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
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
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)
Anti-Defamation League. [Special Report] Paranoia as Patriotism:
Far-Right Influences on the Militia Movement. 1995.
Subject: Paranoia as Patriotism: Posse Comitatus