Gathering Storm: America's Militia Threat

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Six months before the Oklahoma City bombing, Morris Dees warned the U.S. Attorney General that the fast-growing militia movement posed serious threats. He saw the possibility of imminent danger that few understood. Dees and his associates had tracked far-right paramilitary groups and their racist leaders since the early 1980s, sometimes using daring undercover operations. In retaliation, his law office had been burned and attempts made on his life. In this revealing account, Dees names names and places, tying ...
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Overview

Six months before the Oklahoma City bombing, Morris Dees warned the U.S. Attorney General that the fast-growing militia movement posed serious threats. He saw the possibility of imminent danger that few understood. Dees and his associates had tracked far-right paramilitary groups and their racist leaders since the early 1980s, sometimes using daring undercover operations. In retaliation, his law office had been burned and attempts made on his life. In this revealing account, Dees names names and places, tying together for the first time the events, the players, and the history that gave life to the militia armies now operating across the country. He explains how hard-core racists and neo-Nazi leaders used the deaths of Randy Weaver's wife and son at Ruby Ridge and the Branch Davidian tragedy at Waco to convince thousands that our government was preparing for a war against its own citizens. Gathering Storm goes behind the scenes, beyond the friendly-looking militia leaders seen on TV talk shows, to explore secret paramilitary cells training deep in mountainous back country. Similar fanatics, with close ties and fueled by the same antigovernment zeal, have lived in our midst for more than a decade. These "super patriots," Dees shows, see themselves in a life-and-death struggle to reclaim the country. These militias do not operate in a vacuum but are close cousins to the religious right and ultraconservative politicians. They are fueled by the ban on assault weapons, strident radio talk show hosts, and those who preach hatred of government. Dees suggests ways to combat the militias and offers ideas on how to recapture the political debate.
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Editorial Reviews

Gilbert Taylor
Every few years, Dees sums up the doings of white supremacists whom his Southern Poverty Law Center monitors and sometimes sues for civil rights infringements. This summation mainly concerns publicity-soaked cases like Ruby Ridge, Waco, and Oklahoma City. Dees also wades through the beliefs of several militantly lunatic groups, such as the Zionist Occupied Government (ZOG) signifies the federal government or that the underground book "The Turner Diaries" re-creates their ideal future--an America purged pure after a racial civil war. Very extreme, but some people, like the accused perpetrator of the Oklahoma City bombing, read and believe. Coinciding with the anniversary of that heinous act, Dees' review can, where interest warrants, supplement recent publications, like "A Force upon the Plains" by Kenneth Stern , a more fact-dense investigation of superpatriotism.
Kirkus Reviews
Dees, chief trial counsel of the Southern Poverty Law Center, covers much of the same territory as Kenneth Stern (The Force Upon the Plain, 1995) in uncovering the danger of America's extreme right, but he does it with greater passion, considerable narrative drama, and deeply scary inside reports from SPLC moles.

Dees's (A Season for Justice, 1991) main thesis is that what were previously scattered, ideologically divided groups of right- wing extremists have now become a unified force bent on using violence to bring about white supremacist rule in the US. The dominant ideology is Christian Identity, a "theology of hate" whose followers are preparing for an Armageddon to overthrow the Zionist-occupied government (or ZOG). What Dees finds particularly alarming is the combustible union of hate groups, such as the Klan, with the rapidly growing (311 as of this year) and well-armed militia movements. Like Stern, Dees reviews such key events as the shoot-out at Ruby Ridge and the conflagration in Waco, and charts the growing hatred of the government that emerged in the aftermath of these events. "It is that virulent hatred . . . that is driving the militia movement, while at the same time masking its insidious racist underpinnings," he declares. Interestingly, he suggests that Timothy McVeigh might have been part of a small cell in the movement's decentralized "leaderless resistance" network. The most revealing information comes from the spies of SPLC's Militia Task Force; this group penetrated the October 1992 conference in Estes Park, Colo., that helped unify the forces of the far right, and drawing on transcripts from the meetings, Dees offers extracts of the virulent demagoguery that was spewed there. (In a timely bit of reporting, he notes that Larry Pratt, recently forced to resign as co-chair of Pat Buchanan's presidential campaign, was present at this conference.)

