The Covenant, The Sword, and the Arm of the Lord

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The Covenant, The Sword, and the Arm of the Lord (CSA)
Formation 1971
Extinction 1985
Type White nationalism, Christian Identity
  • United States
Key people
James Ellison
Affiliations The Order

The Covenant, the Sword, and the Arm of the Lord (initialized CSA) was a far right terrorist organization dedicated to Christian Identity and survivalism that was active in the United States during the 1970s and early 1980s. The CSA developed from a Baptist congregation called the Zarephath-Horeb Community Church, founded in 1971 in the small community of Elijah in southern Missouri (CSA was also the abbreviation for the Confederate States of America, which was supported in that part of Missouri during the Civil War). Over time, Zarephath-Horeb evolved into an extremist paramilitary organization and was rechristened CSA, which the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) identified in 1985 as the second-most dangerous domestic terrorist organization at the time.[citation needed] CSA operated a large compound in northern Arkansas called the Farm. In April 1985, law enforcement officers investigating the group for weapons violations and terrorist acts carried out a siege against the compound. After a peaceful resolution, officers arrested and convicted CSA's top leaders, and the organization soon dissolved.


The founder of the CSA was James Ellison, who was jailed for a period of time in federal prison along with his 'high priest' Kerry Noble. Robert G. Millar became one of Ellison's spiritual advisers, and he was also the founder of Elohim City. Ellison was also mentored by Richard Girnt Butler, founder of the Aryan Nations and Robert E. Miles, founder of the Mountain Church in Cohoctah, Michigan. Both extreme right-wing leaders taught and practiced the theology of Christian Identity, a belief system which the FBI includes on its watch list as an 'extremist religion.' Ellison had very close ties to the Ku Klux Klan and the Aryan Nations, based in Hayden Lake, Idaho, and led by Richard Girnt Butler, who was described as "the glue of the Aryan Nations movement in the Northwest, if not the country" by the supervisor of the Inland Northwest Joint Terrorism Task Force.[1] Miles had a very active prison ministry and newsletter, relating mostly to the violent white Aryan groups, of which there are many, most notably, the Aryan Brotherhood. After Ellison was released from prison, he moved to Elohim City, where he married Millar's granddaughter.

Ellison, Noble, and the entire Council of Elders in the CSA community were deeply influenced and mentored by many outside sources. This nine-man council deliberated on both the spiritual meaning and the direction of CSA activities.


The CSA was an organization which believed that doomsday was imminent, and the 224-acre[2] compound that was set up in Elijah became a community for its members. There they trained their members in paramilitary operations. The group strongly believed in white supremacy, and it was strongly anti-Semitic. Like other prominent anti-Semitic groups that believed in antisemitic canards, they referred to the United States Government as ZOG, short for Zionist Occupied Government. The military leader, who used the name Randall Rader during his stay at the CSA compound, left the group in a rift with Ellison and joined the newly forming group The Order in Idaho. The CSA professed the belief that the United States government would dissolve due to its own corruption, whereas The Order advocated revolution.


CSA assassins monitored the homes of their targets, practiced mock assassinations of these targets with scoped rifles, and practiced attacks in a mock "Combat City". The perimeter of the CSA compound had 100, 200, and 300-yard (270 m) indicator plates nailed to trees to allow the defenders to adjust their sights accordingly to engage attackers. The central rallying point in the event of an attack was a concrete bunk house that housed the communications radios next to the 95-foot (29 m) tower, which was constructed for defense. The perimeter of the compound had built-in bunkers for one to three men and each was numbered as a post and assigned to individuals as an 'area of responsibility'.

Some of the weapons the group used were purchased through a member's federal firearms license, though much of their arsenal was stolen.[citation needed] The line infantryman carried a Ruger Mini-14 .223 Remington rifle. As in the early days of the United States Marine Corps, the squads were set up in four man fire teams. One man in the fire team carried a Heckler and Koch Model 91 rifle in .308 caliber. These had been modified via a technique which the organization sold to 'brother groups', converting the rifles to an illegal selective fire weapon (capable of firing either single shots, or on full-auto). The Elite "A" Team had black clothing and some fairly sophisticated weapons, such as the .22 caliber Ruger target pistol fitted with an integral silencer, and several MAC-10 submachineguns in both 9 mm and .45 ACP, also with attached suppressors. These men trained in the covert aspects of military action, and were to be the core of the defense initiative.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) later determined that the CSA had obtained 155 Krugerrands, one live light antitank rocket, 94 long arms, 30 handguns, 35 sawed-off shotguns and machine guns, one heavy machine gun, and a quantity of C-4 explosives.[3]

In 1983, CSA member William Thomas accompanying Richard Wayne Snell and Steven Scott attempted to dynamite a natural gas pipeline, without success.

