America's Secret Jihad: The Hidden History of Religious Terrorism in the United States(2015)
the ORDER, the CSA, and the 1984 MURDER of SHOCK JOCK ALAN BERG
The station promotion assistant at KAO Radio in Denver, Colorado, found something suspicious about the fifty-two-year-old University of Wyoming “writing student” who visited the station, supposedly on a research assignment for an upcoming class. Beyond her age, the “short, chubby” woman asked none of the questions that Patrick O’Connor normally fielded from students. She showed no interest in the “station’s ratings, advertising rates or marketing.” Instead, the woman focused her inquiry almost entirely on the radio program’s personalities—their airtimes, the substance of their shows. O’Connor became even more suspicious when he noticed the woman, later identified as Jean Craig, a Laramie, Wyoming, grandmother, taking photos of the facility, “including an employee-only parking lot behind the building.”1
The record shows that Craig was on a very different kind of assignment. Her mission at KOA became part of a wider effort by Craig to track the movements of Alan Berg, one of the station’s most well-known and outspoken call-in radio personalities. A onetime writer for the brilliant, controversial, and unabashedly foul-mouthed comic Lenny Bruce, Berg had once earned accolades simultaneously as Denver’s most-liked and least-liked radio host. By 1984 Berg had made his mark by berating on-air callers, be they liberals or conservatives, men or women. No one escaped Berg’s hostile wit, especially not the white supremacists who frequently called in to the Jewish “shock jock.” Berg took great pleasure in ridiculing the bigots in his listening audience, specifically challenging members of the Christian Identity movement.
On February 13, 1984, Berg invited two Identity evangelists, Colonel Jack Mohr and Pastor Pete Peters, onto his program for a confrontation. The sixty-eight-year old Mohr belonged to the founding generation of Identity clerics, and while his profile was less national than that of fellow Korean War veteran William Potter Gale, Mohr had self-published a large number of theological tracts while running an informal ministry for forty years. Peters, on the other hand, belonged to a new generation of Identity icons. Born in Nebraska, the “self-styled cowboy preacher” had founded the Laporte Church of Christ in Colorado in 1977. The church included its own outreach arm, Scripture for America.2 The three-hour program ended in the spirit of outright hostility, but not before a caller phoned into the program, defending the two Identity preachers.
“You ought to have a Nazi on your show,”’ the caller said.
“You’re sick, perverted,” Berg replied. “You are a Nazi.”3
Berg did not know that the caller, David Lane, belonged to a secret cell of religious terrorists known as the Order, or the Silent Brotherhood. Formed in 1983, the group had developed a six-phase plan to “recruit members, to build a ‘war chest’ by robbing banks and counterfeiting, and eventually to liberate the Pacific Northwest as a homeland for whites.” In January 1984, the group “outlined ‘step 5’ of the plan, the assassination of prominent Jews.”4 Berg had no way of knowing it, but in antagonizing his white supremacist guests, he had made his way to the top of the Order’s hit list. Five months later, Lane drove the getaway car involved in Berg’s murder.
