The Future Dystopic Hellscape Is Upon Us

The Rise and Fall of the Ultimate Doomsday Prepper

Illustration: Michael Byers for The Intercept

Barrett Moore had ordered 2 million N95 masks, held enough freeze-dried food to feed families hiding from global Armageddon for decades, owned a small arsenal of guns, and fortified a pole barn in which to wait out the collapse of civilization. But he had something no one else could buy: knowledge that the end was coming and that the supply chains would snap; the best hope your family had was holing up in his northern Michigan compound while things fell apart. The price for this service would run in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, to be paid in installments. Starting in 2007, the former private military executive (who boasts of his special forces connections and a past life as a spy deployed to Australia) offered to friends and associates with enough money a chance at private salvation, claiming that he and his team could whisk them away from jihadis, electromagnetic pulses, pandemics, or any other existential threat when the great, imminent collapse of the United States came to pass. He called this service “Life Continuity.”

Moore had spent much of his professional life preparing for the worst and watching institutions fail. His career in profiting from unpreparedness dates back to the Iraq War, when Triple Canopy, the mercenary firm he co-founded in 2002, cashed in on the American military’s profoundly unprepared invasion. In 2009, Triple Canopy took over a billion-dollar contract directly from Blackwater after that company became embroiled in one of its violent scandals. But Moore never made it past 2004 at his own outfit: He left Triple Canopy after the company sued him over accusations of “unjust enrichment,” intellectual property theft, piracy, violating of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, and using his “power as CEO to force Triple Canopy to enter into a ‘sham’ licensing agreement,” according to court documents.

The lawsuit was settled out of court in 2005, and Moore began a new career as an end-times steward three years later. He spoke of himself in bold terms: a man of decisiveness, daring, and business acumen. In a corporate biography appearing on one of his many personal websites, Moore described himself as a “seasoned, contrarian business executive and serial entrepreneur with extensive strategy, security and supply chain experience,” having “spearheaded a series of start-ups in the manufacturing, government contracting, technology, international business, and intelligence/security sectors.” He was always sure to talk up his more unusual bona fides: “Mr. Moore served as an intelligence officer in the U.S. Army, specializing in issues related to the non-proliferation of biological weapons and related weapons of mass destruction.” As recently as February 2020, Moore claimed to have been dispatched to infiltrate an Australian car import operation by the CIA as part of a mission to apprehend its leader, “a major international crime figure thought to be trafficking in bio-weapons.”

As Moore’s fortunes ebbed and flowed, so too would his venture abruptly shift in scope and detail (as well as corporate monikers, à la Blackwater). But no matter how many LLCs Moore shifted through, selling Life Continuity remained a constant. As a product, Life Continuity works like the grandest of all possible insurance plans, a hedge against doomsday geared toward the right-leaning rich. Just as the most opulent health and dental plans entitle patients to spa-like care in the case of personal misfortune, Moore offered a vision of serenity and safety in case of global mayhem: the hope that while cities burned and nation states crumbled, your family could continue their way of life. It was an almost biblical promise of salvation and hope amid chaos, right down to promotional materials that read like they were plucked from Scripture. At one point, Moore’s venture was named Sovereign Deed. His hideaway for the chosen was called the Haven.

Pages from an emergency handbook detailing use of the Haven provided to Brad Thor. Documents: Civil Court Filings

Obvious Areas of Negligence

Of the many threats he obsessed over and warned of, Barrett Moore’s cosmology of collapse revolved around the supply chain and how quickly it would buckle under the weight of a national (or global) disaster. “Few people understand how supply chains operate, how heavily we depend on them, and how critical they are to our existence—this is especially true for urban dwellers,” Moore wrote in an essay on one of his websites. The U.S. government couldn’t be trusted to ensure the distribution of vital goods in a prolonged emergency: “Proper reserves of food, backup systems in the event of EMP [electromagnetic pulse] attack, or a healthcare system adapted to cope with pandemics, are obvious areas of negligence.” Moore would provide the safety net that the U.S. government refused to build, and he set out to create essentially a private version of the Federal Emergency Management Agency for the 1 percent.

