By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
Skeptics like Briskman might find a justification for their fears in some of the literature circulated at the Mountain Springs meet. A document entitled "Random Thoughts on the Second American Revolution," issued under the pen name Samuel Adams II, declares that, "One thing is plain, the time for armed resistance is not yet. Even so we must prepare for armed resistance while there is still time." The photocopied tract advocates a two-tier strategy for the militia movement: above-ground protest, underground preparations for war. But it doesn't disparage Jews or any minority: instead, it argues that "We've got to keep this strictly political. There is no place for racism in it. We are ALL Americans.... Remember that the first American killed in the Revolution was Crispus Attucks, a black man..." And under current gun laws, even preparing for war can be legally accomplished--especially if a group arms, as the Commanders are doing, after consultation with the FBI.
If the militia movement, or broad sectors of it, have adopted a new strategy of openness, some of its well-wishers have been slow to get the message. When Colorado State Senator Charles Duke addressed the Mountain Springs congress, he didn't allow his hosts to announce his appearance. And Duke, a high-profile darling of the constitutionalist movement, wouldn't take the podium until the press had been escorted off the land where the militiamen had pitched their tents.
"When I am asked by the media, 'Tell me about your contacts with the militia,' I say, 'I don't even know anybody in the militia,'" the senator explained. "So you're going to hear me say that. You're going to hear me deny that you exist or that you're a problem or any of those other things."
Duke, who is eyeing a race for the U.S. Senate, should have known that the cameras and microphones that stood before him were there for a purpose. Those in public life are supposed to know such things, after all.
"I felt that no matter what we do here," Duke explained to a commander who questioned the need for stealth, "it's going to be misconstrued in Colorado."
Not anymore. Audio tapes of the militia conference went on public sale Tuesday night, and videocassettes will be available this week. Duke's southern Colorado constituency, if it cares, will have an electronically-accurate record of his remarks. A scenario in which a politician requests secrecy and militiamen give it up is not one that we'd expect, perhaps, but for at least some of the militia groups, it's the new order of things.
Jim Adams of the FBI, like politician Duke and some of the craftier militia leaders, isn't yet ready to lay all of his cards on the table. "I can't say that we're not investigating some of the militiamen," he admits, and adds that, "Just because we're talking to them doesn't mean that we won't have a problem."
Politicians, revolutionaries and G-men have always done much of their business in backrooms and basements, out of sight and hearing of the people whose interests they claim to represent. With luck, the meeting at Mountain Springs taught all three groups--none of them wildly popular right now--new lessons in openness.