A convincing brief for the argument that the extreme right poses a serious, ongoing danger in this country.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780788163173
  • Publisher: DIANE Publishing Company
  • Publication date: 5/1/1999
  • Pages: 254

Meet the Author

Morris Dees is the Chief Trial Counsel for the Southern Poverty Law Center and its Militia Task Force. He is the author of A Season for Justice and Hate on Trial with Steven Fiffer. His cases were the subjects of an NBC-TV Movie of the Week and a Bill Moyers PBS-TV special.

He lives with his wife Elizabeth in Mathews, Alabama.

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Read an Excerpt

Death on Ruby Ridge

It was something that didn't happen that sparked the militia movement and set into motion the chain of events that is still unfolding.

In February 1991, Randy Weaver didn't appear for his trial on felony charges of selling two sawed-off shotguns to an informant for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms. Instead, he, together with his wife Vicki, their son Samuel, two daughters Sara and Rachel, and family friend Kevin Harris, retreated to his cabin atop Ruby Ridge near Naples, Idaho.

An army veteran and a hardened survivalist, Weaver had stockpiled food, weapons, and ammunition for the inevitable day when "ZOG" would come for him. ZOG stands for Zionist Occupied Government, a term for the U.S. government used by racists and neo-Nazis to reflect the belief that the country is controlled by Jews. On that remote scrap of mountainside, Weaver and his family would defy the lackeys of ZOG and the New World Order and would wait for Yahweh's will to be done.

"Whether we live or whether we die," he told the U.S. attorney through his lawyer, "we will not obey your lawless government."

Later, as the standoff with the government wore on, Weaver told an interviewer, "[T]he only thing [the government] can take away from us is our life. Even if we die, we win. We'll die believing in Yahweh."

If it was Yahweh's will that they be taken home to sit at his side, so be it. It was Yahweh, after all, who brought the Weavers from the rolling corn fields surrounding their home in Cedar Falls, Iowa, to the pristine, pine-scented mountains of the Idaho panhandle. (The Weavers never referred to God because it was dog spelled backward. Godwas Yahweh; Jesus Christ was Yahshua.)

Soon after their marriage in 1971, the couple set out on a spiritual journey that would take them from the mainstream Baptist Church of their Iowa upbringing to the extreme edges of Christianity where they would discover, and embrace, the Israel Message of Christian Identity.

That message professes that white people are the true Israelites and that Jews and people of color are, respectively, "children of Satan" and "the beasts of the field." It maintains that America is the New Jerusalem and that the Constitution was derived from the Bible and given to the white Christian Founding Fathers by God. It contends the U.S. government is nothing more than an expansion of the Christian faith and that the first Ten Amendments of the Constitution (the Bill of Rights) and the Articles of Confederation are the only documents—aside from the Bible—that need be obeyed. The Israel Message also holds that only white Christian men are true sovereign citizens of the United States. All other Americans, it argues, are merely Fourteenth Amendment "state" citizens, the creation of an illegitimate government.

Through Christian Identity, the Weavers learned the income tax was unconstitutional and desegregation of public schools was an effort to encourage interracial marriage. They learned that the federal government was controlled by a Jewish-led conspiracy of bankers who used the Internal Revenue Service and the Federal Reserve Board to manipulate the economy for personal gain. The same group, they were told, was tightening its grip on the news media, the courts, and the economy to hasten a one-world government that would one day enslave all white Christians.

Through Identity, the Weavers also came to accept the Bible as the literal word of Yahweh. And they came to understand what He was saying to them through the Scriptures.

They understood when, in Luke 22, Jesus said: "Let him who has no sword sell his robe and buy one."

They bought weapons. Lots of them. Two Ruger Mini-14 semiautomatics, a .223 rifle, a pump-action shotgun, a .38-caliber snub-nosed revolver, and a 9mm pistol. And a lot of ammunition.

The Weavers lived in a world where the "End-Times," as predicted in the book of Revelation, was approaching. Wars, rumors of wars, famines, pestilence, and diseases were sweeping the world and parts of America in their view. The evidence of that was in the newspapers they read and the television programs they watched. Soon there would be great discord throughout the land, people would riot in the streets, and ZOG would turn on all good Christians. It was time to seek out the holy place and join with other like-minded—and well-armed—Christians so they would have strength in numbers when Armageddon, the last great battle, came.