The CSA also had links with other radical organizations, including the Aryan Brotherhood, the Mountain Church, and The Order, all dangerous white supremacist organizations which advocated the violent overthrow of the United States Government. Many of their members were seen traveling in and out of the compound, and after a search of the compound, several stolen vehicles including one belonging to The Order were recovered.

Things began to go downhill for the organization after Snell, an alleged member, was arrested for killing an African-American police officer. Snell was later tied to the killing of a gun store owner in 1981, obtaining and using the same gun, the serial number of which had been removed by the CSA armorer, Kent Yates. Yates was arrested on Friday, July 13, 1984, on an outstanding warrant out of New Mexico for firearms violations in Farmington. He was later also charged and convicted of weapons manufacture and modification for the CSA.

After the incident with Snell, the FBI began hunting for ways to infiltrate the CSA compound and stop the organization which it deemed dangerous. Its agents obtained warrants under Arkansas state law to arrest Ellison, the leader of the CSA, for multiple firearms violations. (The FBI later claimed that at all times it had an "inside man" in the CSA.)

The siege: April 1985

On 16 April 1985, the FBI obtained a search warrant for the CSA compound.[4]

Beginning on 19 April 1985, the FBI and the ATF, led by the FBI's Hostage Rescue Team (HRT), positioned around 300 federal agents in Elijah. It was necessary to keep the operation a secret, but this was not easy in the small community. However, the FBI and ATF agents took advantage of Elijah being a common destination for anglers by pretending to be fishermen and registering at different motels near the various fishing destinations.[5] On the morning of April 19, 1985, they moved in and surrounded the CSA compound, putting some of their agents in fishing boats in order to seal off the lakeside area of the compound. There they waited, until a few hours later when two guards emerged from the compound. They appeared to be unaware of the presence of the officers, and walked towards a sniper hold-out, until an officer yelled commands to return to the compound, with which the guards complied. Later, an unnamed individual emerged from the compound and talked with the federal agents and reported to Ellison that the FBI agents were outside and willing to negotiate his surrender and the emptying of the compound. Ellison emerged later. FBI agents had expected that he would not go down without a firefight, but the FBI negotiators convinced him that the CSA would certainly lose if they had one. They convinced him that they wanted peaceful cooperation, and he asked that his spiritual adviser, assumed to be Millar, come to the compound to instruct him. The individual was flown to the area and seemed eager to convince Ellison to stand down, understanding that otherwise there would be certain bloodshed. They allowed the individual into the compound, and the FBI instructed him to call in every 30 minutes in order to report on how negotiations were going.[6]

U.S. Attorney Asa Hutchinson, who later successfully prosecuted Ellison and other leaders of the CSA, put on an FBI flak jacket and entered the compound in order to join the negotiations, leading to a peaceful conclusion to the armed stand-off. After several calls requesting more time, early on the morning of the fourth day of the siege, Arkansas State Police entered the compound and escorted out the remaining members without further bloodshed. Women and children had earlier been evacuated to nearby motels.


Ellison and most of his leadership were charged in federal court with illegal weapons possession. Ellison faced the maximum sentence of 20 years in prison after he was convicted on federal racketeering and weapons charges. However, Ellison was released in 1987 after agreeing to testify against the leader and six senior members of the Aryan Nations, which was rumored[citation needed] to have been strengthened by Robert Miles during his time in federal prison. All seven men were arrested and indicted on charges of sedition. The jury found all the defendants not guilty on all charges saying that they 'did not find the federal witness credible'.[citation needed] Upon his release from federal prison, Ellison moved to Elohim City.

Richard Wayne Snell, the man who shot and killed the police officer and a pawn shop owner, was sentenced to death by lethal injection, which was carried out on April 19, 1995, the same day as the Oklahoma City bombing.

Possible ties to the Oklahoma City bombing

There are several claims that the April 19, 1995, Oklahoma City bombing was tied to the "New Day" teachings of Elohim City. No proof, however, has been established. Elohim City was assembled for the purpose of gathering "prophets of the New Day". Leader Robert G. Millar envisioned himself to be the "Shepherd of Shepherds" traveling to numerous alternative societies, many of which were and are still communes. His ambition was to unite these underground organizations. He appeared several times at the Padanaram Settlement, in southern Indiana, but contrary to reports, members of the Padanaram Settlement did not concur with the radical callings of either Millar or Ellison who made two appearances there. "The Valley" was and still is known more for being a cultural hub for artists and philosophers and until roughly 2003, it operated the largest deciduous hardwood sawmill in five states.[7]

Timothy McVeigh had no association with the CSA, and had just joined the Army when the CSA compound was besieged and broken up. However, the Oklahoma City bombing occurred exactly on the 10-year anniversary of the start of the siege of the CSA compound. The most plausible link is the fact that Richard Wayne Snell, who was executed on the day of the bombing, had planned a similar attack on the Murrah building in 1983 after becoming upset with the Internal Revenue Service. Additionally, Snell was heard taunting jailers that something drastic would happen on the day of his execution. Shortly after McVeigh was released from the Army he became very active at gun shows.[7] April 19 is also significant as the date chosen by the Federal Government to siege the Branch Davidian Compound in Waco, and McVeigh was an observer at that site. (The first significance of this date to the US government is that it is when the Battle of Lexington and Concord happened.)

