Kristofer Goldsmith, 38, is the founder of Task Force Butler—an elite team of veterans who use their military expertise to take down neo-Nazi terrorists on American soil. (Photos by Saul Martinez for The Free Press)

He Hunted al-Qaeda. Now He Hunts Neo-Nazis

Army vet Kristofer Goldsmith has taken out scores of extremists without ever firing a bullet. But he carries a shotgun just in case.

On a frigid night last February, Iraq combat veteran Kristofer Goldsmith woke to the sound of his dogs barking. He removed a gun from the safe next to his bed and crept downstairs to the kitchen of his home in suburban New York when he noticed movement just outside the glass kitchen door. 

He turned to find a man in all-black tactical gear crouched behind a bush, pointing an AR-15 with a suppressor directly at him.

“I didn’t know at that moment if it was a terrorist or a cop,” Goldsmith remembers.

Goldsmith, 38, has made enough enemies that they frequently retaliate. He is the founder of Task Force Butler—an elite team of veterans who use their military expertise to take down neo-Nazi terrorists on American soil. Over the last few years, the Aryan Freedom Network (AFN) has repeatedly posted his home address online as well as photos of his family. Just this month, the FBI contacted him to say an AFN member had made a credible threat to “exterminate” his family. 

That night back in February 2023, someone had called the police claiming Goldsmith had murdered his wife, and a cop had staked out his home.

Though Goldsmith managed to defuse the situation, he could have easily ended up wounded or killed. But he says it’s all in a day’s work for a neo-Nazi hunter and former Army sergeant who’s tasted his fair share of danger. 

“I have a high threshold for threats,” he says with a slight grin and a shrug.

I met with Goldsmith in late December at a coffee shop, the location of which can’t be disclosed for security reasons. He keeps his head shaved and sports a full beard in the tight, tactical style preferred by Special Forces members. He has the lean build of a welterweight boxer. 

Since its official founding in 2022, Task Force Butler has evolved from a one-man operation into a fully staffed movement, with a dozen or so volunteers who work remotely across the country. Most have day jobs in fields like mental health, real estate, tech, and finance. The majority are former military with experience in enemy surveillance. “The average member is a combat guy who ran around Afghanistan with a machine gun,” Goldsmith tells me.

Goldsmith’s typical day involves sitting in front of an extra-wide gaming screen, laptop, and phone, and infiltrating Nazi groups online. He monitors their private group chats, collects information from social media posts and public records, and studies videos to pick out members based on small details. 

“Like cargo pants, or the fit of a pair of jeans, or bootlaces,” Goldsmith explains. “These details can be cross-referenced with publicly available photos that these Nazis post on their Facebook or Instagram. If someone wears pink running shoes while disrupting a pride event, they probably don’t wear them just for the crime, but in their everyday life, too. You can use that to identify them.”

The goal is to provide a legal breadcrumb trail for prosecutors. In just two years, Goldsmith’s research has helped bring about three federal lawsuits against the nation’s most active neo-Nazi organization, Patriot Front. Task Force Butler has also assisted in at least nine convictions against Patriot Front in Idaho, and helped land a felony charge against Aryan Freedom Network member Thomas Vance Pollock in North Carolina for working as a Nazi propagandist. In an email to The Free Press, Pollock said: “I am not, nor have I ever been, a member of Aryan Freedom Network.”

Some of the neo-Nazi groups Goldsmith investigates are violent. That includes former private Ethan Phelan Melzer, a pro-ISIS member of the Atomwaffen Division, who was sentenced to 45 years last March for plotting to ambush and murder his own Army unit. “Too few Americans understand that jihadists and white supremacists are willing to work hand-in-hand, that their movements have been aligned for decades—to kill Americans and attack our national interests,” Goldsmith says.

