Kaleb Cole is an alleged member of the Atomwaffen Division, a neo-Nazi group that grew out of a white supremacist forum called Iron March in 2016.“Atomwaffen Division (AWD),” Anti-Defamation League, https://www.adl.org/resources/backgrounders/atomwaffen-division-awd. Cole was arrested in Montgomery, Texas on February 26, 2020 on a conspiracy charge accusing him of sending threatening mail and cyberstalking.Mike Baker, Adam Goldman and Neil MacFarquhar, “White Supremacists Targeted Journalists and a Trump Official, F.B.I. Says,” New York Times, February 26, 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/26/us/atomwaffen-division-arrests.html; “Arrests in four states of racially motivated violent extremists targeting journalists and activists,” U.S. Department of Justice, February 26, 2020, https://www.justice.gov/usao-wdwa/pr/arrests-four-states-racially-motivated-violent-extremists-targeting-journalists-and. He was convicted in January 2022 for his role in a plot to threaten and intimidate journalists and advocates who worked to expose antisemitism.“Leader of Neo-Nazi Group Sentenced for Plot to Target Journalists and Advocates,” U.S. Department of Justice, January 11, 2022, https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/leader-neo-nazi-group-sentenced-plot-target-journalists-and-advocates.
According to reports, Cole was the former leader of Atomwaffen Division’s chapter in Washington.Ali Winston, “Atomwaffen Division’s Washington State Cell Leader Stripped of Arsenal in U.S., Banned from Canada,” The Daily Beast, October 19, 2020, https://www.thedailybeast.com/kaleb-james-cole-atomwaffen-divisions-washington-state-leader-stripped-of-arsenal-in-us-banned-from-canada. Atomwaffen Division describes itself as a revolutionary socialist organization centered on political activism seeking to put an end to the “cultural and racial displacement of the white race.”“Atomwaffen Division (AWD),” Anti-Defamation League, https://www.adl.org/resources/backgrounders/atomwaffen-division-awd.
Cole came to the attention of Anacortes authorities in Washington in 2012 for allegedly harassing a Jewish grocery store owner by waving a Nazi flag outside the business, and Bellingham, Washington police after a report that he had neo-Nazi flags and memorabilia in his home in 2015.Asia Fields, “Neo-Nazi suspect, tied to Arlington, charged with gun crime,” Seattle Times, December 18, 2019, https://www.heraldnet.com/news/neo-nazi-suspect-tied-to-arlington-charged-with-gun-crime/.
In January 2018, Cole helped organize Atomwaffen Division’s three-day Hate Camp, called “Death Valley Hate Camp,” in Nevada. At least 10 members from different states attended. According to reports, Cole told attendees to “Bring your uniform, rifle/sidearm, and whatever camping gear you need.”A.C. Thompson, Ali Winston, and Jake Hanrahan, “Inside Atomwaffen As It Celebrates a Member for Allegedly Killing a Gay Jewish College Student,” ProPublica, February 23, 2018, https://www.propublica.org/article/atomwaffen-division-inside-white-hate-group.
At the end of 2018, Cole embarked on a 25-day trip throughout Eastern Europe, where he claimed to see historical sites. Upon his arrival to Chicago O’Hare International Airport, federal officials questioned him and searched his luggage, finding the trefoil flag of a neo-Nazi hate group and photos of Atomwaffen Division members performing the Nazi salute in front of Auschwitz concentration camp. Despite Cole identifying himself as a member of Atomwaffen Division, authorities failed to charge him that day.Mike Baker, “Police Seize Guns From Man Thought to Be Neo-Nazi Leader,” New York Times, October 17, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/10/17/us/atomwaffen-kaleb-cole.html.
