Steven Barry Becomes Important Figure in Paramilitary Underground
By Gregory A. Walker
Eleven days after the April 19, 1995, Oklahoma City bombing, Sergeant First Class Steven M. Barry, a.k.a. "J.F.A. Davidson," appeared on CBS' "60 Minutes."
Questioned by reporter Steve Kroft, the Special Forces soldier — his face obscured and voice altered electronically to hide his identity — identified himself as the editor of an underground newsletter called The Resister. Introducing Barry's "political warfare journal," Kroft told his listeners that it used "the same inflammatory rhetoric espoused by the radical militia movement and portrays the U.S. government as the enemy."
"The command says you don't exist," Kroft told Barry.
"That's excellent," replied Barry. "Great. Exactly."
"How do we know you're not the only ... people in this organization?"
"You don't," said Barry, who was accompanied by a similarly disguised associate editor of his publication. "We won't comment on numbers, names or affiliated individuals. That's a breach of security."
For many in the Army's elite Special Forces, this last comment was laughable. Barry had just violated a cardinal rule taught at the Special Warfare Center. Appearing on the nation's most widely watched news program, Barry had revealed what was supposed to be a closely held secret — the existence of his "underground" magazine and the organization that he said supported it, the Special Forces Underground (SFU).
But Barry has turned out to be no laughing matter. Today, he is out of the Army, and he openly distributes his racist and anti-Semitic periodical. He is drawing increasingly near to men like William Pierce, the author of The Turner Diaries and perhaps this country's most infamous neo-Nazi, even as he appears at more mainstream gatherings like those of the Council of Conservative Citizens, a racist group that has nonetheless attracted the support of numerous southern politicians.
More and more, Barry has grown into a key figure at the crossroads of right-wing extremism and the paramilitary underground — a man who also has received some of the best insurgency warfare training in the world, courtesy of the U.S. Army.
Leaks, Congress and Soldier of Fortune
The saga of Steven Barry raises many questions. How was a right-wing extremist, at the center of a small group of elite, active-duty soldiers, allowed to operate within the Army as long as Barry did? What damage did Barry's SFU do and how were its activities finally dealt with? Where outside the Army did Barry find support?
Here is the untold story of Steven Barry, drawn from this author's role in an Army investigation and from numerous other sources. It shows that confidential Army information has been published in The Resister, a periodical once read by Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh; that Barry received a career-ending reprimand as a result of his activities and, at one point, was a target of both federal and military criminal investigations; and that The Resister boasted of Special Forces members illegally defying orders in Haiti by helping to arm anti-democratic forces. It describes how U.S. military officials sidelined Congress and allowed Barry to remain in the military despite clear evidence of his extremism.
And it explains how The Resister, which today has a circulation of almost 2,500, was helped immeasurably by its intimate relationship with Soldier of Fortune, a magazine aimed at mercenaries and military men that enjoys a circulation of 100,000.
With the airing of the "60 Minutes" piece, the hunt for the SFU and the staff of The Resister was on. But the story of Barry and the military began long before.
Early Failures and 'Contract Work'
As a young man, Barry entered West Point in 1973 with high hopes of becoming a commissioned officer. Early on, classmates say, he attended a class on unconventional warfare and became entranced with military science, often to the exclusion of other coursework.
This may have cost him. In 1976, Barry was discharged as a result of poor grades — a failure he later tried to portray as the work of classroom instructors who disagreed with him politically.
Barry also suffered another stinging defeat. While attending the super-elite Ranger school as a West Point cadet, he was "peered out" — removed after his classmates suggested he did not have the qualities needed to become a Ranger officer.
In June 1976, Barry joined the Army in Cleveland as an enlisted man. There, by his own account, he went to Airborne School and the Special Warfare Training Group. The following year, he qualified for the Special Forces and trained in weapons, intelligence and sniping. In the early 1980s, he was an instructor at the Special Warfare Center.
Barry left the Army in 1985. According to an article earlier this year in Soldier of Fortune by its national affairs editor, James L. Pate — a man who has been close to Barry for years — Barry later took on "some contract work" in the Philippines.
That work, he told Pate, was for a group "concerned" by the democratization of that country after the ouster of dictator Ferdinand Marcos. Pate pointed out that Barry's 1988 stay coincided with a period of highly active police death squads that targeted communist rebels.
In 1989, after returning to the United States, Barry began editing Asia Hand, a right-wing weekly in California. The purpose, Barry told Pate, was "torquing out the Vietnamese communists in Orange County."
During Barry's editorship, several pro-communist newspapers within the émigré Vietnamese community were hit by unsolved arson attacks using ignition devices that police described as fairly sophisticated. Chuckling and at one point breaking into laughter, Barry denied involvement in the arsons.
"It was fun," Barry said of this period.
Barry as 'Defector in Place'
At the end of 1989, Barry reenlisted in the Special Forces, traveling, he told Pate, to Africa and the Caribbean on various assignments. He has said that he first conceived of The Resister on Aug. 23, 1992 — the day after an FBI sniper killed Vicki Weaver, the wife of white supremacist and former Green Beret Randy Weaver.
Work on a prototype newsletter began, he says, on Feb. 28, 1993 — the day of a bloody raid by federal agents in Waco.
Outraged at these actions and by the speech of his battalion commander lamenting the deaths of four agents in Waco, Barry writes that at this point he became a "defector in place."
Had he been in the Waco compound during the raid, he later said, "I would have counterattacked at the moment the [federal raid] stalled and killed them all."
For Barry — like Resister reader and Oklahoma bomber Timothy McVeigh — Waco would become a personal war cry. In the winter of 1993, Barry contacted Pate, who would thereafter provide numerous services to The Resister. Pate would come to see The Resister staff as both friends and as sources for his own journalism projects.
The relationship was close from the start. After journalists and others learned that a young man close to Barry had set up a Resister post office box in 1994 (immediately compromising the box because it was listed as commercial, meaning its ownership records were public), Pate opened another one on behalf of Barry.
That box was closed down when Pate's Soldier of Fortune bosses became concerned about appearing to be too closely tied to The Resister.
"The Maryland post office box was rented in my name, as a personal favor to TR staff, and as part of my obligation to protect sources," Pate later tried to explain. "My assistance was made with the understanding that it would be temporary."
But Pate's connection to Barry went much deeper. Sources close to Barry say that Pate actually helped lay out the The Resister's first issue and wrote for it under the pseudonym "Z.B. Vance" — an allegation that Pate has denied in the past. The "60 Minutes" interview was conducted in Pate's relative's Fayetteville, N.C., home.
Ultimately, after CBS producers learned of the extent of the relationship — that Pate was acting as a gatekeeper to a secret group that he had helped to create — his CBS consultancy came to an end, producers say.
Show producers complained that they'd been hoodwinked, thinking they were paying an objective reporter, rather than a silent Barry partner, to help produce their news segment.