Between 2013 and 2022, 444 people were killed by domestic extremists, which include white nationalists, white supremacists, and neo-Nazis. (Though Goldsmith understands the distinctions, he casually uses the term “Nazi” in conversations to refer to all pro-white terrorist groups.) In May 2022, white supremacist Payton Gendron opened fire at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York, killing ten black people and wounding three. In August 2023, Ryan Palmeter entered a Dollar General store in Jacksonville, Florida, with a semiautomatic rifle and a 10mm Glock, both marked with swastikas, and killed three black people before taking his own life.

Most recently, Task Force Butler helped dismantle the New England–based Nationalist Social Club—Anti-Communist Action, better known as NSC-131, who consider themselves soldiers in a war against Jews. NSC-131’s militant wing, the “Bully Squad,” conducts statewide vigilante patrols in which they hunt for “anti-white” activity, getting into verbal confrontations, starting fights, and assaulting random people on the street.

Last December, the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office slapped NSC-131 with a civil rights lawsuit, thanks in part to intelligence offered by Goldsmith, detailing the group’s membership, command structure, and criminal activity. All told, Goldsmith’s team played a role in five lawsuits against NSC-131, adding a string of Nazi names to their arrest log.

“My goal is to impose costs on these motherfuckers to take them off the field,” he tells me. “To get them locked up or so wrapped up in civil cases that their resources, their time, their energy, their money are exhausted so they can’t do this to other people. We wanna fucking take our pound of flesh. We wanna make it expensive to be a Nazi.”

Goldsmith’s typical day involves sitting in front of an extra-wide gaming screen, laptop, and phone, and infiltrating Nazi groups online.

For Goldsmith, the business of hunting Nazis is a family tradition. His grandmother’s brother died in France fighting the Nazis, and she used to keep a framed letter from President Roosevelt, acknowledging his service, hanging in her guest bedroom. Goldsmith’s paternal grandfather was also a World War II vet.

Though not Jewish himself, Goldsmith spent his childhood on Long Island, where half his friends were Jewish and—he figured—so was half the country. “It wasn’t till I landed in basic training where I was like, holy shit, there’s sixty different people here calling themselves Christians.”

Goldsmith enlisted in the Army after September 11, where he was fast-tracked to sergeant in just over two years (it usually takes four to six). He was deployed to Sadr City, Iraq, in 2005, where he searched for enemy targets and relayed their location for attack. He often saw police and civilians pull dead bodies and bloodied limbs off the ground. One time, Goldsmith remembers a nervous Iraqi policeman saying he felt unsafe. Just hours later, the officer’s body was found riddled with bullets. It was Goldsmith’s job to take photos of his splattered brains.

Returning home in 2007, Goldsmith suffered from undiagnosed PTSD and drank to numb the pain. He had night terrors and panic attacks and fell into a dark hole. “I was really fucked up,” he says. “Unemployable, drinking every fucking night.” He was also physically sick, with constant ear infections and sinuses that “had started to scar over” because of his exposure to burn pits in Iraq.

In January 2007, on the eve of his redeployment, with four months of active duty remaining, he attempted suicide. “Every adult experience I’d had was at war or preparing for war,” he says of his despair. “I got stuck thinking my life had no meaning, that I’d been reduced to a number. They just needed a body to deploy, and it didn’t matter the physical suffering that I was enduring.”

He downed a bottle of Percocet—which he’d been prescribed for an upcoming surgery for his sinuses—and a bottle of vodka, and then wrote on his arms with a magic marker: “Stop-loss killed this soldier.” He woke up the next morning in the hospital, eventually learning that his roommate had discovered him just in time. He spent the next two weeks in a hospital bed, where he didn’t give up on the idea of ending his life. 

“I tried to escape at some point and got handcuffed to the gurney,” he says. 

Later, Goldsmith was booted from the service with a less than honorable discharge, losing his rank and GI benefits. 

“I went from Sergeant Goldsmith back to Kris,” he says. “I was stripped of my identity, my community, my support network, and left to navigate the VA system on my own.”

