Watchdog warns of far-right militia resurgence

The same week a man with ties to a far-right anti-government group showed up with a gun strapped to his thigh at a New Hampshire town hall meeting where President Obama was speaking on health reform, a watchdog organization released a report documenting a surge among right-wing militias motivated in part by the election of an African-American president.

"The Second Wave: Return of the Militias" was released Wednesday by the Southern Poverty Law Center, a group based in Montgomery, Ala. that monitors hate activity nationwide. It found that almost a decade after largely fading from view, far-right militias are re-appearing in worrisome numbers.

"This is the most significant growth we've seen in 10 to 12 years," according to one unnamed law enforcement authority quoted in SPLC's report. "All it's lacking is a spark."

The day before the report's release, William Kostric showed up with a gun outside the New Hampshire meeting carrying a sign that read, "It is time to water the tree of liberty," a reference to Thomas Jefferson's quote that the "tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants" -- the same quote that was on a T-shirt worn by far-right terrorist Timothy McVeigh on the day in 1995 he bombed the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, an attack that killed 168 people and injured another 680. Kostric's action, it should be noted, broke no laws.

The Arizona Republic reports that Kostric is a "team member" of the Arizona chapter of the We the People Foundation, a group whose website claims the U.S. Republic and Constitution are in danger and that questions the U.S. citizenship of President Obama. The group was founded by Robert Schulz, a prominent figure in the far-right tax protest movement.

In its report, SPLC offers examples of the far-right's resurgence, including a gathering of anti-government activists in Pensacola, Fla., where a retired FBI agent named Ted Gunderson told attendees that the federal government has set up 1,000 internment camps across the country and is storing 30,000 guillotines and a half-million caskets in Atlanta in preparation for a mass killing of dissenters. Gunderson has long promoted conspiracy theories involving widespread satanic ritual abuse of children by U.S. government agents.

SPLC's report also points to a so-called "American Grand Jury" that assembled outside Atlanta and issued an "indictment" of Obama for fraud and treason, alleging he wasn't born in the United States and thus is illegally occupying the White House. The claim that the president is not a U.S. citizen has been repeatedly debunked and dismissed in legitimate courts of law by judges considering lawsuits that sought to challenge his qualifications to serve as president.

But the idea that the president is foreign-born continues to be promoted by by prominent pundits and politicians. They include the 11 Republican House members co-sponsoring the so-called "birther bill"  (H.R. 1503) that in response to the controversy over Obama's birthplace would require future presidential candidates to submit a copy of their birth certificate to the Federal Election Commission. The bill's primary champion is Rep. Bill Posey (R-Fla.), and the co-sponsors are Reps. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), Dan Burton (R-Ind.), John Campbell (R-Calif.), Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) and six Congressmen from Texas --  John R. Carter, John Culberson, Louie Gohmert, Kenny Marchant, Randy Neugebauer, and Ted Poe.

SPLC calls on all Americans -- and especially law enforcement officers -- to take seriously the potential dangers of the militant far-right's resurgence.

"This is equally true for the politicians, pundits and preachers who, through pandering or ignorance, abet the growth of a movement marked by a proven predilection for violence," it says.

(Photo from SPLC's website)