Under the red-flag law, Seattle authorities filed a petition to seize a cache of weapons from Cole on September 26, 2019. The red-flag law allows law enforcement or civilians to get a court order to confiscate weapons when there is evidence that people are at high risk of harming themselves or others. Cole did not show up for the subsequent hearing.Mike Baker, “Police Seize Guns From Man Thought to Be Neo-Nazi Leader,” New York Times, October 17, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/10/17/us/atomwaffen-kaleb-cole.html. On December 16, 2019, King County prosecutors charged Cole with unlawful possession of a firearm. A warrant was issued for his address, but the warrant was nonextraditable, meaning Cole could only be arrested in Washington. However, Cole’s whereabouts were unknown at the time.Asia Fields, “Neo-Nazi suspect, tied to Arlington, charged with gun crime,” Seattle Times, December 18, 2019, https://www.heraldnet.com/news/neo-nazi-suspect-tied-to-arlington-charged-with-gun-crime/.
Cole and Cameron Shea, an alleged high-ranking recruiter for Atomwaffen Division’s Washington chapter, were the primary organizers of an operation they called Erste Saule. Translated to “first pillar” in German, Shea described the operation as a way to target “journalists houses and media buildings to send a clear message.”Mike Baker, Adam Goldman and Neil MacFarquhar, “White Supremacists Targeted Journalists and a Trump Official, F.B.I. Says,” New York Times, February 26, 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/26/us/atomwaffen-division-arrests.html. Primarily seeking to target black or Jewish journalists, Shea and Cole sought to make their victims feel “terrorized.” According to the charges, Cole suggested buying rag dolls and sticking knives through their heads and leaving them at the locations of their targets.Mike Carter, “FBI arrests ‘violent extremists’ after threatening posters sent to minorities, journalist,” Seattle Times, February 26, 2020, https://www.heraldmailmedia.com/news/nation/fbi-arrests-violent-extremists-after-threatening-posters-sent-to-minorities/article_8ce505b3-a230-588c-be0c-c5ef1a543723.html.
In carrying out Operation Erste Saule, which is expected to have been initiated on or around January 25, 2020, Cole and Shea created a variety of posters that included offensive imagery and threatening language that was to be delivered or mailed to their targets. Imagery included Nazi symbols and masked figures with guns and Molotov cocktails. Targets included a broadcast journalist in Seattle and two people associated with the Anti-Defamation League, an anti-hate organization with a mission to protect the Jewish community. The targets were chosen in retaliation for reporting and exposing information on Atomwaffen Division.Mike Baker, “Police Seize Guns From Man Thought to Be Neo-Nazi Leader,” New York Times, October 17, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/10/17/us/atomwaffen-kaleb-cole.html.
On February 26, 2020, federal authorities arrested Cole and three other members of Atomwaffen Division. Each were charged with a single count of conspiracy to mail threatening communications and commit cyberstalking, an offense that carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison. Cole was arrested in Montgomery, Texas, but is to be tried in Seattle.Mike Carter, “FBI arrests ‘violent extremists’ after threatening posters sent to minorities, journalist,” Seattle Times, February 26, 2020, https://www.heraldmailmedia.com/news/nation/fbi-arrests-violent-extremists-after-threatening-posters-sent-to-minorities/article_8ce505b3-a230-588c-be0c-c5ef1a543723.html. In April 2021, Cole pleaded not guilty to the charges.“Neo-Nazi pleads guilty in journalist threat case,” Associated Press, April 7, 2021, https://apnews.com/article/conspiracy-journalists-seattle-1e5606dab4b7be262c491c50272576a7. He was convicted on January 11, 2022, of one count of interfering with a federally protected activity because of religion, three counts of mailing threatening communications, and one count of conspiring with other AWD members to commit three offenses against the United States—interference with federally protected activities because of religion, mailing threatening communications, and cyberstalking. Cole was sentenced to seven years in prison.“Leader of Neo-Nazi Group Sentenced for Plot to Target Journalists and Advocates,” U.S. Department of Justice, January 11, 2022, https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/leader-neo-nazi-group-sentenced-plot-target-journalists-and-advocates.
- Extremist entity
- Atomwaffen Division
- Type(s) of Organization:
- Criminal, fanatical, online network, violent
- Ideologies and Affiliations:
- Neo-Nazi, anti-Semitic, nativist, racist, white nationalist, white supremacist, xenophobic
Extremists: Their Words. Their Actions.
On October 27, 2018, domestic terrorist Robert D. Bowers carried out an anti-Semitic attack at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh. He fired on congregants as they gathered for worship, killing 11 people and wounding six others.