INTERVIEW: Former SEAL Matt Bracken Talks SHTF and a Dirty Civil War – Forward Observer Shop

INTERVIEW: Former SEAL Matt Bracken Talks SHTF and a Dirty Civil War

MATTHEW BRACKEN is a former Navy SEAL (BUD/S Class 105), a Constitutionalist, and a self-described “freedomista”.  This interview was first published in the Fall 2014 issue.

You might think that the most courageous thing Matt Bracken’s ever done is taking a SEAL team to Beirut, Lebanon in 1983, the same year of the Marine Barracks bombings… but you’d be wrong.  Bracken is standing up as a bulwark for Liberty in the face of growing danger to those who speak out against the regime.

FO: What are some of the threats that pro-Liberty Americans will see in the next few years, and what can we expect? More lawfare? Actual conflict? A fight for the Republic?

MB: All Americans face the risk of chaos, anarchy and starvation resulting from the collapse of our electrical grid. Electricity has become our oxygen, necessary to sustain our civilization, and I see at least a dozen ways it could be disrupted with catastrophic results. To the extent that pro-liberty Americans are also “preppers,” they will be better prepared to face the dire consequences.

Absolutely I see “lawfare” by our rogue federal agencies against patriots continually ramping up. With no consequences resulting from scandals such as Fast and Furious and the targeting of patriots by the IRS, Team Tyranny feels emboldened and will only make life harder for those who defy them.

As far as an actual fight for the republic, it could happen, for example, after a hypothetical future Waco incident. In that case, I could envision federal agents being lured into ambushes and so on. The ambushes could be false flag operations or actual attacks by frustrated Americans, but the result could be a shooting war, with patriots being “disappeared” on one side of the ledger, and federal agents and officials being assassinated on the other. This would probably turn into a “dirty civil war” similar to what happened in Northern Ireland or Argentina in the 1970s, but obviously on a far more vast scale.

You mention that there are at least a dozen ways that our electrical grid could be disrupted. What do you see as the most likely causes for grid-down?

Anything from a solar flare to a cyber-war with a national entity could take down the grid. In the event of a civil war, there will be a strong urban vs. rural dynamic, and one way that rural participants will strike at their urban antagonists will be to strike at the grid carrying power to the cities. The Metcalf power station incidents in California last year seem to have been a dry run or proof of concept drill. A dozen teams of riflemen could put our grid at danger with a coordinated attack.

Groups from the former Sendero Luminoso in Peru to the Sinaloa Cartel in Mexico to Al Qaeda in Yemen have attacked major power grids. In America, we have allowed electricity to become our oxygen, and it’s naive to expect that in any type of future war, (civil, international, or terrorist), antagonists will not attempt to cut off that oxygen and kill their enemies en masse. Our power grid is our exposed jugular vein.

What are the best ways Patriots can protect themselves during this time? How long might a “dirty civil war” last?

If [Social Network Analysis] is used to target patriots–and it will be– then there is not much anyone can do for self-protection, other than move to an area where Federal Law Enforcement Agents (FLEA) are afraid to operate, if such places will even exist. Nobody will be able to live a normal life if there is the constant risk of a Soviet KGB- style arrest by plain-clothed teams of anonymous agents. My goal is to remind [law enforcement officers] and especially the FLEAs to think very hard about following orders facilitating secret arrests. The blow-back against all of them and their collaborator for employing Gestapo tactics against Americans will be incredibly ferocious.

Once patriots begin to disappear, Rule 308 will be used against any identifiable FLEA targets, and the dirty civil war will turn into a nightmare that could last for years. There is no way to predict which side would win, or what America might look like at the end. But once a war of secret arrests and assassinations begins, it will be very hard to stop.

My goal with much of my writing is to warn all potential sides that a dirty civil war must be avoided if at all possible. The only thing worse than a dirty civil war would be America turning into a Soviet-style totalitarian dictatorship. Uncounted millions of scoped deer rifles tell me that turning American into a dictatorship would be almost impossible, and I hope that the FLEAs who might study this Q&A also give my short story “What I Saw at The Coup” and my essay “Dear Mr. Security Agent” a very close reading. The shape of the next few years will depend largely on the honor and integrity of our LEOs and FLEAs, and how strongly or weakly they adhere to their oaths to defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic.

