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ProPublica Story Links Neo-Nazi Group To Las Vegas

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White nationalists, neo-Nazis and members of the "alt-right" march during the United the Right rally in Charlottesville, Va., on Aug. 12.

In the world of white supremacy, the group "Atomwaffen" -- German for nuclear weapons -- is picking up steam.

A recent investigation into the neo-Nazi group from ProPublica links the group to the murder of a Jewish college student in Orange County in January.

Further reporting shows the group's ties to Las Vegas, and to Nevada.

ProPublica writer A.C. Thompson said the group started as a bunch of young people interested in fascism and Nazism that were meeting in an online forum. 

"It coalesces from there into what we might call the most extreme of the new white supremacists' groups," he said.

Unlike some hate groups, Atomwaffen doesn't want to be involved in street protests. It doesn't have a leader or a spokesperson. It also doesn't want to talk to the media. 

Thompson said what they do believe in, and espouse regularly in encrypted chatrooms, is violence, terrorism, and guerrilla warfare.

"They believe in overthrowing the U.S. government through the force of arms and establishing a fascist, racist regime," he said.

And apparently, the chatter online has become action in some instances, Thompson said.

One member of the group is now accused of stabbing Blaze Bernstein, a gay, Jewish college student from Orange County, and burying his body in a park there. Before the murder, defendant Sam Woodward made extreme anti-gay, racist and anti-Semitic comments on the group's chat channel.

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After the news broke that Woodward had been arrested for the murder of Bernstein, members of the group celebrated the murder, and thought it was good they were getting attention for it, Thompson said.

The group isn't just in Orange County. It is actually decentralized, making it more difficult to track. 

In Las Vegas, a licensed private investigator and security guard named Michael Hubsky is involved with the group, according to the ProPublica report.

Thompson said Hubsky has shown to be extremely interested in attacking critical public infrastructure, from water supplies to high-voltage power lines.

"They are absolutely fixated on guerilla struggle, on terrorist incidents, on ways to destabilize a powerful ruling government through the force of small numbers acting strategically," he said.

To further that effort, Hubsky invited members of the group to the Nevada side of Death Valley in January for a training session. Thompson said they shot weapons and practiced hand to hand combat.

They also filmed recruiting videos.

"What they want to do is get their name out there through recruiting videos," Thompson said.

Even without a recruiting video, numbers for Atomwaffen have grown, especially in the wake of the protests and counterprotests in Charlottesville this past summer.

Thompson said neo-Nazi groups at the protests contacted Atomwaffen about joining because they felt some of the groups they were affiliated with were not extreme enough. They also expressed interest in taking their activities underground.

They also felt that couldn't hold a rally again because of the intense scrutiny and counter-protests from average people.

"Rather than seeing the counter-protesters who were attacked, run over and killed that day, they saw themselves as victims," Thompson said.

Even with open conversations about terrorism, Thompson said it wasn't until recently that law enforcement started to take the group more seriously.

"Until very recently, law enforcement sort of said, 'These are a bunch of kooky kids. They have these awful ideas but they’re just a bunch of LARPers [live action roleplay] and internet nerds,'" Thompson said.

He said five murders are now connected to the group in some way, and law enforcement is starting to pay more attention.

"This is a group that openly preaches terrorism and idolizes people like Tim McVeigh, the Oklahoma City bomber. They idolize Dylann Roof, the Charleston church shooter. They idolize Anders Breivik, who is the Norwegian man who killed nearly 80 people in that country a few years ago," Thompson said. 

However, he said some experts who study hate groups are not as concerned because these types of hate groups have been around for years in the United States and although they espouse violence, they rarely engage in it. 

Guests

A.C. Thompson, ProPublica

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