The Hatewatch blog is managed by the staff of the Intelligence Project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, an Alabama-based civil rights organization.

Engineer at Elite Army Weapons Lab Tied to Racist Groups

By Bill Morlin on May 23, 2013 - 9:53 am, Posted in Anti-Black, Extremists in the Military, White Nationalism

A young research engineer at the U.S. Army’s elite chemical and biological research laboratory in Maryland has close ties to two racist groups espousing white nationalist views, one of which has called for a homeland for white people.

John Stortstrom, a mechanical engineer who works for the Army at its Edgewood Chemical Biological Center (ECBC), was among 150 white nationalists, many of them young, who attended the American Renaissance conference held in early April in Tennessee. American Renaissance is a journal dedicated to race and intelligence, with a heavy focus on the “psychopathology” of black people. Its editor has written that black people are incapable of sustaining any kind of civilization.

Stortstrom also has been a member of Youth for Western Civilization (YWC), according to his Facebook page. The far-right student group was started about five years ago, but now appears to be defunct. It was close enough to American Renaissance that the editor of that journal wrote a fundraising letter for it in 2011, describing YWC’s leader as “an eloquent and distinguished young man.”

Remarkably, Stortstrom is simultaneously vice president of the Route 40 Republican Party Club, based in Edgewood, Md., where the Army research center also is located. Earlier this month, the club sponsored an appearance at the Harford County Sheriff’s Office by Matthew Heimbach, president of the racist White Student Union at Towson University. Heimbach had earlier led a Towson chapter of YWC, but shut it down after members last year chalked “White Pride” around campus, causing an uproar among students and administrators. The WSU is its replacement.

“Good speech, Matthew,” Stortstrom wrote after the Harford County presentation, complimenting Heimbach on Route 40’s Facebook page. The page also shows a photo of Route 40 President Fred Mullis posing with Heimbach, accompanied by the Yiddish phrase, “Mazel tov!,” which means “good luck.”

Neither Stortstrom nor Mullis could be reached for comment.

There’s no question that Stortstrom is very much a part of the racist white nationalist scene, as well as an up-and-coming young GOP operative. But it is Stortstrom’s top-security clearance job at the U.S. Army research facility on the Aberdeen Proving Grounds in Maryland that is really raising eyebrows.

On its website, the anti-racist organization “One People’s Project” (OPP), which was the first to point out Stortstrom’s activities, put it like this: “See, not only is he vice-president of a Republican Party club that curiously was comfortable enough with Heimbach that he was invited to speak at one of their meetings, but his job — his actual bread winning profession — is making things that explode!”

Stortstrom’s work for the military, OPP added, puts him in contact with chemical weapons and explosives. The group’s site carries a photo of Stortstrom with the caption, “Engineer. Republican. Racist. Military bomb maker.”

Don Kennedy, the public affairs officer for the Army at the ECBC Communications Office, did not return a Hatewatch telephone call seeking comment yesterday.

Strotstrom earned a bachelor of science degree in mechanical engineering at the University of Maryland in 2008, according to his LinkedIn page. Describing his job with the U.S. Army on a YouTube video, he explained, “Our job is to provide engineering and chemical expertise to customers in support of obscuration, non-lethal, riot control and incendiary munitions.” Obscuration munitions, he said, include such things as “smoke grenades and white phosphorous artillery rounds used by the war-fighter for concealment on the battlefield.”

“The newest grenade that we support is the M-106,” Stortstrom wrote, describing the M-106 as a “bursting grenade” that fills the air with a “titanium dioxide cloud” after being thrown. “This would be used, say, in a sniper-defense scenario when the operator needs immediate concealment. And that’s one of the most-important jobs at ECBS — making sure the war-fighter has what he needs!”

  • Reynardine

    I add that a security clearance of even a far less sensitive kind can be lost to as simple a problem as bad credit. My source on that is good, even if unattributable.

  • Reynardine

    Dan, I have not attempted to place you on the dextrosinistral scale. And security clearance is an ongoing matter. The number of people who have had it and lost it is far greater even than the number of people who have kept it and betrayed it.

