Emily Fox talks with ProPublica investigative reporter A.C. Thompson about his report on the white supremacist group Atomwaffen Division. The group, which is spread throughout the country, has a significant presence in Washington state.
They have about 80 members across the country. Over the past year, several young men associated with the group have been charged in five murders. One member in Florida was sentenced to five years in prison for plotting to bomb synagogues and a nuclear power plant.
Thompson was able to get hundreds of thousands of encrypted online messages exchanged between members. Thompson says Atomwaffen is different from other white supremacist groups in their covert operation. They want to be in the shadows and to launch a guerrilla war. They want to launch acts of terrorism to overthrow the U.S. government and impose a fascist regime.
See also: ProPublica's ongoing project, "Documenting Hate."
You were able to get six months’ worth of this group's private chat logs. What did you learn from those online conversations?
We learned about were the details surrounding the murder of a college student named Blaze Bernstein. He was a 19-year-old who lived in Southern California who also happened to be gay and Jewish. The man who's accused of killing him is a 20-year-old man named Sam Woodward who was a member of this group. His words and his messages are in the chats both before and after the murder. After Woodward was arrested, his colleagues in the group chimed in about the matter and they celebrated the murder of Bernstein.
We also learned about their trainings and how they get together with assault rifles and fascist propaganda and meet in locations where they can prepare for “the coming race war.” We learned about criminal acts and plans for terrorism that the group has.
You also learned there were some trainings that happened Concrete, Washington, near the North Cascades. What else did you learn about this group's presence in Washington?
We believe that the cell that's in Washington is one of the larger cells — between five and ten members — and that the leader is the guy that lives up by Blaine. He is both the cell leader and one of the key top brass within the organization nationally.
How do you think the state should react to something like that?
I think there's a cause to say to law enforcement, political leaders and civic leaders in Washington, this is something you need to pay attention to. This is a group that has outwardly terrorist, racist, absolutely hateful intentions. They have their own website. They have a tertiary website that has all of their propaganda on it and they're able to organize basically unimpeded across the country.
This story is part of ProPublica’s Documenting Hate, where you're exposing white supremacist groups throughout the country. What impact are you hoping this project will have?
This is an organized, terroristic white supremacist group that worships Adolf Hitler, Tim McVeigh and Dylan Roof. And I think the concern we have is that unless the authorities take notice and intervene that we may well be facing a mass casualty event where dozens or even more people are murdered.