What’s your take on the current militarization of the police? Are these police MRAPs just a useful way to re-purpose military vehicles or something worse? What roles do you see the police taking in any Constitutional crisis?

Federal LEAs are attempting to co-opt local law enforcement agencies, turning them into their “grunts” for perimeter security around federal actions and other duties where sufficient armed manpower is required. There are simply not enough federal agents to conduct all of the raids they might envision conducting, and also at the same time provide all-around security for the federal agents from potentially enraged local citizens.

[Mine Resistant Ambush Proof vehicles], latest generation night vision and commo gear and so on are the “gifts” that the feds are be- stowing upon local LEAs in order to make them dependent upon federal largess and beholden to federal masters. In the near term this strategy might be effective, but in the event that an actual dirty civil war is ignited, the loyalty of local LE to their FLEA masters cannot be assured. At the least, some constitutionally-minded local LEOs will warn patriots of planned raids and arrests, resulting in FLEAs being ambushed on the way to their targets, or at their targets.

Look to Mexico today to see what an American dirty civil war will look like. It will be impossible to tell the genuine “on duty” LEOs from “off duty” LEOs in so-called death squads, from criminals posing as LEOs. This would obviously be an extremely dangerous environment for freedomistas, as we see today in Mexico.

CW2 cube

Your Civil War 2 Cube (above) has been immensely popular. We see Suburbia is kind of trapped between Rural and Urban. What do you think the suburban spaces will look like during conflict?

Not all suburbs are alike, obviously. A suburb located between Asheville, NC and the mountains is not the same as a suburb located between megacities in the DC-Boston corridor. In general, I agree with the hypothesis of the book “A Failure of Civility.” A well-located suburban subdivision offers enough manpower to mount a guard force, as well as containing a useful collection of skills from doctors to electricians. During the Dark Ages the walled city or town was the best model for success. Farmers did not live in distant, lonely farm houses; it was simply too dangerous to be that isolated.

What’s your message to those who have no bug-out plan out of urban or suburban areas? What advice can you offer about sheltering in place?

Stocking up on food and water might be critical for surviving a short catastrophe or power outage, so it is something that is well worth doing. If the power stays out for months or longer, “bugging in” won’t work. If the environment is too dangerous to permit safe travel, then all of the food that is consumed must be generated within your own zip code. How many American zip codes generate enough food, right now, to ensure the survival of their inhabitants? What if those food sources are without electricity, fuel, or needed chemicals during the growing season? In any case, if the power goes out, the food will stop moving. Starvation will begin in just a few weeks, while it will take months or years to start new agricultural projects at the local level.

If you must shelter in place in suburbia, I’d recommend following the advice in [A Failure of Civility]. Attempt to interest your neighbors in preparing for various scenarios. No single house in suburbia can become a successful fortress. Suburbs must be defended at their gates, with a quick reaction force ready to respond. Former military buddies in your neighborhood might become the nucleus of the nascent defense force. I cannot recommend the book “A Failure of Civility” highly enough.

Fast-foward: we have a domestic conflict over a Constitutional issue. What happens to the military? What’s your opinion on how they align themselves with the regime or with Freedom Forces?

I cling to the hope that most of the military will not be willing to perform raids upon American homes. However, they will be capable of following most general orders and they will be effective at cordoning towns and cutting off travel options, which can be just as deadly if the cordon means that local inhabitants can neither leave nor bring in food supplies. A pandemic resulting in city-wide quarantines is one easy to imagine scenario. Soldiers don’t need to shoot you to kill you. They can pin you in place until you starve to death. Ask the Ukrainians. For actual raids and assaults upon American citizens, the military and FLEAs will develop units made up of individuals selected for their loyalty to the federal government, and their willingness (or even eagerness) to shoot “enemies of the people.” Social Network Analysis will not only be useful for finding and targeting “enemies of the state,” it will also be extremely useful for locating the sociopathic killers among the wider military, LE, and prison populations (gang members).