  • aadila

    Dan, we’ll have to agree to disagree.

  • Aron

    Dan,

    If you’ll give my posts another glance, you’ll see I am on your side :)

    (A least to an extent).

  • Ruslan Amirkhanov

    “Does the SPLC support Daryle Lamont Jenkins of One People’s Project? He openly supports violence against his political opponents and brags about it on his website.”

    Link please.

  • concernedcitizen

    @kiwiwriter I agree with your May 25th post.

  • concernedcitizen

    I believe not your typical American said: I’m an Army civilian. The motto of the U.S. Army is “This We’ll Defend.” As a Civil Servant, you aren’t your garden variety civilian. You took an Oath and pledged your loyalty to defend this country and it’s citizens equally, regardless of whatever views or opinions against certain citizens you may hold.

    This is a lovely idea or ideal but it would be far better manifested in practice. That is not the case with all who take this oath. Some believe that they have the right to exert their hate agenda despite their employment positions and exploit their positions to push their own personal hate agendas. It is these individuals that need to be weeded out.

  • concernedcitizen

    @Steve: The guy is part of the group who designs the biological weapons that the army may use to kill people with and the SPLC is worried about his racist affiliations.

    Yes the racist affiliations are a matter of importance here in America and his access to that information is a worry towards national security.

  • concernedcitizen

    Jake said, ” I think there’s no such thing. The word “racist” is just a label invented by the far left.”

    Here on Earth Racism is more than just a word.

  • Dan Zabetakis

    I see that I am not getting much support in this thread. What better way to know I am in the right once more. :p

    Let me respond to various people as shortly as possible:

    “Those in public sector jobs are especially restricted (if not legally than socially, because the public can and does excercise its right of free expression too). The issue appears to be where those limits are drawn, and in this case I agree it is a fuzzy one.”

    The restrictions on government employees are not fuzzy. They are contained in the Hatch Act which prohibits certain political activities. There really isn’t much grey area. Note that this guy hasn’t been accused of violating the Hatch Act.

    Thus you cannot invoke a nebulous ‘higher standard’ for DoD employees. It’s not nebulous. If he has violated the Hatch Act, I won’t support him. But if he has not then he has every right of expression and association the same as every other citizen. Is this controversial?

    “No Dan I do not agree that a Federdal government employee has the right to go around espousing Neo Nazism or White Supremacy.”

    He hasn’t been accused of that. The only substantive claim about this guy is that he is VP of a local Republican club. The other claims are vague ‘associations’. We do not know that he approves of (or even knows of) the views of all the people he is being linked to.

    ” what you need to further understand is that if this was a Muslim with associations to radical groups he would be out of that position so fast.”

    I think you will find that there is a single standard for all persons without regard to race, religion, etc. The standard is “membership in a group dedicated to the violent overthrow of the US government.” There different ways of phrasing it, but this is the fundamental standard.

    “someone working in a defense research lab should not be involved with organizations that seek to secede from or overthrow the US government.”

    No one has accused the guy of that.

    ” If we, the citizen paymasters, cannot be confident that he will not deploy weaponized Clostridium bacteria at the intersections of major cities, for example, then we have a right to demand inquiry into his fitness for the position.”

    Yes, but in my last post, I pointed out that this has already been done (if we are correct that this guy is a federal employee with a ‘high’ clearance). The standards for a National Security position are not a joke. No drug use. No criminal record beyond a rare speeding ticket. No financial problems. No serious mental health problems.

    What I like to say is “Everyone I work with is an upright citizen, and can prove it.”

    “Since you have claimed to mirror this guy’s lifestyle”

    I said I was in a similar position. That is, I’m a DoD civilian in the R&D community. As many people here know (not Reynardine) I am far left rather than far right.

    I’m so far left that I will defend the rights even of people I disagree with.

    DAnZ

  • Not Your Typical American

    “This guy isn’t courting publicity, running for office, or acting as a spokesman for anyone. He has the right to be free of witch hunts incited by people who object to his legal opinions and associations.”