Moore’s full plan envisioned the construction of not just one Haven but a constellation of bunkerized redoubts throughout the world, planned with his Iraq War expertise and that of military contacts he’d formed through Triple Canopy and his time in Australia. In a 2007 company overview created for potential investors, a nascent Sovereign Deed (the first of many companies trading on Life Continuity) described itself in the grandest imaginable terms, a firm that would do for personal safety what Google did for the internet, whose “operations will eventually have a global reach. … New York, London and Tokyo have already suffered terrorist attacks and natural/manmade disasters can certainly occur world-wide. We anticipate that, eventually, our clients will be as diverse and varied as the events from which we help them recover.” According to this master plan, the planet would become dotted with “local” and “national” Havens, replete with “long-term facilities featuring private accommodations, food preparation facilities, medical facilities, water and waste treatment, protective barriers against radiological, biological and chemical biohazards, communication facilities, and security controls.” Even Sovereign Deed’s internet strategy was overwhelmingly ambitious: “We have purchased over 5,000 URLs that might become associated with the private civil defense market,” the Sovereign Deed pitch noted.

Sovereign Deed was to be a privatized state within the state for the rich, with a fleet of planes, boats, armored vehicles, and trained rescue personnel, all coordinating through a “national network including satellite phones, land lines, cellular towers, fiber optic cable and radio frequency bands providing redundant systems for both verbal and textual communication.” For the boardroom barons and law firm partners Sovereign Deed envisioned as its bread-and-butter clientele, the company would offer an array of tantalizing toys: While the rest of their employees withered under clouds of radiation, an executive customer would be armed with a “Communications Pack (ComPak), a waist pack containing communications equipment, including a satellite telephone, GPS and other devices, to connect with and receive information from Sovereign Deed.”

Sovereign Deed offered a variety of consultation services, but the big sell was the comprehensive evacuation package. After paying the sizable membership fee, customers were guaranteed access to the Haven, a spot on the ark. Members received an emergency evacuation plan, printed in bright red as if it contained nuclear launch codes, detailing with GPS specificity exactly how to arrive at their premium post-apocalyptic hideaway, whether by car, boat, or jet. Clients were asked to “avoid discussing the existence of this haven with anyone other than your immediate family members,” and were told that the “identity of individuals invited to use the haven facility is tightly controlled.” Moreover, they were warned “the havens [sic] staff will not have access to that list until the facility is activated,” and “those invited to access the haven are unaware of the identity of others with access,” according to one membership document.

Though Moore was no longer in the mercenary business, the new venture shared a similar spirit of beating back public danger with the awesome power of private capital. “Triple Canopy was an entity that was ultimately going to try to privatize the entire Special Forces mission, which we saw as an opportunity,” Moore would later state in a deposition. “And [Sovereign Deed] was a corollary.”

But Sovereign Deed faced a major gap between its ambitions and its reality: There was no global communications network, no ComPaks, no fleet of planes, and only one Haven — nothing more than a single-family home on Michigan’s Burt Lake, a scenic Lower Peninsula destination for water sports devotees and outdoor-inclined families. But Moore was determined to create at least the image of the ultra-ambitious service he was pitching to investors, far beyond what basically amounted to a very pretty vacation home, and in 2007 began to court the state government with tantalizing promises of jobs, revenue, and revitalization for a struggling local economy. In 2016, the Cheboygan Daily Tribune wrote, “Moore had promised nearly $80 million and 300 to 500 new jobs through Sovereign Deed’s investment and operations at the Pellston Regional Airport.” When catastrophe struck, The Haven would need to accommodate the droves of jet-setter clients converging on Burt Lake, as well as coordinate evacuations elsewhere in the country.

