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Mar 29th, 2010

Feds: Militia Members Sought to Spark Uprising

Nine arrested after search in Michigan; allegedly plotted to kill police

Suspected in a conspiracy to attack police officers are, from left to right, top row: David Stone, Sr.; David Stone, Jr.; Tina Stone, Jacob Ward. Left to right, bottom row: Michael Meeks; Joshua Clough; Kristopher Sickles, Thomas Piatek.

NBC Justice Correspondent Pete Williams 
and the Associated Press

March 29, 2010

DETROIT — Nine alleged members of a Christian militia group that was girding for battle with the Antichrist were charged Monday with plotting to kill a police officer and slaughter scores more by bombing the funeral — all in hopes of touching off an uprising against the U.S. government.

Seven men and one woman believed to be part of the Michigan-based Hutaree were arrested over the weekend in raids in Michigan, Indiana and Ohio. The ninth suspect was arrested Monday night after search in rural southern Michigan.


Feds: Militia not motivated by health care debate (NBC Nightly News, March 29, 2010) – Federal agents put the members of a Michigan-based militia behind bars after charging them with a plot to kill police officers. NBC’s Pete Williams reports (02:33)

FBI agents moved quickly against the group because its members were planning an attack sometime in April, prosecutors said. Authorities seized guns in the raids but would not say whether they found any explosives.

The arrests have dealt “a severe blow to a dangerous organization that today stands accused of conspiring to levy war against the United States,” Attorney General Eric Holder said.

Authorities said the arrests underscored the dangers of homegrown right-wing extremism of the sort seen in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing that killed 168 people.


Hutaree militia members charged with seditious conspiracy (MSNBC, March 29, 2010) — Ed Brayton of the Michigan Messenger joins Rachel Maddow to talk about the arrest of nine Americans plotting to kill law enforcement officers as part of their belief of battling the anti-Christ. (12:19)

In an indictment unsealed Monday, prosecutors said the group began military-style training in the Michigan woods in 2008, learning how to shoot guns and make and set off bombs.

David Brian Stone, 44, of Clayton, Mich., and one of his sons were identified as the ringleaders of the group. Stone, who was known as “Captain Hutaree,” organized the group in paramilitary fashion and members were assigned secret names, prosecutors said. Ranks ranged from “radoks” to “gunners,” according to the group’s Web site.

Military-style training

According to the indictment, the group had been meeting and conducting military-style training exercises in the Michigan woods since 2008 to prepare for an impending war with its enemies. Members practiced building and detonating explosives and shooting firearms and built storage bunkers, investigators said.

Prosecutors said David Brian Stone, the militia leader, downloaded information about how to build explosive devices from the Internet and e-mailed diagrams of them to someone he believed was capable of making them, NBC reported.

He then directed his son and others to begin gathering the needed materials. Stone was charged, along with his wife and two sons. …


Analyst: Militias are ideologically diverse (MSNBC, March 29, 2010) – Chip Berlet, a senior analyst with Political Research Associates who has written extensively about rightwing populism, militias, and the patriot movement, discusses with Rachel Maddow. (06:52)

The group says on its Web site that Hutaree means “Christian warrior” and describes the word as part of a secret language that few are privileged to know. The group quotes several Bible passages and states: “We believe that one day, as prophecy says, there will be an Anti-Christ. … Jesus wanted us to be ready to defend ourselves using the sword and stay alive using equipment.” Religious scholars contacted by NBC News on Monday had not heard of the term.

The site also features a picture on the site of 17 camouflaged men, all holding large guns, and includes videos of camouflaged men toting guns and running through wooded areas in apparent training exercises. Each wears a patch on his left shoulder that bears a cross and two red spears.

Investigators: Police seen as enemy

According to investigators, the Hutaree view local, state, and federal law enforcement personnel as a “brotherhood” and an enemy, and planned to attack them as part of an armed struggle against the U.S. government.

The idea of attacking a police funeral was one of numerous scenarios discussed as ways to go after law enforcement officers, the indictment said. Other scenarios included using a fake 911 call to lure an officer to his or her death, killing an officer after a traffic stop or attacking the family of a police officer.

Once other officers gathered for a slain officer’s funeral, the group planned to detonate homemade bombs at the funeral, killing scores more, according to the indictment.

After the attacks, the group allegedly planned to retreat to “rally points” protected by trip-wired improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, for what they expected would become a violent standoff with law enforcement personnel.

The indictment says members of the group conspired “to levy war against the United States, (and) to oppose by force the authority of the government of the United States.”

The charges against the eight include seditious conspiracy, possessing a firearm during a crime of violence, teaching the use of explosives, and attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction — homemade bombs. All seven defendants in court on Monday requested to be represented by the federal defender’s office, and a bond hearing is set for Wednesday.

