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Growing Activity of U.S. Militias Shows Retooling of Movement

New York, NY, September 7, 2004 Long thought to be in a state of decline, the right-wing militia movement in the U.S. has experienced a growth in activity suggesting "an attempt to retool, restructure and reorganize," according to a report released by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) today.  The Quiet Retooling of the Militia Movement sheds light on recent efforts by militia activists to recruit members and mobilize new groups or cells in at least 30 states and on the Internet.

"The militias are testing the waters in the post-9/11 world to see whether they can continue to operate just below the radar of law enforcement and the media," said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director.  "While less vocal, less public and less visible, the militias are quietly attempting to retool, restructure and reorganize and are still players on the extremist scene."


ADL's report identifies several trends among groups currently active in Florida, Kentucky, Michigan, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Washington State, West Virginia and elsewhere:

  • Keeping a low profile:  Militias have increasingly begun to connect with each other and seek recruits using lower-profile arenas of online discussion forums and mailing lists over Web sites.
  • Fear of the government: After a period of decline in the late 1990s as some members dropped out in the wake of numerous militia-related arrests, and others left the movement out of dissatisfaction when their predictions of chaos at the turn of the millennium failed to materialize, militias have been re-energized by post-September 11 fears of conspiracies and government power.  Like many on the far-right and far-left fringes of American politics, militia members tend to view the "war on terrorism" and the USA Patriot Act as being directed at them.
  • The perception that "Time is Running Out":  Militia members are unifying around the idea that the country is headed toward a confrontation between its citizens and the government, which, in the words of one member, "is stripping us of our rights daily, and we all know what is coming and what we must do."
  • Paramilitary training:  There appears to be greater emphasis on paramilitary training in the "new" militia groups than in many of the groups that emerged in the 1990s.  And some of the groups that have survived the longest such as the Michigan Militia and the Kentucky State Militia are those who place an emphasis on paramilitary training.  Training with firearms and camouflage fatigues is not uncommon among "hardcore" militia units.
  • Coordination:  While much more reluctant than their 1990s counterparts to engage in high-profile public activities that might bring law enforcement or media scrutiny, some militia activists have attempted to coordinate activities with other groups, including training sessions and the formation of umbrella or coordinating groups.  Some groups have cooperated with other extremist groups, including the anti-immigration Ranch Rescue of Arizona.
  • String of arrests and convictions: In 2004, the level of militia-related arrests has remained constant, with members jailed for shootings, illegal weapons possession and conspiracy charges.

The Anti-Defamation League, founded in 1913, is the world's leading organization fighting anti-Semitism through programs and services that counteract hatred, prejudice and bigotry.

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The Quiet Retooling of the Militia Movement

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2004 Anti-Defamation League