CENTRAL TEXAS: Data Leak Connects Central Texas Socialist Rifle Association to FBI and Fascists

30-12-2018 19:12

By Guy Shields

CORRECTION: The Incendiary editorial board owes the man we mistook for John Newell a sincere apology. We made our best judgement based on the evidence available to us at the time, but the new evidence and testimony shows that we were wrong as shown in our follow up story. Incendiary expresses the deepest regret for this error and extends our most sincere apologies to our readers, the masses, and the previously accused man and his family, who are innocent of all the reporting’s allegations. This article will be corrected on this point and the names will be altered to reflect reality.

UPDATE: Shortly after publishing, Incendiary was contacted by someone claiming to be the secretary of the “actual” SRA. “You have published an article here which discusses the actions of a rogue Facebook group which has been a thorn in our side for over a year,” the email reads. “They’ve routinely called into question our leadership and have been trying to get us shut down for as long as we’ve been around.”

Others on social media have disputed whether one SRA or the other is the legitimate SRA, but in another email the SRA secretary clarified, “We are a 501(c)(4) non-profit with over 1.1k dues-paying members and 46 local chapters all over the country. They, on the other hand, are a Facebook page. To suggest authenticity isn’t clear here is disingenuous.”

In conclusion, the SRA found at https://socialistra.org appears to not be affiliated with the Central Texas SRA detailed in this article and consequently are not associated with the collaboration with the FBI and fascists. We have updated the article to clarify that we are specifically referring to the group claiming the title SRA in Central Texas.

Screenshots and logs of Central Texas Socialist Rifle Association (SRA) Telegram chat rooms have been leaked detailing collaboration with federal agents as well as attempted alliances between Central Texas SRA and right-wing group Texas Nomads.

The Central Texas SRA is an armed group which claims to educate people on second amendment gun rights, posturing as a left-wing National Rifle Association. It claims branches in multiple states and operates mainly on social media websites like Facebook,but has also participated in local antifascist demonstrations, if only marginally.

An investigation by Incendiary has determined that a man named John Gilmer (online aliases John P. or John Newell) is at the center of this fraternization with the state and federal agencies as well as individual fascists and fascist organizations.

FBI as Ally

A corrections officer who works in Cotulla, Texas, Gilmer has been affiliated with Central Texas SRA since late 2017. In the past few years, Gilmer has become an established activist via his numerous intel-gathering circles online as well as his work with the Central Texas SRA and other armed activists at demonstrations. He mainly focuses on “doxing” white supremacists, meaning he publicizes their personal information, as well as gathering information about white supremacist rallies in an effort to stop them from demonstrating.

In the leaked chat logs, Gilmer admits to speaking to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) multiple times, as well as other federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies.

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Gilmer uses the Texas Flag as his Telegram profile picture

Members of some of the intelligence gathering chats, including Central Texas SRA leaders, were fully aware of Gilmer’s cooperation with federal agents, because he repeatedly disclosed how he communicated with them, what topics they spoke about, and his motivations for doing so.

In the online chats, Gilmer refers to the federal agents either as the feds, FBI, or simply as “Them.” He describes handlers and under the table payments. In a message sent on July 17th 2017, Gilmer informs his “TXiig Flying Squads” chat about a meeting with federal agents.

“We had our brief meeting with Them today,” Gilmer writes. “Looks like we have gone from 2 handlers to 3 and they read me a list of things that we have provided intel on and they said they were very happy and their supervisors were very happy.”

“We have a little money,” Gilmer continues in another chat. “We got a little over half of what I hoped for.”

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It is not clear where the money he mentions came from, but in the context of the conversation it appears to be a reward for his cooperation with federal agents.

Gilmer often explains his thought process behind keeping in contact with federal and local law enforcement. He believes that he can strategically use the FBI and police to hinder white supremacists, and he expresses no concern about any danger posed to himself or the Central Texas SRA by these state forces, even as he alludes to planning extralegal operations against white supremacists, particularly those in border militias.

“We have discussed something like 5-6 scenarios to prepare for. Sneaking into militia camps has been discussed regularly. And it’s not theoretical guys. Trust me on that,” Gilmer writes in one chat.