Moore began making overtures to Pellston Regional Airport with this vision for a massive expansion even as his original plan was still in its infancy, projecting a sense of Sovereign Deed’s scope and scale that never became a reality — a pitch aided by the presence of retired Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Richard Mills, who served briefly as the firm’s executive vice president. But the airfield gambit worked, and despite the protests of activists who didn’t care much for the idea an affluent-only disaster relief firm, Michigan’s local politicians embraced a man they saw as a savvy business leader who could help counter what was at the time the country’s highest unemployment rate. A 2008 AP report on Moore’s controversial expansion plans took the Pellston project (and Sovereign Deed generally) entirely at face value, quoting thrilled local politicians like Andy Keiser, Pellston’s village president pro-tem: “This is a great opportunity for us. We want to prosper, send our kids to college and have something for them to come back to.” Andy Hayes, president of Michigan’s Northern Lakes Economic Alliance, told the AP, “I can give you many examples where people took what sounded like a cockamamie idea and it grew legs and made money.” Moore eventually secured a tax break from the state legislature and a 700-acre lease on the airfield.

In membership documents provided to Sovereign Deed customers in 2010, the original Haven is described as “designed to support 200 people for a period of five years against any hazard, whether naturally occurring or man-made; whether foreign or domestic.” Hazards included (but were by no means limited to) solar flares, civil unrest, and pathogens. At the heart of the Haven was “a multistory three-bedroom house and a purpose-built 12,000 sq. ft. building designed with certain redundancy and improvements … designed and equipped to provide long-term sustainment in the event of the disruption of the supply chain to include food, water, provisions, shelter, power, fuel, and telecommunications. Additionally, the facility includes certain security, medical and environmental protection elements.” Namely, a lot of guns.

Moore even offered packing lists, with options that depended on how much advanced warning one might have of an impending catastrophe. (With a 20-minute warning, make sure to bring your baptism certificate and eyeglasses; with eight hours to prepare, you should water your plants and box up your antiques and art.) And although the Haven was meant for the worst possible circumstances, Sovereign Deed emphasized that recreation would not suffer, even if the rest of the world was being bombarded by radiation or microbes; the company said it would provide a long list of fun, year-round activities that could be enjoyed within the 10-mile secured perimeter, including tubing, shuffleboard, ice fishing, and a game room.

But based on interviews and extensive public legal filings, Moore’s vision for Sovereign Deed and the Haven never came to pass — not simply because a sufficiently apocalyptic event failed to materialize in time, but because the Life Continuity project itself was a byzantine disaster unfolding over more than a decade, resulting only in a handful of overwrought construction projects and a tangle of lawsuits.


Top: A map showing the location of the Haven that was included in court filings. Bottom: Satellite imagery of the two Haven installations on Burt Lake, Mich. Map: Civil Court Filing, Screenshots: Google Earth

Across the many websites bearing Moore’s name and worldview (some defunct but still accessible via the Internet Archive) describing the Life Continuity project, the reasons why you should expect doomsday as an inevitability were catalogued in florid detail: “History is a witness that every empire fails, every currency is debased, and the affected populace is typically unprepared for the seismic societal and cultural shifts that follow.” The future would divide humanity into two groups, Moore argued. There would be those who realized the fragility of modern life and braced for the inevitable collapse, and there would be those stuck in the rubble. And most Americans — those unwilling to heed the warnings of Barrett Moore — were too ignorant of the country’s economic and institutional precarity to brace for impact:

Today, it is becoming apparent that this post-WWII period of global prosperity was just an Aberration in Time: our economic stability is fading, having been undermined by poor leadership, erroneous policy, ideological self-centeredness, and unprecedented levels of debt that render the future much more ominous than the recent past.

We have conspicuously lived beyond our means for too long, and soon America’s city, state and national governments will be forced to make efforts to pay out what is owed under impossible social and fiscal contracts. We may well face a day of reckoning where a choice between buying “beans or bullets” is starkly set before us.

Neither FEMA, nor the military, nor the police could be relied on in a true national crisis, leaving only the private sector to save you and your children from jihadists or germs. Compared to the hellacious suffering to come after the end of civilization, what self-respecting businessman could say any sum of money wasn’t worth peace of mind?