On June 18, 1984, with intelligence gathered by Craig’s advanced scouting, members of the Order, including founder Robert Mathews, were waiting for Berg when he entered the driveway of his home at 1445 Adams Street in a suburb of Colorado. With thirty-nine-year-old New Yorker Richard Scutari serving as a lookout, Lane, a forty-seven-year-old former KKK member, pulled up behind Berg’s VW Beetle in a four-door Plymouth, blocking the radio host’s exit from his driveway. Mathews opened the door for another loyal member of the Order, thirty-year-old Christian Identity devotee Bruce Pierce, who opened fire, killing Berg with a .45-caliber MAC-10 submachine gun. As Lane peeled out to escape the scene of the crime, Pierce said to Mathews, “It was like we pulled the goddam rug out from under him the way he went down!”5
For some, the killing of Berg marked a radical departure in the tactics of white supremacists. Mark Potok, an expert on extremism from the Southern Poverty Law Center, said, “In a sense, it was one of the opening shots of a truly revolutionary radical right perfectly willing to countenance the mass murder of American civilians for their cause.”6 As has been noted throughout this book, the radical right had been willing to “countenance the mass murder of American civilians” since the late 1950s, especially if those civilians were either black or Jewish. During the 1960s, these plans were limited—first, because radical religious leaders hoped to leverage the large number of rank-and-file racists who were less amenable to wider violence, and second, because law enforcement had fractured the ranks of white supremacist organizations and curtailed their membership at the most opportune time for fomenting racial violence. This pattern persisted through the 1970s, despite the best efforts to unify the ever-shrinking numbers of militant bigots. But in 1979 the Greensboro massacre reignited the white supremacist movement. At the same time, many leading supremacists began to rethink and refine their tactics. In fact, the killing of Berg simply represented the next step in the evolution of domestic religious terrorism, a shift that had been ongoing since the Silent Brotherhood’s founder, Robert Mathews, had been a teenager.
Mathews began his journey into radical white supremacy in 1971, as a nineteen-year-old in Arizona, where he and his family had moved from his birthplace in Texas. The Minutemen enjoyed a wide following in the Southwest, and their anti-communist and antigovernment message resonated with the teenager. But with Robert Bolivar DePugh in prison in 1971, the Minutemen were racked by internal rivalries. Failing to graduate from high school, Mathews widened his range of conservative activities to include membership in the Young Republicans, the John Birch Society, and eventually his own radical, paramilitary anti-tax group, the Sons of Liberty. By 1972 he had already drawn the attention of federal law enforcement, but at that point he was more or less living a transient lifestyle and was difficult to trace.
Mathews remained on the periphery of right-wing causes after the Sons of Liberty disbanded in 1975. But he soon joined William Luther Pierce’s National Alliance, a white nationalist, anti-Semitic, and white separatist organization. By 1982 he had become active with Richard Butler’s Aryan Nations in Idaho and had explored Christian Identity theology via the Church of Jesus Christ-Christian.
Mathews’s religious worldview is confusing to some. Some scholars still refer to him as a Mormon, based on his upbringing, but he clearly dabbled with both Christian Identity and Odinism. It is clear that when he formed the Order in 1983, Mathews recruited many members from Christian Identity offshoots, notably from Jim Ellison’s Covenant, Sword and Arm of the Lord. As late as 2007, a close associate claimed that much like Louis Beam, Mathews favored a form of Odinism that seemed to incorporate Christian Identity beliefs.
Beam’s ideas appear to have influenced Mathews in more than just the religious sense. In 1983 Beam authored his essay, now famous in white supremacist circles, on “leaderless resistance.” In this landmark piece, Beam, perhaps with an eye toward groups like the Minutemen and the KKK, insisted that “so-called ‘secret army’ organizations are sitting ducks for enemy infiltration, entrapment and destruction of the personnel involved,” because they relied on top-down, hierarchical, pyramid-style approaches to military organization. Beam argued that white supremacists needed to adopt the cell model of insurgency, whereby smaller militant groups operated “totally independently of the other cells,” with information on the government passed from group to group rather than dispersed from some centralized and unifying command.
Beam referred to the cell system used by the Soviets but ultimately rejected the Soviet model because the KGB retained its centralized leadership role in activating cells to achieve a broad objective. Beam instead harkened back to a strategy first articulated by lifelong intelligence agent Colonel Uluis L. Amoss and aptly named the phantom cell. Beam wrote:
The “phantom cell” mode of organization is based upon the cell organization, but does not have any central control or direction. In the Leaderless Resistance concept, all cells operate independently of each other, but they do not report to a central headquarters or top chief, as do the communist cells… .
