ADL study finds militias gaining popularity in state, nationally

The growing popularity of Northern California militias worries the Anti-Defamation League's Anastasia Steinberg, although she has uncovered no new evidence of anti-Semitism among them.

"Sure, it should be a relief that we're not No. 1 on their hit list," the ADL's regional director said. "It's not like the neo-Nazis. [The militias'] first line of attack isn't the Jew. It's the federal government."

But the extreme anti-government views among militias and the April 19 bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building are enough to alarm the ADL, which this week released a new national report, "Beyond the Bombing: The Militia Menace Grows."

The 35-page report updates the ADL's first militia survey that came out in October, long before the Oklahoma blast that killed 167 people. Suspects in the blast are believed to be tied to militias.

Last fall, the ADL found evidence of militias in 13 states, though California wasn't among them. In its latest report, the ADL has identified militias, each with at least 15,000 members, in 40 states. That includes 26 groups operating in 15 counties in Northern California. Ten more militias are operating in Southern California.

The ADL says the most extremist militias — those engaged in paramilitary training and advocating the federal government's downfall — are found in Idaho, Montana and Michigan.

The report warns that some militias incorporate anti-Semitism and that some members and leaders have ties to white supremacist groups.

Anti-Semitic literature, such as "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion," the Liberty Lobby's weekly Spotlight newspaper and its warfare manual "The Road Back," have been distributed at militia meetings throughout the country.

Immediately following the Oklahoma bombing, Steinberg discovered several anti-Semitic publications such as "Spotlight" being distributed in Northern California militia meetings and gun shows.

She has since found no new signs of anti-Semitism. However, she believes much of the militia's conspiracy theories can easily incorporate Jewish targets. And she is concerned that anti-Semitism among militias will grow as their rhetoric becomes more extreme.

In order to suppress militias without limiting free speech, the report urges "vigorous enforcement" of existing laws banning paramilitary training. Twenty-four states now have such laws. The ADL has written to governors in the remaining 26 states, asking them to adopt similar statutes.

The ADL report names militia organizers of particular concern, including one Californian, Dean Compton, of rural Shasta County. He founded the National Alliance of Christian Militias, which trains on his 130-acre ranch and mixes biblical messages with its survivalist philosophy.

Steinberg also is worried about out-of-state militia leaders who have visited the region this year. They include far-right leader and former Green Beret James "Bo" Gritz, who is building a survivalist community in Idaho. In February, Gritz conducted a paramilitary training session for a newly formed militia in Northern California's Butte County.

Meanwhile, Steinberg continues to collect literature, fliers, newsletters and training manuals at militia meetings. One example: The "U.S. Militiaman's Handbook" has chapters advocating vigilantism and assassinations, complete with instructions on how to carry out such actions.

Though anti-Semitism isn't at the forefront of the militia movement, Steinberg said the ADL is still worried about the militias' threat to democracy.

"We're concerned about people who are extremists," she said. "We're not only concerned about Jews."