Of Government and Guillotines
Ted Gunderson, 81

Ted Gunderson seems never to have heard a conspiracy theory he doesn't believe. What makes this remarkable is that he was an FBI agent for nearly three decades, even heading up large bureaus in Los Angeles and Dallas.

Gunderson, who did not respond to a letter sent a month before this writing, has warned for years that Satanists have footholds from the White House and Congress to the media. He claims a shadow government is targeting thousands of citizens, him included; its methods include the Internet, electronic energy beams from a satellite, hidden cameras and wiretaps in homes. A few of his other claims: There are 1,000 internment camps in the United States, and 30,000 guillotines stored in Atlanta to use on dissident patriots. Children were taken from Boys Town in Nebraska in the 1980s and flown to Washington, D.C., "for sex orgies at private parties with U.S. congressmen and Washington dignitaries." Sonny Bono didn't die in a skiing accident; he was murdered to stop him from blabbing about drug trafficking by CIA operatives.

Being privy to so many conspiracies has resulted in repeated attempts to assassinate him, Gunderson complains.

Some of Gunderson's fellow conspiracy theorists spin their own tales — about him. One claims that the real Ted Gunderson committed suicide in 2002 and that this Gunderson is an imposter. Another claims that Gunderson supplied terrorists with stolen Stinger missiles in return for drugs, and was forced into early retirement in 1979 because he performed Satanic ceremonies in his FBI office.

Last year, Gunderson said he was planning to move to Panama, where he would help Americans "flee the ever-growing Totalitarian Police State and economic chaos in this country." Since then, he has been diagnosed with bladder cancer, friends say.

The Unnamed Co-Conspirator
John Hassey, 60

John Hassey was the public face of Alabama's militia movement in the late 1990s, but he faded from the public eye following the high-profile arrest of a close associate who was accused of plotting several terrorist attacks. 

Hassey gravitated toward the militia movement in the early 1990s in reaction to the Clinton administration's gun control policies. He rose through the ranks of the Alabama Constitutional Militia, becoming public information officer and finally executive officer.

In 1995, he explained the group's mission to a reporter from theMontgomery (Ala.) Advertiser: "We're not plotting or planning to overthrow the government. We just want the government to abide by the Constitution."

Two years later, however, he struck a very different posture during a protest in Southaven, Tenn., for a couple being evicted to allow the construction of a park. "If they take the man's house, they're gonna start a war here in these United States," he said. 

In 1999, Hassey's superior officer in the Southeastern States Alliance was charged with planning to steal explosives from National Guard armories. Officials said Donald Beauregard planned to blow up utilities and government facilities in Florida and Georgia. Hassey wasn't arrested, but Beauregard's indictment stated that the stolen munitions were to be stored on a "co-conspirator's farm in Alabama." Hassey has said he believes he was the unnamed co-conspirator.

In October 2004, Hassey filed for bankruptcy, but he still lives on the parcel in Elmore, Ala., that his neighbors call "The Militia."

Today, he's active again. Life in a militia, he said in a brief interview, is something "you just can't leave." 

Telling Tall Tales
Alex Jones, 36

Alex Jones is out to save the world. 

From his perch as a radio talk-show host in Austin, Texas, he outlines the forces that threaten to enslave every man, woman and child on the planet. In his narrative, a cabal of wealthy corporations, the United Nations and government leaders are complicit in a fiendish plot to dominate the world. 

Or something like that. 

He's the host of "The Alex Jones Show," which airs six days a week on more than 60 radio stations and streams live on the Internet. His website is chock full of apocalyptic headlines and ads for products like "recession-proof coins" and manuals on "How to Survive Martial Law in America."

If Jones' ramblings were shaped into a screenplay, the resulting movie would stretch credulity to the breaking point. But Jones, in his booming radio voice, takes to the airwaves to sound the alarm with the earnestness of a true believer.

Jones believes, for example, that the federal government had a hand in terror attacks aimed at swaying American public opinion. "There was government involvement with the Oklahoma City bombing," he said. "There's a lot of evidence with 9/11 being staged."