The entire purpose of Leaderless Resistance organization is to defeat the enemy by whatever means possible, all members of phantom cells will tend to react to an objective event in the same way, usually through the tactics of resistance and sabotage.7
In many ways, Mathews’s new group became the beta test for the phantom cell concept. Without any apparent central direction, the Order engaged in a months-long effort, from 1983 to 1984, to bomb Jewish targets, assassinate political leaders, and undermine the American economic system, all while funding itself through bank robberies and armored-car heists.
But if Beam’s ideas informed the strategic framework for Mathews’s revolutionary group, then William Luther Pierce provided the playbook for its activities. Writing under the pseudonym Andrew MacDonald, Pierce had authored the 1978 underground best seller The Turner Diaries,8 a how-to guide for would-be terrorist cells. Set in 1991, the futuristic novel assumes the form of a diary written by Earl Turner, a martyr in an insurgent resistance group known as the Organization. The passage of the fictional Cohen Act of 1989, calling for the mass confiscation of guns by the Jewish-controlled government (Turner calls it the System), radicalizes and coheres the Organization, once a ramshackle group of antigovernment conservatives, into a well-heeled militia. The Organization uses bombings, assassinations, and other tactics to fight a guerrilla campaign against the System while constantly facing structural problems, a lack of resources, and a lack of members due to government propaganda. After months of proving his worth “to the Cause,” Turner and his girlfriend are summoned for a loyalty test—a foolproof method of weeding out infiltrators. After that they are indoctrinated, through a secret ritual, into a covert subgroup within the Organization: the Order.
When Robert Mathews formed the Order in September 1983, he drew direct inspiration from The Turner Diaries. But the “proof” of government tyranny for members of the Silent Brotherhood was not any formal, national effort at gun confiscation. The group radicalized over the “martyrdom” of a handful of extremists who had died resisting the government.
This group included Gordon Kahl, a Christian Identity follower, shot dead in a February 1983 armed standoff with Arkansas law enforcement. Weeks earlier, Kahl, a leader in William Gale’s Posse Comitatus anti-tax organization, had killed two U.S. marshals who had sought to arrest the extremist for parole violations. (In 1976 Kahl had served time in federal prison for tax evasion.)9
Other martyrs to the antigovernment cause included John Singer, an excommunicated Mormon fundamentalist who had refused to send his children to public schools because they promoted integration. In January 1979, when police attempted to enforce a court order giving custody of Singer’s children to his ex-wife, Singer drew a weapon and was shot dead by Utah police officers.10
Finally, there was Arthur Kirk, an in-debt Nebraska farmer who, on October 23 1984, wearing a gas mask and armed with an AR-15 submachine gun, exchanged fire with a state law enforcement SWAT team and died in a hail of bullets fleeing his home.11 Though there is no sign that Kirk was a religious radical, his death became a cause célèbre for Christian Identity zealots, who in their newsletters reported that “Kirk’s wounds were not fatal, but the SWAT team then let him bleed to death in a dog pen before they took him to the hospital.”12
In 1984, when the Order officially declared war on what it called the Zionist Occupied Government (ZOG), it cited all three men as “Aryan yeoman” who “awoke” to fight their government:
Our heroes and our culture have been insulted and degraded. The mongrel hordes clamor to sever us from our inheritance. Yet our people do not care… . Not by accident but by design these terrible things have come to pass. It is self-evident to all who have eyes to see that an evil shadow has fallen across our once fair land. Evidence abounds that a certain vile, alien people have taken control of our country.
All about us the land is dying. Our cities swarm with dusky hordes. The water is rancid and the air is rank. Our farms are being seized by usurious leeches and our people are being forced off the land. The Capitalists and the Communists pick gleefully at our bones while the vile hook-nosed masters of usury orchestrate our destruction… .
We now close this Declaration with an open letter to Congress and our signatures confirming our intent to do battle. Let friend and foe alike be made aware. This is war!—We the following, being of sound mind and under no duress, do hereby sign this document of our own free will, stating forthrightly and without fear that we declare ourselves to be in full and unrelenting state of war with those forces seeking and consciously promoting the destruction of our faith and our race.
