Four alleged members of a Georgia militia group were arrested yesterday relating to their alleged plot to kill numerous government officials. According to the complaint, one of the arrested repeatedly cited as the source of their plan the novel Absolved, authored by Fox News expert Mike Vanderboegh, the former militia member famous for urging his blog readers to hurl bricks through the windows of Democratic offices.
In Vanderboegh's novel, which was self-published online, underground militia fighters declare war on the federal government over gun control laws and same-sex marriage, leading to a second American revolution. In the introduction to Absolved, Vanderboegh calls the book “a cautionary tale for the out-of-control gun cops of the ATF” and “a combination field manual, technical manual and call to arms for my beloved gunnies of the armed citizenry.”
The Alabama-based blogger was one of the first to report on the ATF's failed Operation Fast and Furious. He has since promoted a variety of absurd conspiracy theories about the story.
In recent months, Fox News has mainstreamed Vanderboegh, treating him as an expert on the ATF's Operation Fast and Furious, featuring him in cable and online reports and identifying him as an “online journalist” and an “authority on the Fast and Furious investigation.” Fox has not acknowledged Vanderboegh's extremist views, actions, and affiliations.
The self-proclaimed Toccoa, Georgia-based “covert group” was allegedly plotting to obtain explosives and silencers and to manufacture ricin, a biological agent. According to the complaint, the group planned to target for assassination numerous government officials, including judges and employees of the Department of Justice and Internal Revenue Service.
The complaint alleges that at an April meeting one of the accused, Frederick Thomas, said he “intended to model their actions on the plot of an online novel called Absolved”:
THOMAS also explained to the others present that he intended to model their actions on the plot of an online novel called Absolved. The plot of Absolved involves small groups of citizens attacking United States federal law enforcement representatives and federal judges. THOMAS expressed his belief that they should consider a number of assassinations on various government officials, and he particularly expressed a desire to kill Department of Justice (DOJ) and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) employees.
The complaint also alleges that at a prior meeting, Thomas “mentioned a fictional novel he had read on-line in which an anti-government group killed a large number of federal Department of Justice attorneys, and then he stated, 'Now of course, that's just fiction, but that's a damn good idea.' ” Thomas also allegedly linked his plan to Absolved during a June 9 meeting.
According to the complaint, in May, Thomas and a confidential government source traveled to Atlanta and “conducted surveillance” on ATF and IRS offices “to plan and assess for possible attacks,” with Thomas discussing obtaining explosives and the best way to blow up the buildings. The complaints allege that from June through November, Thomas and defendant Dan Roberts negotiated the purchase of explosives from an undercover agent. The government also alleged that in October, the other two members of the group described to the confidential source plans to manufacture ricin and disburse it in U.S. cities.
Roberts' complaint describes the defendents as “members of a fringe group of a known militia organization, with the fringe group calling itself the 'covert group.' ” According to FBI sources, the “known militia organization” is the Georgia Militia, a statewide militia with at least a dozen active chapters, or “battalions” according to its website. The Georgia Militia website identifies Toccoa resident Dan Roberts as both a “Captain” and the commanding officer of the Toccoa-based 440th Squad. Emails to address listed for Roberts were not immediately returned.
In a post to his blog yesterday evening, Vanderboegh linked to an article about the arrests, commenting, “Pretty geriatric 'militia.' What does ricin have to do with 'saving the Constitution'? The only idiots I ever heard interested in ricin were neoNazis.”
For that warning to be credible, I must also present what amounts to a combination field manual, technical manual and call to arms for my beloved gunnies of the armed citizenry. They need to know how powerful they could truly be if they were pushed into a corner.
Vanderboegh portrays himself as preparing for the unfortunate day when the events in Absolved may come to pass (though he says that “another civil war in this country is the last thing I want.”) He is a leader of the Three Percenters, a group which claims to represent the three percent of gun owners who “who will not disarm, will not compromise and will no longer back up at the passage of the next gun control act” but will instead, “if forced by any would-be oppressor, ... kill in the defense of ourselves and the Constitution.”
Vanderboegh has suggested that those who tried to push the licensing and registration of firearms would be “proposing the next American civil war” because the Three Percenters “would kill anyone who tried to further restrict our God-given liberty.”
The complaint details a similar scenario described by Thomas:
THOMAS described a scenario in which he felt would be the “line in the sand” that would result in the activation of militias. THOMAS believed that soon, during a protest action, a protestor would be shot. It is his opinion the militias would act and respond by openly attacking the police. He then openly discussed having complied what he called the “Bucket List” which is a list of government employees, politicians, corporate leaders and members of the media he feels needed to be “taken out” to make the country right again."
Last year, Vanderboegh posted on his blog what he described as a report on his book by the Kansas City Regional Terrorism Early Warning Group, an organization of local, state, and federal law enforcement working with public and private parties to detect and respond to terrorist threats. The report stated:
The stories told by Vanderboegh show that many in the U.S. harbor a belief that the U.S. government is planning, or will plan, a confiscation of firearms from law-abiding citizens. The degree to which he glorifies the killing of law enforcement personnel involved in fictional gun raids also shows the extent many will go to spread their ideology. Vanderboegh's and other works of literature have the possibility to inspire those with extremist beliefs to carry out similar attacks depicted in the writings.
The report described Vanderboegh's novel as “very similar” to National Alliance founder William Pierce's The Turner Diaries, which depicts a U.S. race war in the near future and may have inspired Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh. Vanderboegh took issue with the characterization, writing,
Yeah, except the whole race war terrorism thing where the Nazis win in the end and fantasize about hanging “race traitors” like me. Yeah, all except for that. Here's the main difference. Pierce was trying to start a war, I'm trying to prevent one.
David Holthouse contributed additional reporting to this article.