Apr 26, 2005 | 22:15 GMT

5 mins read

United States: The Dangerous Shift to White Supremacist Cells

Former U.S. Marine Shaun Walker, 36, released an April 25 statement saying he is taking over as chairman of the neo-Nazi white supremacist group National Alliance (NA). Former Chairman Erich Gliebe, Walker said, has resigned and named Walker as his replacement. This change, the latest in a series of reshuffles among the leaders of the main neo-Nazi hate groups in the United States, is another indication of the decline of these groups as cohesive organizations. Although their splintering is all but complete, the result likely will cause law enforcement further problems as investigators seek to keep track of more and more smaller cells. In November 2004, STRATFOR said white hate groups would evolve toward less formal, ad hoc organizations. This began prior to the July 2002 cancer death of strong NA leader William Pierce. Under Pierce, the National Alliance had gained momentum and begun incorporating disaffected members of other such groups. Before he died, however, Pierce neglected to name a successor from among his lieutenants, leaving a power vacuum at the highest levels of the group. Gliebe eventually took over, proving to be an ineffectual leader who lacked the skills needed to hold the organization together. If past history is any indication, Walker will not be much more effective. In 2004, the Texas National Alliance coordinator and the group's webmaster quit over a beef with Walker, then the NA's chief operating officer, which suggests he is not a unifying force. The demise of the mainstream white hate groups can be attributed to successful legal campaigns waged by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and others. Several high-profile lawsuits resulting in large financial judgments damaged many of the hate groups — and destroyed others. Under intense legal pressure from the SPLC and ADL, as well as vigorous law enforcement efforts to penetrate them, the white hate groups splintered. The white supremacist group White Aryan Resistance (WAR), for instance, effectively ceased to exist after it lost a civil lawsuit centered on its involvement in the 1988 killing of Mulugeta Seraw, an Ethiopian who came to the United States to attend college. The SPLC sued the group for instigating Seraw's death and won a $12.5 million judgment against WAR and its leader, Tom Metzger, bankrupting the group. Another notorious group, the Aryan Nations (AN), splintered after losing a $6.3 million lawsuit brought by the SPLC in 2000 that forced the group into bankruptcy. Similarly, the World Church of the Creator (WCOTC) was eviscerated when it lost a trademark infringement case in 2002. Leader Matt Hale subsequently was convicted of soliciting the murder of the federal judge in the case and sentenced to 40 years in prison. The downside to the splintering of these groups is that their membership and activities have become harder to track as their members keep in touch mainly through the Internet. The same thing likely will happen to the NA membership. Large, membership-based groups are easier to monitor — and to target — precisely because they have membership lists, financial statements and physical addresses of offices and compounds. This makes suing them for illegal actions and appropriating their assets fairly easy. The threat of further lawsuits, in fact, had forced the membership-based organizations to pressure their members to "keep legal." In the absence of organized groups, that pressure no longer exists — and that could free up the more militant members to act. Moreover, groups such as the WCOTC and the AN were easier for law enforcement to infiltrate. For example, an FBI informant who penetrated the WCOTC and became the group's head of security was in large part responsible for Hale's recent conviction. This evolution toward leaderless resistance by hundreds of smaller, less formal cells — as advocated by former Ku Klux Klan leader Louis Beam — makes if very difficult for law enforcement and watchdog groups, such as the ADL and SPLC, to monitor the activities of such cells, let alone infiltrate them. A surge of violence as competing factions attempt to assert themselves as the true radical Aryan alternative is possible. In the leaderless resistance environment, the white hate cells are adopting the practice of the radical environmental rights movement Earth Liberation Front, which has a Web site, but no real membership. The Web site serves to inform and unite, but individuals and small units plan and conduct actions on their own. The popularity of white nationalist message boards and Web sites, along with the movement's trademark "hatecore" music, indicates that although the large groups are dissolving, their former members remain committed to a common ideology. They are not disappearing; they are simply going to advance their cause using a new organization model. The demise of the mainstream white hate groups could suggest that their members no longer pose a threat. In actuality, they have taken another, more nebulous — and potentially more dangerous — form.

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