Copyright 1995, The Spokesman-Review
Random acts involving bombs, poison and firearms have investigators wondering whether right-wing extremists are using “leaderless resistance” to terrorize the United States.
The concept shuns leaders and identifiable organizations and instead uses small groups of people who work independently toward the same goal.
Leaderless resistance is promoted by white supremacists and some militia groups as a way to carry out an anti-government revolution without detection or infiltration.
Many incidents and related arrests have ties to the Inland Northwest, the Aryan Nations and militia groups.
Authorities aren’t saying the events of recent weeks are connected, but they are raising interest in leaderless resistance.
Among the recent events:
In San Francisco and Kelso, Wash., suspected right-wing radicals were caught in the past month with bomb-making supplies and guns.
In Columbus, Ohio, an Aryan Nations member was arrested May 12 after fraudulently obtaining bubonic plague virus.
In Spokane, a man who protested the government during the Randy Weaver siege is under investigation for making fertilizer bombs like the one that exploded in Oklahoma City, sources say.
“I think law enforcement has to take leaderless resistance seriously right now,” said Danny Welch, director of Klanwatch in Montgomery, Ala.
“How many acts of leaderless resistance terrorism have been committed that we don’t know about?” Welch asked.
“If they do the act right, we don’t tie it to any particular group, and that’s the purpose of leaderless resistance.”
The concept is vigorously promoted by white supremacists Louis Beam and Tom Metzger, who have longstanding ties to the Aryan Nations, based in Hayden Lake, Idaho.
The Militia of Montana also distributes literature promoting leaderless resistance. The group, based in Noxon, Mont., was co-founded by John Trochmann, a Beam associate.
“This form of networking allows for a secure organization” and makes infiltration difficult, the Militia of Montana literature says. “At no time does any one member know who all of the other members are, including the commander.”
Co-founder Randy Trochmann, John Trochmann’s nephew, said the Militia of Montana promotes the leaderless concept because it allows communication without a command structure.
With a rigid, military-style command structure, “You have too many guys running around, playing soldier,” Trochmann said.
He wouldn’t speculate why Beam promotes the same concept.
Beam, who says he is moving to nearby Sandpoint, delivered an impassioned speech about “leaderless resistance” last summer at the Aryan World Congress in Hayden Lake.
The former Ku Klux Klan leader urged white supremacists to move away from organized groups which, he claims, are too easy for “the federals” to monitor and infiltrate.
Beam urged those itching for action to switch to covert revolutionary tactics of “leaderless resistance.”
Klanwatch’s Welch said law enforcement officials told him leaderless resistance may be behind some recent crimes.
If the FBI is pursuing the hypothesis, its officials aren’t talking.
“At this time, we are not really making any comment about these issues,” Bill Carter, spokesman for the FBI’s Counter-Terrorism Section, said Friday.
“In the wake of Oklahoma City, we are pretty much declining questions and interview requests regarding terrorism in the United States,” Carter said.
The issue could surface at Senate hearings this summer.
John O’Neill, chief of the FBI’s Counter-Terrorism Section, is scheduled to testify at a Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Terrorism, Technology and Government Information.
Tom Halpern, chief researcher for the Anti-Defamation League, said leaderless resistance has caused “considerable debate” within white supremacy ranks.
While Beam and Metzger favor the concept, neo-Nazi Art Jones of Chicago says the leaderless cell movement is “nothing but a good way to fill ZOG’s jails.” He said those involved in it are asking to get arrested.
ZOG is a radical right reference to what extremists call the “Zionist occupied government.”
Timothy McVeigh, the man accused of bombing the federal building in Oklahoma City, reportedly read “The Turner Diaries,” a fictional account of a race war. Its plot involves cells of revolutionaries who bomb the FBI headquarters and carry out other acts of leaderless terrorism.
Halpern said the book is the “embodiment of the leaderless resistance” concept.
Its author, William Pierce, is scheduled to appear with Beam at this summer’s Aryan World Congress in North Idaho.
Beam began advocating leaderless resistance after he and a dozen other white supremacists, including Aryan leader Richard Butler, were indicted in 1988 for plotting to overthrow the U.S. government.
Beam and Butler were accused of being the “godfathers” of a right-wing extremist conspiracy that allowed them to haul in money stolen by a terrorist band known as The Order. They were acquitted.
Another white supremacists who stood trial in Fort Smith, Ark., with Beam and Butler was Richard Wayne Snell.
He was executed for murder in Arkansas on April 19, just hours after the Oklahoma City bombing. Even in the death chamber, Snell threatened retribution.
His execution and other events that occurred on April 19 in previous years were widely discussed on the Internet and through newsletters distributed by the Militia of Montana and other right-wing groups.
Chief among the milestones noted was the April 19, 1993, fiery destruction of the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas.
That episode and the August 1992 siege at the Randy Weaver cabin near Naples, Idaho, are rallying points for the militia, white supremacists and other anti-government groups.