A Guardian investigation into a leak on an American Patriots Three Percent website shows that the anti-government militia group has recruited a network across the United States that includes current and former military, police and border patrol agents.
But the leak also shows how the radical group has recruited from a wide swath of Americans, not just the military and police. Members include both men and women, aged between 20 and 70, who perform jobs from medical physics to dental hygiene and live in all parts of the country.
Experts say that the revelations of the wide scope of the movement’s membership show the integration of the radical politics of the militia and groups of the so-called “Patriot Movement” during the Trump era and beyond.
There has been a particular focus on the militia movement after the January 6 attack on the Capitol in Washington DC, in which a rampant pro-Trump crowd included members of the militia and others from far-right organizations.
According to members who spoke to The Guardian, the website from which the list was leaked was created by national leaders of the Patriot Movement group, which is affiliated with the broader Three Percenter movement.
The activists obtained names, phone numbers and even photographs of the members, who then published the data on an Internet archive site, and the Guardian checked them against public records and other published materials.
One of the activists who discovered the leak, whose name has been withheld due to security concerns, said that the misconfigured membership plugin on the WordPress site left those details exposed to public view. Additional materials viewed by The Guardian confirm that claim and show that the materials were obtained using a simple search technique.
Many of the members revealed by the leak have extensive experience in the military, including some who still serve in branches of the US military.
Sergeant Major Andrew Holloway Selph performs quality control on fighter jets for the US Air Force at Hill Air Force Base near Ogden, Utah, and is a 20-year service veteran. On February 16, the Daily Dot reported that Selph had been nominated as a Utah contact for the Oath Keepers, another far-right Patriot Movement group that has been implicated in organizing the Capitol riots.
The group also has retired soldiers, including Scott Seddon, who founded the group in 2009 as one of the three percent groups that emerged in the wake of the election of President Barack Obama. In 2018, he told reporter Chris Hedges that he had done it “out of fear.”
It also features the group’s self-styled and similarly named “sergeant major.”
and website administrator Scott Sneddon, a former Air Force sergeant and now a real estate agent in Layton, Utah. Joined the violated AP3% website with the group’s sales email address. merchandise website.
Several other members of the group are active or serving police or military, including a reserve deputy police officer in Texas with a long career in the police and US air force behind him.
Meanwhile, Phillip Whitehead, 61, of Prescott Valley, Arizona, is the commander of the US Legion post there. In his bio on that site, he boasts of six years of military service in the 1980s and then 34 years in law enforcement, including stints with the Tucson Police Department, the Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office. and the US Border Patrol.
In a phone conversation, Whitehead blamed AP3% national leaders for violating members’ privacy. Describing his role as a “weapons sergeant and zone commander” in the Arizona AP3%, he said he was “dismayed that information attached to individuals” was leaked from the site.
He explained that he had not specifically entered his own data on the site, and understood that the information had been collected from statewide organizations to be stored in a “member-only database” that would serve as “a way to contact the organization. and perhaps as a hiring tool ”.
Whitehead’s claims that he did not provide information specifically to the website coincided with a response from a US Army noncommissioned officer who, when contacted by The Guardian, said that he had only attended one “meet and greet” several years before, and that it might not explain how your contact details were added to the website.
“A lot of us are ex-military, ex-law enforcement,” Whitehead said of the leak. “Some of us have had a high-level security clearance. This has put me and my family at risk. “
Whitehead insisted that the group “was not a militia” and that the objective, as he understood it, was to act as “protectors of the community at the request of the local authorities.” Beyond the “anguish” caused by the website, Whitehead criticized Sneddon, the national leader, for his “outbursts on a public forum, Facebook,” adding that “I don’t like his public behavior because I don’t think that’s the case. what organization should represent “.
Devin Burghart is vice president of the Institute for Human Rights Research and Education (IREHR), which tracks far-right militants, including the militia movement.
In a phone conversation, Burghart said that AP3% was “one of the first attempts to build a national network of three percent groups,” and that they “were successful early on in using Facebook for recruiting.”
He said that while AP3% “definitely has a far-right paramilitary structure and ideology,” they were “much more focused on action than ideology,” and in the past they have conducted extensive drills of live fire and acted as security guards. . during protests, including the recent Black Lives Matter protests across the country.
Burghart said that “military veterans involved in far-right paramilitary groups are not only betraying their oaths, they are threatening American democracy and national security,” adding that “there is a staggeringly long list of far-right veterans trained in the use of deadly force abroad that applied those techniques to Americans in their home country for political purposes. “
Not all members have experience in the military or law enforcement, and many perform day jobs. Members investigated by The Guardian include dental hygienists, Apple Geniuses, and beekeepers.
Others work in advanced or specialized fields. John P Balog, from Rome, New York, has a doctorate in medical physics and announces a consultancy advising on radiation therapy for cancer patients.
Dr. Balog was another AP3% member who responded to requests for comment about the website leak.
After sending an email and calling a protected number, Balog described the group as a “secret society” and said the website had been in existence for several years.
When asked why secrecy was necessary, Balog said “honestly because most of the country does not share our values,” which he called “unconditional conservatism.”
Other members of the site have a documented history of joining online forums for similar groups. Data provided to The Guardian by IREHR indicates that many were members of a wide range of militia-related groups on Facebook before that company began monitoring the organization on its website.
Seth Weiner, 34, of Canton, New York, who also runs a Facebook group for German Iron Cross military medal collectors, was a member of seven military-related Facebook groups, including “Q Patriots “,” Pissed Off Patriots of America, “and” Red Pill Patriots. “
Brian Plescher, of Ottawa, Ohio, was a member of nine such groups on Facebook, including one attached to the Ohio Militiamen, Continental Militia Network, and “APIII American Patriot the III%, Old School,” the Facebook group that once served as AP3. % Online center. Jennifer Delane Hinson, a dental assistant in Pontotoc, Mississippi, was also a member of the AP3% Facebook group, along with groups like “Mississippi Minute Man Militia” and “III% Militia national Contingency,” all under the alias Jenny Plunk. .
Members of the group are not concentrated in any region of the United States, but there are unusual levels of membership in some states and counties, including some outside the heart of the Patriot Movement in the Midwest, South, and West of the country.
New York State, for example, is home to 53 of the enrolled Three Percenters – more than 11% of the total members on the site – and 17 members reside in and around Saint Lawrence County, in the far north of the Been to the Canadian Border.
While the leak revealed the details of about 500 members, Burghart said the total national membership was likely “somewhere in the few thousand.”
The site is no longer online and visiting the URL displays a page that says “this account has been suspended”. Internet logs indicate that they abruptly lost accommodation around February 2, right after the leak was discovered. Its former hosts, wix.com, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
AP3% made the news in January when images emerged of Colorado members posing with controversial Colorado Congresswoman Lauren Bobert on the steps of that state capitol.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism