The National Alliance, once a neo-Nazi powerhouse, has become the object of ridicule. It's also home to a wide array of criminals
When National Alliance (NA) chairman Erich Gliebe appeared on a list of extremists banned from entering the United Kingdom that was released earlier this year, the online white supremacist world was abuzz with ridicule. It was the first time that Gliebe's name, or that of his deeply troubled and increasingly criminal-infested organization, had surfaced in recent memory.
The consensus among neo-Nazis and other racists posting to a variety of online forums was that the Home Office (roughly the U.K. equivalent of the State Department) had wildly overrepresented Gliebe's clout by listing him in the company of suspected Muslim jihadists and more accomplished U.S. extremists, like radio shock jock Michael Savage and Don Black, a former Klan leader and founder of the dominant racist online forum Stormfront.
According to his many critics on the radical right, Gliebe, a 46-year-old former boxer, has almost single-handedly wrecked what was once America's most influential white supremacist organization. Today, the number of dues-paying National Alliance members is well under 100 — down from more than 1,400 in 2002. Outside of a 2007 Holocaust denial conference, the group has not held any major events or published any significant propaganda in years. The NA headquarters compound in West Virginia is seldom visited by anyone except two part-time staffers who come in a couple of times a week to fill book orders and answer correspondence. Gliebe, who lives in Cleveland, has not been there in months. The buildings are said to be run-down, and the grounds overgrown with weeds.
Meanwhile, Gliebe's personal life is equally in disarray. He separated from his wife and moved back home with his mother in July 2008, then filed for divorce last December. Earlier this year, Gliebe was taunted online for living in his mom's basement and trying to run what is left of the Alliance from a computer at the local library, since his elderly immigrant mother does not have an Internet connection.
An E-mail circulating in response to reports of the Alliance chairman's U.K. travel ban joked that Gliebe was "so broke he couldn't travel to London, Kentucky, let alone London, England."
On the Skids
If Gliebe could scrape together enough gas money for a drive to Kentucky, he would find what could very well be the last public sign in America of the National Alliance's shrinking presence.
In May, the state of Kentucky ordered the removal of a small metal road sign that a local NA member had arranged for the state highway department to install in exchange for members picking up trash along a section of roadway. After consulting with attorneys, however, state officials reconsidered this decision and, for now, the sign remains.
By comparison, at the height of its power, the National Alliance had sufficient funds to purchase advertising space on billboards and buses all over the country. The inflammatory content of those advertisements generated headlines from Las Vegas to St. Louis to Tampa, Fla. Today, all of those billboards are gone, along with the members who paid for them.
Similarly, the National Alliance once could afford to purchase airtime for a weekly radio address that was broadcast on half a dozen powerful AM radio stations across America. The group also bought airtime each week for its worldwide shortwave radio broadcast of "American Dissident Voices" (ADV).
Today, there are no radio stations carrying the NA message and no global shortwave broadcasts. Instead, once a week, Gliebe drives to a friend's house in Parma, Ohio, where he reads and records his notoriously dull, 10-to-15 minute ADV monologues, which are then "broadcast" on the NA website.
Crime and Punishment
Although the National Alliance under Erich Gliebe is smaller, has far less money and is dramatically less effective in promoting racist ideology, there is growing evidence the group is nevertheless attracting an increasingly volatile and violent criminal class into its ranks.
Since the July 2002 death of Alliance founder and longtime leader William Pierce, Alliance members and former members have been charged with a number of serious violent crimes, including kidnapping, armed robbery, aggravated assault and at least seven murders. They include:
- A former National Alliance headquarters staff employee, Jason Samuel McGhee, who's awaiting trial for the 2006 shooting and stabbing murders of four young people in Georgia. If convicted, McGhee would face the death penalty. (McGhee and another Alliance member had previously been arrested for shouting racist slurs and firing guns in front of a school bus full of Latino children in September 2001.)
- National Alliance Maryland state coordinator Craig Jackson, who in late 2002 was charged with smuggling contraband into a state prison where he worked as a guard. In February 2003, Jackson crashed his truck into a tree while driving to a plea hearing. He died almost instantly. Police investigators at the scene noted the absence of skid marks and said there was no explanation for the crash, leading to speculation that Jackson may have caused his own death to avoid prison. If so, he wasn't the only senior NA member to die by his own hand. In October 2003, NA compound security guard Kenneth Springer, 23, shot and killed himself with one of William Pierce's handguns.
- National Alliance Georgia state coordinator Chester James Doles, who was sentenced to federal prison on weapons charges in March 2004.
- Another former NA staff employee, Thomas Martin, who was arrested by the FBI in 2007 and charged with kidnapping and robbing several Florida drug dealers. Officials say Martin and an accomplice posed as police officers in the robberies. They're awaiting trial in Orlando.
- NA Florida unit member and Army Special Forces soldier David Kellerman, who was indicted in October 2006 after allegedly attempting to smuggle automatic weapons and a large amount of explosives into the U.S. from Afghanistan.
- NA New York state organizer James Leshkevich, who beat and strangled his wife to death before hanging himself in his garage in 2007.
- Former NA Media Director Kevin Alfred Strom, who was convicted of possession of child pornography and sentenced to federal prison in April 2008.
- Former NA chairman Shaun A. Walker, who's serving a seven-year federal prison term for targeting and assaulting minorities in Salt Lake City along with that city's NA unit leader, Travis D. Massey, who's serving four-and-a-half years for the same offenses. Among other crimes, Walker, Massey and a third NA member dragged a Hispanic bartender outside and beat him unconscious after he ordered them to leave an establishment where they were distributing NA literature.
The Alliance Today
In addition to the prominent NA members who have been arrested or convicted of committing serious crimes since he took over the organization, Gliebe has recently promoted into positions of authority within the organization several NA members with criminal records and histories of violence that predate the death of William Pierce. They include:
- The leader of the NA Boston unit, a skinhead who goes by the name of Scott Clarke. Clarke also uses the monikers "Berserkr," "Hedge" and "85475" online in racist forums like Vanguard News Network, where he brags about how tough he was in prison a few years ago. He writes that he was serving time for striking and killing an elderly pedestrian with his car while fleeing the scene of an armed robbery several years ago. Clarke, who claims to be affiliated with the violent Aryan Brotherhood prison gang, is also a moderator on Resistance.com, an official National Alliance online discussion forum.
- National Alliance Las Vegas organizer Aaron Trumbo, who stabbed a young Latino man to death after a confrontation at a public lake in 1995.
- South Carolina unit leader Ian S. Gale, 70, a notorious convicted burglar who went to prison in the 1980s for robbing more than $700,000 from homes in the state. Gale published a book on his cat burglar exploits in the 1990s. Today, he writes for the NA's propaganda magazine, National Vanguard. Gale is also registered as a lobbyist for the National Alliance in South Carolina.
At one time, the National Alliance had billboards in several cities, including this one advertising its National Vanguard magazine in Tampa, Fla.
From a public safety perspective, the good news is that infighting, corruption and incompetence seem to be causing what's left of the National Alliance to gradually fall apart. The downside is that while the NA no longer publishes books or generates much income or attention, it's become a magnet for outcasts, convicts and sociopaths, many of whom, like Gliebe, have been almost universally rejected by the established white supremacist subculture.
The era of polite, well-dressed young men circulating National Alliance literature at gun shows and other public events is long gone and shows no signs of coming back. It's been replaced by the era of skinhead thugs, career criminals and spastic violence, apparently operating with little top-down leadership. More unstable than ever before, the NA is also more dangerous. It has little left to lose.