The leader of one of the most violent neo-Nazi terror groups in decades was paid by the Pentagon and worked with U.S. special forces on targeting and counterterrorism, according to new information.
VICE News has learned that the leader of The Base, 47-year-old New Jersey native Rinaldo Nazzaro, was a Pentagon contractor who in 2014 worked with Special Operations Command (SOCOM), one of the most secretive elements of the U.S. military and the tip of the spear in the war against jihadist terror groups like ISIS and al-Qaeda.
A person familiar with the matter said Nazzaro, who had at least a top secret security clearance for a time, was among a group that briefed special forces officers on military targeting and counterterrorism efforts in the Middle East in 2014. (Previously, the BBC reported that Nazzaro was an FBI analyst and a Pentagon contractor.)
This information matches up with details of his service that Nazzaro shared with other members of The Base in encrypted chats obtained by VICE News.
“[I did] multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan over five years,” said Nazzaro in May 2019. Nazzaro said he “was a targeteer” and a “contractor,” and added that he was at Victory Base Complex, a cluster of military bases and operational buildings surrounding the Baghdad airport, and Camp Speicher in northern Iraq.
“I did target packages as well,” he said, “[and] supported deliberate clearing ops.”
An international terrorist leader who was once a specialist in combatting jihadist terrorism turning his expertise around and aiming it at the U.S. government speaks to the growing professionalization of the far right as it transforms into a dangerous national security threat on American soil.
Nazzaro was the founder and leader of The Base, which authorities say intended to incite a “race war” through terror plots across the country. But a series of nationwide FBI raids in January, resulting in the arrest of seven of its members, narrowly thwarted chilling plots as wide ranging as an assassination, ghost-gun making, train derailments, and a mass shooting.
VICE News reached Nazzaro via an encrypted email address.
"I can neither confirm nor deny my work experience," he said. "I have no further comments at this time."
When asked about Nazzaro’s contract dealings with the department, a spokesman for the Pentagon said, “we cannot comment on ongoing investigations,” and referred VICE News to the FBI. The FBI declined to comment.
Ken McGraw, a public affairs officer with SOCOM, said he couldn’t find evidence of Nazzaro’s name among the many briefings from 2014, but stopped short of saying it didn’t exist.
“We were unable to find any information about a contractor named Rinaldo Nazzaro briefing any senior Special Operations Forces leaders on counterterrorism in ,” he said in an emailed statement. Though he couldn’t account for the Pentagon as a whole, McGraw said SOCOM specifically had no contracts with Nazzaro’s company, Omega Solutions.
Unmasked in January by the Guardian, Nazzaro had for years operated under the aliases “Norman Spear” and “Roman Wolf” as he intentionally designed and grew his secretive terrorist organization for a future insurgency against the very government he once worked with.
The name of The Base has always been the focus of much scrutiny, given that it is a literal translation of al-Qaeda. Some counterterrorism watchers believed it was a too-on-the-nose reference to be true, and while it never has been settled whether or not Nazzaro named his organization as an allusion to the infamous jihadist group, he had a history of naming things with a likely parallel.
Nazzaro’s company Omega Solutions, which was cleared by the federal government for defense contracting, advertised as an entity with expertise gleaned from deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. But the name is also a possible allusion to something else: The “Omega Program” was the code name for a joint task force between intelligence agencies and special forces operating in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other theaters of the global War On Terror, wherein spies located "high value targets" (usually senior leaders of the Taliban, ISIS, or al-Qaeda) and units like Seal Team 6 or armed drones eliminated them.
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Nazzaro left traces of his ambitious long-term plans to transform his organization into a full-scale insurgent campaign against his native government. In October 2018, Nazzaro told other members how The Base would slowly develop into a paramilitary group capable of major terror attacks.
“In the current phase we need to be as covert as possible. But as things accelerate we can become clandestine and then further down the road just right out in the open ideally,” Spear said in an encrypted chat room. “For now we need non-attributable actions but that will still send a message and/or add to acceleration as much as possible.”
Joshua Fisher-Birch, a researcher at the U.S. based terrorism watchdog Counter-Extremism Project, said the revelation shows the scale of the public safety threat the neo-Nazi terror movement has become with the influx of military skills among its adherents.
“It is extremely alarming that an individual who worked in a sensitive capacity contracting with the Department of Defense later created a neo-Nazi group that aspired to commit acts of violence within the [U.S.]” he said. “It raises questions regarding what skills Nazzaro taught members of The Base both in the U.S. and internationally. This follows other prominent historical examples of individuals who have used skills from their military service or their association with the armed forces to either build extreme right groups and networks, or to commit acts of violence.”
With files from Zachary Kamel