They understood the Biblical injunction in Matthew 24: "When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place: Then let them which be in Judea flee into the mountains."

In 1983, the Weavers migrated to the remote reaches of northern Idaho. There they built their cabin, high in the Selkirk Mountains. Constructed from plywood and two-by-fours, the cabin consisted of one large room and a sleeping loft; a generator supplied electricity, but there was no running water or indoor plumbing.

There they set down roots in a community that saw them as somewhat intense in their religious and political views, but welcomed them as hardworking, decent, and friendly folks. Good neighbors. Randy even ran for sheriff, promising to enforce only those laws the eight thousand or so residents of Boundary County wanted enforced. He received 102 of the some 400 votes cast in the two-person race.

The Weavers home-schooled their children, something they couldn't do in Iowa without a lot of hassles from government bureaucrats who wanted subjects taught that violated Yahweh's laws. Subjects such as sex education and race-mixing.

And, amid all the grandeur and beauty that is the Idaho panhandle, they found kindred spirits. They found the Aryan Nations.

The Aryan Nations compound, which was located sixty miles south of the Weavers' home, had been established in the mid-1970s by Richard Butler. A former aerospace engineer, Butler moved from California to Hayden Lake to escape the Jews, blacks, Hispanics, and other "alien scum" that he believed were contaminating the country and threatening to overwhelm the white majority. Like the Weavers, Butler held a man's race was his nation; neither should be polluted by contact with inferior individuals. He called for the establishment of an all-white nation in America's northwest. He believed a race war was both imminent and necessary to take back control of the U.S. government from the Jews and their black, brown, and yellow pawns. He encouraged his supporters to take up arms and prepare themselves for the coming of the Second American Revolution. And, like the Weavers, Butler justified his views through the hateful gospel of Christian Identity.

Although the Weavers never joined the Aryan Nations, they attended a number of the group's annual congresses and family day events. They enjoyed the kinship of fellow Identity Christians and the company of the people they met there. It was there that they met John and Carolyn Trochmann, who became close friends. It also was there that Randy met Gus Magisono, who said he needed sawed-off shotguns. The weapons would be used, he told Weaver, to forward the cause of Identity.

In October 1989, Weaver delivered two shotguns and was paid $300 by Magisono, who, in reality, was Kenneth Fadeley, a government informant. When the lawmen came for Randy, they offered him a deal: infiltrate the white supremacist movement as an FBI operative and the charges against him would be dropped. Weaver refused. He was indicted on gunrunning charges in December 1990.

When Weaver failed to appear for trial, a warrant for his arrest was issued. But the government wasn't anxious to confront Weaver. A month passed. Then six months. Then a year. Elisheba, the Weavers' third daughter, was born.

"He's not the only one living up there," Ron Evans, the chief deputy marshal for Idaho, told a reporter more than a year into the standoff. "We have four children and a wife up there who have not been charged with any crimes."

What Evans didn't tell the reporter was that nine years earlier, as the newly assigned chief deputy marshal for North Dakota, he was witness to a similar episode that ended in disaster.

On February 13, 1983, on a lonely prairie road outside of Medina, North Dakota, Evans's superior, U.S. Marshal Kenneth Muir, three of his fellow deputies, and two local lawmen attempted to arrest Gordon Kahl. Kahl was a follower of Christian Identity and a member of the Posse Comitatus, a shadowy racist, anti-Semitic, antitax group that believes there is no legitimate form of government beyond the county level. He was convinced a Jewish-led conspiracy had infiltrated the federal government, the judicial system, and law enforcement, and was bent on destroying his white, Christian America. Much like Randy Weaver, Kahl was a True Believer. He believed he was engaged in a Holy War. And he repeatedly vowed he would kill anyone who tried to arrest him for failure to pay some $30,000 in taxes.

He kept that vow.

Nobody knows who fired the first shot. But after a fierce, thirty-second gun battle, Muir and one of his deputies, Robert Cheshire, lay dead. Four other men—three lawmen and Kahl's twenty-year-old son, who was not wanted by authorities—were critically wounded. Kahl was a fugitive.