Jones said the main goal of his show is to expose listeners to the truth. "At my core, I have a drive to expose evil and corruption," he said. "We have a dictatorship on the planet. The entire planet is being enslaved by global, dominant corporations."

Jones ran for a Texas House seat in 2000 as a Republican but said he doesn't follow the platform of either of the two major American political parties. "I'm a freedom lover, and someone who loves the truth."

The Red-Hot Patriot
Devvy Kidd, 60

Devvy Kidd is a prolific columnist, blogger and public speaker whose incendiary prose helps fan the flames of the constitutionalist, or Patriot, movement. Based in Big Spring, Texas, she bills herself as the "Dynamite Redhead" on her website, where she writes about everything from "Cap and Trade rape" to "Homosexuals 'born that way' –  A con job."

Kidd gained popularity with an anti-tax message and by writing two booklets that she claims have sold more than 2 million copies. She ran for Congress in 1994 and 1996, and she says she has appeared on more than 2,500 radio broadcasts.

Like many Patriots, she despises President Obama, referring to him in one recent column as the "Marxist Barack Obama." She believes citizen militias are necessary to defend freedom. She declared in a November 2008 column for NewsWithViews that "Barack Hussein Obama is dangerous to freedom and liberty and your gun rights," and "Our very survival depends on the states of the Union revitalizing the constitutional militias. ... We the people are now the enemy."

Kidd, who declined to be interviewed, didn't start out as a writer. Her website bio says she worked in construction and finance for almost two decades before taking various positions with the Defense Department, where she says she became a federal whistleblower after filing a "fraud, waste and abuse" complaint against her own job.

Her writing frequently invokes what most Patriots see as key events in recent American history. "Most Americans not walking around in self-induced comas still remember how the FBI, the ATF and our military gassed and burned to death almost one hundred adults and children, some babies, at WACO [Texas]," she wrote at one point. "We remember how the FBI and U.S. Marshals shot a young boy ... and then put a bullet through his mother's head while holding her infant daughter at Ruby Ridge."

Apostle of Disunion
Larry Kilgore, 45

If Larry Kilgore ever got his way, Texas would be the Lone Star Country. The Christian activist's goal is an independent Texas governed by biblical law. His ideal community "would be where folks look to God's word, the Bible." 

Secession alone is not enough, though. Kilgore would like to see Texas further balkanized into smaller countries or counties, each one catering to a different religious or personal belief. "There's so much cultural diversity and religious diversity," he said. "I think that the tension we feel when we are all forced to be together is difficult." 

Kilgore, a telecommunications consultant, said he doesn't support or oppose armed resistance against the U.S. government. He has invested his own efforts in the political process (he's a perennial candidate for public office) and is willing to work with any organization, no matter their politics, in order to escape what he calls an oppressive federal government.

At an August 2009 secessionist rally in Austin, Kilgore left no doubt about his personal feelings. "I hate that flag up there," he said, pointing to the American flag. "I hate the United States government. ... They're an evil, corrupt government."

Apparently, Kilgore's secessionist talk didn't play well in his initial, quixotic campaigns against better-known, better-funded candidates. In a 2004 run for the Texas House, he received just 474 votes.

But he may not be tilting at windmills these days. In 2006, he challenged Gov. Rick Perry and captured more than 50,000 votes. Two years later, Kilgore lost a bid for a U.S. Senate seat, but not before sweeping up 225,649 votes. 

Though he recently bowed out of the 2010 gubernatorial race, his influence lingers. Perry has begun courting the antigovernment vote and recently even suggested Texas might be wise to consider secession. 

Writing Right
Cliff Kincaid, 55

Whether he's sounding the alarm about the Vatican's role in the "New World Order" or the prospect of the U.S. military becoming a sinister gay fighting force, Cliff Kincaid persistently churns out columns savaging liberals, making groundless claims, and trumpeting far-right conspiracy theories.

The longtime far-right polemicist is the editor of AIM Report, a twice-monthly publication of the group ironically named Accuracy in Media. He is also the founder and president of America's Survival Inc., a group that says it monitors the United Nations in order to "expose the influence of global institutions" on people's lives.