    @ Dan Z

    I’m an Army civilian. The motto of the U.S. Army is “This We’ll Defend.” As a Civil Servant, you aren’t your garden variety civilian. You took an Oath and pledged your loyalty to defend this country and it’s citizens equally, regardless of whatever views or opinions against certain citizens you may hold.

    Since you have claimed to mirror this guy’s lifestyle, I won’t pose this question to you since the answer would more than likely be disingenious, but you cannot really believe anyone would believe that this guy, with his racist associations, won’t eventually make the decision or manifest the motivations to carry out his racist beliefs later on in life. Truth be told, racist history is against him.

    Just because he’s isn’t actively “courting publicity, running for office or acting as a spokesman for anyone”, all of that doesn’t matter because it has been proven, time and time again, that any racist activity is incompatible with government service and values.

  • Kaba

    It’s a club for firework enthusiasts. Members mostly come from this Mid-Atlantic area to include Maryland. Look who the secretary is. http://www.crackerjacks.org/about_us

  • Dmitry

    I doubt his political views (=racist ideology for some) will affect the development of titanium oxide grenades, so I see no problems with this. It is not like, say, he is a sympathizer of Black Panthers and is working in DOJ investigating their activity.

  • Sam Molloy

    Dan, this is not the best example to illustrate one’s right to employment regardless of one’s political views. It is a high security job dealing with products that are designed to harm human beings, to save others.

  • Kiwiwriter

    Sorry, once you take the Queen’s Shilling, you’re in a different place from the average citizen, particularly when you’re in sensitive positions that affect the survival of the country. You are held to a higher standard.

    You cannot do things in your private life that put you in a conflict of interest — just as I cannot do private business with a municipal contractor, someone working in a defense research lab should not be involved with organizations that seek to secede from or overthrow the US government.

  • Reynardine

    Dan, in the ordinary case, this man would be entitled to express his opinions, so long as he didn’t harass his fellow workers or oppress his subordinates. No one has the inherent right to work at a high-security military laboratory that deals with means of mass destruction. The citizenry, his ultimate paymaster, has the right to demand his loyalty to the well-being of all of them and to the lawfully-constituted charter. If we, the citizen paymasters, cannot be confident that he will not deploy weaponized Clostridium bacteria at the intersections of major cities, for example, then we have a right to demand inquiry into his fitness for the position.

  • Nick Dotter

    Does the SPLC support Daryle Lamont Jenkins of One People’s Project? He openly supports violence against his political opponents and brags about it on his website. Is this someone that the SPLC should be linking to? Don’t give the racists any ammunition to use against the SPLC. We should be distancing ourselves from people like Mr. Jenkins and the ARA and should stop using their dubious websites as source material.

  • Steve

    The guy is part of the group who designs the biological weapons that the army may use to kill people with and the SPLC is worried about his racist affiliations.

  • concernedcitizen

    @DDB9000, you stated: I think, by definition, a white nationalist wants a country where only white people can live, or a least have full rights as citizens.

    Yes I agree and because of this it should be deemed a threat to national security because it most definitely is just that.

  • concernedcitizen

    Dan Zabetakis, what you need to further understand is that if this was a Muslim with associations to radical groups he would be out of that position so fast.

    Even President Obama was asked to disassociate himself from his previous very controversial reverend that was deemed to be politically radical.

    Federal Employees are held to a higher and different standard than others who may get away with this foolishness in the some private sector positions.

    So I do not understand your shame, but seriously question how you can believe that someone with affiliations to a radical supremacists group should be afforded more or different liberties than those that would be granted to anyone else in that position such as a Muslim American…

    I bet your position would seriously change if a Muslim was there helping to design bombs and having questionable affiliations with radical groups of Islam.

    Then how fast would you come to his aid saying that he has a right to free expression regardless of his profession?

  • concernedcitizen

    No Dan I do not agree that a Federdal government employee has the right to go around espousing Neo Nazism or White Supremacy. It is a serious conflict of interest to this country.

    If he wants to be a Neo Nazi or affiliated with some other group such as that which promotes hate and divide then let him do it somewhere flipping burgers but not while taking tax payer money in a government position that is paid by the hard labor of both whites and minority Americans. I believe that the public has a real problem with that.

