The creator of an underground magazine aimed at the Special Forces is out of the Army but building up his role on the extremist right.
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.
Boasts and Reality
After the "60 Minutes" piece aired in early 1995, Pentagon and Special Forces officials denied the existence of the SFU and said The Resister was not an "extremist publication."
The denials came nine years after a special directive from then-Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger banning active participation in extremist groups (the directive did not bar simple membership in such organizations). Over the years, the armed services had been embarrassed by a number of extremist incidents linked to men in uniform.
Still, later in 1995, Major General William Garrison, the commander of the Special Warfare Center where Barry had once taught, launched an unofficial investigation to identify The Resister's editor and his associates. At about the same time, a fraternal group of Special Forces veterans told Garrison it believed that editor was Steven Barry.
The FBI was interested, too.
When McVeigh was arrested earlier in 1995, a few days after the Oklahoma City bombing, police had found a photocopy of The Resister in his car. The copy, it turned out, was one of about 900 sent out free by Soldier of Fortune as part of a promotional package.
Like the rest of the free Resisters, McVeigh's copy carried a fax signature — a number that the FBI easily traced to a Colorado convenience store used by Pate to fax documents to Soldier of Fortune. FBI officials followed the trail to the store, then to Pate and finally to Barry.
In February 1996, as Garrison's unofficial probe began to make headway, a Pate article appeared in Soldier of Fortune under the headline "Witch Hunt for The Resister."
The story lambasted Garrison's point man in the investigation, Command Sgt. Major William Rambo, who was charged with pursuing Resister links inside the Special Warfare Center. (While in the Army, Barry had served under Rambo and once boasted to him that he would one day lead a successful revolutionary army.) Pate's article went on to mock the Army's supposed inability to identify those linked to the SFU.
The article had its intended effect. It was widely considered an embarrassment to the Special Forces and helped to stall Garrison's investigation.
"They have surprised even the supporters who thought they could not survive to publish this long," Pate wrote of The Resister group. "And the [Resister] staff ... have done so using the same tradecraft and counterinsurgency skills to avoid detection that they were taught as covert operators by the Army and the Central Intelligence Agency."
The truth was somewhat less impressive.
The Reprimand: 'Reprehensible' Conduct
In mid-December 1995, a soldier told officials that Barry had given him a copy of The Resister in a parking lot at Ft. Bragg, N.C., where he was based.
By the time Pate's congratulatory piece appeared, Barry was being sweated by Army Criminal Investigation Division (CID) interrogators about his role in The Resister. According to a CID report, Barry claimed that he was a mere subscriber, not the editor of the publication.
Admitted editor or not, the result was a career-wrecking reprimand for Barry issued on March 6, 1996. Col. Mark Boyatt, Barry's commanding officer at 3rd Special Forces Group, excoriated Barry for his role in distributing a publication that consistently printed information deemed "operationally sensitive" and "of a confidential nature."
"Your apparent disregard for the protection of sensitive information which could be used to cause the injury or death of your fellow soldiers is reprehensible," Boyatt wrote. "[Y]our distribution of [The Resister] ... causes me to question your loyalty and future value to the United States Army."
Barry's security clearance was suspended, and he was reassigned to a dead-end job at the Group's language laboratory.
Barry would boast later that the Army had merely sidelined him to a job that took just an hour a day to complete, leaving the rest of his time free to expand The Resister from a stapled pamphlet to an 80-page journal. But more trouble was brewing.
In the wake of the December 1995 murder of a black couple outside Ft. Bragg by three active-duty white supremacist paratroopers, the House National Security Committee decided to hold a hearing into extremist activity in the military.
That decision followed the embarrassing disclosure that Army officials had known for at least 10 months that one of the murderers was an active white supremacist who'd been caught wearing Nazi symbols and fighting with a black soldier. It also came after then-Army Secretary Togo West ordered an investigation into white supremacist activities at all Army bases.
The hearing, which would convene in June 1996 with testimony from all the armed forces' service secretaries, was requested by the committee's ranking Democrat, Ronald Dellums of California.
