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Veteran says extremists are taking advantage of Israel-Hamas war

A veteran who trains others to track and infiltrate extremist groups describes his work, what he has seen since Oct. 7, and the dangers he now faces.
Posted at 8:18 PM, Dec 21, 2023

Kristofer Goldsmith says White nationalists and neo-Nazi groups are showing up at college protests, attempting to normalize extremism.

"Neo-Nazis and White supremacists are showing up on American college campuses," says Goldsmith.

From his home in New York state, the Iraq war veteran tracks extremist groups. He says that since Oct. 7, Patriot Front and other groups have been secretly joining student protests, in an attempt to normalize extremism.

"We've spoken with law enforcement," he says to explain how he learned of their activity. "In an era when wearing masks is sometimes appropriate because of the threat of COVID-19, these college students have no reason to know that neo-Nazi organizations are infiltrating their campuses or trying to manipulate them into spreading hate."

He says it's happening all over the country.

Goldsmith shared screenshots showing how neo-Nazis kept track of student rallies, hoping to motivate followers to go. He and the volunteers he trains aren't just documenting the groups. Sometimes, they're also infiltrating them.

"When I deployed to Iraq, I very much was motivated by hate and anger for the loss that my community, the thousands of people that were killed in my community. I know what it feels like to be hateful. I can speak that language," he said. 

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The work happens through Task Force Butler, a nonprofit organization he founded in 2022. It's named after a Marine Corps general of the 1930s. Businessmen enlisted Smedley Butler to overthrow Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and Butler thwarted the plot and testified before Congress.

Goldsmith says Task Force Butler shares their findings with law enforcement. 

"As of today, we have nine convictions that our research has resulted in. We have dozens more pending charges against extremists across the United States. And we have four lawsuits against extremist organizations that our research has facilitated."

But this year, extremists have also used law enforcement against him and his family. It all started after someone found his address on a New York government website listing voter data. Then it was shared in a neo-Nazi forum and he was "swatted." That is when a false police report is made to provoke a drastic SWAT team response.

"I woke up to my dogs barking like crazy. I walked down stairs and I saw that there was a person, you know, in the bushes with an AR-15, with a suppressor on the front, pointing it towards my house through the window that I was standing in," he said. 

Goldsmith said has been swatted three times this year. 

"Now, in my own home, I carry a firearm. I'm carrying a firearm right this moment. Because I recognize that these extremist organizations that have targeted me specifically, and target others like me, feel extremely emboldened."

He says that in the coming an election year, Task Force Butler plans to show up at more community events — like school board meetings — to record extremists threatening parents and officials, to identify them and pass that information to law enforcement.