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Table of Contents

Author's Note
Introduction 1
1 Death on Ruby Ridge 9
2 The Seditionist 29
3 Rocky Mountain Rendezvous 49
4 Waco and Guns 69
5 Militia Warriors 79
6 Recipe for Disaster 95
7 Winds of Rage 109
8 The Return of Earl Turner 135
9 The Almost Perfect Soldier 149
10 Children for Children 171
11 Bonds of Trust 179
12 Gathering Storm 199
13 The Last Best Hope 215
Source Notes 235
Acknowledgments 243
Index 245
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First Chapter

Death on Ruby Ridge

It was something that didn't happen that sparked the militia movement and set into motion the chain of events that is still unfolding.

In February 1991, Randy Weaver didn't appear for his trial on felony charges of selling two sawed-off shotguns to an informant for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms. Instead, he, together with his wife Vicki, their son Samuel, two daughters Sara and Rachel, and family friend Kevin Harris, retreated to his cabin atop Ruby Ridge near Naples, Idaho.

An army veteran and a hardened survivalist, Weaver had stockpiled food, weapons, and ammunition for the inevitable day when "ZOG" would come for him. ZOG stands for Zionist Occupied Government, a term for the U.S. government used by racists and neo-Nazis to reflect the belief that the country is controlled by Jews. On that remote scrap of mountainside, Weaver and his family would defy the lackeys of ZOG and the New World Order and would wait for Yahweh's will to be done.

"Whether we live or whether we die," he told the U.S. attorney through his lawyer, "we will not obey your lawless government."

Later, as the standoff with the government wore on, Weaver told an interviewer, "[T]he only thing [the government] can take away from us is our life. Even if we die, we win. We'll die believing in Yahweh."

If it was Yahweh's will that they be taken home to sit at his side, so be it. It was Yahweh, after all, who brought the Weavers from the rolling corn fields surrounding their home in Cedar Falls, Iowa, to the pristine, pine-scented mountains of the Idaho panhandle. (The Weavers never referred to God because it was dog spelledbackward. God was Yahweh; Jesus Christ was Yahshua.)

Soon after their marriage in 1971, the couple set out on a spiritual journey that would take them from the mainstream Baptist Church of their Iowa upbringing to the extreme edges of Christianity where they would discover, and embrace, the Israel Message of Christian Identity.

That message professes that white people are the true Israelites and that Jews and people of color are, respectively, "children of Satan" and "the beasts of the field." It maintains that America is the New Jerusalem and that the Constitution was derived from the Bible and given to the white Christian Founding Fathers by God. It contends the U.S. government is nothing more than an expansion of the Christian faith and that the first Ten Amendments of the Constitution (the Bill of Rights) and the Articles of Confederation are the only documents--aside from the Bible--that need be obeyed. The Israel Message also holds that only white Christian men are true sovereign citizens of the United States. All other Americans, it argues, are merely Fourteenth Amendment "state" citizens, the creation of an illegitimate government.

Through Christian Identity, the Weavers learned the income tax was unconstitutional and desegregation of public schools was an effort to encourage interracial marriage. They learned that the federal government was controlled by a Jewish-led conspiracy of bankers who used the Internal Revenue Service and the Federal Reserve Board to manipulate the economy for personal gain. The same group, they were told, was tightening its grip on the news media, the courts, and the economy to hasten a one-world government that would one day enslave all white Christians.

Through Identity, the Weavers also came to accept the Bible as the literal word of Yahweh. And they came to understand what He was saying to them through the Scriptures.

They understood when, in Luke 22, Jesus said: "Let him who has no sword sell his robe and buy one."

They bought weapons. Lots of them. Two Ruger Mini-14 semiautomatics, a .223 rifle, a pump-action shotgun, a .38-caliber snub-nosed revolver, and a 9mm pistol. And a lot of ammunition.

The Weavers lived in a world where the "End-Times," as predicted in the book of Revelation, was approaching. Wars, rumors of wars, famines, pestilence, and diseases were sweeping the world and parts of America in their view. The evidence of that was in the newspapers they read and the television programs they watched. Soon there would be great discord throughout the land, people would riot in the streets, and ZOG would turn on all good Christians. It was time to seek out the holy place and join with other like-minded--and well-armed--Christians so they would have strength in numbers when Armageddon, the last great battle, came.