These willing killers can then be brought together into very dangerous “hunter-killer teams” to do the dirty “wet work” required by Team Tyranny. In the event of a grid collapse, most members of the military and LE will desert at the first opportunity, in order to take care of their own families. In the event of an economic collapse, they will also desert if they are not paid, or if they are paid in meaningless scrip with no purchasing power.

Many members of the special operations community hear the call to defend Liberty at home. If conflict is inevitable, where do these former leaders fit in?

I believe that the Constitution will remain our most important defensive bulwark. The Constitution will be our most effective litmus test for separating the oath takers from the traitorous oath breakers. Former military and LE leaders should take every opportunity to remind their active duty brothers of their sworn oath to defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic. They should also politely remind them that Team Liberty will have a very long memory when it comes to dealing with traitors. There will be no statute of limitations for traitors, and justice might eventually be dealt out under the well-known Rule 308. Loyalty to the Constitution must be a constant theme, both among friends and on social media. No active member of the military or LE will be permitted to plead ignorance when it comes to upholding the Constitution. We must remind them of that fact as often as possible, until it is ringing in their ears.

What are a few things outside of physically and mentally preparing that Patriots can do to help the fight for Liberty right now?

Unless one’s personal strategy is to remain a “gray man,” or in effect an unknown “stay behind agent,” patriots should be loud voices for liberty both in person and in social media. Don’t cower in fear of Team Tyran- ny. Social Network Analysis means that they already know who you are, where you live, and what your views are. Take every opportunity to stand up for freedom and liberty, and make the Constitution your byword. Take every opportunity to remind active military and LE that we expect them to uphold their sworn oaths to defend the Constitution, and that we are paying very careful attention to the oath breakers among them. The boys and girls down in the fusion centers must be made to understand very clearly that they will be held accountable for their actions, and that “I was just following orders” will not be an acceptable excuse for acting against the Constitution as the minions of Team Tyranny.

You’re a big proponent of hitting the water to escape civil unrest. Why do you prefer that to a rural retreat or a mountain location?

Rural retreats, once located, are too easy to besiege with sniper tactics and other means. FLEAs actually prefer it when patriots move to remote locations: it makes them easy to isolate and eventually they can wind up in a Waco or Ruby Ridge situation.

On the other hand, all of the oceans are connected. A forty-foot sailboat can carry enough food and water to last its crew for months. A sailboat can leave port and wait out a pandemic or social disorder while spending weeks or even months at sea before returning, or a sailboat can voyage non-stop to another country or even to another continent where conditions might be better. Obviously, sailing is not a viable option for everybody. It requires some physical stamina and agility, and a resistance to motion sickness.

What are the most likely threats you’ll face while bugging out on a boat? What are your expectations?

Once at sea and more than 50 or 100 miles from land, the ocean becomes a very low threat environment. Oceans are so vast that the odds of randomly crossing the path of another vessel are astronomically small. Post SHTF, few will be out wasting precious fuel motoring around the oceans looking for random prey. Pirates (including those wearing uniforms with numbers on their bows) always congregate near ports and will transit mainly along coasts. Near land, a speedboat can obviously overtake a sailboat. Get- ting clear of the coasts and gaining the anonymity of the open ocean is always the first priority during dangerous times.

In the event that a motor vessel with superior armaments does spot a sailboat and determine to attack it, the sailboat is going to be in a very tough situation. However, this “worst case” (and very unlikely) ocean scenario is no worse than being besieged on land in a remote rural retreat. The other big risk comes in port, when corrupt officials might decide to take your boat under color of law. But being able to cross oceans means having the flexibility to leave a dangerous or corrupt nation and sail directly to a safer place. Or leave a very dangerous state in America, and sail directly to another one. For example, during a SHTF scenario, a sailboat could easily transit directly from New York to Texas, while that same trip might be impossible by road.

