The man at the center of the Guardians of the free Republics is Texas talk-show host Sam Kennedy – and he's already gotten a Texas radio station in hot water as law enforcement reacted rapidly to what has been construed as a direct threat to all 50 US governors.
Mr. Kennedy "is the focal point of this, these guardians. He was in the mix in setting this whole thing up, and he's up to his eyeballs in this Restore America project," says John Stadtmiller, who runs Republic Broadcasting Network based in Round Rock, Texas, which broadcasts Kennedy's weekly "Take No Prisoners" show. Restore America project, as articulated on the Guardians of the free Republics website, is part screed, part call to action to depose an illegitimate government in favor of restoring the people's "common law."
The website describes it as "a war college restoration strategy for regaining control [of government in the states] quietly, efficiently and quickly without provoking controversy, ridicule, violence or civil war." It purports to have military backing for a takeover.
On Friday afternoon, Mr. Stadtmiller, reached by phone, said, "I talked to Kennedy a half-hour ago and ... I told him I'm getting a lot of heat, that you stirred the pot here, and that your plan for how to deal with the media and let them know what is going on has failed miserably."
The FBI interviewed Kennedy for two hours Friday but did not arrest him, Stadtmiller says. The interview focused on two shows Kennedy did two months ago about the Restore America project, in which Kennedy set a March 31 deadline as the day we "begin to reclaim the continent." The letters mailed to the governors were part of that plan, confirms Stadtmiller.
In the first of two one-hour programs, Kennedy intoned: "I'm dedicating tonight's program to all … the men and women who have suffered these many years at the hands of a corporation gone crazy, to people's homes invaded by SWAT teams, guns pointed at the heads of children by agents of a corporate state acting in territorial capacity outside normal constitutional limitations on the land of your forefathers."
The FBI has not released the letters. The bureau said they contain no direct threat but asserted that their implied threat to governors could serve to spark lone-wolf violence. In response, several states increased capitol security Friday. All entrances except the main doors were closed at the Nevada capitol.
Republic Broadcasting Network is well known to those who study extremism, as well as to the FBI. It's a rabble-rousing station that trafficks in conspiracy theories – part of a long-standing American tradition of underground radio.
But post-9/11, such radio stations walk a tighter rope as law enforcement has more leeway prosecuting speech that incites violence, says George Michael, a political scientist and extremism expert at the University of Virginia's College at Wise.
"My understanding is that speech only becomes a basis for prosecution … when it becomes the basis for an incitement to imminent lawless actions, and that depends obviously on establishing links between what might be said on the radio," says Professor Michael. "The difficulty in prosecution is drawing links between talk and action."
Stadtmiller says the FBI agents told Kennedy, in essence, "We know you're not a threat, but we spent millions of dollars guarding [governors]. The next time you do something like this, give us a heads up. Don’t waste our time and money."
For his part, Stadtmiller says he would have pulled Kennedy's show immediately "if there was any indication of violence." Mr. Stadtmiller advertises Republic as a "truth radio station" and says it's "designed for peaceful resolution to problems we're facing."
Republican Broadcasting Network is a satellite, shortwave, and Internet radio station that features 31 shows with names like "Cutting Through the Matrix," "Govern America," and "Road Warrior Radio." It has loose ties to the American Free Press newspaper, which Michael calls "the most important newspaper of the radical right."