The Base, a US-based white supremacist “social network” that has recently been targeted by the FBI in raids leading to the arrest of several members, was active, growing and continuing to prepare for large-scale violence.
The Guardian has obtained chat records, audio recordings and videos provided by an anti-fascist whistleblower who spent more than a year charting the inside workings of the Base.
The Guardian studied leaked materials relayed by the whistleblower and pursued other lines of inquiry to exclusively reveal the real identity of the Base’s secretive leader as Rinaldo Nazzaro, 46, from New Jersey.
Nazzaro is currently living in Russia with his Russian wife. Until the Guardian’s exposé little was known about his background and he was only known by the alias “Norman Spear”.
The exclusive materials show how the group has planned terror campaigns; vandalized synagogues; organised armed training camps; and recruited new members who extolled an ideology of all-out race war. The cache of documents and recordings gives a rare insight into how such neo-Nazi terror groups operate.
The Base – an approximate English translation of “al-Qaida” – began recruiting in late 2018 and pushing for both the collapse of society and a race war. Members of the group stand accused of federal hate crimes, murder plots and firearms offenses, and have harbored international fugitives in recent months.
It was the very real threat of violence that convinced the whistleblower to infiltrate the Base and stay undercover for months, gaining the trust of other members, only to later contact the Guardian to expose them.
The Guardian’s source said that in recent months “the pieces were coming together to build the infrastructure for a strong, neo-Nazi militant underground, with places to train, to make connections and expand the network.” He felt he had to act to stop it.
The source said: “The ‘Norman Spear’ I spoke with told me in no uncertain terms that the purpose of the Base is to cause the collapse of our society, not survive it.”
How the Base communicates
The Guardian’s source, an anti-Nazi activist, rose to a position of trust within the group, which allowed him to take thousands of screenshots in chatrooms used by the Base since 2018.
In November 2018, those chats were infiltrated by antifa activists, and members were outed, or “doxxed”, amid early media reporting. At this point, the Base tightened up vetting processes and moved their chats to an encrypted platform called Wire.
Under the motto “there is no political solution” the group embraces an “accelerationist” ideology, which holds that acts of violence and terror are required to push liberal democracy towards collapse, preparing the way for white supremacists to seize power and establish an ethno-state.
Members remained defiant following the arrest of seven alleged members of the group in mid-January, calling it an “unjust political witch-hunt” from the “liberal globalist system”.
Nazzaro urged members to double down and commit to a decades-long insurgency, conceding they were “at least 20 years away from a full-fledged civil unrest scenario”.
The US has seen a significant rise of white supremacist violent crimes in recent years. Mass shooters have deliberately cited their neo-Nazi beliefs as motivation for attacks which killed dozens of people in El Paso, San Diego, Christchurch and more.
Some members of the Base were also involved with the neo-Nazi group Atomwaffen Division, whose members have been involved in several murders.
A path to real-life violence
Included in the materials obtained by the Guardian is a record of members signaling their intention to commit hate crimes and terrorize their victims.
One such involved Richard Tobin, 18, whose handle inside the Base was “landser”. He claimed to also be a member of Atomwaffen Division.
Tobin is currently in federal custody, awaiting trial for an alleged conspiracy he organized inside the Base’s chatrooms.
Writing on 15 September last year in the Base’s chatroom Tobin wrote: “Our whole purpose is gradual escalation and we’ve done absolutely fucking NOTHING. It’s time to stop fucking around and get serious. Between September 20-25 I want everyone who isn’t in a wheelchair to get out and act. Flyers, windows, and tires. Let’s take back our image of strength and cohesion.”
Tobin set out tactics for the vandalism, including instructions to “wear gloves, cover your faces at all times, shoe covers if you can manage it”.
The Base’s founder Nazzaro, AKA “Norman Spear”, advised: “No point in random vandalizing … Much more effective if it’s targeted.”
Tobin responded: “Yes, obviously. Focus on broad anti-white elements for now, though. Nigger cars, jew businesses etc.”
He then offered a different idea: “Kristallnacht”, after the Nazi’s mass vandalism of Jewish homes and businesses and the torching of synagogues in 1938.
On 21 September last year, a synagogue in Hancock, Michigan, was daubed with swastikas and SS symbols. The following day, a synagogue in Racine, Wisconsin, was defaced with an antisemitic slogan and the Base’s runic insignia.
Tobin was charged on 12 November with orchestrating both of these incidents, and another Base member, Yousef Barasneh, was charged last week with vandalizing the Racine synagogue. Federal prosecutors allege that they coordinated this in a private chat.
A pale, nervous, overweight teen
Although inside the group Tobin was vicious, militant and angry, a custody hearing attended by the Guardian in Camden, New Jersey, revealed the defendant as a pale, nervous, overweight teenager.
None of his former comrades had made the journey to the gloomy courtroom in downtown Camden, but he was attended by an older female relative dragging an oxygen canister behind her, several prosecutors, and one man identified as an FBI agent.
After the court heard about his fantasies of violence – including “suicide by cop” and machete attacks – and how a mental health crisis and infighting in Atomwaffen Division and the Base had driven him to talk to special agents, he was refused bail.
His profile seems to be typical: new recruits are disproportionately younger men. The official age limit is 18 but this is frequently relaxed, and several members are 17. Many are in their late teens and early 20s.
The bias towards youth is reflected in the ages of several of those arrested in raids on Base members, which range between 18 and 25.
All Base prospects must participate in a group voice call in which they are led through a standardized list of questions. These include the reasons people have for joining the group and whether or not they have read key texts of accelerationist neo-Nazism.
Leaders describe membership as a “two-way street”, and members are expected to detail skills – in survival, technology, or firearms – which they can offer or teach members determined to survive social collapse and prevail in the succeeding race war.
Members generally do not know one another’s real identities, unless it is from prior contact. In theory this means members cannot inform on one another; but although the group placed great faith in vetting procedures to screen out infiltrators, these procedures failed.
The Guardian has heard a recording of the vetting of a prospect who was admitted, and then was later identified as an undercover FBI agent in court documents. That “member” was active in online and offline network activities for months.
Furthermore, one vetting committee member and cell leader was himself an infiltrator.
‘Action over words’
One part of the Base’s ethos which is repeatedly emphasized is the necessity of meetups. Members are expected to get together frequently in order to familiarise themselves with, and learn to cooperate with, other local members.
“Action over words was Norman’s guiding light,” the source who infiltrated the group told the Guardian.
These meetings involve gunplay, combat drills, and photo and video shoots for propaganda purpose.
One such gathering occurred between 30 October and 2 November in Silver Creek, Georgia. One image from the event shows six men standing, one holding a flag with the Base’s runic logo, their faces covered with balaclavas or the distinctive skull masks that signify an affiliation with neo-Nazi “Siege Culture”. All are armed with military-style long guns.
The man kneeling in the middle holds the severed head of an animal.
After posting the photo, Nazzaro, writing as “Roman Wolf” (another of his aliases) writes: “Photo from a very recent epic meetup … Yes, that’s a real goat’s head!”
According to a recorded conversation provided to the Guardian, the goat had been acquired from a local farmer, christened Gar, and was dismembered and eaten by Base members in an improvised pagan ritual. Many neo-Nazis adhere to forms of pagan religion, some citing the Jewish origins of Christianity.
Several members then expressed the wish that their cells were large enough for such a meeting.
One user, jagRolig, posted: “Waiting on the next European meetup.”
Nazzaro replied: “Currently working on finding a suitable meetup location for that … I’ll keep you posted.”