Therefore, for Blood, Soil, and Honor, and for the future of our children, and for our King, Jesus Christ we commit ourselves to Battle. Amen.13
If the CSA’s Jim Ellison consecrated his leadership of malcontents by quoting 1 Samuel 22:2, then members of the Order held Jeremiah 51:20 (God’s prophecy for Cyrus of Babylon as a future hero for the Israelites) in highest esteem: “You are My war-club, My weapon of war; And with you I shatter nations, And with you I destroy kingdoms.”
To take on the American “kingdom,” the Order took its cue from Pierce’s fictional Organization and engaged in bombings (of Congregation Ahavath Israel Synagogue in Boise, Idaho) and a murder (of Alan Berg in Denver). Its list of potential assassination and bombing targets was longer and far bolder, but the group initially lacked the resources to pursue its goals. So, in another parallel with William Pierce’s fictional universe, Matthew’s cadre resorted to robberies to finance its operations, at one point scoring a series of armored-truck heists that netted millions of dollars.
Early on, Mathews assumed what the fictional Earl Turner realized only midway through his insurgency that a movement that hopes to undermine the system can attract adherents only by undermining support for the status quo. As Pierce/MacDonald asserts after Turner enters the Order:
What is really precious to the average American is not his freedom or his honor or the future of his race, but his pay check. He complained when the System began busing his kids to Black schools 20 years ago, but he was allowed to keep his station wagon and his fiberglass speedboat, so he didn’t fight.14
So, just like the Order in Pierce’s fictional account, the Silent Brotherhood begins a major counterfeiting operation to undermine the status quo.
In the make-believe world of The Turner Diaries, the counterfeiting operation goes a long way toward bringing down the System. The combination of a militant insurgency and economic sabotage—including destruction of a major power plant in Evanston, New York—creates chaos and brings a growing number of new members to Earl Turner’s group. In the novel, the Organization engages in widespread ethnic cleansing and mass murder, including the Day of the Rope, when Jews, “mongrels,” and race traitors are summarily executed by hanging in California. The Organization infiltrates and recruits from within the U.S. military and soon gains control over nuclear weapons, engaging in a war of nuclear attrition with the System and with the Soviet Union. Earl Turner, who early in the novel betrays his oath to the Order by failing to kill himself before being temporarily captured, redeems himself through a suicide mission, destroying the Pentagon in a kamikaze attack with a plane full of explosives. In the years that follow, the Organization gains the upper hand, overruns much of the Western world, lays waste to large parts of Asia, and of course exterminates Jews and minority groups by the millions, leaving a world where the fictional Order exercises “its wise and benevolent rule over the earth for all time to come.”15
In the real world, things did not go as well for Robert Mathews and the Order. The Order’s counterfeiting operation produced a number of poorly made bills. The Secret Service traced the fake money to a member of the Silent Brotherhood in Philadelphia. Law enforcement then turned this member, Tom Martinez, into an undercover informant. In his reports, Martinez described to law enforcement the thought process of individuals like Mathews, who hated Jews as much as Stoner or Bowers ever did. Information provided by Martinez had helped bring down the most senior members of the Order by 1985 and ultimately led to a final denouement with Mathews at Whidbey Island in Washington State.16
With its rustic cabins, tidal basins, and old-growth forests, bucolic Whidbey Island is now a tourist attraction. But on December 7 and 8, 1984, it was the site of the last standoff between Robert Mathews and federal law enforcement. Weeks earlier, after a shootout in Portland, Oregon, in which an FBI agent was shot, a wounded Mathews escaped to the island. Cornered at a waterfront home on the ironically named Smuggler’s Cove Road, Mathews refused to surrender or even negotiate with the “enemy,” despite being surrounded by “150 FBI agents from five states … plus Island County sheriff’s deputies with Coast Guard and Navy support,” including “dozens of FBI sharpshooters, explosives specialists, negotiators and antiterrorist experts.”17 On the first day alone, the Odinist unleashed nearly one thousand rounds of ammunition on law enforcement. Knowing that Mathews had a virtual arsenal at the ready to continue his one-man standoff, law enforcement launched illumination flares at the cabin, setting the place ablaze with Mathews in it. “Mathews’ blackened bones were found in a bathtub” not long after.18
