The 10 members of a Florida-based neo-Nazi militant group arrested last week received training in close-quarters combat and other Army-approved tactics from a member of the US Army National Guard, according to court filings.
The co-conspirators, alleged to be members of the violent white-power American Front, face felony charges for hate crimes, paramilitary training, and preparing for a coming "race war" against blacks, Jews, and immigrants at a fortified compound in the marshlands of St. Cloud, Florida, just south of the amusement-park haven of Orlando. A short paragraph buried in the group's arrest affidavit shows a disturbing link between the Florida gang and a US military employee:
Who is Ryan Riley, and how has he been able to lead the life of both a trained American soldier and a card-carrying neo-Nazi? I've reached out to the Missouri National Guard and the Osceola County Sheriff's Office, who booked the Florida conspirators, for comment. Both said they'd get back to me and I'll add an update as soon as they do.
On the phone, the Guard's public affairs officer sounded surprised by the allegations, as if she hadn't heard them before. An Osceola County deputy involved in the case declined to comment about Riley in detail because the investigation—a cooperative effort with state authorities and the FBI—was still open, he said. Riley has "not been caught yet," he said.
We've reported before on military members joining Oathkeepers, a "patriot" group full of tin-foil hat theories and anti-government plans. And many of the nation's most infamous political criminals and terrorists—from Lee Harvey Oswald to Timothy McVeigh to Nidal Malik Hasan—were veterans. But it would be unfair to the majority of conscientious service members to overstate a link between military service and violent radicalism. As conservative military blogger Jonn Lilyea points out, "One guy in the Missouri National Guard doesn't a conspiracy make."
On the other hand, one active soldier with alleged terrorist connections—domestic or otherwise—is one too many. If Riley is in fact using his military know-how to prepare for war with American blacks and Jews, it's fair to ask what the military can do to keep guys like him out of uniform.
Editor's Note: We removed the image originally published with this post; on Wednesday afternoon it had been available for use on Flickr under a Creative Commons license, but its author since changed the license and asked that we no longer use it.