White Power, Minus The Power

These are rough times for the racist right. This week ex-Klan leader David Duke will be sentenced to 15 months in federal prison after pleading guilty to a mail-fraud scheme in which he charmed $100,000 from his supporters--then used the proceeds on personal investments and gambling trips to Las Vegas and the Bahamas. In January federal antiterrorism agents arrested World Church of the Creator head Matthew Hale on charges that he solicited someone to try to kill a federal judge in Chicago. (Hale pleaded not guilty.) And last summer William Pierce--author of the book that helped inspire Timothy McVeigh and founder of the National Alliance, the nation's largest white racist group--died of cancer. The power vacuum has left the ranks in turmoil. "The white-supremacist movement has been seriously damaged," says Mark Potok of the watchdog Southern Poverty Law Center.

A dozen arrests in recent months on various felony charges have netted Klan leaders in North Carolina and Pennsylvania and an ex-military intelligence officer and his former wife in Washington state who pleaded not guilty to charges that they took secret military documents and sold them to white supremacists. Still, the racist fringe remains dangerous. "We've had some huge successes, but it wouldn't be prudent to assume the problem is solved," says FBI spokesman John Iannarelli. Underscoring his point: last week at a federal prison in California, American Taliban John Walker Lindh, who pleaded guilty to aiding a terrorist organization, was assaulted during his evening prayer. The suspected assailant: a hate-crime convict.