(WASHINGTON) — A wide-ranging domestic terrorism investigation of the “The Base,” which authorities say is a neo-Nazi group, has culminated in the arrests of seven alleged members last week and has provided extensive new details about the inside operations of an organization that allegedly advocates for a “violent insurgency” to overthrow the U.S. government.
The investigation comes amid an increased focus on domestic terrorism and white supremacy in the United States and fear that such groups are joining forces with like-minded individuals overseas. And it came to light in the context of a controversial Richmond, Virginia gun rally where three alleged members of The Base plotted to attack police officers and civilians.
According to a review of court documents released in cases out of Maryland, Georgia and Wisconsin over the past week, investigators believe the group was founded “in or around July 2018” by white nationalists who look to promote and plot acts of violence with an overarching goal of inciting a race war to create “a white ethno-state.”
“Members of The Base communicate with each other through online platforms and encrypted online messaging applications and chat rooms,” FBI special agent Jessica Krueger wrote in an affidavit filed in a Wisconsin District Court last week. “In these communications, they have discussed, among other things, acts of violence against minorities (including African Americans and Jewish Americans), Base military training camps, and ways to make improvised explosive devices.”
Three alleged members of the group were arrested in Maryland and Delaware on federal gun and immigration charges. Three others were arrested in Georgia on state gang charges and conspiracy to commit murder. Another man was arrested in Wisconsin and charged with conspiracy to vandalize a synagogue.
According to a court filing Tuesday in Maryland, The Base’s leaders are “particularly interested in applicants with military and explosives backgrounds.”
“Applicants submit an application form, which includes questions regarding the applicant’s current associations with white supremacist organizations; the applicant’s military, science, and engineering experiences and training; and the applicant’s race and gender,” the filing said.
It’s not entirely clear, based on the court filings, how many followers the group has — though investigators have identified what they say is a clear leadership structure and found that members had divided into several separate “regional chapters.”
For instance, one such chapter in Wisconsin is identified as the “Great Lakes cell,” whose members organized an armed training session after passing out recruitment fliers at Marquette University in July of last year, according to the court filings.
“The Base cells have a significant degree of autonomy regarding their activities, and criminal conduct is typically not centrally coordinated in order to foster “plausible deniability” among those not directly involved,” an FBI affidavit said.
The FBI says it gained access to The Base’s encrypted online messaging application in July 2019, when an undercover agent participated in an online vetting interview and then personally met with members of the group in Georgia.
For months, according to the FBI, the agent continued meeting and participating in weapons training exercises with three members of The Base, who were arrested on state charges last week after the agent revealed their alleged plot to assassinate two members of the radical group ‘Antifa.’
From those interactions and The Base’s online messaging, investigators say they believe members participated in such training exercises in preparation for “The Boogaloo,” a moniker that, according to the authorities, the group’s members use to “describe the collapse of the United States and subsequent race war.”
One alleged member of the group arrested last week, former Canadian army reservist Patrik Mathews, had allegedly invoked “The Boogaloo” in connection to an attack the group planned to conduct on a pro-gun rights rally that occurred in Richmond over the weekend, according to the FBI.
“You want to create f—– some instability, while the Virginia situation is happening, make other things happen, derail some rail lines… like shut down the highways… you know, you can kick off the economic collapse of the U.S. within a week, after the boog starts,” Mathews said in a conversation federal agents say was recorded in his Delaware residence.
During a so-called ‘sneak-and-peek’ search of his residence prior to Mathews’ arrest, agents took pictures of items used to assemble assault rifles, “go-bags” with military-supplies like ‘Meals-Ready-To-Eat’ (MREs), and found several videos of Mathews in a gas-mask where he discussed killing people “in furtherance of the movement,” according to an FBI affidavit
“If you are not getting physically fit, if you are not getting armed, if you do not acquiring weapons, ammunition, and training right… now, then you should be preparing to do what needs to be done,” Mathews said in one video, according to FBI documents. “Derail some [sic] trains, kill some people, and poison some water supplies.”
A magistrate judge in Maryland ordered Mathews to remain in detention pending his trial, in which he has not yet entered a plea on federal gun and immigration charges, related to an alleged illegal entry into the U.S.
At a hearing Wednesday, Matthews’ lawyer defended his client.
“One man’s domestic terrorist can be another man’s exercise of his First Amendment rights,” said the lawyer, Joseph Balter.
“This is a very dangerous person, espousing very dangerous beliefs,” the judge said Wednesday.
According to authorities, Mathews’ alleged involvement in The Base, after they say he entered the country illegally in August of last year, underscores their concerns that its influence stretches well beyond the U.S.
According to court filings, investigators say the group has been “building” a coalition “within the United States and abroad” and specifically mentioned members communicating with individuals in the United Kingdom and at least one member who discussed traveling to Ukraine, “to fight with nationalists there.”
Just last week, the Justice Department’s top terrorism coordinator said that the threat facing the U.S. from potential domestic terrorists is shifting in nature and becoming an increasingly transnational issue, with law enforcement seeing more Americans engaging and finding inspiration from overseas right-wing extremist groups — in some cases even traveling abroad to meet with their members.
“This issue in many respects has become transnational in nature,” DOJ’s counsel for domestic terrorism Thomas Brzozowski said during an event at George Washington University. “Some folks cite one another, others gain or gather support from another, use the same contacts and techniques without any demonstrable connection that would constitute conspiracy or things of that nature.”
Brzozowski specifically pointed to the neo-Nazi group Atomwaffen, whose members have traveled to train with right-wing groups in Ukraine and eastern Europe. According to prosecutors, some Atomwaffen members have also joined ranks with The Base.
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