A 40-foot sailboat could leave Florida, gain the safety of the open ocean, and next make port weeks later in Iceland or Argentina. Imagine how far a 40 foot RV, loaded with sup- plies, would make it on the inter- states after the SHTF. Not very far, with road blockages, check points, and ambushes around every curve. A sailboat over the horizon on the open ocean has effectively disappeared from the grid matrix. It can also reappear at the moment and the location of its choosing.

In your book, Domestic Enemies: The Reconquista, you write about a concerted effort by enemies to re-conquer the American Southwest. Although it’s “fictional”, your writing tends to foretell non-fictional events. Where are we right now in the Reconquista conflict and what happens next?

The Southwest is now in a death spiral as far as liberty, freedom and prosperity go. Several generations of anti-American and pro-Aztlan radicals have graduated from universities across the Southwest, and today they are judges, federal attorneys, district attorneys, FLEAs, mayors and police chiefs. This allows them to take leftist “lawfare” to a much higher and very dangerous level. Witness the Reese case in Deming, New Mexico: it is a model for future abuses of official power. Ideologically motivated federal attorneys are able to cherry pick judges who are fellow travelers, with the outcomes of selected cases preordained. This corruption of official power will get worse and worse, until patriots either flee the South- west, surrender, or retaliate in anger, leading to a “dirty civil war.”

The anti-American cabal largely running the Southwest today is fully committed to open borders and amnesty citizenship for illegal aliens. We are well past the demographic tipping points. The Southwest will become more and more like Mexico: extremely dangerous and totally corrupt. As I mentioned above, soon we will see assassinations and ambushes by shadowy groups that might be made up of cartel killers, or “off-duty” policemen, or federal agents, or a very dirty combination of them. Study the Reese case very carefully: it shows the future. Corrupt police shielded drug cartel smuggling routes in Luna County, New Mexico. Corrupt police were blackmailed by ideologically corrupt ATF and FBI agents into providing libelous testimony in order to railroad the Reese family. The false and fabricated case was put forward by corrupt leftist federal attorneys to corrupt leftist judges. Leftist reporters in the media turned a blind eye to the ideological corruption. Justice is effectively dead in New Mexico. What is waiting around the corner ahead of us is a fatally corrupt Southwest that is indistinguishable from the worst of Mexico. There is no turning back from that outcome that I can see.

In our previous issue, we took a look at Balkanization and secession. Where do you see America in another 10 or 20 years? What do the political structures and geographic boundaries look like?

There are many potential outcomes, one being a post-apocalyptic landscape resembling my short story “Alas, Brave New Babylon.” Unfortunately, I see almost every scenario resulting in attacks against the power grid, and the consequences will be hard to imagine if our electricity is cut for even a few weeks. If we somehow manage to avoid a grid- down scenario, I think that America will follow in the footsteps of the Soviet Union in terms of possessing a decrepit nuclear deterrent, with a collapsed economy that will not support superpower-level military operations either abroad or at home. If the troops cannot be paid in a currency of value, they will not follow orders. We may eventually devolve into “Argentina with nukes.”

Something like the scenario in my novel “Foreign Enemies and Traitors” is possible: a regional breakup, with Washington DC only in full control of a rump USA, mainly in the Northeast. The Southwest will resemble Mexico: corrupt to the marrow and far too dangerous for anyone to live a normal life. The Northwest and the South might do better, depending on how the collapse and breakup proceeds. On paper, the United States might still have 50 states, but I don’t think that Washington will be able to dictate terms to all of them. Federal taxes will not be collected, and the remaining federal forces will mainly be situated around Washington DC and the Northeast corridor, to protect the nominal national leadership.

But if at some point the power grid is taken down, our cities will explode, and all bets are off. If people don’t have time to read my long novels, I wish that they would read “Alas, Brave New Babylon,” “What I Saw at the Coup,” and the other short works on the Bracken Anthology. Links to the individual essays and stories are located on my website gratis. I hope this Q&A encourages people to read them. These are extremely dangerous times. Forewarned is forearmed.

MATTHEW BRACKEN is a former Navy SEAL (BUD/S Class 105), a Constitutionalist, and a self-described “freedomista”.  You can find more information about him and his books, which are highly recommended, at and Amazon.

