The Enemy Among Us

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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The Enemy Among Us

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