Far-Right Militia's Far-Fetched Plot Draws Some Serious Attention

by Blaine Harden

March 3, 2002

Kalispell, Mont., March 2 as its secrets began to spill out here this week, project 7 sounded suspiciously like a monty python sketch.

A dogcatcher was on its list of 26 local law enforcement officials who needed killing. The chief intelligence gatherer for the furtive far-right militia cell was a cleaning woman, according to Sheriff James R. Dupont of Flathead County, who himself made the hit list of Project 7. The militia's name comes from the Montana license plate numbering system, which uses the numeral 7 to identify residents of Flathead.

The cleaning woman, Tracy Brockway, 32, was having an affair with the leader of Project 7 in a house bristling with 35 guns and thousands of rounds of ammunition, the sheriff said.

He identified the militia's leader as David Earl Burgert, 38, whose last known job was renting snowmobiles, who could often be heard carping about judges on a local right-wing radio station and who has a long history of being annoying. At Christmas, when his neighbors lined streets with paper bags containing lighted candles, Mr. Burgert mounted his snowmobile and snuffed them out.

"If you picture a school yard bully who has a big mouth, that would be Burgert," said Bruce Parish, a detective in the sheriff's office.

This far northwest corner of Montana, along with the nearby northern neck of Idaho, has for decades been incubating right-wing militias, conspiracy theorists and white supremacists. Many of them have demonstrated an outsize appetite for military hardware and survival gear.

Kalispell (population 17,000) might seem an unlikely staging ground for militias bearing grudges. It is the county seat of Flathead County, one of the fastest-growing communities in Montana and a pristine outdoor destination that includes half of Glacier National Park and more than a million acres of mountain wilderness. The town is near the northern end of Flathead Lake, the largest freshwater lake in the West and one of the cleanest lakes in the world.

Yet a decades-old decline in an economy based on logging and mining, combined with the rise of a New West culture dominated by affluent professionals and retirees who go outside not to work but to recreate, has left many local people confused, resentful and looking for someone to blame. Project 7 appears to have set a new standard, both for zany scapegoating and for industrial-strength firepower.

read the full story at The New York Times.