This spring, officials at the Pentagon unveiled Operation Jade Helm, a real-world simulation designed to put Special Forces through what the military calls the "environmental challenges" of operating behind enemy lines. The troops will largely move in secret through a seven-state battle space – from Utah to Florida – blending in to resident populations, occasionally by seeking the help of locals.
Almost as soon as the drill was announced, conspiracy theorists across the country voiced fears that the exercise was no more than a cover for imposing martial law. But Pete Lanteri, an ex-marine from Long Island who has patrolled the border with the Minuteman Project, saw a unique opportunity for Patriot Movement groups to gain tactical experience shadowing the military on domestic soil. This summer, he organized a group of 200 or so "observers" to launch Operation Counter Jade Helm, a civilian monitoring mission intended to keep U.S. soldiers in check – that is, if Lanteri and his recruits can find them. "Shit, if the military is gonna do their thing in public," Lanteri says, "so are we."