In recent columns written for AIM, the dour Kincaid questions who's behind the financial crisis and rails against "the homosexual lobby." He warns that allowing gays to serve openly in the military will lead to "a homosexualized military [that] could itself become a threat, just like it was in the Nazi period." His warning of the impending gay blitzkrieg links to a column written by Scott Lively, co-author of The Pink Swastika, an unhinged and defamatory history that makes the entirely false claim that gays helped orchestrate the Holocaust.

At the America's Survival website, Kincaid promotes "The Religious Face of the New World Order," a report that claims to examine the Vatican's role in the plot to create a one-world government. Kincaid also has written columns about the Catholic Church's role in health care reform, including "Blame the Bishops For Health Care Debacle."

Kincaid has been a part of Washington's right-wing idea factory since the early 1980s. He's written for the highly conservative Human Events magazine and has been an editorial writer for Oliver North at the Freedom Alliance, a group founded by the former National Security Council staffer at the center of the Iran-Contra scandal.

Last year, as conspiracy theorists questioned President Obama's citizenship, Kincaid stepped up to the plate by publicly releasing his own birth certificate. The president took no apparent notice.

Swim for Your Life
Mark Koernke, 52

When it comes to spotting "black helicopters," few have an eagle eye more focused than Mark Koernke. But it was the green one that did him in.

Koernke was wanted for skipping bail on an assault charge in 1998 when he spied the helicopter. Police later said Koernke wouldn't have been noticed at all if he hadn't scampered into the brush, then tried to swim across an icy lake. Turns out the green chopper was part of a routine marijuana-eradication patrol. Koernke – who had shaven off his mustache, dyed his hair orange and worked up a bad Irish brogue – was taken into custody. 

By that time, the tough-talking former janitor known as "Mark from Michigan" had risen to prominence within the Patriot movement by serving up heaping helpings of dark government conspiracies and "New World Order" warnings on his short-wave radio broadcasts. He produced a series of antigovernment videos, including one in which he alleged that Hong Kong police were being sneaked into the country as part of a U.N. takeover. He also garnered attention when false reports linked him to Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh. Before his capture in 1998, he continued broadcasting from secret locations, prompting an FBI terrorism investigation.

The assault charge was eventually dropped, but Koernke landed in prison a few years later anyway. In 2000, he happened to be sitting in front a Michigan bank that had just been robbed. When police tried to question him, he led them on a 50-mile chase before crashing into a tree and then jumping, as it happened, into another lake. Convicted of fleeing police and resisting arrest, he went to prison in 2001. Not to be deterred, he even broadcast to other Patriots from a prison pay phone.

Released in 2007, Koernke is now back on the air with his show "The Intelligence Report" and is still raising the alert to his fellow militiamen. "Somebody's gonna pull a trigger and it's going to be one hell of a popcorn exchange," he calmly warns in a recent audio clip from his show. "From a distance, it's going to sound like somebody opened up the popcorn pan from hell. OK? And when it's all said and done, there will be no turning back. I want you all to be ready for that."

A Sheriff of Their Own
Richard Mack, 57

It seems hardly a day goes by without another Mack attack on the evils of the federal government. This one-time sheriff of a rural county in Arizona and present-day icon of the Patriot movement has parlayed his antigovernment ardor into a full-time job doing speaking gigs at county fairgrounds, high school auditoriums and hotel banquet rooms. He even has a sponsor.

Richard Mack is introduced — often to standing ovations — as "Sheriff Mack." His website calls him that too, even though he hasn't been the top cop of Graham County since 1996, when its population was around 30,000.

Mack's mantra is this: The federal government is too big, too corrupt and too oppressive. "The greatest threat we face today is not terrorists; it is our federal government," he warns on his website. Some agencies, including the "Gestapo" Internal Revenue Service, should be eliminated, he says.

Mack has also acted as a key transmitter of such Patriot ideas to Tea Party groups, to whom he now regularly speaks.