In a section titled “Rationale for a Haven” found on one of Moore’s websites, Moore cautioned that “Islamic fundamentalism, whether in the form of ISIS, Al Qaeda, or some future metamorphosis of the same ideology, threatens the Middle East, Europe, and potentially the globe.” Other apocalyptic triggers included “potential financial collapse” (owing mostly to government spending), “supply chain vulnerability,” “cyber threat” (which includes an electromagnetic pulse, inexplicably), and “government indifference.” These threats were exacerbated by self-invented, sometimes trademarked, phrases that Moore deployed liberally, including the Aberration in Time principle (“Today, it is becoming apparent that this post-WWII period of global prosperity was just an Aberration in Time”), the 7-11 effect (“As a nation steeped in a buy- now-pay-later immediate-gratification 24-7 culture, we allow ourselves to ‘want what we want when we want it’ and to expect whatever it is to always be there, ready and waiting”). Moore’s counter to these conceptual threats was more trademarks. Those who could afford to do so ought to make the Preparedness Wager (a riff on Pascal’s) and buy into Sovereign Deed® as a Life Continuity™ service:

Only a fool ignores approaching threats and just hopes for the best. My concept of Life Continuity speaks to the wise, who appreciate that history does have a habit of repeating itself, and that cultural deviations can swell over time to impact nation states, influencing their behavior. It is critical for families to address cultural decline, to think generationally, and to plan purposefully, so that loved ones and their off-spring can mitigate today’s risks of living in densely-populated metro areas, particularly the risks associated with interruptions, large or small, of our fragile supply chains, whether by man-made or natural events.

The term Life Continuity also bespeaks an effort to associate continuity planning with the thoughtful and measured activities of discerning families, and to disassociate them from haphazard prepping. Life Continuity distinguishes the purpose and precision of thinking people, who consider and understand the vulnerability of our dependence on sophisticated just-in-time supply networks.

It was with this perfect blend of flattery and fearmongering that Moore hooked clients, those both eager to count themselves among “the wise” and fearful of the “cultural decline” that the American right feared Barack Obama’s election augured for the country. But the most powerful part of Barrett Moore’s pitch for salvation was the supreme, unimpeachable confidence of Barrett Moore.

Illustration: Michael Byers for The Intercept

60 Years of Survival Rations

You wouldn’t expect a guy named Brad Thor (yes, that is his real name) to be a major worrier. Yet his slew of macho techno-thriller New York Times bestselling novels revolve around a world defined above all by dangers, many of them Islamic. His bibliography includes titles like “Act of War,” “The Apostle,” “Blowback,” and “Takedown.” Here’s a synopsis of “The Last Patriot,” which longtime fan Glenn Beck puzzlingly praised as “the Da Vinci code of Islam”: “Navy SEAL turned covert Homeland Security operative Scot Harvath must race to locate an ancient secret that has the power to stop militant Islam dead in its tracks.”

Many Thor novels are a variation on the same theme: The imminent, mortal threat Islamist terrorism poses to the entirety of Western civilization. And these are exactly the sort of anxieties that put Barrett Moore in business. Moore met Brad Thor by chance at a party in Chicago one night in 2008. The banquet was thrown in honor of Marcus Luttrell, a decorated former Navy SEAL turned right-wing media personality, motivational speaker, and author of the bestselling book (and later Mark Wahlberg flick) “Lone Survivor.” Moore, with his self-cultivated image as a retired intelligence officer, apparently there to work the crowd, immediately dazzled Thor. “He pulled one of the biggest bankrolls of cash out of his pocket and showed it to me,” Thor recalled to me in an interview. “He asked me, ‘How much do you have on you?’ I said, well, about a hundred bucks. He said, ‘Well, look at how much I’ve got.’ … It had to have been like $1,000. He said, ‘If something happens, I can walk up to this guy and say, here’s $100, I want to buy your backpack right now.’” Moore’s survivalist party trick stunned Thor, and from that moment on, for many years to come, he was enamored.

