Insisting that a county sheriff is "the only publicly elected enforcement officer in America," members of a so-called "light foot" militia in Ada County say they're prepared to push back against what they say is "no end to the limit that the federal government is willing to take to take away rights from law abiding citizens."
But Craig Campbell, serving as the militia's "executive officer," told Boise Weekly, "We're apolitical."
"They may be apolitical as far as accepting people into their group, but at the heart of a militia usually lies a view that government is corrupt and the Constitution is eroded," said Daryl Johnson of Washington, D.C.-based DT Analytics, which consults and trains law enforcement agencies on domestic terrorism and extremism. "I have yet to see a militia group that doesn't subscribe to a conspiracy point of view."
Campbell, who told BW that he's a consultant for the forest service product industry, said the militia wants to reach out to the Ada County Sheriff's Office (though the sheriff said he has yet to be contacted) in order to assist in search and rescue, wildfires or incidents where "there isn't enough security to keep people from looting."
"That's a facade," countered Johnson, who, in his former position as a lead domestic terrorism expert at the Department of Homeland Security, was the main author of a controversial 2009 government report warning of increased right-wing extremism.
"It's a new alibi for these groups--that they're on a homeland security mission," he said.
Johnson, who lived in Idaho in the 1980s, told BW that he was a bit surprised at how public the Ada County militia was with its creation.
"What really stands out to me is that they sent out a press release," said Johnson. "In my opinion, it's a front to get public support or acceptance."
But Campbell said his group, which currently includes four officers and 26 enlisted personnel, was anxious to get more recruits.
"Some of our members are a bit old," said Campbell. "Our unit's interim commander, Capt. Jack Stuart, is 86 years old."
Campbell said the light foot militia's requirements were fairly easy.
"You need to perform a minimum of 10 pull-ups, 10 push-ups and walk two miles in 40 minutes with your necessary food and utilities," he said. "'Light foot' basically means what a man can carry on his back."
But they're not to be taken lightly, according to Johnson.
"There's always a chance of paranoia taking over or attracting people who may have criminal or paranoid points of view," he said. "It's concerning."