Aryan Brotherhood of Texas

Emma North-Best filed this request with the Federal Bureau of Investigation of the United States of America .
Tracking #

1363694-000, DOJ-AP-2017-001966

Est. Completion None
Partially Completed


From: Federal Bureau of Investigation

An acknowledgement letter, stating the request is being processed.

From: Michael Best

To Whom It May Concern:

This is a request under the Freedom of Information Act. I hereby request the following records:

Records relating to or mentioning The Aryan Brotherhood of Texas. Founded in the early 1980s, the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas, also known as the ABT, the Tip and Ace Deuce, is an unrelated knockoff of the racist prison gang Aryan Brotherhood. It is one of the deadliest prison gangs in the Texas Department of Prisons, and also a statewide crime syndicate. Like the Aryan Brotherhood, the ABT has a strictly hierarchical leadership structure and has members both inside the state’s prisons and on the streets.

The gang follows the late terrorist David Lane’s “14 Words,” a white supremacist motto: “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for White children.” Unlike many other more flamboyant racist prison gangs, members of the ABT pride themselves on anonymity and their ability to blend in the general population as “suburban gangsters” on the outside.

Like the similarly named but unrelated group Aryan Brotherhood, the origins of the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas go back to the desegregation of prisons and the racial conflicts that resulted. In the 1970s, under the direction of Texas Department of Corrections chief George Beto, Texas prisons used a brutal “trusty system,” in which corrections officers used certain inmates, known as “building tenders,” to carry out physical punishments of other inmates. The officers favored white inmates as their tenders, and these men had nearly total control behind the walls. But that system was finally abolished in 1980, as a result of the federal court case of Ruiz v. Estelle, and inmates began to organize along racial lines to fill the power void.

White inmates, who were a minority in the prison system, were particularly angry after being stripped of their power, and in 1981 a group of them decided to form a prison gang along racial lines. The group, including ABT co-founder Bobby Adams, reached out to the Aryan Brotherhood in California, which was already nation’s most formidable white prison gang, and asked if they could form a Texas affiliate. But they were refused. In the end, the inmates, some of them already belonging to other small gangs, came together as the ABT. The ABT quickly rose to become one of the deadliest prison gangs in Texas, responsible for scores of murders over the years. They aimed to restore white power within prison walls and considered themselves to be new “building tenders.” They waged war against two rival black Texas prison gangs, the Mandingo Warriors and the Self-Defense Family.

Like other white prison gangs, including the Aryan Brotherhood, the ABT has a clearly white supremacist, if somewhat muddled, ideology. But it is an ideology that comes second to financial considerations, with members working with non-white criminals or non-white prison gangs if it will be profitable for them to do so.

As of 2012, the ABT had an estimated 2,600 members in Texas prisons and another 180 in federal prisons, according to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Other estimates have put ABT membership at about 3,500 strong, with 1,000 of that number on the street. The group’s members are concentrated in Texas but have spread into the prisons of neighboring states, in particular New Mexico.

The gang’s leadership is believed to be composed of five generals, one for each region of Texas. They are collectively known as the “Steering Committee” or “The Wheel.” The generals oversee criminal activity — smuggling, drug trafficking, extortion and other rackets in the prisons, and a variety of activity including drug running, home invasions, theft and identity theft outside — and also order incredibly brutal sanctions against any member who breaks the gang’s rules. Punishment of those judged to be snitches is known to sometimes involve torture and murder.

A low point for Texas prisons came in 1983 and 1984, when 52 inmates were killed in gang wars. The ABT was responsible for approximately a third of those murders, and by 1985, its members had become masters of the Texas prison system, calling themselves the “Mad Dog.” Since its founding, officials say, the ABT is known to have carried out at least 100 murders and about 10 kidnappings.

In the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks of 2001, the ABT was in the news when ex-convict and ABT member Mark Stroman gunned down a Bangladeshi immigrant working at a Texas gas station in October of that year. It was part of a larger backlash against people mistakenly believed to be Muslims or Arabs.

In 2012, culminating a three-year investigation by several federal law enforcement agencies, the U.S. Department of Justice indicted 36 ABT members, including four generals, for murder, attempted murder, conspiracies, arsons, assaults, robberies, and drug trafficking. It was the largest racketeering case of the year, and it was an important one. By mid-2014, almost 30 defendants, including general Terry Ross “Big Terry” Blake, had pleaded guilty to the charges brought against them.