Raids over the weekend

The raids on the group began over the weekend. FBI agents in Michigan swarmed a rural, wooded property Saturday evening in Adrian, about 70 miles southwest of Detroit. The same night in Hammond, Ind., law enforcement agents flooded a neighborhood, startling workers at a nearby pizzeria. In Ohio, authorities blocked off streets and raided two homes. …

The wife of one of the defendants described Hutaree as a small group of patriotic, Christian buddies who were just doing survival training. …

“It was just survival skills,” she said. “That’s what they were learning. And it’s just patriotism. It’s in our Constitution.”

‘Extremist fringe’

Andrew Arena, head of the FBI’s field office in Detroit, said the case “is an example of radical and extremist fringe groups which can be found throughout our society. The FBI takes such extremist groups seriously, especially those who would target innocent citizens and the law enforcement officers who protect the citizens of the United States.” …


Group sees ‘explosion’ of militia groups (NBC Nightly News, March 29, 2010) – The Southern Poverty Law Center’s Mark Potok says the arrest of Michigan-based anti-government militia “Hutaree” is a sign of the resurging radical right. (02:09)


3/30/10 Update

Feds: Imminent Threat Led to Raid on Militia

Ninth member arrested; attorney general says they intended to ‘levy war’

Image: Police staging area
Police set up a staging area across from the home in Hillsdale County, Mich., where a fugitive member of the Hutaree militia was holed up on Monday, March 29, 2010. (Photo credit: Madalyn Ruggiero / AP)

March 30, 2010

WHEATLAND TOWNSHIP, Mich. — Federal authorities had been monitoring members of a Michigan-based Christian militia preparing to fight the Antichrist for some time but were forced to “take them down” over the weekend after learning of an imminent threat against police, the U.S. attorney leading the prosecution said Tuesday.

Barbara McQuade’s comments came three days after eight members of a small group of “Christian warriors” were arrested in several Midwestern states and a day after the FBI nabbed a ninth suspect, Joshua Stone, following a standoff at a trailer in rural Michigan. …

McQuade said the “most troubling” finding of the investigation was that Hutaree members plotted to make a false 911 call, kill responding officers and then use a bomb to kill many more at the funeral. …

Prosecutors said David Stone had identified certain law enforcement officers near his home as potential Hutaree targets. …

“It is believed by the Hutaree that this engagement would then serve as a catalyst for a more widespread uprising against the government,” the indictment said. …

Heidi Beirich, research director of the Southern Poverty Law Center, said her group learned about Hutaree last year while compiling its annual list of “patriot groups.”

“Their Christian apocalyptic vision is quite different from most other militias,” Beirich said. “Most don’t put their religion first — they’re more concerned with out-of-control federal government.” …

One defendant expressed anti-tax views during his Monday court hearing. Thomas W. Piatek, a truck driver from Whiting, Ind., told a federal judge he could not afford an attorney because he was “getting raped on property taxes.” …


Arrests reveal militia groups on the rise (NBC Nightly News, March 30, 2010) — The ninth member of a Michigan militia group charged with plotting to kill police officers appeared in federal court Tuesday after surrendering peacefully. The FBI says it does not expect the arrests to spark any violent reaction from other militia groups. NBC’s Pete Williams reports. (01:19)



Read the indictment (PDF file)


3/31/10 Update

FBI Sees Little Chance of Copycat Militia Plots

Investigators say there’s no sign of coming wave of extremist violence

Image: Jim Gulliksen and Matt Savino
Matt Savino and his father, Jim Gulliksen, left, are Michigan Militia members. Savino, a 34-year-old Navy veteran, provided a tip that led the authorities to fugitive Hutaree militia members. (Photo credit: Fabrizio Costantini / The New York Times)

By Devlin Barrett and Eileen Sullivan

March 31, 2010

WASHINGTON — There’s a lot of anger out there. But the alleged plot by Midwestern militants and violent outbursts by scattered individuals don’t signal any coming wave of extremist violence, federal investigators say.

There’s more fizzle than fight among self-styled militias and other groups right now, they say, and little chance of a return to the organized violence that proved so deadly in the 1990s.

Militia extremist statements “primarily have served as an expression of anger after a particular event,” according to an FBI intelligence bulletin obtained by The Associated Press. “The FBI assesses the likelihood of violent conflict from the remaining group members or other militia extremists as low.”

A group of Christian militants calling themselves the Hutaree stand charged with plotting attacks against police in Michigan, assaults that prosecutors say the militants hoped would inspire others to commit anti-government violence. There was no attack; authorities moved in and made arrests last weekend because, the prosecutors contend, the group was girding for action in April.

There is always a risk of a lone wolf launching an attack, and law enforcement officials cannot rule out the possibility that they have failed to detect larger, more organized plots still unfolding. But the FBI bulletin — it was issued to police departments — underscores that authorities have not yet detected clear signs of a revival of organized violence that would require a strong federal response.

Tracking Web activity

Federal agents have seen an increase in “chatter” from an array of groups, which can include radical self-styled militias, white separatists or extreme civil libertarians. That information includes everything from public posts on Web sites to intelligence gathered through informants.