Thus Mathews joined Kahl, Singer, and Kirk—and before them Kathy Ainsworth—as a modern martyr of the white supremacist cause. Perhaps twenty-five years too late, the hunt for the Order, according to Anti-Defamation League expert Marvin Stern, caused “governmental agencies to take a harder look at the (white supremacist) phenomenon… . It gave law enforcement the impetus to take a harder look at the threat this posed to them and to all of society.”19
In pursuing other fugitives connected with the Order, the government turned its attention to a group with close affiliations to Mathews: Jim Ellison’s the Covenant, the Sword and Arm of the Lord. Since 1978, due to the influence of Identity pastors Dan Gayman and Robert Millar, the CSA had been moving more and more in a radical direction. In 1982 Ellison had declared himself King of the Ozarks and issued a “Declaration of Non-Surrender”:
We, the undersigned, knowing that we stand in the presence of God Almighty and His Son, Jesus Christ, do commit our signature and our willing approval to this document.
In the event of the collapse of this Great Republic or the consideration of surrender of our sovereignty by our duly elected government officials to an internal or external power, we the undersigned, acting in the spirit of our Forefathers and these great documents—the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of these United States—refuse any and all such treaty, pact or declaration of surrender.
We acknowledge that there can exist no compromise between the principle of Freedom under God and the establishment of a world order based on humanism, materialism, socialism, and communism. We accept the principle that it is better to stand, and if need be fall for the cause of Christ and Country than to submit to the coming attempt of satanic and socialistic world order.
Let it be affirmed in the name of Jesus Christ and in the spirit of our Forefathers.
The people of Zarepath-Horeb and C.S.A.20
According to ex-CSA member Kerry Noble, the group imagined an impending end-times scenario whereby the president of the United States surrenders American sovereignty to the “World Socialist Democratic Alliance” without so much as a shot being fired. Under the new system of government, all firearms would be confiscated and “all food, fuel and medical supplies will be impounded for the good of the people” and all “fundamental, independent, Bible-centered congregations will cease operation at once.”21 In this CSA nightmare scenario, publication and distribution of the Bible would be banned.
Returning from Richard Butler’s Aryan World Congress in 1983, Ellison spoke about his future plans for the CSA organization, which included “dumping cyanide into the reservoirs of major cities, killing federal agents, blowing up an [Anti-Defamation League] building or overpasses in major cities; maybe even blowing up a federal building.” In the case of the latter, a CSA associate, Richard Wayne Snell, approached Ellison and asked “King James” if, “in his opinion … it [would] be practical to blow up a federal building in Oklahoma City, or possibly a federal building in Dallas or Fort Worth, Texas.”22 According to criminologist Mark Hamm, Snell joined Ellison and another CSA member, Steve Scott, and
traveled to Oklahoma City where, posing as maintenance workers in brown uniforms, they entered the Murrah Federal Building and assessed what it would take to destroy it. Ellison carried a notepad on which he made sketches showing where the building was most vulnerable to collapse from the explosion of rocket launchers that were to be placed in a van. Ellison said “[The van] could be driven up to a given spot, parked there, and a timed detonating device could be triggered so that the driver could walk away and leave the vehicle in a position and he would have time to clear the area before the rockets launched.”23
Thankfully, Hamm observes, the CSA lacked the criminal skill and competence to pull off this grand scheme. Instead, it attempted a number of lower-level crimes as a means to that end: stealing police uniforms, CB radios, and various merchandise that could be pawned for cash. In one instance, Snell robbed a pawnshop under the mistaken impression that the owner was Jewish. Snell killed the man during the robbery. Later, while on the lam, he murdered an African American state trooper who had pulled him over for a traffic violation.
