The database for the neo-Nazi forum Iron March was dumped online by unknown activists Wednesday and includes chat logs detailing discussions by some who claim to be service members and others expressing a desire to join the U.S. military.
The leaked database also includes personally identifiable information from usernames, IP addresses and email addresses. In some cases, members in the forum logged into the infamous neo-Nazi forum — also known to be the organizational birthplace of Atomwaffen Division — using what appears to be their full name.
Atomwaffen Division is a violent American neo-Nazi organization that some believe to be a domestic terrorist group. Marine Lance Cpl. Vasillios G. Pistolis was booted from Corps mid-summer 2018 for his ties to the hate group.
An anonymous member who logged into the Iron March forum identified as a member of Marine NROTC Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps and expressed interest in Atomwaffen.
“I read the Atomwaffen Division thread and it piqued my interest,” that anonymous member posted. “There are similar groups around the northwest (particularly in western Montana up in the mountains, where blacks and/or hippies trying to grow pot tend to disappear), but less on the outright national socialist side, and more so quasi-White nationalist militias. I’m in Marine NROTC [Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps] at the moment so I could bring that training to the table and more so in the future, if I earn a commission. I go to OCS [Officer Candidates School] next year.I am stuck in Commiefornia til the end of this year. Are there any people from your organization located out west that I could network with?”
Military Times has not yet positively identified any service members in the neo-Nazi forum, but has scoured the chat logs and pulled out discussions from members of the neo-Nazi forum discussing a membership in or desire to join the U.S. military. In some cases, individuals identified themselves as being service members.
Military Times has also not been able to verify who posted the database or how it was acquired. The file says it was uploaded by antifa, which is short for anti-fascist. The left leaning antifa movement has been known to use violence at protests.
A Marine spokesman said the sympathies expressed in the chats run counter to the service’s core values.
“The Marine Corps is clear on this: There is no place for racial hatred or extremism in the Marine Corps. Our strength is derived from the individual excellence of every Marine regardless of background. Bigotry and racial extremism run contrary to our core values,” Capt. Joseph Butterfield, a Marine spokesman told Military Times in an emailed statement.
“Not sure about Racist, Palmer seems determined to enlist in the USMC,” one member of the neo-Nazi forum posted.
“To be honest I’m struggling with the issue right now; don’t really want to become an officer unless I go National Guard, so I’m thinking of Army or Marine reserves, enlisted. Everything I’ve been hearing from retired and active soldiers is that the government is gutting their benefits and pushing more PC [politically correct] crap down the chain of command,” the same member posted.
“We fascists need to be ready to act when the time comes, and my fear is going active could tie me down too much for the next couple years, when making a lot of money and networking is more crucial. Unless the system collapses we’re going to need financial backers, so those capable of doing so should seek out professions that pay better and let them put aside or invest money. Of course there will be nationalists in the military, so that’s a good thing,” the person wrote.
Another member described plans to organize a local neo-Nazi movement as “fit" as U.S. Marines.
“Well let’s just say I have been keeping a plan for a local movement in the works, i’ve been intentionally not talking about it so as to appear with results rather than make long-winded announcements. I will try to give a general idea of what it will be like in a few words: Imagine a modern cross between the Silvershirts and NA, with a larger movement built around a small, dedicated Actiongroup who are required to attend meetings at least once a month and be as fit as Marines,” the user chatted.
The silver shirts may refer to the Silver Shirt Legion. The group was founded before World War II and the Anti-Defamation League characterizes the group as a fascist organization.
Another user on the Iron March forum identified as being a member of the Navy.
“Was sunny and warm for most of the summer, but its gone back to typical grey rainy Washington. There’s mountains and a lot to do though, I like it. Only here cause of the Navy but I wouldn’t mind settling here,” the user posted.
Another alleged Marine expressed worry that being personally identified in the neo-Nazi forum could create another scandal for the Corps.
“I’m going with minimal identification for the time being, since I don’t know who might be watching this forum. Last thing I need is to make Marine Corps scandal-history in a similar manner that the Sig-runes Scout Snipers did,” the individual wrote.
Marine snipers in Afghanistan caused issues in 2012 when they posed next to a flag bearing the Nazi SS organization symbol.
“Association or participation with hate or extremist groups of any kind is directly contradictory to the core values of honor, courage, and commitment that we stand for as Marines and isn’t tolerated by the Marine Corps," Butterfield said.
“We are proud of the fact that Marines come from every race, creed, cultural background and walk of life. We expect every Marine to treat their fellow Marines with dignity and respect,” he said.