In advance of the hearing, an internal memo prepared by senior committee staffer George Withers was circulated to Democratic members.
It told a troubling tale.
The Haiti Fiasco
In December 1995, Withers wrote, he and other committee staffers had traveled to Ft. Bragg to meet with Army officials for a briefing. The trip came just two weeks after a disturbing Washington Post article on the role of the Special Forces in a U.S./United Nations effort to restore democracy in Haiti.
The soldiers were there as part of a project to reinstall the elected president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who had been deposed in a military coup after his 1990 election. According to the Post, Aristide officials claimed that Special Forces troops had helped certain anti-Aristide Haitian military and paramilitary forces to hide their guns, directly defying official U.S./UN efforts to disarm them.
Withers asked to meet with the Special Operations Command's most senior officer, but was met instead by a command legal officer. Withers inquired about both The Resister and the Post report. The officer was "less than responsive" about The Resister, Withers wrote.
As to the Post story about alleged Special Forces subversion in Haiti, Withers reported that the officer told him, "We looked into that, and found it be untrue."
Withers asked for details of the investigation that backed the officer's assertions. But for six months, Withers wrote, the Army dragged its feet. Finally, after several requests, the Army sent the committee's staff a letter reiterating that the Haiti report was "unfounded," but offering no further details.
"When pressed," Withers wrote, "... [Army officials] said that they had asked the soldiers themselves if they were involved in such activities and the soldiers had said no, so they decided they did not need to investigate further."
The officials also said The Resister was unconnected to the Special Forces although one soldier had been reprimanded for distributing it. Barry's name was not mentioned.
But even as both the Army and Special Forces were officially denying the allegations of the Aristide government, The Resister was saying otherwise.
In January, four months before the Army's memo to Withers, Barry boasted in print about the SFU's anti-Aristide activities in Haiti, where he had been briefly assigned in support of Operation Restore Democracy.
More recently, in a 1999 issue of The Resister, he wrote of his own role in subverting the U.S. mission: "Instead of posturing and blustering and whining about [the gun confiscation program], I kept my mouth shut and acted. So, despite the best efforts of our Communist administration, there are still hundreds of anti-Communist Haitians who still possess militarily useful arms."
The Official Investigation
Not satisfied with the Army's response to its questions, Dellums' committee informed the Special Forces Command that its staffers would again visit Ft. Bragg seeking answers.
On Sept. 18, 1996, in preparation for this visit, the Special Forces Command under Major General Kenneth R. Bowra authorized an official administrative investigation "into the possible illegal activities of active duty soldiers associated with ... The Resister."
On Oct. 9, Bowra reported some preliminary findings to Withers and another committee staffer: a soldier (Barry) had been identified as distributor, publisher and editor of The Resister; the publication had ties to Soldier of Fortune (through Pate); and the publication apparently had links to other extreme-right organizations and personalities.
A key CID concern was information that had appeared in several of Pate's Soldier of Fortune articles. In August 1996, for example, Pate quoted "an Army Special Forces source at Fort Bragg," along with two others, to allege that the Army's elite DELTA counter-terrorism unit had been improperly deployed at Waco. Officials wanted to locate Pate's information pipeline — a pipeline they suspected began with Barry.
In late 1996, a DELTA soldier sympathetic to Barry was placed under surveillance, and classified information about an upcoming DELTA exercise in Houston was purposely leaked to him.
The exercise already had been compromised by a Houston city official, but with no specifics as to the date. Special Forces Command now claims it wanted to see if this more detailed information would find its way to The Resister and, ultimately, to Jim Pate and Soldier of Fortune.
The Trap is Sprung
Sure enough, Pate showed up in downtown Houston to watch and photograph the Oct. 30 night-time exercise, which involved an aerial assault on an abandoned building — which was now being played out, in part, for Pate's benefit.
In his February 1997 Soldier of Fortune story describing the exercise, Pate crowed about the "alpha-one" intelligence he'd received in advance and quoted "various special operations sources" in characterizing it. Published with his article was a floor plan Pate had obtained that indicated which floors and rooms in the abandoned building would be stormed by DELTA.