    And the public would have a bigger problem with the fact that he is working with explosives while subscribing to hate groups. It is a serious conflict of interest that does not serve our government or its people well.

  • concernedcitizen

    @Samdam….you stated

    We can not afford to have anti-government nazis working in the defense industry. It is bad enough that we have a bunch of them in the military.

    Finally someone who has stated the truth and I so agree with this statement.

  • concernedcitizen

    @ aadila, your May 23rd post to Dan was so well put I had to take my hat off to you.

  • aadila

    Dan Z, certainly you are aware there are limits on the freedom of expression, just as with all rights.

    Those in public sector jobs are especially restricted (if not legally than socially, because the public can and does excercise its right of free expression too). The issue appears to be where those limits are drawn, and in this case I agree it is a fuzzy one.

    So, you are right. I do consider myself progressive, I do feel obligated to defend the rights of everyone (including bigots) and yes I would like to see him hounded out of his job by every progressive activist organization in the country. And I hope he is.

    He is perfectly within his rights to be a bigot, and I am perfectly within my rights to express my opinion about it. I would most certainly write a letter to Walmart if I heard an employee use a racial slur, and I would also expect the person to be fired. Why? because racists are bad for business. If a cop, or a bus driver, or a doctor, or a lawyer, or a garbage collector, or a sports icon was racist, I would do the same.

    Should the defense industry be any different?

  • Dan Zabetakis

    “It is reasonable to inquire whether his potential access to weapons, including bioweapons, constitutes a threat to national security or public safety”

    Indeed those questions will have been asked. But this article does not make any substantive claims against him except that he may have certain legal political views that other people dislike.

    Assuming he has a ‘high level clearance’, and is a civil servant (as opposed to contractor), he will be subject to the following:

    a) The Hatch Act, which prohibits certain political activity.

    b) Random drug testing.

    c) Verification that he has no criminal record. Fingerprints on file.

    d) A release on file with his bank that allows government access at will to his financial records.

    e) A release on file with his doctors that allows government access at will to his medical records and diagnoses.

    f) Possibly subject to polygraph examination (but we all know those don’t work at all).

    g) Interview of his neighbors and references.

    h) Investigation of his family members and close associates.

    i) Mandatory reporting of foreign contacts, travel, etc.

    j) Yearly submission of the SF86 questionnaire with many impertinent questions, and periodic reinvestigation.

    (There’s more but I’m sick of typing…)

    Note that these investigations are done by independent organizations, not your local command.

  • Aron

    As much as John’s views disgust me, I must agree with Dan on this.

    But I also feel that the SPLC did nothing wrong with publishing this story. John made his views public, and anything public can be reported upon.

    As such, should he be fired for his reprehensible views? Hardly.

    But are we in the wrong for commenting on them? Once again, hardly.

    And I sincerely doubt he has access to any serious pathogens or weaponized chemicals. Edgewood Arsenal is not known for lax security.

  • Dan Zabetakis

    “While I agree about Stortstrom having his rights to free speech protected, my concerns regard the membership in groups that “advocate the violent overthrow of the US government” part.”

    No one has accused him of belonging to a group that advocates the violent overthrow of the US government.

    All I can see is that people do not like what they presume to be his political views and so want to hurt him.

    He has the right to free speech. He has the right to free association. I expect everyone to defend these rights, even if you oppose everything else he stands for…

  • Dan Zabetakis

    “Dan Z, no disagreement on the right to expression. Big disagreement on whether or not a bigot is qualified to work in a public capacity.”

    You do not have freedom of expression if you can be hounded out of work by people who disagree with you.

    If you consider yourself progressive at all, then you are obligated to defend the rights of everyone, even those who would not extend the same courtesy to you.

    This guy isn’t courting publicity, running for office, or acting as a spokesman for anyone. He has the right to be free of witch hunts incited by people who object to his legal opinions and associations.

    I object to that and I am shocked and ashamed that everyone else here doesn’t also.

