A husband and wife say in a new book that they infiltrated the Montana Freemen for the FBI for 14 months beginning in 1995, videotaping the grounds and collecting reams of information about right-wing extremists.
Dale Jakes was embraced by the anti-government group because of his knowledge of explosives, and his wife, Connie, became the Freemen's unpaid office manager at their cabin, the couple said.
Jakes said the couple provided key information to the FBI before the 1996 Montana standoff.
"On the back pages of her legal pad, she recorded names of visiting militiamen, license-plate numbers, telephone numbers, and ultimately computer-code numbers from the heart of the telecommunications center in the cabin," Jakes said.
The FBI found itself with information about dozens of extremist groups that trooped to the cabin from all over the country for seminars Jakes described as "basic hate courses," he said.
The FBI was so delighted by the volume of details coming from the Freemen stronghold and so intent on keeping the information flowing that the bureau put off attempts to arrest the Freemen ringleaders on outstanding warrants, Jakes said.
That decision led to the 81-day standoff in 1996, after the Freemen fled their vulnerable cabin near the small town of Roundup for a more secure location near Jordan, 150 miles away. The standoff near Jordan ended peacefully with the Freemen surrendering.
The Jakeses recount their 1995 experience in the new book "False Prophets" by Dove Books.
The FBI and the U.S. attorney's office refused to comment, but Buzz Jones, a former sheriff's deputy, confirmed that the couple worked for the FBI. He said he recommended Jakes to the bureau.
Although the anti-government group talked of raising a guerrilla army to create a religious nation for whites only, cabin life was more mundane, according to Jakes.
"The daily routine of the cabin was a hum of computers, clicking keyboards and chattering modems instead of cleaning guns and building bombs," he said.
At one point, Jakes videotaped the cabin's landscape as one of the leaders described the area. Later, pretending to film seminars, Jakes videotaped the cabin's interior.
"Connie and I were greatly amused that a Freeman leader was enthusiastically providing the critical videotape for the FBI's tactical assault units--and with an FBI-provided camcorder," Jakes wrote.
He also recalled how Freemen chased an ABC News crew off their Bull Mountains property.
"Unknown to the film crew, four high-powered rifles with scopes were trained on the driver and his passenger," he said. "In the cabin, a debate raged among the Freemen leaders as to whether or not to 'shoot them.' "
The Freemen leaders go on trial in Billings on May 26.