From the 2008 SEAL banquet onward, the two men quickly bonded over what must have felt like a shared sense of global paranoia and complete lack of confidence in the American government to do anything about it. At one point, Thor mentioned that he’d lived in Los Angeles during the Rodney King riots of 1992, a formative point in his disaster-prep worldview. At this early point, Thor said, “It did not feel like he was selling me at all. … We were two guys who had an interest in a particular area, and we were chatting about what-ifs.” After their first meeting, these what-ifs turned personal, according to Thor: “[Moore] claimed to have done research showing that the starving people out of Milwaukee would take over where my family’s got a home within a week of something happening.” Trying to ride out a disaster in one’s own house was foolish, Thor recalled Moore saying.

Why not leave it to a professional? Moore promised he’d spent more on preparedness than Thor ever could or would. “He always had an answer to everything,” said Thor. “He always found a way to show me and tell me that I was doing it wrong, and that he had it right.” Suitably convinced of Moore’s singular expertise, Thor was ready to spend.

In a 2009 email exchange, Thor asks, “What capital improvements are you looking to make at the haven? Let us know what gear you are looking to purchase.” Moore replied with a selection from the “90+ items on my wish list,” including a 70-foot-tall “radio tower,” “bulk meds,” a “steam engine,” and two “XXL” cast-iron bathtubs.

“Excellent items,” Thor replied, “I will be able to make some very good contributions to the haven.” He added that he would be having dinner with a group of political and business luminaries later that week, including JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, former Commerce Secretary William Daley, and Tom Pritzker, billionaire scion and head of the Hyatt hotel empire. Moore replied by suggesting that Thor bring up the issue of disaster readiness at dinner, though he cautioned that his friend “be aware that they are all leftists, including Dimon.”

In March 2010, Thor received a document from Moore meant to “memorialize” their arrangement and nail down his access to the Haven. In exchange for a “capital contribution” of $100,000 ($75,000 in cash, with another $25,000 in cash for supplies), Thor, his wife, children, and dog would have unrestricted access to the facility in times of emergency. The agreement letter also notes Thor would receive a percentage-based “reference fee” for sales of future Haven facilities elsewhere.

Ultimately, Thor says that over the years he ended up transferring a million dollars to Moore in the form of loans and various doomsday-related expenses by 2013, realizing too late that the Haven was properly equipped only to put up anxious preppers for a long weekend, but perhaps not the apocalypse. (Thor is seeking about half a million dollars in court, according to court filings.) In the agreement letter’s opening, Moore wrote that the “document serves as a guideline for both parties as we believe the underlying relationship, and like-mindedness, make this document superfluous.” Within just a few years of that sentence, the two dear friends would go on to accuse one another of an array of misdeeds, prompting a legal battle that remains unresolved today.

After their introduction in Chicago, sufficiently confident in Moore’s credentials and the feasibility of his vision, Thor began shipping great quantities of guns, ammunition, and other survival supplies and equipment to the Haven from his home in Nashville. For all his insistence today that Barrett Moore is not what he appeared — Thor now describes him as “a bad fucking guy” — in the early days, Moore could do no wrong. The two began conversing regularly, discussing American conservative politics, international geopolitics, and technical minutia of the special operations world.

“As time progressed, Brad and I would talk multiple times a week via telephone and on many occasions we talked every day, and on occasion, multiple times each day. … We shared a great deal of personal information with one another and as is the case with good friends, we communicated frequently on a myriad of subjects,” Moore stated in a 2015 sworn affidavit, adding that he himself “viewed our friendship as a partnership of sorts. As far as I was concerned, Brad was a partner in use of, and the operation of, the Michigan facility and if my knowledge and experience could help him write a better book, all the better.”