Many ABT members can be identified by their tattoos, although some avoid the ink because it typically means they will be segregated from the general population in prison. These tattoos include a shield with a sword, sometimes incorporating a swastika; AB, 12 (because A and B are the first and second letters of the alphabet) or variants such as 1 and 2, I II, and even 112% (translating as “100% Aryan Brotherhood”). They also sometimes use hand signs to signify ABT.

Please conduct a search of the Central Records System, including but not limited to the Electronic Surveillance (ELSUR) Indices, the Microphone Surveillance (MISUR) Indices, the Physical Surveillance (FISUR) Indices, and the Technical Surveillance (TESUR) Indices, for both main-file records and cross-reference records of both HQ and all field offices for all relevant names, agencies, organizations, companies and events including but not limited to those cited in the previous paragraphs and/or links. My request includes but is not limited to 137, 157, 176, 177, 183, 184, 188, and 214 files. If previously released records are available, then I request a rolling release consisting of those records while additional records are located and processed for release.

I am a member of the news media and request classification as such. I have previously written about the government and its activities for AND Magazine, MuckRock and Glomar Disclosure and have an open arrangement with each. My articles have been widely read, with some reaching over 100,000 readers. As such, as I have a reasonable expectation of publication and my editorial and writing skills are well established. In addition, I discuss and comment on the files online and make them available through the non-profit Internet Archive, disseminating them to a large audience. While my research is not limited to this, a great deal of it, including this, focuses on the activities and attitudes of the government itself. As such, it is not necessary for me to demonstrate the relevance of this particular subject in advance. Additionally, case law states that “proof of the ability to disseminate the released information to a broad cross-section of the public is not required.” Judicial Watch, Inc. v. Dep’t of Justice, 365 F.3d 1108, 1126 (D.C. Cir. 2004); see Carney v. U.S. Dep’t of Justice, 19 F.3d 807, 814-15 (2d Cir. 1994). Further, courts have held that "qualified because it also had “firm” plans to “publish a number of . . . ‘document sets’” concerning United States foreign and national security policy." Under this criteria, as well, I qualify as a member of the news media. Additionally, courts have held that the news media status "focuses on the nature of the requester, not its request. The provision requires that the request be “made by” a representative of the news media. Id. § 552(a)(4)(A)(ii)(II). A newspaper reporter, for example, is a representative of the news media regardless of how much interest there is in the story for which he or she is requesting information." As such, the details of the request itself are moot for the purposes of determining the appropriate fee category. As such, my primary purpose is to inform about government activities by reporting on it and making the raw data available and I therefore request that fees be waived.

The requested documents will be made available to the general public, and this request is not being made for commercial purposes.

In the event that there are fees, I would be grateful if you would inform me of the total charges in advance of fulfilling my request. I would prefer the request filled electronically, by e-mail attachment if available or CD-ROM if not.

Thank you in advance for your anticipated cooperation in this matter. I look forward to receiving your response to this request within 20 business days, as the statute requires.


Michael Best

From: FOIPARequest

Good morning,

The FBI has received your Freedom of Information Act/Privacy (FOIPA) request and it will be forwarded to Initial Processing for review. Your request will be processed under the provisions of FOIPA and a response will be mailed to you at a later date.

Requests for fee waivers and expedited processing will be addressed once your request has been assigned an FOIPA request number. You will receive written notification of the FBI’s decision.

Information regarding the Freedom of Information Act/Privacy is available at or If you require additional assistance please contact the Public Information Officer.

Thank you,

Holly Early
Government Information Specialist
Record/Information Dissemination Section (RIDS)
FBI-Records Management Division
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From: Federal Bureau of Investigation

A copy of documents responsive to the request.

From: Michael Best

I am appealing the integrity of the search as no search was performed. I specifically requested new documents in addition to previously released documents while also specifying cross-reference search criteria and specifying that I wanted field offices searched as well. The preprocessed documents alone do not satisfy this, and the Bureau's suggestion that I refile a request has not worked in the past - the Bureau has simply done the exact same thing.


01/31/2017 11:39 AM FOIA Request: DOJ-AP-2017-001966


DOJ-AP-2017-001966 has been processed with the following final disposition: Completely reversed/remanded.

  • Best, Michael, AP-2017-001966, FBI - Remand for further search