The FBI’s investigation of the extremist group called the “Base” reflected an aggressive approach that the bureau can take when there is a legal basis to do so. Membership alone in a hate group is not a crime, but the case is a rare example of investigators treating a neo-Nazi group like the Mafia or a drug cartel. The FBI suspected that the Base was operating as a criminal enterprise, the New York Times reports. Federal agents secretly recorded remarks by some of the suspects in a bugged apartment during a domestic terrorism investigation. Seven members were arrested last week in advance of a rally on Monday by gun rights advocates in Richmond, Va.
Three members of one cell in Maryland affiliated with the group plotted attacks at the rally, hoping to ignite wider violence that would lead to the creation of a white ethno-state. The “defendants did more than talk,” said Maryland U.S. Attorney Robert Hur after a detention hearing on Wednesday. “They took steps to act and act violently on their racist views.” The details that emerged from this case and others in Georgia, Wisconsin and New Jersey unveiled a disturbing new face of white supremacy. The Base illustrates what officials describe as an expanding threat, particularly from people who cluster in small cells organized under a larger group that spreads violent ideology. Experts say the Base may have followed the model of Al Qaeda and other violent Islamic groups to radicalize independent cells or even lone wolves who would be inspired to plot their own attacks. They describe the Base as an “accelerationist” organization, seeking to speed the collapse of the U.S. and form a state of its own in the Pacific Northwest by killing minorities, particularly African Americans and Jews.