Inside a security expert’s collection of hateful artifacts

Daryl Johnson explains why he has boxes filled with hate paraphernalia, like KKK pamphlets, in his basement

Including the South Carolina church massacre victims, the number of U.S. deaths in attacks linked to reactionary ideologies — namely white supremacists or anti-government sentiments — is nearly twice the toll linked to Al-Qaeda and its affiliates since 2002, according to a tally by the New America Foundation think tank.

It’s a disturbing pattern and one that Daryl Johnson predicted in 2009, when he was the lead analyst for domestic terrorism for the Department of Homeland Security. He and his team warned in a report that the election of the first black president, combined with a bad economy, could lead to a resurgence of white supremacists and violent anti-government groups.

Intended only for law enforcement use, the report was leaked, drawing criticism in the media and from lawmakers. Much of the political firestorm was directed at language referring to “disgruntled military veterans,” but some also said the report failed to distinguish between those with conservative beliefs and those who may cause violence.

The report’s main assessment, that “the threat posed by lone wolves and small terrorist cells is more pronounced than in past years” and “right-wing extremism is likely to grow in strength,” has since been affirmed by a number of studies.

Janet Napolitano, the secretary of homeland security at the time, withdrew the report soon after release and publicly apologized for it. Johnson said he and his colleagues were assigned to study other subjects and that much of his unit’s work was deleted. He left the department within a year and now has his own security consulting firm, DT Analytics.

But Johnson, who has studied hate groups and anti-governmental groups for decades, won’t let his expertise go to waste. Over 20 years, he has acquired an impressive and unsettling collection of artifacts of hate.

He showed America Tonight his collection and explained how the paraphernalia help him educate law enforcement officers about the threat posed by violent hate groups. 

America Tonight

“The Bible: Handbook for Survivalists, Racists, Tax Protestors, Militants and Right-Wing Extremists” was among the manuals seized in 1985 from the Covenant, the Sword and the Arm of Lord, a violent white supremacist group that operated an Arkansas compound called the Farm.

Johnson said reading those manuals help police learn about hate groups’ weaponry and tactics, such as how they planned to attack a building.

In this brochure, influential Christian Identity preacher Pastor Pete Peters puts forth his white supremacist views, using the Bible as justification for his ideology.

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“As an analyst, I would study this kind of propaganda to get a better understanding of [groups’] motivations or the intentions behind their acts, violent or not,” Johnson said. “It also gave me an opportunity to look at their potential targets so you can safeguard those targets.”

For example, the pamphlet on the right was used by white supremacists to spread misinformation about and hatred of Jews.  

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Nebraska-based Gary Lauck — nicknamed the Farm Belt Führer — is best known for printing and selling neo-Nazi propaganda, primarily to groups in Europe.

“He used his First Amendment constitutional right to print that and sell it to people who didn’t have that First Amendment right,” Johnson said.

In 1995, at the request of German police, authorities in Denmark arrested Lauck and extradited him to Germany, despite neo-Nazi “Free Gerhard” pleas. He served four years in prison for disseminating illegal propaganda in Germany.

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The United Klans of America, the largest umbrella Ku Klux Klan group, published this manual in the 1960s, which included its bylaws and instructions for conducting secret ceremonies. Johnson said this type of propaganda is important in understanding how the Klan is organized.

“The KKK has a whole set of language that you have to understand,” he said. “All the different positions have titles. For instance, the security person who would be armed at the rally is called the nighthawk.”

Johnson said the manual defines code words that Klan members used to communicate with one another in public. For example, he said, the acronym “AKIA” among Klan members means “a Klansman I am.”

“These are things a police officer could pick up on so they would know they are dealing with a Klansman,” he said.

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“Sui juris,” a Latin term used by the anti-governmental group Sovereign Citizens, means “under duress.” Members of the group believe they may decide which laws to ignore or obey.

Johnson said Sovereign Citizens often sign traffic tickets or other government documents with the phrase to signify that they’re signing against their will.

“They think that by writing that on a ticket, it absolves them of paying the ticket or going to court,” he said. 

America Tonight

The National Socialist is a magazine published by Bill White, a prominent neo-Nazi in Roanoke, Virginia.

He ran a real estate business, buying and renting dilapidated properties in primarily black low-income neighborhoods. In 2007 he mailed copies of the magazine to African-American tenants to intimidate them and prevent them from testifying in a federal housing discrimination case against him.

He was later convicted of witness intimidation and sentenced to 30 months in federal prison.

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