Their families quickly became intermingled, socializing with Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Penn., at the Moore residence. It seems to have been a relationship of genuine tenderness: In a 2011 encrypted email from Thor to Moore penned from a pseudonymous email address “Ken.E.Bunkport,” the author wrote, “We are going to miss you like crazy. Just knowing you’re close is very comforting,” ending with the sentimental signoff: “Team Thor is here for Team Moore. Anything you need, anytime — you just pick up the phone. We love you guys.”

In visits to the Haven, Moore knew how to put on a great display for the novelist: “The Garage Mahal was pretty impressive,” Thor admitted. Moore “ended up building a second story” atop the fortified barn, “put in an EOC [Emergency Operations Center] with clocks from London, Paris, Rome … all that craziness. It looked like something out of DHS.” Thor says Moore even showed him “a closet that was completely surrounded with copper mesh to allegedly protect electronics from EMP.”

Moore told Thor that safety wouldn’t be an issue inside the Haven. “Barrett claimed he had an extensive network of former special operations soldiers, who, if disaster struck, would also be showing up with their families, and they would provide security,” Thor recalls, though he now admits, “I never met any of those guys.” A bankruptcy court filing submitted years later against Moore alleging unpaid wages speaks to Moore’s courtship of commandos. The letter to the court, written by two Sovereign Deed alumni who identify themselves as decorated Army veterans, alleges “Barrett Moore targeted Military veterans because he relied on our can-do spirit and a propensity to drive on when things get rough,” adding that “at the highest point of employee headcount, Barrett Moore had hired and taken advantage of 19 Military Veterans and approximating 1/3 of the total employee headcount.”

The possibility of elite Army veteran backup notwithstanding, Thor, who cheerily describes himself as a “gun guy” the way one might speak of one’s love of chocolate, made sure he had his own personal arsenal shipped to the Haven, according to inventory documents filed with the bankruptcy court and reviewed by The Intercept. Among the cargo was a personal arsenal and enough ammunition to fight an armed battle or two: Four AR-15 rifles with “Hammer of Thor” engraved on the magazine (some customized with bipods and optical scopes), 10 infantry knives, four Kevlar combat helmets, a bag of extended magazines, two pairs of night vision goggles, two pump-action shotguns, a variety of handguns, camouflage (including a winterized military snow suit), three lever-action .22 caliber rifles, a variety of holster and laser rangefinders, eight megaphones, and 25 pairs of combat boots.

Other nonguerrilla warfare items shipped to the Haven paint an image of how Thor imagined he might provide for his family after the big collapse. Along with dozens of tree sap spigots and “sap bags” (plus a book titled “Backyard Sugarin’”), he sent along a large survivalist’s library, including titles like “Raising Goats for Dummies,” “Do It Yourself Guide to Biodiesel,” and “Applied Ballistics for Long-Range Shooting.” Another title in the Thor bunker library, “Total Resistance,” is a Swiss insurgency manual popular among terrorists and guerrillas, written in 1957 to prepare for a possible Warsaw Pact invasion of the West: “Devastation wrought by atomic weapons will provide excellent places to hide,” according to its author, Swiss Maj. Hans von Dach. When asked why he needed all of this military equipment, Thor pointed again to the Los Angeles riots as he had a decade ago meeting Moore: “I’ve seen how quickly civilization can break down. … Then, we were going through really rough economic times in 2008, 2009. The Treasury Department was telling us there’d be tanks in the streets.”

Moore was also willing to sell goods directly to his customers, which perhaps explains why he had purchased such an immense stock of dehydrated food and surgical masks. In 2011, Thor bought $175,000 worth of survival rations and masks from Moore (which took up over 160 shipping pallets’ worth of space) — enough to feed himself and his entire family for over a century. Years later, however, Moore would claim this mega-purchase of doomsday sustenance was only a loan.