Last week one Web poster made a point about not injuring wives, children or other innocents when going after lawmakers because of their health care votes. Too soft: A responder wrote, “In real war there are no by-standers if they are on the side of evil they need to be taken out.”

Another posting over the weekend, after the Midwest arrests, said, “I just left a shouting match about 20 minutes ago with a little over a hundred militiamen who are on the move right now. The argument was over not if but rather where to hit them.”

But such violent talk appears unlikely to lead to action, authorities believe.

One key: Law enforcement officials say the lack of an armed, deadly confrontation in last weekend’s arrests — as there was in the 1993 standoff in Waco, Texas — made it less likely any groups would attempt new violence.

According to the FBI bulletin, the arrests of nine suspected members of the Hutaree group in Michigan, Ohio, and Indiana, generated sympathy from other militia groups, but no copycats.

On the move

The militia movement came under intense scrutiny following the 1995 bombing of the Federal Building in Oklahoma City, as law enforcement methodically investigated the hodgepodge of extremist groups around the country and jailed some of their leaders.

Fears about those groups subsided in the past decade, as the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks led the public and the government to focus on the threat of international terrorism.

After last weekend’s arrests in the Midwest, law enforcement officials say that as serious as the Hutaree case is, the FBI sees a more widespread danger from homegrown violence, given a rash of such cases in the past year.

Anger flares

There were some warning signs last spring and summer: An abortion doctor shot dead in Kansas; three police killed by a white supremacist in Pittsburgh; and a security guard gunned down at Washington’s Holocaust Memorial Museum. This spring, anti-government sentiments spurred a man to fly a plane into an IRS office in Austin and another to start shooting near the Pentagon before he was gunned down by police.

All those incidents proved unrelated.

Anti-government anger flared in some quarters after Congress passed the massive health care overhaul this month, and a few lawmakers received threats or even suffered vandalism. And the angry political rallies of conservative tea party members have been well publicized. Lost jobs have given millions plenty to be upset about.

The Southern Poverty Law Center recently reported an increase in what they define as right wing extremist and hate groups around the country.

In comparison, outbursts of violent extremism are minuscule.

Law enforcement officials point out that the extremist groups they do track are so diverse, with so many different motivations — anarchic, anti-tax, racist and on and on — that there is no defining principle other than a kind of general distrust of the government.

In the case of the Hutaree, investigators had been closely watching the group last summer, keeping tabs as they allegedly discussed scenarios in which they would kill a police officer, then attack that officer’s funeral with improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, in hopes of killing scores more.

Police moved in as the month of April approached, contending the group had planned a potentially violent “reconnaissance” operation in which members would be prepared to attack. Historically, April is an important month for anti-government extremists: The Oklahoma City bombing was in April, carried out on the second anniversary of the siege at Waco that ended in the fiery deaths of cult members.

Mark Pitcavage, the head of investigative research for the Anti-Defamation League, said he first came across the Hutaree group in September of 2008 and believes they formed early that year.

The plot the group is alleged to have been working on is not representative of a trend, Pitcavage said.

A main difference between now and the 1990s is that there has yet to be a modern-day Waco or Ruby Ridge — the 1992 standoff in Idaho between the FBI and white separatist Randall Weaver. Weaver’s wife and son were killed by an FBI sniper.



Timeline: Key Dates in U.S. Militia Movements

Highlights from a timeline of right-wing militia actions compiled by the Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors hate crimes. The center says militias have resurfaced in the last few years after being below the radar for nearly a decade.


Topical posts on this site

Bachmann and Violent Extremism (March 25, 2010)

Pentagon Plot Political Paranoia (March 5, 2010)

Extremism Explodes in America (March 3, 2010)

Bachmann Conspiracy Nation (Feb. 20, 2010)

Suspicious Plane Crash in Texas (Feb. 19, 2010)

Condemning Beck and Bachmann (Nov. 19, 2009)

Anger in America (Oct. 31, 2009)

Bachmann Bats for End Times (May 20, 2009)

Economy and Obama Volatile Mix (April 16, 2009)

Bachmann Says “I’m Not a Kook” (March 28, 2009)

Bachmann Call for Armed Revolt? (March 24, 2009)

Obama, Economy Fuel Hate Groups (Feb. 28, 2009)

Obama Racist Backlash (Nov. 16, 2008)


FROM THE ARCHIVES: One Year Ago — March 29, 2009

Image: Militia
Members of the Sahwa militia surrender to Iraqi troops in Baghdad’s Fadel district on Sunday, March 29, 2009. (Photo credit: Ali Yussef / AFP — Getty Images)

Iraqi Army Battles Sons of Iraq

One-year retrospective: One year ago today, I reported that Iraqi authorities had arrested the local leader of a Sunni “Awakening Council” group that had broken with al-Qaida, Adil al-Mashhadani, sparking a two-day gunbattle in central Baghdad that killed four people and wounded 21.

13 Responses to “Christian Militia Terror Plot”
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