False Patriots

Profiles of 40 antigovernment leaders
Aiding and Abetting
Jack McLamb, 56

Of the sprinkling of law enforcement professionals who supported the Patriot movement, retired Phoenix, Ariz., cop Jack McLamb became by far best known, speaking at Patriot events around the country.

Describing himself as the most highly decorated officer in the history of his police department, McLamb ran an outfit called Police Against the New World Order that he claimed had a highly unlikely 6,300 members.

He produced a periodical called Aid & Abet Police Newsletter and, most famously, a 75-page conspiracist document entitled Operation Vampire Killer 2000: American Police Action Plan for Stopping World Government Rule.

McLamb embraced a panoply of conspiracy theories. He told a 1996 rally that government officials were smuggling drugs into the country in a bid to incite racial hatred.

In 1999, he asserted that Vice President Gore intended to reduce world population by 90% through some kind of end-of-the-millennium Y2K plot. He suggested that Communist-led Latinos planned to take over the Southwest.

Along with his friend, Green Beret-turned-Patriot James "Bo" Gritz, he sold plots of land in Idaho as the perfect place to survive the coming troubles.

But when the much ballyhooed "Y2K" collapse failed to materialize, McLamb began to peddle his ideas on the tax protest circuit, instructing students last fall that "Taxes are Voluntary!"

'Itching for a Standoff'
Norm Olsen, 53

From the very beginning, Norman E. Olson was a radical among radicals. After starting the Michigan Militia in April 1994 as one of the first major militia groups, Olson helped make his home state one of the leading spots for Patriot activity.

He drew widespread attention after reporting Oklahoma City conspirator Terry Nichols had attended one of the meetings of the Michigan Militia, which he claimed counted 12,000 members.

But Olson, a Baptist preacher who spends time in his Alanson gun store wearing a camouflage military outfit, alienated his colleagues after Oklahoma by offering reporters an incredible theory: The Japanese government had bombed the federal building there as a return favor for the sarin gas subway attack that he said the U.S. government carried out in Tokyo.

Unceremoniously booted out by his comrades-in-arms, Olson started another group, the Northern Michigan Regional Militia, while attacking his former friends as "too moderate." In the run-up to the millennial date change, Olson predicted government collapse and worse as a result of the "y2k" computer bug — a collapse he welcomed.

"We're itching for a standoff someplace," he told The Washington Post in late 1999. "Any movement needs a good and noble rallying point, an Alamo or a 'Remember the Maine,' and this could be it."

The Price of Truth
John Parsons, 51

Many thousands of people left the Patriot movement in the late 1990s, tired of waiting for the revolution that never came, scared off by arrests or diverted into harder line groups. John Parsons left because he had to.

As early as 1995, the head of the Tri-States Militia of South Dakota — a national umbrella group that grew to have affiliates in 32 states — told a reporter that his followers "despise terrorists."

In July of that year, he organized a summit of militias from 18 states, creating a free hotline number to quash "rumors about purple spaceships and U.N. vehicles on a freight train across the Atlantic."

Parsons believed in many militia articles of faith, in particular the threat of a coming New World Order, but he faced a moral dilemma when an Oklahoma militant approached his group for help in building bombs.

After a long period of soul-searching, which included standing before the bombed-out federal building in Oklahoma, Parsons decided to tell authorities about Willie Ray Lampley's plans to bomb the Southern Poverty Law Center and offices of the Anti-Defamation League. Even harder, he agreed to testify in court, where it came out he'd been on the FBI payroll.

After Lampley was convicted, the FBI told Parsons his life might be in danger. In 1996, Parsons appears to have disappeared, quite likely, as is widely rumored in the militia world, into the witness protection program.

The 'Two-Bomb' General
Benton Partin, 74

Patriot ideologues have long scoffed at the work of scholars and specialists, but like conspiracy theorists everywhere, they love a credentialed expert who is on their side. Such was the case with retired Brig. Gen. Benton Partin, a 31-year Air Force veteran who provided Patriots with their core theory about the Oklahoma bombing.

In press conferences, at Patriot gatherings and in letters to politicians, Partin expounded on his idea that the truck bomb driven by Timothy McVeigh "could not possibly" have destroyed the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building by itself. Claiming long experience in weapons design, Partin — who retired in 1979 — said photographs of the damage convinced him there were other bombs inside the building.

Although Partin didn't say so, other Patriots expanded on this theory to accuse the government of bombing its own building to create an excuse for passing draconian anti-terrorism legislation.

Ultimately, Partin became a proponent of a whole pantheon of conspiracy theories. He claimed that federal agents used explosives to breach the Davidian compound in Waco — a charge for which there is no evidence.

He produced a hyper-conspiratorial video entitled, "Globalism: The Program." And, never one to pass up a possible plot, he said TWA Flight 800 was hit by a surface-to-air missile. Partin did finally present his Oklahoma bomb theory to a grand jury, which roundly rejected the concept.