ATLANTA -- More than 30 of the nation's most radical right-wing militias and an Idaho-based neo-Nazi group with a history of violence have simultaneously launched intelligence-gathering operations aimed at government agencies, civil rights organizations and the media, according to a civil rights organization.
The move, coming on the heels of the April 19 Oklahoma City bombing, has alarmed experts who monitor the radical right. They say they fear that a coordinated intelligence network could lay the groundwork for a "jihad"-style campaign of terror directed at individuals and agencies seen as enemies by the groups.
"Counterintelligence seems to be the new game in town for these groups -- both in the white supremacy world and the militia world, and in the area where the two meet," said Joe Roy, chief investigator for Klanwatch, an Alabama-based organization that monitors racial hate groups. "It's a big push . . . to centralize their intelligence."
Militia leaders have played down their intelligence-gathering, and federal officials said that collecting information is not illegal. But groups such as Klanwatch see the move as a cause for concern.
A terror campaign involving bombings and murder was briefly waged in the 1980s by white supremacist groups affiliated with Aryan Nations, the neo-Nazi umbrella organization that allegedly is involved in the new spying network, authorities said.
It was an apparent attempt by neo-Nazi offshoots to duplicate the plot of "The Turner Diaries," a racist and anti-Semitic novel that authorities said is the bible of racist hate groups. The book depicts the overthrow of the U.S. government by armed citizen forces.
Aryan Nations and other white supremacy groups have been largely stagnant since aggressive federal prosecution and lawsuits weakened them in the late-1980s. Now organizations that monitor such groups say that Aryan Nations is trying to revitalize itself by aggressively recruiting members from among the ranks of anti-government militias.
The catalyst for the alliance between neo-Nazi groups and militias was the government raid on the cabin of Idaho white separatist Randy Weaver in 1992 in which his wife, son and a U.S. marshal were killed.
Spokesmen for the FBI and the Justice Department said that they would be concerned officially about intelligence-gathering by racial hate groups only if they had information that the groups had broken laws or planned to use the information to commit crimes.