The single incident in which the CSA was involved, the robbery of a pawn shop in Springfield, Missouri, was in fact, foiled by a CSA member on the orders of Jim Ellison, unknown to Wayne Snell, who headed up the plan. It was in regard to this event in which Ellison saw a "sign from God" which he interpreted to mean that they should not carry out the attempt; not the attack on the Oklahoma City Federal Building.[7]

The death knell of the CSA was its attempt to kill FBI special agent Jack Knox, the lead agent assigned to investigate the group; Asa Hutchinson, the federal prosecutor; and the Federal judge who presided over the affair that brought about the eventual action against Gordon Kahl, a tax protester and a member of the Posse Comitatus, by federal agents at Leonard Ginter's home (called 'The Bunker', due to its construction from concrete covered with earth). Ellison revered Kahl as a hero. Like McVeigh, Kahl was a decorated American soldier; Kahl earned a Silver Star in the Korean War, and McVeigh earned a Bronze Star in the first Gulf War – Desert Storm.[7]

In popular culture

  • British band Cabaret Voltaire released an album in 1985 called The Covenant, The Sword, and the Arm of the Lord
  • The CSA is referenced in the 1998 novel Rainbow Six written by Tom Clancy. In chapter five "Ramifications" the organization is cited as an example of how an ideological group may use criminal activity to support itself.[8]
  • Jessica Stern wrote extensively about Kerry Noble in her book, Terror in the Name of God, recounting facts from an interview she conducted with Noble.[citation needed]
  • Jim Ellison is in the 1983 apocalyptic documentary The Jupiter Menace where he tours Zarabeth Horeb, a CSA compound.[9]
  • On the HBO Series, The Newsroom written by Aaron Sorkin, the CSA was referenced in a segment discussing Christian Radicalism in America.[citation needed]
  • In 2013, Kerry Noble appeared on the Investigation Discovery show Dangerous Persuasions talking about his time with the group.
  • In 2013, Kerry Noble was interviewed for an episode of Brainwashed on the Slice Network in Canada and discussed his time with the CSA.
  • The Discovery Channel crime series The FBI Files' sixth season featured an episode whose topic was the CSA. The episode reveals the details of the federal investigation into the group, the 1985 siege and aftermath. The episode originally aired 10 December 2002.[10]


  1. ^ Associated Press in Los Angeles Times/August 28 ????
  2. ^ Noble, Kerry (2010). Tabernacle of Hate: Seduction into Right-Wing Extremism (2nd ed.). New York: Syracuse University Press. ISBN 978-0815632481. 
  3. ^ "FOIA release of FBI documents on CSAL dated 7 October 1987" (PDF). 
  4. ^ "Federal Bureau of Investigation documents, Subject: The Covenant, the Sword, the Arm of the Lord, File: 100-HQ-487200", Memo from 20 May 1985". FBI Vault. Retrieved 31 January 2016. 
  5. ^ Wiecha, Joe (Director) (2004). The FBI Files: Brotherhood of Hate (television documentary). USA: New Dominion Pictures. 
  6. ^ "Federal Bureau of Investigation documents, Subject: The Covenant, the Sword, the Arm of the Lord, File: 100-HQ-487200", Memo from 20 May 1985". FBI Vault. Retrieved 31 January 2016. 
  7. ^ a b c d Michel, Lou; Herbeck, Dan (2002). American Terrorist: Timothy McVeigh & the Tragedy at Oklahoma City. Harper. ISBN 978-0061065187. 
  8. ^ Clancy, Tom (1998). Rainbow Six (1st ed.). Putnam Adult. ISBN 978-0399143908. 
  9. ^
  10. ^ "Brotherhood of Hate" on IMDb

External links

  • FBI file on the Covenant, the Sword, and the Arm of the Lord
  • Entry in the Encyclopedia of Arkansas
  • List of incidents attributed to the Covenant, Sword and the Arm of the Lord on the START database
  • The FBI Files: Brotherhood of Hate on IMDb
Retrieved from ",_The_Sword,_and_the_Arm_of_the_Lord&oldid=807922282"
This content was retrieved from Wikipedia :,_The_Sword,_and_the_Arm_of_the_Lord
This page is based on the copyrighted Wikipedia article "The Covenant, The Sword, and the Arm of the Lord"; it is used under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License (CC-BY-SA). You may redistribute it, verbatim or modified, providing that you comply with the terms of the CC-BY-SA