The Enemy Among Us

Citizen militias are still locked and loaded in rural America

| December 15, 2005

Copious stockpiles of munitions and blustering men should not mix. Just such a concoction, however, army-crawls beneath the surface of southern Michigan at Camp Stasa, Legal Affairs' Geoffrey Gagnon reports. As 'weekend warriors,' these would-be guerrilla insurrectionaries find their way through the mist of a June morning to maneuver, train, smoke, and shoot. And they're not alone -- although numbers have dropped since the recruiting binge touched off by the Branch Davidian debacle, there are still as many as 150 active citizen militias operating in the US.

The central threat these miniature armies pose is their likelihood of spinning off rogue members. Militias, which Mark Pitcavage of the extremist-tracking Anti-Defamation League described to Gagnon as 'finishing schools for people of a certain ideology,' can give members not only the technical capability to murder thousands but also the ideological wind in their sails to justify such actions. Timothy McVeigh, of Oklahoma City bombing fame, was linked to the very militia Gagnon visited at Camp Stasa. Alongside the very real threat they pose, however, is the comedic figure their members cut while wearing camouflage fatigues they say are needed to abide by the Geneva Conventions or patrolling the US-Mexico border on a 'peace-keeping mission.' As Gagnon says, they're 'more likely to provoke curiosity than fear,' and it may be this lack of fear that has allowed the phenomenon to slip back under the radar.

It now seems that even the FBI isn't taking them seriously. As the bureau's deputy assistant director for counterterrorism told a Senate hearing in May, 'ecoterrorist' groups like the Animal Liberation Front and Earth Liberation Front top the agency's domestic priorities. Additionally, the Bush administration's reaction to September 11, 2001, was to channel anti-terrorism funds toward international operations, thus shifting focus away from domestic anti-terror work. The ultimate result of the FBI's relaxed stance on militias, however, remains to be seen. The question is, will it breed another domestic terrorist, another of what Gagnon calls 'the laconic man in the shadows.'
-- Nick Rose

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