According to a policy brief published in July by the International Centre for Counter-Terrorism, the Atomwaffen Division and groups like it sit at “the apex” of America’s political right wing pyramid, where the base is made up of law-abiding, non-violent conservatives.
“The middle of the pyramid has been fleshed out in recent years, as the so-called alt-right has not only proliferated, but has become increasingly mainstream,” according to the brief. “Political views previously condemned as radical, such as constructing border walls and policies targeted at certain religions, are now endorsed and claimed by some of the country’s most powerful politicians.”
At the top is a group of radicalized conservatives who view terroristic violence as their only recourse in a world that does not condone their values.
“Atomwaffen presents a continuing terrorist threat for two fundamental reasons,” says the ICCT report. “The group’s plainly stated intentions to increase their use of violence, and its efforts to recruit from the US military. Dramatically improved counterterrorism policies, in both the short- and long-term, are urgently needed to counter the threat.”
Atomwaffen has held a series of training camps in rural locations, most notably a January 2018 “hate camp” in the Nevada desert, according to the report. The camps are intended to prepare members for the RaHoWa—“Racial Holy War”—with training in guerrilla tactics and the use of weapons.
“Training is often provided by former military servicemen,” the report states.
The group also bears watching closely, for two reasons, according to ICCT — “its public declarations, and its active recruitment from the military.”
Atomwaffen “actively recruits from the military, seeking out servicemen who can provide expertise in firearms and military tactics,” according to the report. “Developing links with the military has been a deliberate Atomwaffen strategy, and members have enrolled specifically to benefit the group...these people join the military specially to get training. To get access to equipment.”
The group’s "deliberate pursuit of military members indicates an ominous intent: the group wants military experience and professional training on its side for coming attacks against civilians and battles with the government."
ICCT says that at least seven Atomwaffen members have military experience.
In June testimony before the House Oversight subcommittee on civil rights and civil liberties, the FBI’s assistant director for counter-terrorism, Michael McGarrity, told lawmakers that the agency was facing a 30 to 40-percent rise in domestic terrorism cases since October 2018.
“In fiscal year 2018 FBI [Joint Terrorism Task Forces] across the country proactively arrested approximately 115 subjects of FBI domestic terrorism investigations before they could mobilize into violence," McGarrity said. "So far [since Oct. 1 of last year], our JTTFs have disrupted approximately 66 subjects of FBI domestic terrorism investigations by arrest."
According to Anti-Defamation League statistics from the previous decade, 73 percent of extremist murders have been perpetrated by far-right adherents.
That movement has spilled over to the military, as instances of investigations and arrests among service members have surfaced in recent years.
In September, the Army Reserve launched an investigation into Maj. William Jeffrey Poole, a Fort Benning, Georgia, infantry officer who had advocated for the violent overthrow of the U.S. government in a series of Reddit comments and tweets.
Though Poole was not suspected of any ties to the Atomwaffen Division itself, in May, the 1st Armored Division at Fort Bliss, Texas, began an investigation into Pfc. Corwyn Storm Carver for his alleged ties to the group.
In late October, Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy told Military Times he did not believe the Army was facing a trend of far-right extremism, and that no headquarters office was tracking cases centrally.
The U.S. military has struggled to keep members of extremist groups and hate organizations out of the ranks of the military. In some cases, service members like Pistolis slip under the radar. With no criminal record, the only evidence linking Pistolis to extremist ideology was his digital fingerprints, searches online and discussions in chat rooms.
There have been 27 reports of extremist activity by service members over the past five years, the Defense Department said in a 2018 letter addressed to then-Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn, 25 of which were investigation and 18 of which ended in discipline or involuntary separation.
Ellison requested information from the DoD regarding service member participation in extremist organizations following stories of Pistolis’ connections to Atomwaffen.
The DoD also noted in its letter to Ellison that tracking the number of service members involved in hate or extremists groups is complicated by the fact that many of these individuals are separated for other discipline issues — such as failure to abide by a regulation. The U.S. military does not have a separation code for belonging to or participating in a hate group.
A 2017 Military Times poll found that service members ranked white nationalism as a bigger national security threat than Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, and they were seeing shades of it in their fellow troops.
Shawn Snow is the senior reporter for Marine Corps Times and a Marine Corps veteran.
Meghann Myers is the Pentagon bureau chief at Military Times. She covers operations, policy, personnel, leadership and other issues affecting service members. Follow on Twitter @Meghann_MT