The Order was the most violent and notorious domestic terrorist group of the 1980s. Founded in 1983 by Robert J. Mathews, a recruiter for the neo-Nazi National Alliance and an activist in the Nazi-like and “Identity”-affiliated group Aryan Nations, The Order (also known as Bruders Schweigen, or Silent Brotherhood) drew its members from the National Alliance, Aryan Nations, and various Klan splinter groups. As a blueprint for its “revolution,” The Order relied upon William Pierce‘s novel The Turner Diaries (see below), and many of the crims for which Order members were convicted resembled terrorist acts described in the book.
In its first year, The Order began accumulating a war chest for its real-life revolution when three members stole $369 from a Spokane, Washington store. Soon thereafter the group launched a counterfeiting operation at the Aryan Nations compound in Hayden Lake, Idaho, which was exposed when Order member Bruce Carroll Pierce was arrested for passing a phony $50 bill. Pierce was eventually convicted, but jumped bond and went underground until 1985. Before the end of 1983, Robert Matthews robbed the Seattle City Bank of $25,000.
The robberies escalated the following year. In March 1984, Order members diverted police by exploding a bomb in a Seattle theater while other members robbed an armored car parked outside a department store, seizing $500,000.
In addition to these crimes, Bruce Carroll Piece planted a bomb in a Boise, Idaho synagogue, which caused minor damage but no injuries. The Order also began assassingating perceived enemies, beginning with one of their own members, Walter West. West had aroused the suspicion of his comrades by, in their words, “talking too much.” In May 1984, he was driven into the Idaho wilderness by Order members who then executed and buried him.
Another victim of The Order’s terror was Alan Berg, a controversial Jewish talk-radio personality in Denver. Berg was murdered outside his home in June 1984 after he repeatedly goaded right-wing and white-supremacist extremists on his call-in program.
Around the time of this murder, Order members resumed their counterfeiting operation and robbed a Brink’s armored truck near Ukiah, California. The hold-up yielded the group’s biggest take – over $3.6 million – which was distributed for salaries, mobile homes, uniforms, vehicles, and weapons. The group also purchased parcels of land in Idaho and Missouri for paramilitary training camps and reportedly donated money to fellow extremists, including the leaders of Aryan Nations and the National Alliance.
The Order’s revolution might have progressed even further if Mathews had not left a pistol at the scene of the Ukiah robbery, which the FBI traced to the mailbox of another Order member. In that mailbox authorities found Aryan Nations propaganda. Agents also obtained descriptions of Order members through their recovered vehicles. At the same time, Order member Thomas Martinez was arrested in Philadelphia for passing counterfeit money. Martinez agreed to become a government informant and flew to Portland, Oregon, to meet with Mathews and fellow Order member Gary Yarbrough.
Agents raided the hotel the next morning. Mathews wounded an officer before escaping and Yarbrough was arrested at the scene. Mathews was traced to Whidbey Island in Washington, where in December 1984 he held off 200 law enforcement officers for over 36 hours, until he died in a conflaguration set off by the ammunition with which he barricaded himself. On December 30, 1985, nine men and one woman – all members of the group – were convicted following a four-month Federal court case in Seattle. They were sentenced to terms of 40-100 years in prison, as well as stiff fines. Another member was convicted in a spearate trial of murdering a Missouri state trooper and was sentenced to life. In addition, 12 Order members pleaded guilty to various crimes; one had become a fugitive and was on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted list before his capture.
Although The Order is defunct, several incarcerated members, most notably David Lane, continue to propagandize from their prison cells, and continue to wield influence in the hate movement. (Anti-Defamation League, 26-27)