Neither of Snell’s killings was part of any organized CSA terrorism. In terms of directly targeting its enemies, the best the CSA could muster was two arson attacks: one against the gay-friendly Metropolitan Community Church in Missouri and the other against Temple Beth Shalom in Indiana. In both cases, the resulting damage was minor.
Despite their frustrations, in 1984 Ellison and the CSA issued a declaration of war, which they called the Aryan Tactical Treaty for the Advancement of Christ’s Kingdom (ATTACK). The document stated, “It is inevitable that war is coming to the United States of America… . It is predestined… . The time has come for the Spirit of Slumber to be lifted off our people! Arise, O Israel, and Shine, for thy light is come, and the glory of our Father is risen upon thee. We shall Attack and Advance into enemy territory within the next two years. Be Prepared!”24
By this time the U.S. government had compromised the CSA, developing seven informants inside Ellison’s 224-acre compound in Arkansas. According to the Department of Justice, these informants established
that CSA was stockpiling military-type guns, fabricating silencers and grenades, converting semi-automatic weapons to automatic weapons, engaging in paramilitary training, and burying land mines around the compound perimeter. The agents also learned that CSA was involved in such activities as arson … attempting to blow-up a natural gas pipeline, and theft. These activities were intended to produce operating funds, to plunder the property of certain “unacceptable” groups, and to hasten the collapse of the government.25
With information provided by the moles, the government obtained a warrant to search Zarephath-Horeb in April 1984. Some three hundred federal agents surrounded the estate, fully expecting that the heavily armed CSA members would resist with violence. Despite some initial low-key resistance, no showdown ever materialized. Ellison negotiated a deal whereby he would surrender to law enforcement if federal prosecutors promised that he would be placed in a jail cell by himself. (He feared what would happen if he was placed in a cell with black prisoners.) The FBI convinced Ellison and his CSA compatriots to surrender without ever firing a shot.26
The FBI found and arrested two members of the Order, fugitives from the federal manhunt. Inside the compound investigators also found an alarming cache of weapons and military supplies. This included “ninety-four long guns, 30 handguns, approximately 35 machine guns and sawed-off shotguns, one heavy machine gun … and several thousand rounds of ammunition,” as well as several “improvised … land mines … and hand grenades.”27 Notably, agents also recovered a thirty-gallon drum of potassium cyanide that Ellison said would be used to poison water supplies in Washington, D.C., and New York City. Hamm, citing terrorism expert Jessica Stern, notes that “potassium cyanide is not a sophisticated weapon of mass destruction.”28 But, as Noble asserted, with additional research the CSA could have learned that the substance can be very lethal if combined with other chemical agents.29
A jury convicted Ellison for “racketeering activities … interstate travel to promote arson, and … firearms-related charges.” Sentenced to twenty years in prison, Ellison soon found an opportunity to save his own hide. Together with North Carolina bigot and Order associate Frazier Glenn Miller, Ellison became part of the government’s boldest effort yet to rein in the white supremacist movement: the Fort Smith, Arkansas, sedition trials. The two radicals became state witnesses. Claiming to have uncovered an organized plot to overthrow the U.S. government, federal prosecutors indicted fourteen of the country’s leading white supremacists in 1987. They include Beam, Butler, Pastor Robert Miles of the Unity Now movement, and several members of the Order, including Richard Scutari, David Lane, and Bruce Pierce (all of whom had participated in the Alan Berg assassination). Almost half of the men were already serving prison time for previous crimes and convictions. The government argued that on the heels of the “martyrdom” of Gordon Kahl, the fourteen men had formally conspired to topple the government while meeting in Butler’s Idaho home. A major inspiration for the plot, according to prosecutors, was The Turner Diaries. Prosecutors introduced over twelve hundred items of evidence, including testimony from Ellison and Miller. On the stand, Miller claimed that the late Robert Mathews had arranged to deliver substantial amounts of money, garnered from bank robberies and armored-car heists, to Butler, Beam, and others (including Miller himself). Ellison claimed direct knowledge of the antigovernment conspiracy.30