Goldsmith slowly rebuilt his life. He got his drinking under control, went to therapy, and enrolled in Columbia University, where he graduated in 2020 with a BA in political science. After several years as an independent advocate for veterans’ rights, he was hired in 2016 as a chief investigator for Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA). There, he uncovered a Russian psyop posing as a VVA administrator, posting Black Lives Matter and pro-LGBT content online with the intent to sow racial and political discord.

His life took another turn in September 2019, when “Donny,” an old military buddy (whose real name he can’t share for safety reasons), contacted him and said, “I just infiltrated a neo-Nazi organization. You want to help me take them down?”

Goldsmith passed on the offer, but as he continued his work for the VVA, he couldn’t put it out of his mind. “What the Russians and the Chinese and all of these other hostile entities were doing was always adjacent to American-born extremism and disinformation,” he says. 

Then came the pandemic, and Goldsmith lost his job at the VVA. In May 2020, he dug up Donny’s number and gave him a call. 

“All right,” he told his friend, “tell me about your Nazis.”

Donny gave Goldsmith a number and a password to access the website,, then run by white supremacist group Vanguard America, where he started posing as a neo-Nazi online. “The infiltration process is never the same twice,” he tells me. For Patriot Front, he applied online, followed by a voice interview on the encrypted messaging app Rocket.Chat. An in-person vetting followed, where Patriot Front members ask candidates the names of their favorite Nazi philosophers or sympathizers, what YouTube channels they watch, or which politicians they support.

“You can either go for someone like Paul Gosar,” Goldsmith says, given the Arizona Republican congressman’s alleged ties to the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers, “or someone like [business magnate] Henry Ford,” who published dozens of stories during the 1920s in The Dearborn Independent on the evil nature of Jewish influence.

The interviews include questions like, “What is the meaning of loyalty?” or “Is respect earned or given?” During one exchange, Goldsmith was asked of a hypothetical showdown with Antifa, the left-wing anti-fascist group: “You draw your weapons and go to fire, but you get a click. What do you do?”

Goldsmith’s reply? “My weapon is a pump-action, so I’ll go ahead and rack that shotgun and I can pretty much guarantee I’m not gonna get two clicks in a row.” 

His interviewer was pleased. “Touché,” he replied.

Goldsmith says he’s never that frightened during these interviews, but that’s “not to say I think these people don’t wanna hurt me.” Because he’s able to pass the vetting process using only a fake name and a lot of guts, he says with a smile: “They’re not the most intelligent people.”

Task Force Butler still has no central headquarters or dependable financing. Up to now, they’ve survived on nonprofit grants and small donations from supporters, who learn about the group’s activities in the news and donate through their website. They typically give “a little more than $50 on average,” Goldsmith says. “That might mean a few thousand dollars a month.”

He hopes to hire paid analysts by June. “Pride Month is the fighting season for extremist organizations,” he says, adding that the warmer weather also means more people are outside, increasing the chance for conflict. Task Force Butler plans to protect pride events by providing security analysis for several venues in New England. Then comes November, when there will inevitably be conspiracy theories about a stolen election or trunks full of illegal ballots. “We’re focusing our efforts on training veterans in swing states so they can be ready and in position to gather evidence of extremist activity as it happens,” Goldsmith says.

In the meantime, Goldsmith keeps a subcompact semiautomatic pistol on his hip—especially at home, because he never knows when the next SWAT team will show up. 

“I don’t want to own a gun,” he says. “I do it because I have to. Because when an Atomwaffen-type terrorist organization wants to get squirrely and try to kick down my door, I’m gonna fucking take them out. And if I die, they’re dying with me.”

David Volodzko is the author of the newsletter The Radicalist, where he writes about political extremism. His work has been published in New York magazine, The Nation, The Wall Street Journal, and other publications. Follow him on Twitter (now X) @davidvolodzko.

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