A pair of discrete investigations by British news groups have broken open the operation at the top of The Base, the white supremacist group at the center of concerns about Monday’s pro-gun rally in Virginia. The BBC and Guardian have independently identified 46 year old Rinaldo Nazzaro as the leader of the group.
Their investigations pursued different avenues, and the revelations are enlightening.
The Guardian‘s piece tracked The Base’s growth and activity. They reveal the organization’s official location at an apartment and post office box in New Jersey; the location of land in Washington State which had been purchased by the group to use as a military-style training facility; an identity used by Nazzaro (“Norman Spear”) and details of recent efforts, which include a string of vandalism attacks on synagogues and, according to FBI arrest records, a plot to murder a prominent counter-protester and their family at the Virginia rally.
The BBC article, on the other hand, tackled Nazzaro directly. They also identify him as “Norman Spear” and provide an alternate handle he has used, “Roman Wolf”. They positively identified him as living in Russia, and noted that he purchased a home in that country in the same month, July 2018, that he started The Base. He had previously billed himself as a security professional and claimed to have worked with government agencies, including as a CIA field agent, on operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. He married in 2012, and moved with his wife to her native Russia in 2018. The BBC found that he had been a guest as a government security exhibition in Moscow in 2019.
Neither investigation found a direct link to Putin or his top advisers. With the stress for secrecy within the Russian government, any such link would be difficult for foreign investigators to uncover. The BBC could only confirm that Nazzaro has publicly supported Putin, moved to Russia, started The Base inside the United States, and has been accepted as a professional operative for Russian security efforts.
The Guardian’s investigation leads their reporters and readers to speculate if The Base, now just under two years old, is part of a “honey trap” by the FBI, an organization designed to lure violent extremists in to where they can be monitored. (“Was the Base a honeypot designed to entrap people?” reads one break.) This may be due to the classical mindset of traditional left-wing activists, that the same government whose power they wish to expand is trying to monitor them. They have a valid reason: that tactic has been repeatedly used by government groups to stem violence. In this case, they are missing a new connection: the QAnon factor.
The Base does not want direct monitoring by the government any more than other neo-Nazi or terrorist groups do, but many of their members are convinced that they have powerful allies embedded deep within high branches of the government… the counterpoint to the “Deep State” they fear. They feel empowered by the connection to law enforcement, without realizing or accepting they are simply being used as Russian puppets to sow discord and promote political candidates and agendas.