When other chat members expressed concern about possible legal repercussions, Nothcut is reassuring. “The scenario was actually discussed with a supervisory agent about 2 years ago. And my risking a minor trespassing charge. They didn’t say no,” he writes.

Others in the chat expressed that they would be facing considerably more than minor trespassing in terms of charges. Gilmer asked them to express themselves in “ballistic terms.”

Gilmer believes that federal law enforcement agencies are either progressive or could even lead an insurrection, making statements in the chats like, “I tend to think that the Feds are more likely to throw Trump out of power.”

According to Gilmer, the FBI have no qualms taking information from a supposed “antifa,” allegedly telling Gilmer that the information he provides is considered “highly credible.”

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Gilmer not only believes that he is using the FBI but sees them as a necessary part of his so-called antifascist strategy. “If not the FBI then what is the alternative?” he asks in one chat.

When Gilmer was recruited by Central Texas SRA near the end of 2017, they were already aware of his dealings with the FBI. Multiple Central Texas SRA members, including local Austin leader “Enoch” (online alias Herman Enoch Presser) were in chats with Gilmer and likely recruited him precisely because of Gilmer’s FBI-connected intelligence gathering.

Gilmer is aware that his affiliations with the FBI and his law enforcement career are concerning to other activists. In one message, Gilmer writes, “it is possible to use the authorities as a tool – a point that seems to have irritated other activists.”

In July, Gilmer told one of his chat groups that Dr. David Smith, a member of the Houston Socialist Movement, told Gilmer he was unwilling to organize with him because of Gilmer’s job as a corrections officer.

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Gilmer uses the term “we” when speaking of informant activity in a group chat populated with other Central Texas SRA members and leaders, none of whom ever contest his methods or objectives at any point in the chats leaked to Incendiary.

Fascists as Friends

On August 18, 2018, the Central Texas SRA joined a counter-demonstration against the “March Against Far-Left Violence” in downtown Austin. Leading up to the march, Christopher Ritchie, a member of the fascist organization Texas Nomads, posted to the Facebook event page disavowing white supremacists and asking them not to attend.

According to chat logs, Ritchie was asked to publicly distance himself from white supremacists by Austin based activist Andrew Alemao (online alias Andrew Joseph Mao), an activist associated with Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) as well as Central Texas SRA.

As a show of gratitude, Alemao spoke to Ritchie and shook his hand at the demonstration, according to the “TXiig Flying Squads” chat log. This kind of breaking bread with fascists under the pretense of opposing white supremacy illustrates exactly how fascism spreads, making dishonest concessions and phony coalitions to gain strength and gather forces.

Only hours after this handshake, Ritchie live-streamed an impromptu protest outside MonkeyWrench Books, a local anarchist bookstore, to harass the employees and customers.

Ritchie’s notorious live-streaming has earned him the ire of many revolutionaries and progressive activists, including members of the now-defunct Revolutionary Student Front. RSF members attacked Ritchie and stole his phone in early May, which was live-streamed by Richie himself.

A few months later when the same bookstore had its windows smashed by unknown perpetrators, Alemao publically blamed local Maoists rather than his former associate Richie and his fascist gang.

In early September, Gilmer proposed a truce between leftists and the Texas Nomads in at least two of his intel chat groups. For months, Gilmer and others had been working on doxing Ritchie and had some success in locating his workplace and identifying his vehicles and close friends.

Throughout Gilmer’s attempts to dox Ritchie, the two had multiple conversations online. Texas Communist Watch, a reactionary Facebook page dedicated to sub-par doxing of leftists, unsuccessfully doxed Gilmer, using only his fake Facebook name and a blurry photo of another younger activist.

Ritchie commented on the post that Gilmer “also claims to have worked for the CIA and FBI.”

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Incendiary has blurred the face of the younger activist mistaken for Gilmer in this screenshot.

Since then, Texas Communist Watch and Texas Patriot Network have posted a new incorrect dox of Gilmer, identifying him as a Houston activist this time. They did correctly identify him as the person behind the Twitter account @TexasIntel where he has identified many fascists as well as admitted to working with the FBI and police.

