote articles for the anti-Semitic United Sovereigns of America. But in 2000, Schroder, the antigovernment theorist, changed course radically, suing the federal government for not protecting farmers. Where a few years ago Schroder argued angrily that the government should butt out, the Colorado veterinarian now insists that it should intervene to stop farm foreclosures and support farmers.

 

Herding Cats: Jim Strode, 61

Almost since the inception of the militia movement, Jim Strode has been trying to pull its often-warring factions together into one national organization — a task that has been compared to herding cats. A reserve deputy in New Mexico for more than 20 years, Strode always portrayed militias in moderate terms, as groups "organized on the principle of people helping people" that were fundamentally concerned with helping to cope with disasters. Still, like Patriots nationwide, Strode pushed popular Patriot conspiracy theories, including a particularly resilient one alleging that the Federal Emergency Management Agency is no mere disaster relief organization — rather, it is a New World Order front that will one day direct the internment of good Americans in concentration camps. After starting the New Mexico Militia in 1995, Strode hosted the first gathering of the American Constitutional Militia Network, which was created as a networking nexus, but after less than a year it faded away without achieving notable success. In the hysteria preceding the millennial date change, Strode again attempted to bring unity to the movement, starting an outfit called the Coalition of Militias, which was stillborn. Finally, just this February, Strode joined up with Republic of Texas separatist Mike Joffrion to start the United States Militia, but prospects for this, too, appear dim.

 

Writing the Right: Chris Temple, 39

The world of radical right-wing journalism exploded in the 1990s, and few writers were more central to that maelstrom than Chris Temple. For more than a decade, Temple has played to virtually every sector of the extreme right, from neo-Nazis to militiamen to adherents of the anti-Semitic Christian Identity theology — adding, in most cases, a plug for the financial advice he sells in his National Investor newsletter. As co-founder of United Citizens for Justice, formed to support Randy Weaver in the aftermath of his deadly standoff with federal officials in Idaho, Temple spoke at a seminal Colorado meeting of right-wing extremists planning a response. He spoke several times during the mid-1990s at Aryan World Congresses hosted by the neo-Nazi Aryan Nations. Temple was, for a time, the western correspondent for the anti-Semitic tabloid The Spotlight, and for many years was a key writer for The Jubilee, America’s leading Christian Identity publication. In 1997, Temple told an audience, "I am very much a national socialist," according to the Coalition for Human Dignity. Formerly a Montanan, Temple now lives in Spooner, Wisc., and is managing editor for another hard-line racist group, the Council of Conservative Citizens. Like many on the extreme right, he has recently taken up with neo-Confederate hate groups.

 

The Racist Con Man: Leroy Schweitzer, 62

Montana crop duster LeRoy Schweitzer, who learned at the feet of Colorado rip-off artist Roy Schwasinger, was the prolific con man behind the Montana Freemen. But unlike Schwasinger, Schweitzer added a specifically racist and anti-Semitic twist to his money scams. Schweitzer’s Freemen argued that the unalienable rights referred to in the Preamble to the Constitution in fact specifically excluded "the colored races and Jews." Even as he pushed this and other aspects of the anti-Semitic Christian Identity religion, Schweitzer taught an estimated 800 people from around the nation — at a cost of $100 each — how to defraud others. Essentially, this boiled down to a lesson in creating fake financial instruments, often signed by Schweitzer, that were supposedly backed up by liens against government officials. And Schweitzer talked tough about resistance to government agents, telling one of his classes, "We are the authorities… . Anyone obstructing justice, the order is shoot to kill." In 1996, FBI agents arrested Schweitzer for felony criminal syndicalism, precipitating an 81-day standoff between agents and the Montana Freemen holed up in "Justus Township" (above) that finally ended peacefully. Most of the Freemen drew long prison terms after the siege ended, with Schweitzer being sent to federal prison for 22 years.

 

Mail Order Militiaman: John Trochmann, 57

On Jan. 1, 1994, John Trochmann, along with his brother David and nephew Randy, officially inaugurated the Militia of Montana (MOM), although it probably had been active for several months already. It was the first major militia to come to public attention, a fact reflected when John Trochmann was called to testify to a Senate committee in the aftermath of the Oklahoma bombing. Known for his hot temper, Trochmann sold survivalist goods, military manuals and the like, telling his potential customers that these supplies would be vital when the forces of the New World Order came calling. So it wasn’t much of a surprise when his wife Carolyn told Esquire magazine that her spouse had huge .50-caliber guns stashed in the woods along with enough ammo to hold off a battalion. In 1995, Trochmann was in Montana offering to help officials talk Montana Freeman LeRoy Schweitzer into surrendering on outstanding charges. While there, he and six others were arrested with assault rifles, $80,000 in cash, gold and silver, and a trove of other supplies. But within days, officials dropped their charges, saying they were mistaken in their suspicions of a plot. Today, after he spent much of the 1990s speaking on the Patriot circuit, Trochmann’s Noxon-based MOM is little more than a warehouse, known to many former admirers as the "mail order militia."

 

The Big Lie: Linda Thompson, 48

From a strip mall office next to a Domino’s Pizza in suburban Indianapolis, attorney Linda Thompson became one of the Patriot movement’s wildest conspiracy theorists — so much so, that her embarrassed allies ultimately repudiated her. Thompson made the videotape, "Waco: The Big Lie," that claimed government "flame-shooting tanks" were used to destroy the Davidian compound and that became, in the words of one professor, a "foundational text" of the Patriot movement. She called for an armed march on Washington, D.C., where militiamen would "take U.S. senators and congressmen into custody, hold them for trial, and, if necessary, execute them." It wasn’t too long before Thompson was attacked by her own. Several Patriot writers debunked her film as a crude — and false — propaganda job (from which she allegedly made more than $300,000). She was pilloried for calling for the suicidal attack on Washington. Thompson told one reporter how her dog had been killed by secret government ray guns, and how she was shadowed and shot at by enemies in black helicopters. In her résumé, Thompson boasted that she had been "Assistant to U.S. Army Commanding General NATO" — but reporters found she was basically an enlisted secretary. After suing the National Enquirer for labeling her the "Queen of Hate," Thompson faded from view when she moved to Alabama and, more recently, to Durham, N.C.

 

Reluctant Hero: Randy Weaver, 53

A quiet man once given to wearing T-shirts reading "Just Say No to ZOG [for Zionist Occupation Government]," Randy Weaver may be more responsible than any other person for the phenomenon known as the militia movement. Hailing from the Midwest, Weaver and his wife Vicki moved to Idaho as their religious beliefs grew more extreme, seeking "to remove our children from the trash being taught in public schools," as Vicki Weaver once put it. Eventually, the couple and their four children moved into a poorly built plywood home atop a mountain known as Ruby Ridge, from where Randy Weaver occasionally visited the neo-Nazi Aryan Nations compound. In 1991, after an unsuccessful run for sheriff, Weaver failed to appear on charges of illegally sawing off a shotgun, ultimately prompting federal agents to surround the Weavers’ home. In a confrontation in the woods whose details are still disputed, his 14-year-old son Samuel and a U.S. marshal were killed. The next day, an FBI sniper killed an unarmed Vicki Weaver as she cradled a baby. In the end, Weaver’s case became a cause celebre on the radical right, prompting a Colorado meeting that engendered the militia movement. Weaver was acquitted of murdering the marshal, and later received, with his three surviving children, a $3.1 million settlement after suing the government over the deaths of his wife and son. The relatively apolitical Weaver is today a fixture on the Patriot circuit, a reluctant icon of resistance.

 

Southern Poverty Law Center Intelligence Report
Summer 2001
Issue # 102