The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Paranoia as Patriotism:
Far-Right Influences on the Militia Movement

The Posse Comitatus

The Posse Comitatus is an intermittently active, loosely organized group of "Christian Identity" activists dedicated to survivalism, vigilantism, and anti-government agitation. Following the pseudo-religious tenets of the "Identity" movement, Posse members typically proclaim Jews to be the "synagogue of Satan," blacks and other people of color to be subhuman "mud races," and Northern European whites to be the "Chosen People" of Biblical prophecy. The name of the group translates from Latin to mean "power of the county," and the Posse believes that all governmental power is rooted at the county, not Federal, level.

Because Posse members believe that the Federal government is controlled by "enemies" - often meaning Jews - they resist paying taxes, as well as other duties of law abiding citizenship. Some members of the group have even refused to apply for driver's licenses, because this would imply submission to an "illegitimate, subversive" authority. Elements of the Posse's ideology, most notably its fierce hostility to Federal authority are echoed among today's militias.

The Posse has attracted Klan members and other anti-Semites. Among the avid promoters of the Posse during its period of development in the 1970s were Arch Roberts' Committee to Restore the Constitution, based in Fort Collins, Colorado; Western Front of Los Angeles, run by collaborators of the late anti-Jewish agitator Gerald L.K. Smith; and ex-neo-Nazi and Klansman David Duke of Louisiana, more recently head of the NAAWP (National Association for the Advancement of White People).

In 1983, when active Posse member Gordon Kahl murdered two Federal marshals in North Dakota and became a fugitive, the group attracted nationwide attention. The marshals had come to arrest Kahl for a parole violation in connection with an earlier conviction for non-payment of taxes. Kahl later died in a shootout with Arkansas law enforcement officials in which a local sheriff was also killed; Kahl became a martyr to the Posse, the Aryan Nations and other extremists.

In October 1987, retired army colonel William Potter Gale - one of the founders of the Posse movement and the California-based Committee of the States - along with four associates from the Committee, was convicted of threatening the lives of Internal Revenue Service agents and a Nevada state judge. The five had been charged with conspiracy, mailing threatening letters, and attempting to interfere with the administration of internal revenue laws. All five were sentenced in January 1988 to Federal prison for a term of one year and one day. Gale died in April of that year, at age 71.

James Wickstrom, an Identity minister and a Posse leader, was convicted in 1991 in Pittsburgh of plotting to distribute $100,000 in counterfeit bills to white supremacists at the 1988 Aryan Nations World Congress. While in prison, Wickstrom transferred his leadership role to "Identity" preacher Mark Thomas of Pennsylvania, who was recently linked to the Freeman brothers, two neo-Nazi Skinheads charged with murdering their parents and younger brother; the brothers were reported to have attended gatherings at Thomas's compound. By the end of 1994, Wickstrom had been released from prison. He and Thomas are reported to now be rivals.

In March 1995, the Justice Department charged three members of Family Farm Preservation, an offshoot of the Posse Comitatus, with attempting to distribute $65 million in counterfeit money orders. The case is pending. (Anti-Defamation League, 29-30)

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