They understood the Biblical injunction in Matthew 24: "When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place: Then let them which be in Judea flee into the mountains."

In 1983, the Weavers migrated to the remote reaches of northern Idaho. There they built their cabin, high in the Selkirk Mountains. Constructed from plywood and two-by-fours, the cabin consisted of one large room and a sleeping loft; a generator supplied electricity, but there was no running water or indoor plumbing.

There they set down roots in a community that saw them as somewhat intense in their religious and political views, but welcomed them as hardworking, decent, and friendly folks. Good neighbors. Randy even ran for sheriff, promising to enforce only those laws the eight thousand or so residents of Boundary County wanted enforced. He received 102 of the some 400 votes cast in the two-person race.

The Weavers home-schooled their children, something they couldn't do in Iowa without a lot of hassles from government bureaucrats who wanted subjects taught that violated Yahweh's laws. Subjects such as sex education and race-mixing.

And, amid all the grandeur and beauty that is the Idaho panhandle, they found kindred spirits. They found the Aryan Nations.

The Aryan Nations compound, which was located sixty miles south of the Weavers' home, had been established in the mid-1970s by Richard Butler. A former aerospace engineer, Butler moved from California to Hayden Lake to escape the Jews, blacks, Hispanics, and other "alien scum" that he believed were contaminating the country and threatening to overwhelm the white majority. Like the Weavers, Butler held a man's race was his nation; neither should be polluted by contact with inferior individuals. He called for the establishment of an all-white nation in America's northwest. He believed a race war was both imminent and necessary to take back control of the U.S. government from the Jews and their black, brown, and yellow pawns. He encouraged his supporters to take up arms and prepare themselves for the coming of the Second American Revolution. And, like the Weavers, Butler justified his views through the hateful gospel of Christian Identity.

Although the Weavers never joined the Aryan Nations, they attended a number of the group's annual congresses and family day events. They enjoyed the kinship of fellow Identity Christians and the company of the people they met there. It was there that they met John and Carolyn Trochmann, who became close friends. It also was there that Randy met Gus Magisono, who said he needed sawed-off shotguns. The weapons would be used, he told Weaver, to forward the cause of Identity.

In October 1989, Weaver delivered two shotguns and was paid $300 by Magisono, who, in reality, was Kenneth Fadeley, a government informant. When the lawmen came for Randy, they offered him a deal: infiltrate the white supremacist movement as an FBI operative and the charges against him would be dropped. Weaver refused. He was indicted on gunrunning charges in December 1990.

When Weaver failed to appear for trial, a warrant for his arrest was issued. But the government wasn't anxious to confront Weaver. A month passed. Then six months. Then a year. Elisheba, the Weavers' third daughter, was born.

"He's not the only one living up there," Ron Evans, the chief deputy marshal for Idaho, told a reporter more than a year into the standoff. "We have four children and a wife up there who have not been charged with any crimes."

What Evans didn't tell the reporter was that nine years earlier, as the newly assigned chief deputy marshal for North Dakota, he was witness to a similar episode that ended in disaster.

On February 13, 1983, on a lonely prairie road outside of Medina, North Dakota, Evans's superior, U.S. Marshal Kenneth Muir, three of his fellow deputies, and two local lawmen attempted to arrest Gordon Kahl. Kahl was a follower of Christian Identity and a member of the Posse Comitatus, a shadowy racist, anti-Semitic, antitax group that believes there is no legitimate form of government beyond the county level. He was convinced a Jewish-led conspiracy had infiltrated the federal government, the judicial system, and law enforcement, and was bent on destroying his white, Christian America. Much like Randy Weaver, Kahl was a True Believer. He believed he was engaged in a Holy War. And he repeatedly vowed he would kill anyone who tried to arrest him for failure to pay some $30,000 in taxes.

He kept that vow.

Nobody knows who fired the first shot. But after a fierce, thirty-second gun battle, Muir and one of his deputies, Robert Cheshire, lay dead. Four other men--three lawmen and Kahl's twenty-year-old son, who was not wanted by authorities--were critically wounded. Kahl was a fugitive. Gathering Storm. Copyright © by Morris Dees. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

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