  • Reynardine

    It is reasonable to inquire whether his potential access to weapons, including bioweapons, constitutes a threat to national security or public safety

  • Jake

    So you’re saying because he attended a conference open to the public which you personally disagree with, he should be fired from his job and not allowed to work for the government.

    What if someone attended a conference put on by the Communist party USA, or the Black Panthers. Should they also be excluded from working from a government job?

    If the answer is ‘yes’, then who gets to decide which organizations are legitimate and which are not?

    I have reviewed the website of American Renaissance. There’s nothing wrong with it. They sell books and have conferences where people just talk. They’ve never advocated anything illegal, are not a threat, and have never advocated terrorism. I have watched youtube videos of Jared Taylor speaking. There’s nothing wrong with anything I’ve heard him say. He merely has a viewpoint different from the left. Nothing illegal about that.

    The posters on this forum are just a bunch of far left wingers who claim to believe in freedom of speech and freedom of association. It’s all lies. When they meet someone who has beliefs different from theirs, they want to destroy the man’s life and get him fired.

    You say there’s something “wrong” with American Renaissance. What’s wrong with it? I guess you’d say they’re “racists”. I think there’s no such thing. The word “racist” is just a label invented by the far left.

  • Sam Molloy

    Dan, I agree that a person’s political views should not affect their employment. What gay person has not been run off a job by a Superreligious manager or coalition of such managers? This person belongs to one current hate group and another that has gone toes up. Even the lowest day labor job involves some type of personality evaluation.
    “You are late three days in a row. Your supervisor explains that the crew should start at the same time and the next time you are late you will be sent home.
    You should: A) kill your supervisor
    B) destroy the time clock
    C) tell him you will be on time tomorrow.”
    The facility in this article is either run by racists or has no functioning HR department.

  • DDB9000

    Dan Zabetakis…

    While I agree about Stortstrom having his rights to free speech protected, my concerns regard the membership in groups that “advocate the violent overthrow of the US government” part.

    I think, by definition, a white nationalist wants a country where only white people can live, or a least have full rights as citizens.

    So therefore, as both our president and attorney general (not to mention many other politicians and government employees) are non-white, doesn’t his concept of society clearly threaten all non-white people? And if his and his group’s ideas are not about using violence (do they use all those guns for shooting bunnies?), then what are they going to do? Nicely ask all the non-white people to leave?

    And since he is in the military, his links to the government are more direct than those of the average citizen, giving him more access to be to able to carry out his views, whether violent or not. It’s a tricky issue…

  • aadila

    Dan Z, no disagreement on the right to expression. Big disagreement on whether or not a bigot is qualified to work in a public capacity.

  • Reynardine

    The only existing chromotoxins attack hemoglobin, which everyone has. Those which target skin albedo are currently an item of on-line gaming, and, if realized, could be defected by natural variation, suntans, hydroquinone, and possibly even makeup.

  • Reynardine

    Sam, chromotoxins would poison half of Florida, southern California, and the Gulf Coast after a good day at the beach. The point is, this guy might not even care.

  • Dan Zabetakis

    “Well Dan, he works for the United States Government and he cannot have affiliations with groups that have a contradictory interests and if the public does not feel safe with him being in that position then the government does need to address it.”

    The standard is that you cannot have membership in groups that “advocate the violent overthrow of the US government”.

    Otherwise, government employees have complete freedom to associate as the please (it’s not clear from this article if the guy is a civil servant or a contractor). The Hatch Act does place some limit on the political activities of federal employees, but the article doesn’t claim he has violated that act.

    As far as I can tell, this guy is just an ordinary person. He’s not running for public office. He’s not a spokesman for the government or any organization. His right to express his political views, whether I agree with them or not, _must_ be protected.

    Does anyone disagree with that?

  • Sam Molloy

    Rey, Chromotoxins that poison only people of color are a well known entity. I agree that a sensitive, top security job in a place like that should not be held by anyone with such a background. This is SOP military doctrine, and it is not unAmerican. He could probably not work at Toyota either due to their Diversity programs. John Deere, or Blue Bunny Ice Cream would no doubt love to have him.