Sedition trials are incredibly rare and difficult to prosecute in the United States for a reason. There is a fine line between the right to free speech guaranteed by the Constitution and discussing a conspiracy with credible, subversive intent. To prove the latter, the government had to rely on witnesses whose radical beliefs compromised their credibility and who were promised reduced sentences in exchange for their testimony. Defense attorneys established, among other things, that Ellison “had two wives, thought he received messages from God and had himself crowned King James of the Ozarks.”31 Those same defense attorneys managed to remove all minorities from the jury during the voir dire process, and two of the remaining white female jurors fell in love with some of the defendants. One of the jurors even married one of the defendants when the trial was over. But even Harvard ethnographer Raphael Ezekiel, who has studied the racist mind-set and who witnessed the trial, was not convinced by the government’s case. On April 8, 1988, the jury acquitted all fourteen defendants, with Louis Beam gloating, “I think ZOG has suffered a terrible defeat here today… . I think everyone saw through the charade and saw that I was simply being punished for being a vociferous and outspoken opponent of ZOG.”32
Others agreed with Beam, and in what must have made the mastermind behind the concept of leaderless resistance gloat even more, the trial itself became an impetus for the growth of the modern American militia movement. In the decade that followed, thousands of Americans banded together in local groups to practice paramilitary combat, in preparation for a government takeover. But Beam began to reconsider the feasibility of leaderless resistance. In the utopian world of The Turner Diaries, experts had foolproof methods for detecting infiltrators. But the actual events of the mid- to late 1980s demonstrated that the “pimps” that J.B. Stoner and Sam Bowers had railed against in the 1960s could penetrate even a small and disciplined group like the Order, which one FBI agent described as “the most organized group of terrorist-type people ever to have operated in the United States.” In 1992 Beam made a significant revision to his earlier essay on tactics, introducing the concept of the lone-wolf terrorist alongside the idea of the phantom cell:
All members of phantom cells or individuals will tend to react to objective events in the same way through usual tactics of resistance. Organs of information distribution such as newspapers, leaflets, computers, etc., which are widely available to all, keep each person informed of events, allowing for a planned response that will take many variations. No one need issue an order to anyone. Those idealists truly committed to the cause of freedom will act when they feel the time is ripe, or will take their cue from others who precede them. While it is true that much could be said against this type of structure as a method of resistance, it must be kept in mind that Leaderless Resistance is a child of necessity.33
In some ways, events had already illustrated the power of the lone-wolf terrorist. Gordon Kahl, a 1983 martyr for antigovernment extremists, had taken two U.S. marshals and one county sheriff with him before he died in the name of resistance.
At the 1988 Fort Smith sedition trials, one defendant became a living testament to individualized terrorism. Richard Wayne Snell saw the value of acting autonomously as early as 1983, when he and a fellow CSA member plotted to bomb a natural gas pipeline in Arkansas. When acquitted for sedition, Snell had already been sentenced to death for his role in killing the pawnshop owner and the Arkansas state trooper in 1983. Steven Snyder, a federal prosecutor from Fort Smith, says that Snell’s eventual arrest and conviction for those crimes likely prevented a much bolder plan: to bomb an IRS building in Oklahoma City in protest for a recent raid on his property.
After years of legal wrangling, the public learned the official date for Snell’s execution: April 19, 1995. Logs show that on the day of his execution, Snell requested to watch television and spent the time “smiling and chuckling” at the day’s events.34 The rest of America was stunned.