Turning up the heat on Atomwaffen

Three cases in Virginia show the feds there taking an increasing interest in the neo-Nazi group

Hello, and welcome to The Informant, a publication covering hate and extremism in America, written and edited by me, Nick R. Martin.

Today I’m bringing you an intelligence briefing with the latest news and analysis on the beat. The next briefing will be published on Thursday.

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Here’s what’s in today’s issue:

  • The feds in Virginia appear to be increasing their attention on Atomwaffen Division. So I took a look at three cases in recent months there that all have ties to the neo-Nazi group.

  • The FBI said Monday that the kosher market killers in New Jersey had a massive bomb in their vehicle at the time of the attack.

  • An “officer” with the white nationalist group League of the South was convicted on a gun charge.

  • Militias are continuing to hype “anarchy” and “civil war” in Virginia if the state passes gun safety legislation.

  • A Sikh religious center in California was vandalized with swastikas and the words “white power.”

Turning up the heat on Atomwaffen

Federal authorities in Virginia appear to be increasing the pressure on the neo-Nazi group Atomwaffen Division, bringing charges against at least three people linked to the organization in recent months.

The most recent charges came Friday when authorities arrested John William Kirby Kelley, a 19-year-old former cybersecurity student at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia. He was accused of being part of an international online neo-Nazi group that doxed and swatted hundreds of people, including judges, journalists and executives. Authorities also said he and others in the online group “are affiliated with or have expressed sympathy for” Atomwaffen.

News of the arrest was first reported by Rachel Weiner of the Washington Post.

Atomwaffen Division was founded in 2015 on the neo-Nazi message board Iron March, and its members have since been linked to five murders nationwide. The group advocates for terrorism and mass shootings as a way to accelerate what they see as the pending collapse of modern civilization.

Kelley’s arrest marks at least the 13th tied to Atomwaffen in recent years, showing an appetite by law enforcement nationwide to go after the group. But the concentration of recent cases in the Eastern District of Virginia could be a sign of bigger things to come in that federal court district.

In the past seven months, two other members of Atomwaffen have been charged in Virginia’s eastern district.

In June, Brian Baynes of Maryland was arrested on a weapons charge after federal investigators obtained private chats that showed him talking about using illegal drugs while possessing guns. He pleaded guilty in August to the charge and was sentenced in November to two years of probation plus 30 days in jail.

In September, federal authorities arrested Andrew Thomasberg of Virginia, a man whom Baynes had been chatting with in some of those conversations. He was brought up on the same type of weapons charge as Baynes and was also charged with being the straw buyer of a gun for Baynes. Thomasberg pleaded guilty to both counts in November. His sentencing is scheduled for February 28.

The case involving Kelley could spell also trouble for another person affiliated with Atomwaffen. Independent journalist Brian Krebs reported on his website Friday that a member of the online swatting community who went by the user name “Chanz” claimed in online chats to be an administrator of the website SiegeCulture. The website is the main propaganda outlet for Atomwaffen’s ideological leader, James Mason, who authored the racist book “Siege,” which is seen as a bible for members of the organization.

It was clear on Monday that the charges against Kelley might be just the beginning of a bigger investigation into the online neo-Nazi group and perhaps even Atomwaffen. The Anti-Defamation League said in a blog post that its own researchers have been working with law enforcement as part of “a larger, ongoing international investigation” into the group.

Kelley is due in court again at 2 p.m. ET on Wednesday. The Washington Post’s Rachel Weiner told me she’ll be in the courtroom to cover it.

(Photos from the Alexandria Sheriff’s Office in Virginia. From left: Brian Baynes, Andrew Thomasberg and John Kelley.)

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Kosher market killers had massive bomb

Two people who attacked a kosher market in Jersey City, New Jersey last month also had a massive bomb in their vehicle that could have killed people 500 yards away, the FBI said on Monday.

Federal authorities held a press conference to discuss new details from their investigation into the attack by David Anderson and Francine Graham, who had expressed anti-Semitic beliefs. The pair killed four people, including a police officer, before being killed in a shootout with police.

NJ.com covered the press conference:

An explosive device found in the U-Haul van Anderson and Graham had rented could have killed or injured people up to five football fields, or 500 yards, away, said FBI special agent in charge Greg Ehrie. The two also had enough materials to construct a second deadly explosive device, but Ehrie said it may never be known what they intended.

“The entire truth lies with the two dead attackers,” Ehrie said.

Gun conviction for League ‘officer’

You might remember the white nationalist group League of the South from their failed attempt to film a propaganda video in front of an Emmett Till memorial in Mississippi back in November. Almost as soon as the group set up to film, they were startled by security alarms and ran away.

Now the group has run into more trouble. An “officer” for League of the South was convicted Friday on a gun charge in North Carolina.

Brett Barrouquere of the Southern Poverty Law Center has the details:

After being found guilty Friday, Jessica Lynne Reavis, a 40-year-old from Danville, Virginia, complained about losing her Glock .40 caliber handgun, dozens of rounds of ammunition and her pepper-spray gun.

Reavis, who works as a long-haul truck driver, said the misdemeanor conviction in district court in Chatham County, North Carolina, could mean the security clearance she needs for work will be revoked.

“If I am found guilty and lose my security clearance … everything I worked for for my entire life will be lost,” Reavis told the court.

Militias continue to hype ‘civil war’ in Virginia

Militias and anti-government groups are continuing to hype Monday’s upcoming pro-gun rally at the Virginia capitol. Organizers have claimed that “thousands” will show up and some have said they hope it won’t descend into chaos like the deadly 2017 “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Josh Kovensky and Matt Shuham at TPM took a closer look at some of the groups planning to attend the rally. They spoke to militia leader and Three Percent Security Force founder Chris Hill, who said that if the state passes gun safety legislation this year, “anarchy could ensue.”

“You just made ninety percent of the law abiding citizens in the State of Virginia outlaws, nothing good is going to come from that,” he said.

Hill told TPM that if the state’s proposed “red flag” law were to be passed, “you have a redress to tell the government, ‘you’re overstepping your constitutional authority.’ If civil war or revolutionary war were to follow, the people would be justified in doing that.”

Sikh center in California vandalized

A Sikh religious center in Orangevale, California, was vandalized either on Sunday night or Monday morning with swastikas and the words “white power,” according to the Sacramento Bee.

CBS Sacramento reported the sheriff’s office is investigating the incident as a hate crime.

A local resident took photos of the vandalism before it was eventually painted over:

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