Holocaust Shooting: Inside Extremist Groups
Thursday, June 11, 2009; 1:00 PM
FBI operative David Gletty, author of Undercover Nazi: The FBI Infiltration of Extremist Groups in America, who spent four years uncovering criminal activities of the Ku Klux Klan, the White Power Movement, the League of the South and skinhead organizations, was online Thursday, June 11, at 1 p.m. ET to discuss extremist groups and their beliefs, how they operate and recruit and how widespread their membership is.
David Gletty: Hello this is Investigator David Gletty here to answer your questions today about Extreme Racism in America.
Only a coincidence?: Any substance to the rumors that the gunman was after former Senator/DOD Secretary William Cohen, who was in the museum at the time? Cohen's wife's new play (about Anne Frank and Emmett Till) was about to open, so I wonder if news of this pushed the shooter over the edge. Does the FBI track such things?
David Gletty: As an FBI Operative I am given certain task and assignments, The subject Mr. Von Brunn was not my assignment but I did meet him at a Klan rally and I do not believe with was a coincidence.
Arlington, Va.: How common are these separatist organizations in our armed forces?
David Gletty: While working as an FBI operative I noticed that a lot of young men were in the armed forces and their parents were in the movement and they were very proud of their sons and daughters that were in the military serving our country. You would have to think that they had racist beliefs because of the way they were raised.
Two Very Basic Questions:: 1) Do such groups exist on the political left?
2) Is the surge in current activity related to the financial crisis, an area the right-wingers have long accused Jews of controlling?
David Gletty: Yes for both questions.
Rockville, Md.: Is there really a worthwhile distinction to be made between these types of groups and gangs made up of a single ethnic minority group that exist in large cities?
David Gletty: Hate groups have a tendency to flow into all kinds of ethnic groups but have a common thread of hatred towards one group or another, which is the definition of racism.
Cambridge, Mass.: I'm curious as to how someone who was on watch lists, known to be violent (previous arrests, etc.), and a white supremacist was able to obtain guns. Does anyone know yet whether his guns were legally obtained?
David Gletty: Criminals use criminal means to obtain weapons, especially if they're on a watch list, which is not to be confused with a person obtaining a gun legally without criminal intent for that weapon. Many of the guns obtained and stored by these groups were obtained by thievery, buying from other criminal elements which I witnessed and turned over for evidence for prosecution to the FBI during my assignments.
Kingstowne, Va.: What seems to be the primary influence on people joining these organizations? Parents are members? Only source of social activity available? Genetics?
David Gletty: Generally, it is the attitudes and beliefs that come from parents, relatives and other associates that create a belief structure coupled with misinformation from actual historical or current events. This is used as a crutch to voice general displeasure with their own personal circumstances in having someone to blame for any financial or political crisis affecting them.
Baltimore, Md.: I recently started reading Evan Wright's "Hella Nation." In the introduction, he discusses how, for an article in Hustler, he did some reporting on a white supremacist group. He says he was a little conflicted by reporting on a group he really dislikes, I guess feeling some guilt by association. Did it bother you to have to be civil to these people to get your story?
David Gletty: As I cover in my book, Undercover Nazi, I had a great deal of struggle with my conflicting personal beliefs and playing the part that was necessary to be "one of the guys" without revealing my true feelings for fear that one slip could not only end my assignment but end my life. Many times, my partner and I had to take turns encouraging one another while we were wrestling with emotional disgust in dealing with these hate groups.
Gaithersburg, Md.: I once read a multi-person biography that included a chapter on a former Klan member, who left that organization because they didn't actually DO anything but hold meetings to denounce blacks among each other. Besides an occasional act of violence, do these groups have any real effect in broad society, or has most everyone learned to ignore and marginalize them?
David Gletty: An occasional act of violence is not the greatest crisis. It's causing good people to act in fear because of reprisals from these hate groups because the act of violence might come to their doorstep. I have experienced since I wrote my book that some places are afraid to carry Undercover Nazi in their local library. Other places where I was scheduled to speak out against the recruiting tactics used by hate groups at major universities, such as the University of Central Florida, have canceled a major speaking event citing not having enough security to cover the event out of fear that local skinheads may protest. Without an actual threat or act of violence, thousands of students were not aware of my message against racism.
Washington, D.C.: How connected are these groups? Do KKK guys meet with neo-Nazis, etc.?
David Gletty: Yes, the KKK are like managers and they try to get the neo-Nazis and skinhead groups together. Many people are unaware that the neo-Nazis and skinheads not only dislike but distrust one another. Since my infiltration, it has caused a greater amount of security at any gathering amongst these groups and a general disruption of many of the planned cooperative acts of domestic terrorism. This is why I am speaking out and telling as many people as I can and promoting the book so people will be aware of how these hate groups recruit new people, capitalizing on the fear of the current financial crisis and placing racial blame to further their cause.
Ithaca, N.Y.: Hello Investigator Gletty,
I believe the FBI stated they were "aware" of von Brunn before yesterday -- do you know about how many others with similar views the FBI is "aware" of?
David Gletty: Sorry, that's classified information, but the FBI and the government do their best to track these people and they need our help. Join me in the "Stop The Hate" campaign to stomp out racism in our country. To learn more about the campaign, please visit my website www.undercovernazi.com
Austin, Tex.: Which groups do you consider the most dangerous? Which have the highest membership?
David Gletty: All of the groups are equally dangerous and none of them should be taken lightly. It's hard to say which has the highest membership, but we're well-aware that the current economic situation is causing a record number of recruitments across the nation that should be watched carefully. It's up to all of us as Constitution-loving Americans to stand up and collect as much information as possible to thwart all efforts of criminal activism without treading on our Constitutional right of freedom of speech and beliefs.