Mike Shelby is a former military intelligence NCO and contract intelligence analyst. He spent three years in Iraq and Afghanistan and is now the intelligence and warfare researcher at Forward Observer.


  1. The survival group handbook by Charlie Hogwood is a very similar book that is not so obscure to find, and as an added bonus is not $500. It is an excellent resource and goes very in depth about planning, organizing, and leading groups for short or long term periods. I believe he also has a book on MAG’s (mutual assistance groups). While I would love to get my hands on the book suggested in the interview, their website is now gone and the only Amazon copy is a ridiculous price that no one should pay. There are too many other alternatives out there that are just as rich in content. Here is a link to the book I suggested:

    Here is a link to his previous book, MAGS:

  2. In SHTF I considered connecting with family by boat from the North down to Florida but boat travel takes a lot longer. This article tells me that going away from the coast 50 to 100 miles out would solve the dangers of staying near the coast but, alas!, it would make the trip even longer. Such is life. Maybe we’ll come up soon with affordable boats that can go 80 mph on the ‘freeways’ of the ocean. Well, we can dream.

  3. Thank you Matt for the kind words. I have A Failure of Civility on ebay due to overwhelming requests.

    1. ‘A Failure of Civility’. Great book. The ‘bible’ of the CPT program created by the Oathkeepers group. I wish Matt had said something about CPT but perhaps it has not proven itself enough yet. We have a successful program in Arizona that is spreading into neighboring areas. Get a hold of the CPT director for this state to find out more.

  4. The northwest has two Achilles heels, growing food and Islamist with matches in our woods setting fires. Eight simultaneously lit large wild fires could bring Montana to its knees. I just hope these 7th century moron jihadist can’t read
    what I just wrote. 11B,C2. Keep your powder dry!

    1. Here in Northern Arizona it takes just one person to burn down a forest during the dry summer season. Solution: don’t have such dense forests. Mother nature took care of this problem with regular fires but now we have been too successful in preventing them that 1 fire can do too much damage .

  5. instinct tells most Americans what Bracken says has been coming for a long time, and now it’s at our door. Is it too late to stop? If not, what can America do?

  6. Lots of emphasis on the power grid and how it WILL go down. The power grid has gone down plenty of times before due to natural disasters. Ice storms, hurricanes, major floods like the one in Louisiana now and yet, they don’t stay down because the utilities are prepared for this eventuality.

    And yet in Brakken’s scenario its going down and staying down. Solar flares? How long have we had electricity and how many times has the grid collapsed from that? It better happen soon, because I’ve only got about 20 years left, otherwise I don’t care.

    The biggest shortfall in his “grid down” argument is the WHY. Oddly enough, the unknown assailant, doesn’t need a why. It just will. I think Brakken underestimates the preparedness of the utilities. If the grid is down, the utilities don’t make any money, so the spice must flow. Our utility has operational information and knows a power outage when it happens, sometimes before the customer (if he’s sleeping, or away from home). I don’t see outages happening any greater than what a regular natural disaster will produce.

  7. I hate to say it, but Bracken’s opinion of the grid is probably right. A squirrel or lack of tree trimming has caused blackouts. The northeast is probably most susceptible. While it’s probably falling out of flavor, the idea of special powerlines specific for wind energy will probably make the grid more easy to take down.

    Unfortunately, local generation or distributive generation is not being encouraged in state or federal energy policy. Grandiose transmission projects to make an ever more complicated grid is the corporate mentality in Washington.

    1. As I said, we’ve had natural disasters that caused a great deal of damage and it was REPAIRED very quickly. Brakken’s scenario is one in which sections of the country go down and its non-repairable. No such thing. Access to the damage is easy. Its not like an oil leak on the bottom of the ocean floor.

      Brakken has not provided a scenario in which the grid is not easily repaired. The “example” in CA that was coordinated was easily repaired. It wasn’t cheap, but the utility was prepared for it.

      1. Read Ted Koppel’s book.

        This stuff is mainstream by now. One grid-down scenario is the loss of several step-up and step-down transformers. They are custom-made for each of the many utilities’ infrastructure, take many months to manufacture, transport, and install, and most come from China.