He regularly rips undocumented workers and the "socialist" and "Marxist" policies of the Obama Administration. He assures his nearly all-white audiences that neither he nor the Patriot movement is racist (although he did once co-author a book with white separatist Randy Weaver). Had it been his call, Mack would not have made Rosa Parks get off that bus back in 1955, he says. She was merely disobeying a bad law, and cops waste time "enforcing stupid laws all the time."

Mack became a hero of gun-rights advocates after he won a U.S. Supreme Court decision with a few other sheriffs that weakened the Brady gun control bill in the 1990s. Now, he maintains that county sheriffs are the highest legitimate law enforcement authorities — an idea also pushed by the violently anti-Semitic Posse Comitatus in the 1980s — and he relentlessly hawks his latest self-published book, which makes that argument. Its 50 simplistic pages represent "decades of research." Even the president of the United States, Mack tells cheering audiences, "cannot tell your sheriff what to do."

Facts and Fiction
Jack McLamb, 65

Jack McLambListen to some of today's popular voices in the Patriot movement, like Stewart Rhodes (see profile below) and Richard Mack (see profile above), and you hear echoes of Jack McLamb, a prominent figure in the militia heyday of the 1990s.

Like Mack, McLamb is a former cop — he was a Phoenix police officer. Like Mack, he contends that county sheriffs have enormous power that they foolishly yield to federal agencies. Like Rhodes, he suggests that Americans must be prepared to defend the Constitution from the "New World Order." Indeed, McLamb once produced a 75-page report, Operation Vampire Killer 2000: American Police Action Plan for Stopping World Government Rule.

McLamb believes lots of conspiracy myths. In 1996, he said that government officials were smuggling drugs into the country in an attempt to incite racial rancor, an idea repeated in certain far-left venues. He claimed that then-Vice President Al Gore intended to reduce world population by 90% through an end-of-the-millennium "Y2K" plot.

McLamb is more of a fringe Patriot player nowadays, but still pipes up from time to time on various conspiracies. He thinks the day will come when true patriots are murdered or placed in detention camps by their government. He said in an interview last year that he believes that President Obama is "an illegal alien president. He's also a hard-core communist, and probably a Muslim."

When John McCain was running for president in 2008, McLamb claimed the senator was never tortured while a POW in Vietnam, and in fact made 32 propaganda videos for the communist North Vietnamese. 

McLamb says he, of all people, should know: "I'm a police investigator and I know what a fact is."

Railing About Reds
John F. McManus, 75

John McManus is the president and longtime public face of the secretive John Birch Society (JBS), the now fading anti-Communist organization founded in 1958. The former public relations director was named president in 1991 after working for many years alongside founder Robert Welch. He has spoken in public extensively in recent years to boost dwindling membership and funds even as JBS has worked to link arms with the Patriot movement and others with similar ideas.

McManus, who joined the society's staff in 1966, has continued to promote its founding principles. The central thesis is that a sinister cabal of politicians, bankers, globalists and other elites throughout history – including the Illuminati, every U.S. president since Woodrow Wilson and the Council on Foreign Relations – have worked to peel away the rights of individuals and put the U.S. on a path toward a totalitarian one-world government.

The often-lampooned group, which reached its zenith in the 1960s, has been anti-immigrant, anti-United Nations and even anti-Newt Gingrich. It once suggested that Dwight D. Eisenhower was a "conscious agent" of Communism.

McManus, who didn't return phone calls for this story, hates the Federal Reserve, which he blames for the stock market crash of 1929, the current recession and other calamities. "The combination of the government and the Federal Reserve are destroying the dollar and setting us up for world currency, world control, world government," he told his hometown Appleton, Wis., Post-Crescent last April.

An ultraconservative Roman Catholic, McManus has been accused of anti-Semitism, a charge he has denied. In 2005, according to The New York Times, Birch staffers who were ousted amid internal turmoil leaked recordings of McManus saying that Judaism was a dead religion and that militant Jews have influenced the Freemasons, who were "Satan's agents" and part of the Illuminati conspiracy to cause world upheaval.