  • concernedcitizen

    Well Dan, he works for the United States Government and he cannot have affiliations with groups that have a contradictory interests and if the public does not feel safe with him being in that position then the government does need to address it.

    Perhaps if there wasn’t such a history of hate groups calling their members to arms and wanting to overthrow the government there wouldn’t be such a negative response to them. But when so members of hate groups go around shooting innocent Americans in their places of worship, and running over innocent Americans because of the color their skin it just doesn’t set well with a lot of peace loving citizens like myself.

    Therefore the background check done on this guy should not have gone through given his affiliations. So we need to know what clown gave him the thumbs up.

  • concernedcitizen

    yeah Ned, I think that’s why they tried to contact Don Kennedy, the public affairs officer for the Army at the ECBC Communications Office, did not return a Hatewatch telephone call seeking comment yesterday.

    But as they said he didn’t return the phone calls. This is not something that should be swept under the rug. Obviously a great deal of bigotry has been swept under the rug for far too long amongst our Army.

  • concernedcitizen

    @Sam, he wants to turn his advisaries white?

    This is a serious topic, but you’ve managed to make a funny and it is greatly appreciated.

  • Jane Perrine

    Goes to show being educated and being intelligent are not always the same thing.

  • SamDamnit

    We can not afford to have anti-government nazis working in the defense industry. It is bad enough that we have a bunch of them in the military. Kudos to One People’s Project and Daryle Lamont Jenkins for uncovering this story.

  • Gene

    Crazy is as crazy does. The CIA and the FBI and other government groups failed to stop the Boston bomber and now we have our own home grown America Christian Terrorist. Have the mad men taken over our government like Hitler and his buddies did in Nazi Germany? There is no way I am giving up my guns with those nut jobs around.

  • aadila

    Dan,

    You have not expressed any racist views as far as I can recall. You seem moderate and reasonable, even when disagreement arises, and I think this would be apparent to most observers.

    But there is a critical difference between voicing one’s political views and airing racist ideology, even though both are protected forms of expression. The former has a legitimate place for government employees and contractors. The latter however, has no place in our government or among its contractors, and where racists exist in public service I for one would like to see them weeded out.

    No one is saying he has no right to be a racist. But he doesn’t get to be racist and receive my tax money, at least not without censure.

  • Kaba

    If he was Muslim, few would suggest that this article shoud not have been published. Hannity, wold have exposed him on his first day on the job.

  • Dan Zabetakis

    ” But it is Stortstrom’s top-security clearance job at the U.S. Army research facility on the Aberdeen Proving Grounds in Maryland that is really raising eyebrows.”

    Sorry, I can’t agree with the publication of this article. As long as he is not violating the Hatch Act, nor joining groups dedicated to the violent overthrow of the US government, he is free to hold and express whatever opinions please him.

    I’m in very much the same position as he is. And I post under my own real name. Always have, always will. And my posts here could very well offend some people in my security division. Should I be afraid of a witch hunt against me, for my legally-held views? Do you want me to be afraid of this?

    I don’t want that for me, and so I don’t want that for him either.

  • Reynardine

    What caught my attention was the brief allusion to biological weapons. The Holy Grail of eliminationist racists is some type of bioplague that would target only nonwhites. Though small subgroups have indeed been wiped out by European diseases, such as measles, it is reasonable to assume that there is now no disease to which European-derived stock is immune and all others are not. Our genomes are too overlapping and our worldwide contact too intense for that
    But I could picture some mean bonehead, who thinks he knows more about the field than he does, purloining a pathogen and liberating it, to the peril of all, and this guy sounds like a candidate.

  • Ned Hamson

    What is the purpose of this public article? If you think he is a security risk, shouldn’t you report that to the DHS and the appropriate military authorities?

  • Aron

    As repugnant as this character is, there is nothing wrong (or toxic!) with titanium dioxide.

    It is one of the purest white dyes one can find, and the primary ingredient in most sunblock lotions.

    White phosphorous, that’s another story.

  • Sam Molloy

    Titanium Dioxide is one of the oldest pigments for white paint and is used in toothpate and as filler for the pills we take as medicine. Perhaps he just wants to turn his adversaries white.