        1. Not interested in reading his book. How long have utilities been in business, generating and distributing energy? And you think despite the amount of money involved, that they are INCAPABLE or unwilling, of planning for contingencies. I’d say you have ZERO common sense as it applies to the electrical utilities ESPECIALLY in light of the natural disasters that they have already mobilized and repaired (that’s a historical fact, not conjecture, not theory, not conspiracy).

    2. In the event of a massive solar flare or emp, the entire grid or whole sections could be destroyed. No quick fix to those problems.

  8. This is the most believable stuff I’ve seen. I felt that the 2010 hostile takeover of health care was the end of [good] Uncle Sam. Then the obvious shutdown of political groups in 2012, with no outrage in congress, convinced me there’s no going back.

  9. These are my proposed amendments for our state to consider sponsoring in the Convention of states.
    I call it the Q4.
    I would love some assistance on presenting it better.

    1. Abolish Electoral College. A citizen deserves 100% of the vote, not a fraction of it. With updated technology and population the Electoral College is no longer helping but hindering the election process.

    2. Make it illegal to destroy, erase, eradicate, historical icons (such as flags and memorials)and cultures.

    3. No breach of contract with any U.S. partners locally and globally. No lies. no take backs. If our country gives our word, then we must stand by it.

    4. Right to choose citizenship. If anyone does not like being in U.S. then give them $5k, tent, mre’s for 1 week, and relocation assistance to a land of their choice.

  10. There is a reason to why the economy is bad and nothing is being done to correct the problem. Think about it. Most of the military and federal workers are good situations financially. Most American serving in the military would not act against citizens (polls confirm this). Most Federal workers would not want to act on citizens on a large scale.

    So how do you turn the military and federal workforce against Americans? At least with the case of the Federal workforce you keep giving them raises and increased benefits. As their fellow citizens in the private industry fall further behind economically… the Federal workers realize they have a good thing going. Eventually the economy will collapse and people in private industry will become ever more desperate. The Federal workers would not dare at this point to risk their families by not following what they are told. These workers who once wold never act against fellow citizens now have a good life economically and are seeing fellow citizens struggling. The leaders in the U.S. government now have a large group of loyalists. Now they can do things that before would never happen like door to door firearm confiscation. What Federal employee would risk their house and ability to buy whatever food they want to make a point about stuff like gun confiscation being wrong? Every Federal agency is now armed… event he freaking department of education.

    Keep watching global economic indicators. The United States is the globalist’s booby prize. Their plans won’t work unless they have a compliant United States population. Say what you will about the history of the United States… sure it is not all roses. But you cannot argue that our freedoms have made us the most innovative and technologically advanced country on the planet. The globalists do not like that.

  11. The political leadership has changed since this article was first published, but still relevant. Thanks for re-posting!

  12. I am new to Bracken. This was a great post. I would like to hear your comments on our rejection of the Obama and Clinton leftest regimes and our election of Trump.

  13. Most of what is said here has merit, and I have a great deal of respect for Matt Bracken’s viewpoints and advice. However, even though my own bug-out plan involves the use of a boat, I would strongly caution people against extended offshore bug-outs as suggested by Mr. Bracken. Having grown up on Long Island and spending a good deal of my life offshore – I can say with confidence that expecting to survive for weeks at a time offshore (50 mi. or more) in the North Atlantic in a 40 foot sailboat is virtual suicide at most times of the year. Hurricanes, tropical storms, noreasters, and even extended southerly breezes exceeding 25 kts. (which are not infrequent) can result in large cresting seas that are capable of sinking a 40 foot sailboat – I don’t care how good you are. Short coastal transit from point to point, within one or two weeks’ time? Yes. Extended multi-week transoceanic voyages on a 40 footer? No way. A Navy SEAL might be OK in such a situation – but most of us day-to-day seafarers would not. Even given my life time of being on the ocean (I’m a credentialed Merchant Mariner) – I’d much rather take my chances on dry land. At least I can walk to my next destination… whatever it might be. God Bless and thanks for your service, Mr. Bracken!

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