One in five applicants to the white supremacist group Patriot Front claimed to hold current or former ties to the US military, according to leaked documents published and reviewed by the Southern Poverty Law Center and the journalist collective Unicorn Riot.
Some 18 out of the 87 applicants, or 21%, said they were currently or previously affiliated with the military. One applicant, who claimed to be a former Marine, also said he currently worked for the Department of Homeland Security, according to the SPLC’s Hatewatch, a blog that tracks and exposes activities of American right-wing extremists.
Patriot Front, a rebrand of the neo-Nazi group Vanguard America, who attended the deadly “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August 2017, represents one of the most prominent white supremacist groups in the country.
The detailed inner workings and operations of neo-Nazi organization Patriot Front have come to light after a massive leak from their chat servers including more than 400 gigabytes of data such as video, photos and other media gathered in the field during fascist propaganda operations published by Unicorn Riot.
The release is available to the public at vault.unicornriot.ninja. Volunteers upgraded Unicorn Riot’s DiscordLeaks platform to host 55,249 RocketChat messages and file attachments, allowing the public to search the cache and inspect how fascists try to operate discreetly at their most inner levels.
The exposed communications show coordination with their leader Thomas Rousseau to deface murals and monuments to Black lives across the United States, and intimate struggles to bolster morale through group activities like hiking and camping.
After Vanguard America member James Alex Fields murdered Heather Heyer, Rousseau split from that neo-Nazi group, taking with it most of the members as well as the website domain name “bloodandsoil.org.”
Unicorn Riot leaked archives of Patriot Front’s private chats on Jan. 21. Patriot Front held these conversations on Rocket Chat, an open-source chat program, where they published 87 different applications for membership.
The applications show that 18 of those 87 applicants (21%) claimed to be current or former members of the U.S. military. One of the applicants, who claimed to be a former Marine, also stated in his application that he currently works for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
Observers have expressed concern about an over-representation of military-affiliated people involved in the failed coup d’etat on Jan. 6, 2021, in which a mob of Trump-loving terrorists stormed the U.S. Capitol building.
A House panel convened on Oct. 13, 2021, to addressed the recruitment and radicalization of military personnel. More than 80 veterans have been charged in connection with the Jan. 6 attack, in which supporters of former President Donald Trump stormed the Capitol while lawmakers were meeting to certify President Joe Biden’s electoral victory.
Experts testifying before Congress said veterans make attractive domestic extremist group recruits because of their military training and because they can be vulnerable if they are struggling to adjust to civilian life.
“They provide them with a tribe, a simplistic view of the world and its problems, actionable solutions and a sense of purpose, and then they feed these vulnerable individuals a concoction of lies and an unrelenting narrative of political and social grievance,” said retired Marine Lt. Col. Joe Plenzler.
“While veterans who participate in domestic terrorism may be few, they can be extremely dangerous,” added Plenzler, pointing to “shocking” data that veterans have been connected to 10% of domestic terrorist attacks since 2015 despite making up just 6% of the population.
According to data compiled by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, 6.4% of all domestic terrorist attacks and plots in 2020 were committed by one or more active-duty or reserve members, compared with 1.5% in 2019.
The Patriot Front applicants, listed by number, who claimed ties to the military expressed a variety of motivations for seeking entrance to the group. Applicant 441215, who said he lived in San Diego and served as a former Marine and current DHS employee, told Patriot Front that he “found out about the Jews while in the marines.” Hatewatch emailed DHS for a comment about the applicant who claims to work for them but did not immediately receive a response. Applicant 252979, who claimed to be a member of the Army Reserve, used derogatory language about LBGTQ people and stated he “first saw” them while in the military. Applicant 681985 claimed to have served in the military from 2005 to 2013 and live in Salt Lake City. He said that he started as a Republican, but after his first deployment he started watching Alex Jones and entertaining conspiracies related to 9/11. After his second deployment, he said he “shifted focus and questioned things” while becoming a national socialist.
The applicants also offered to Patriot Front promises of skills they obtained while serving. Applicant 843667, who claimed to be a former Army Ranger from Fort Worth, Texas, lists his skills as “great land-navigation, great physical fitness, able to clear rooms” along with “basic medical training.” Applicant 599797 promised a knowledge of “Marine martial arts” and said he had been “trained in firearms.” Applicant 193293 described working in military intelligence and having a knowledge of programming, computer networking and general SIGINT, or signals intelligence. Applicant 331013 explained how he trains people in “marine corps martial arts,” and claimed to be a leader of the Kansas Active Club, an affiliate of an SPLC-designated hate group.
Patriot Front members committed multiple acts of racist vandalism in recent months. In June 2021, Members of Patriot Front vandalized a statue of George Floyd in Brooklyn, New York. Members of the group vandalized a mural commemorating Black tennis legend Arthur Ashe in Richmond, Virginia, in October 2021.
The group has also staged rallies in Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and Chicago since summer 2021. Most recently, a collection of a few dozen Patriot Front members joined the March for Life in Washington, D.C., an annual event organized by leaders of the anti-abortion movement.
Dates of events mentioned in the leak match Hatewatch’s observations of Patriot Front’s public facing activity. Rousseau, Patriot Front’s leader, appeared on a podcast hosted by neo-Nazi Joseph Jordan on Jan. 28 and acknowledged the authenticity of the leak, while seeking to downplay its significance. He claimed responsibility for his members being exposed in the material.
“They do these things to inspire paranoia and hysteria, right. They want you to be afraid,” Rousseau said.