As long as the Texas Nomads kept Ritchie away from MonkeyWrench Books and kept him away from progressive or leftist-led events, the proposed truce stated, Gilmer and his associates would “publicly lay off” the Texas Nomads and stop their attempts at doxing Ritchie. Gilmer added that when he says progressives and leftists the “one exception are the Red Guards.”

Red Guards Austin (RGA), the local Maoist collective which publicly announced its “conclusion” this month in a brief online statement, has been condemned by Gilmer in the chats and used as an excuse to further collaborate with fascists. In one chat, Gilmer revealed that he, under his right-wing alias, was invited to meet with Ritchie, who his Texas Nomad contact claimed “knows and tracks the meeting places for Red Guard.”

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Members of this chat wanted Gilmer to join Ritchie for “tracking Red Guards” in order to find out if he had actually found the organization’s meeting places. Some members said they would like to inform RGA. It is not clear based on the chats whether Gilmer ever joined Ritchie or if Central Texas SRA attempted to contact RGA. What is clear is that the group chat could not reach any kind of consensus on the issue, with one member insisting that RGA should not be warned due to them possibly changing meeting times and places.

Central Texas SRA leader Enoch, who had condoned the truce with Texas Nomads, complains in a chat of “having to deal with other groups now. And since that other group is a communist group, my stress level has been through the roof,” referring to RGA. Enoch blamed the collective for instigating a protest against a Party for Socialism and Liberation (PSL) event a few weeks prior, which called attention to PSL’s harboring of rapist McKinley Forbes.

After this action, Enoch took to making violent threats against the revolutionaries in Facebook posts. “I’ll find you before you find me,” he writes. “I know some of you personally, and the ones I don’t know, I can find.”

In another post, Enoch continues his smear campaign. “Red Guards Austin has become a pestilence in the city of Austin, and if I have to work around the clock to smash them like bedbugs, [then] I will do so. RGA, four words to sleep on tonight, fuck around find out.”

The “four words” are a posturing slogan borrowed from alt-right groups like the Proud Boys.

Gilmer and Enoch’s vilification of Maoists in the Central Texas SRA chats has swung the group politically to the right, exemplified in their tolerance of Gilmer’s fascist-friendly ideas.

“Is it possible to find some common ground with some of the militia/fascist leadership?” Gilmer asks in one chat. He compared this proposed common ground to the alliances of opposing nations post-WW2.

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“Maybe some dialogue wouldn’t totally be a bad idea,” Gilmer writes in another chat.

By advocating for “common ground” and “dialogue” with fascist leadership, Gilmer has steered the Central Texas SRA in a disturbing direction. He has single-handedly pushed members further away from real antifascist work and towards becoming fascist collaborators themselves.

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Informant as Identity

Gilmer’s own politics come across as confused in the chats. His affiliation with a so-called socialist organization and his doxing of fascists conflict with other tendencies that are more befitting of a liberal or even a US chauvinist. He speaks admiringly of US veterans without criticizing US imperialism. He sees no conflict between his activist work and working as a prison guard, one of the most despicable jobs in the US.

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From the early 2000’s to the mid 2010’s in various online Usenet newsgroups, Gilmer was active as his alias Pirate John. In these online forums, Gilmer appears to have attempted numerous scams, including trying to pass off a junk bike as Lance Armstrong’s bike and faking a man’s death to raise money. One newsgroups user claimed Gilmer had plagiarized his tourist book about Florida.

While the sordid history of Gilmer is difficult to chronicle accurately due to a spectrum of allegations and counter allegations, his current activity is easier to pin down. Gilmer works in Cotulla, TX, drives a late model black Toyota Tundra, works as a corrections officer, owns multiple firearms, maintains a conceal and carry license issued by the state of Texas, and manages numerous online accounts including the Facebook page “Antifascists of Texas and BAIR Trappers,” which displays the imperialist US flag as its profile picture, a mockery of legitimate antifascism.