Laurel: Do these groups ever make friends with "their enemy's enemy"?
I mean, anti-Semitism is fairly common among numerous minority groups, most of which I assume Neo-Nazis dislike. The KKK (when large) was strongly anti-Catholic, except in Maryland and Louisiana where many members WERE Catholic.
Do they sometimes experience double-reverse hatred?
David Gletty: During my investigation over the years, at one point I ran into some Klan members that stated they joined up with al-Qaeda and they had nuclear materials, enough to make a small nuclear dirty bomb. I took this threat seriously, gathered as much evidence and information as possible, and turned that in to the FBI and they captured the guy, and I believe that we thwarted their plans.
Prescott, Ariz.: I think the scariest, recent white supremacist story was that guy in Maine who was collecting "dirty bomb" components and was fortunately killed by his wife in a domestic dispute before he could engage in any terrorism. I am pretty sure he was never reported on in any of the national papers or on national news, even though such reporting might have been a clarion call. Why do you think a couple Muslim teens playing paintball in New Jersey to chants of "death to America" sets off the alarms (drives news coverage for a couple days) and a white supremacist domestic terrorist with actual means to engage in terrorism is actively ignored?
David Gletty: One of the tools of the terrorist groups is intimidation and fear. If we reported to the national news media every event that was stopped, then the average citizen would get a slanted view and live in fear which is the goal of these terrorist groups. When people start chanting terrorist-type statements in public places or on an airplane, that fear has been unleashed and law officials immediately shut it down. It is the job of law officials, government, the FBI and people like myself to stop those who actually have means to hurt, maim, or kill American citizens without giving blatant publicity to these hate-mongers and criminals.
Laurel, Md.: If the suspect goes to prison, he'll probably hook up with a white supremacist gang there, and be treated as a hero.
Even if he avoids prison, which is possible considering his age, he'll still be considered a hero amongst people who think like him
Is there anything that can be done about that?
David Gletty: People with similar beliefs create their own heroes based on their own philosophy. As you stated, if he goes to prison, he'll probably be treated as a hero. These guys believe going to prison or jail is a badge of honor and they call themselves POW's of the U.S. government, and they feel like they have been caught in the war zone fighting their war against racism against them. They call it a racial holy war, "RAHOWA" for short. It starts with education and the understanding of various races without prejudice to one group or another. We, as Americans, need to stand up and constantly speak about this because speaking out against racism and letting these groups know that they're always being watched is one way to help stop the hate. Americans will not be intimidated or subjugated by their beliefs.
Washington, D.C.: I saw some video of you up on stage rousing the group up. Did you do that often? Were you not afraid your cover would be blown? Has there been reaction from members of the groups you infiltrated of your clandestine activity?
David Gletty: First of all, when you saw me on stage it was by order of the FBI to build a credible character in line with the belief structure of the groups I was trying to infiltrate. I was hiding in plain sight instead of skulking in the shadows which is where they would suspect an undercover to be, not on the stage regurgitating their rhetoric. I was afraid every day that my cover might be blown but it's just like any soldier fighting for his country; it's not the absence of fear, it's the overcoming of fear to do what's right. Yes, there has been reaction from the groups I infiltrated. They hate David Gletty because of the fact that I had to act as their friend while I collected evidence of the criminal activity against their groups and now they feel betrayed because that friendship was fake.
Washington, D.C.: Hello Mr Gletty,
Are gang groups classified by the FBI as hate groups (like MS-13) or am I comparing apples to oranges?
David Gletty: Hatred fosters violence against somebody other than who they are, so a criminal act is a criminal act by a criminal. It doesn't matter what tattoo, political rhetoric, or racial group these people adhere to; hate is hate. The one thing I aim to do is further my campaign to "Stop The Hate" whether it be through my writings, speaking engagements, or online chat.
Aliso Viejo, Calif.: Just a really basic question because I do not understand a lot of this: My husband is Asian and I am white. Would such relationships/people as myself be criticized by these kinds of people or do they care more about bigger things such as government?
David Gletty: While undercover for the FBI, one skinhead group that I infiltrated in Central Florida would actively go around and beat down interracial couples or a black man because he was walking down the street by himself. The sad part of this unwarranted act of violence is that when police would arrive, the victims were so afraid of retaliation they would not file charges against these criminals who had just violated their civil rights. I encountered this many times and when victims are unwilling to press charges against the criminals, nothing is done to the group to stop them from spreading their fear and intimidation. Thus, the hate continues.
Re dislike and distrust between neo-Nazis and skinheads: What can be lawfully done to increase the dislike and distrust between neo-Nazis and skinheads? Seems like a divide-and-conquer approach could yield beneficial results in terms of minimizing their threat to our society.
David Gletty: Not only are arrests and convictions important, but by me working undercover and infiltrating these groups I was able to plant the bomb of disruption and paranoia so that when it was known to all that I was working as an undercover operative for the FBI the bomb exploded. All that I had infiltrated and had met in the past were paranoid of being charged and convicted of whatever crimes I might have collected evidence on. Some of these people went to prison and others went to work as criminal informants to stay out of prison.
David Gletty: I want to thank you all for your questions and your interest in helping me stop the hate. I thank washingtonpost.com for inviting me to share my experiences with their viewership and help to educate more people on what we can do to end racism in America.
Editor's Note: washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions. washingtonpost.com is not responsible for any content posted by third parties.