False Patriots

Profiles of 40 antigovernment leaders
Aryan Microbiologist
Larry Wayne Harris, 48

A bearded microbiologist from Dublin, Ohio, Larry Wayne Harris once spent his days testing food and water for contaminants — and cooking up some of the more paranoid fantasies to engage the minds of the Patriot movement. In 1995, Harris ordered three vials of freeze-dried Yersinia Pestis, better known as bubonic plague.

After federal agents raided his home — finding the plague vials, many weapons and a certificate identifying Harris as a lieutenant in the neo-Nazi Aryan Nations — he insisted he was no terrorist. On the contrary, Harris said, he was deeply concerned about an "invasion from Iraq of super-germ-carrying rats."

Elsewhere, he said Iraqi terrorist women planned to smuggle deadly toxins into the United States in their vaginas. Harris wrote Bacteriological Warfare: A Major Threat to North America, a book that he said gave Americans the weapons to fight back — but which also could be read as a bio-terrorist's how-to manual.

On probation for lying in order to get the plague vials, Harris got into trouble again in 1998 when an informant told the FBI Harris boasted of having enough anthrax to "wipe out" a city. But it turned out he merely had legal anthrax vaccine.

In the end, Harris' doings convinced the Congress to pass laws making it harder to obtain deadly pathogens like bubonic plague.


Of Bombs and Beaches
John Hassey, 50

As more and more Patriots went to jail on a wide variety of charges, many of even the most committed left the movement in fear for their futures. John Hassey, a key leader of Alabama militia groups, appears to be a case in point.

For several years, Hassey headed up the Central Alabama Militia, a group that changed its name in 1995 to the Alabama Constitutional Militia, reflecting what Hassey described as a group more focused on politics than guns.

Two years later, Hassey was one of about 15 militiamen to travel to Memphis to support a couple who was fighting government eviction as part of an airport expansion project — one of many such "government vs. the people" scenarios favored by Patriots. The same year, Hassey was a key player in the formation of the Southeastern States Alliance, a coalition of Southern militia groups.

He was so well known in the movement that his Elmore County home came to be referred to as "Camp Hassey." But in late 1999, the Southeastern States Alliance leader, Donald Beauregard, was arrested in an alleged plot to attack utilities in Florida — and Beauregard's indictment noted an unindicted "co-conspirator's farm in Alabama" where explosives were to be stored.

Assuming the farm was his, a worried Hassey said he would not fight police who might come for him, and departed for a cooling-off period on a boat off the Florida beaches.


Desperately Seeking Satan
Ted Gunderson, 73

After 27 years in the FBI including stints running the Memphis, Dallas and Los Angeles offices, Ted L. Gunderson embarked on a tour of the weird.

Retiring in 1979, Gunderson started a security and investigations firm and eventually wound up as an investigator in the ill-starred McMartin Preschool sexual molestation case, where he became fixated on the idea that children are regularly subjected to Satanic ritual abuse. (In the end, seven years of trials produced no convictions, and the case was widely denounced as a destructive witch hunt.)

From there, it got truly strange. Entering the Patriot world as a leading conspiracy-monger, Gunderson made videos alleging an invisible cabal called the Illuminati had plans to run the world. He sold his services shielding people from "Electrostatic Sensory Manipulation" and testing for "brain implants, tracking chips and resonant cavities."

He claimed a government official told him that he did the Oklahoma bombing, saying, "That's my bomb." He said a cure for Down's syndrome is being kept from the public, that the government practices mind control, and that his children had DNA extracted by aliens in the infamous Area 51 of UFO fame.

And Gunderson accused a well-known, UFO-oriented talk show host of molesting children, an accusation that recently brought him a libel suit.


Rambo for Christ
Bo Gritz, 61

While many Patriots avoided contact with the mainstream press, James "Bo" Gritz had no such compunctions. Variously describing himself as the most decorated Green Beret to fight in Vietnam and the inspiration for the movie character Rambo, Gritz has done his best to put himself at the center of almost every major Patriot drama.

He was successful just once, talking white supremacist Randy Weaver out of his Ruby Ridge cabin after the 1992 deaths of his wife and son during a standoff with federal agents. Gritz boasted often of his forays looking for missing Vietnam era POWs, but four trips to Southeast Asia did not produce a single prisoner.

In the Patriot world, he became famous for his paramilitary training courses and for failed attempts to negotiate an end to the Montana Freemen standoff and a surrender from accused clinic bomber Eric Rudolph.

Seen by many as a huckster, Gritz hyped up "Y2KHAOS" paranoia and then sold his survivalist wares — along with land plots in Idaho — to survive the feared hard times.

In 1998, he shot himself days after his wife of 24 years left him. Gritz has long denied being a racist, but has made a number of anti-Semitic remarks.

In 1999, after moving to Sandy Valley, Nevada, he married Judy Kirsch. Since then, Gritz seems increasingly to have taken up a relatively soft-line version of the Christian Identity religion that his new bride was raised in.