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Gilmer’s quick transition from relative obscurity to self-proclaimed fascist-fighter recalls the case of Brandon Darby, a federal informant who provoked the arrest of two Austin-based anarchists leading up to the 2008 Republican National Convention. Brad Crowder (who is now a social democrat also associated with the DSA) and David McKay were sentenced to years of imprisonment following their unfortunate entrapment.

In interviews with news outlets like the Austin Chronicle, Darby has evaded questions concerning the betrayal of his so-called comrades, his responses reflecting his inflated ego. He insists he never encouraged the preparing of the Molotov cocktails which landed the other two anarchists in prison, yet all those who knew him say he was a master manipulator.

Darby’s disturbing rationale for working with federal agents strikes a parallel with Gilmer’s contradictory thinking. For all his militant and violent rhetoric leading up to the Republican National Convention, Darby defended the state repression following the arrests.

“Anytime that a group of people get together and say that they are going to use ‘any means necessary’ and have images of firebombs and all kinds of other things,” Darby said in an interview, “not to protest but to specifically prevent another group of American citizens to exercise their right to assemble, the U.S. government is going to get involved […] And they should get involved, and I support it wholeheartedly.”

Through his close and regular communication with federal and state agencies, Gilmer poses a threat to his friends as well as his enemies. If a person believes it permissible to mobilize fascist organizations against those on the left who he politically disagrees with, it is not a stretch for that person to use his status as a federal informant against those same leftists.

Every policing agency knows that snitches all have their price. For someone like Gilmer who considers the US government to be a progressive force, that price is likely cheap.

The identities of the people who Gilmer chats with online about firearms and violence are likely known to the FBI, and the information he has obtained about communists and progressive activists could easily fall into the hands of the government if it hasn’t already.

Next to no security precautions are taken in these online and cellphone based chats, showing a disregard for the real danger involved in revolutionary organizing. It should go without saying that working with the Central Texas SRA is a liability to anyone, and Gilmer especially should be treated as an agent provocateur and an enemy of the antifascist movement.

The findings of this investigative report won’t come as a surprise to those who already work with Gilmer and who are complicit in his treacherous activity, but the clarity of this outside perspective should make them second guess his intentions.

Gilmer is either a fool for thinking that a partnership with the world’s sole hegemonic imperialist superpower is something under his control, or worse he knows who holds his leash and embraces his role as an imperalist lackey.

Gilmer is a snitch whose ties with the feds and fascists are a threat to those around him and to all revolutionary organizations. Incendiary has decided not to publish the chat logs in full as they could be used to support charges against those involved. Our aim in publishing this report is to warn the public of a dangerous informant and to insist that all genuine antifascists take their security seriously.

Gilmer represents the antithesis of correct antifascist security protocol. “Todays FBI is usually very cautious about preserving everyone’s civil rights,” he writes in one chat.

Contrary to Gilmer’s claims, the FBI was created with the intention of becoming the state’s greatest instrument to repress civil rights. It started as an organization to combat principally anarchists and communists, a mission it has never stopped pursuing.

With its successive Cointel-programs, no-knock raids, infiltration of left-wing groups, and leveraging the most advanced surveillance network the world has ever seen, the FBI has accelerated its trampling of civil rights.

The Central Texas SRA, which has entertained Gilmer’s reactionary beliefs and supported his irresponsible practices in private, will now be forced to reckon with public scrutiny. The SRA at the national level should expel the Central Texas branch for its ties to the FBI and local fascists. [Please read update at beginning of article]

Futhermore, Gilmer and his associates should no longer be allowed to participate in any antifascist organizing in Austin or anywhere in the US. They have rejected the seemingly obvious notion that antifascists should never work with fascists or imperialist government agencies and in so doing have imposed their own exile from the antifascist movement.

The errors of the Central Texal SRA point to the importance of demarcating friends from enemies in antifascist organizing. Isolating Gilmer and the Central Texas SRA will be straightforward enough, but antifascists everywhere should be on the look out for their own “Gilmers.” The antifascist movement should strive to have competent security protocols and should kick out anyone suspected of affiliating with federal agents or fascists.

Incendiary welcomes any more information regarding Gilmer, Central Texas SRA, and/or other enemies of the people.

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