As officials with the Special Operations Command identified those around Barry, sources of information for The Resister (and, apparently, Soldier of Fortune) were dried up. Officials warned many sympathetic soldiers away from Barry and his publication, and some transfers were ordered.
The result, in part, was a change in The Resister. What had been a magazine focused on criticism of internal military matters increasingly became a mouthpiece for little more than extremist political views.
Some connected to the House committee and the CID investigation thought that Barry would face charges. But this never happened. Barry was left in place until he retired in November 1997.
The primary reason that Barry was not drummed out of the Army, sources say, was that an undercover federal investigation of Barry and the SFU was under way in 1996. Barry's operation had become so transparent that investigators were able to use it to identify other active duty extremists.
Since leaving the armed forces, Barry — a professed anti-welfare, anti-state benefit ideologue — lives on a government retirement check and shops at a discounted government commissary and PX. His college education at a predominantly black university in Fayetteville was funded by government Pell grants. But these are the kind of contradictions that have never seemed to bother Barry.
In the last two years, The Resister and its editor have moved even further to the right. In 1998, it began publishing full-page advertisements from the neo-Nazi National Alliance, prompting its long-time pro bono attorney, Kevin Jamison, to quit in protest. ("One is known by the company he keeps," Jamison wrote to Barry. "I will not have my name in the same magazine as an advertisement for nazis.")
Last fall, Barry joined an Arlington, Va., gathering hosted by white separatist author Jared Taylor, editor of American Renaissance magazine. Also in attendance was an old friend: James L. Pate of Soldier of Fortune.
Extremists and the Military
In April of this year, Barry — who publicly and repeatedly has claimed that he opposes Nazism — went a step further, joining neo-Nazi National Alliance leader William Pierce as Pierce's invited guest at a Cleveland gathering of the European-American Cultural Fest. The next day, he addressed a National Alliance meeting in the same city.
These in-person activities fit well with Barry's recent writings. In the January issue of The Resister, he unleashes tirades against Jews, blacks, immigrants and women.
On Jews: "Communism is, for all practical purposes, a Jewish invention." Television is "Talmudvision," aimed at promoting socialism. It figures, Barry asserts, that poet Emma Lazarus, "a Jewish Bolshevik female" who wrote the famous inscription on the Statue of Liberty welcoming the "huddled masses," "would think of such a collectivist obscenity."
On blacks: "American Negroes did not earn their citizenship, it was a blanket government grant to African slave labor. Their first undeserved welfare handout. ... Negroes are not 'victims' of 'subtle white racism,' whites are victims of the Negroes' very presence on this continent." Blacks "cannot build, only destroy."
On immigrants: "Do you believe that Africans, Mexicans, Arabs, or Asians could have created America? One look at their squalid, collectivist, regional pest holes is the obvious answer. ... [The media] coo and gurgle that in fifty years whites will be a minority in America. They might as well simply declare that in fifty years America will be a Third World Communist dung hill." The nation is faced with the "unassimilable Southern hemisphere barbarians that flood almost unchecked into America."
On women: Most are "collectivist utopian egalitarians."
Only time will tell if Barry develops into an important leader of the extremist right. It is possible that other radical leaders will dismiss him as a walking oxymoron — a man who depicts himself as a deep cover operative but whose insatiable taste for attention and less-than-stellar attempts to keep his own operations secret reveal critical weaknesses. Certainly, he has followed a trajectory toward more and more extreme politics, ideologies that make him amenable to America's most serious neo-Nazis.
As a former Special Forces instructor, Steven Barry has military qualities and contacts that make him extremely appealing to such leaders — and potentially dangerous to the rest of us.
Gregory A. Walker, the author of "At the Hurricane's Eye: U.S. Special Operations Forces from Vietnam to Desert Storm" and other books and articles, served with the Special Forces from 1980-1999. In 1996, he was assigned to assist in an official investigation of Steven Barry, a task for which he was awarded a Meritorious Service Medal. A decorated combat veteran, Walker is presently a police officer in the Pacific Northwest and a contributor to Jane's International Police Review on the issue of domestic terrorism.