A Global Katrina

For clients wealthy enough to enroll in Life Continuity but not quite wealthy enough to ship a lifetime’s supply of freeze-dried meals and combat boots to northern Michigan, Moore at least brainstormed other options. Among his hundreds of patent filings is one for a “Rescue Container Method and Apparatus,” which is essentially a large reinforced tomb that would be fixed atop your house, ready to be plucked from the air by a helicopter and whisked away to safety with you, your family, and your survival cargo inside. One would probably not want to spend more time inside a rescue container than necessary, according to the filing:

In general, the interior travel accommodations need not be overly plush though creature comforts can be taken into account if so desired. In a typical deployment setting, the human-transport rescue container will not be expected to travel very far in order to complete the rescue operation and hence it may not be necessary to provide longer term survival accoutrements such as sanitary facilities, food and water supplies, and so forth. It may be useful, if desired, to provide at least some medical supplies (such as first aid supplies or private short-term medical needs such as prescriptions for acute conditions or the like), private oxygen masks and supplies, rescue and/or survival-friendly clothing (such as fireproof or fire-resistant clothing, radiation-blocking clothing, and so forth), and so forth.

Another of Moore’s patents fleshes out how goods and services would be distributed once survivors had arrived at the Haven and shows that the free market would not die along with the rest of civilization. The cryptic “System and Method for a Private Civil Security Loyalty Reward Program” envisioned what would’ve been like a Starbucks points card for post-apocalyptic resource scarcity and physical security. It appears that life at the Haven would not be one of economic equality, but a tiered system of perks and benefits dispensed on the basis of one’s ability to pay. The patent language describes how, by referring new customers to an unspecified “private civil security program,” you could enjoy a litany of perks:

A discount; a cash reward; a promotional product; an extension of time for a service membership; an increase in volume of a private civil security element; an increase in quality of a private civil security element; an amount of training; an amount of instructor-led training; barter items.

The March 2010 document provided to Thor memorializing his agreement with Moore also adds that he would be paid a fee for every new customer he referred. Emails reviewed by The Intercept show Thor did indeed attempt to refer friends and associates to Moore, even as he was providing money to keep his Life Continuity business afloat. In a March 2009 message to Kevin Balfe, a former senior vice president inside Glenn Beck’s media operation, Thor praised Moore as “one of the few people who really grasps what is going on and knows how to be prepared for the eventualities,” adding, “I would imagine you’re discussing both having him on air with Glenn as well as maybe the services he can provide for Glenn and his family.”

It’s unclear if Balfe ever replied. But Beck did continue to eagerly support Moore and his doomsaying, including with a guest spot on his streaming news vanity network, GBTV. (According to Thor, there was at one point talk of Beck buying a fortified, EMP-proof biodiesel sport utility vehicle from Moore.)

In a 2011 appearance, Beck introduced Moore as “an expert in many things” and a “jack of all trades for possibly, hopefully not the world that is coming.” The concept of “what’s coming” is always a vague one, fleshed out with innuendos and dog whistling (for example, stay away from cities) more than any concrete forewarning, but the two honed in on Occupy Wall Street, at the time a sign of major social dissolution to those on the right. Beck showed Moore an Occupy poster emblazoned with a call for “mass non-violent direct action,” which Moore deciphers as actually a call for the violent overthrow of, well, something. “The term direct action is a defined military term referring to offensive action,” Moore explained. “So that’s no coincidence. … They are advocating direct action or offensive actions against the establishment.”

Inquiring about the extremely vague impending end of civilization, Beck asks, “Do you believe it’s a global event? … Would you describe it, as I have been describing it lately, as Global Katrina?” Moore nodded grimly and added, “I think that’s a good description. I think it will come in a speed, in a fashion that none of us expect.”

Other emails show these Haven overtures were unsuccessful. A January 2013 email exchange between Thor and security system executive Russell Cersosimo filed with the court suggests that Life Continuity proselytizing was as much about keeping Moore afloat in the short term as it was about the future of its clientele. After an exchange between the two men about Thor buying some rifles from Cersosimo, the former writes, “I am helping … my buddy who is upside down with his business right now. … Speaking of which, I didn’t hear back from either you or Bob on the email I sent and want to close the loop before I turn it back in to Barrett and the guys in Michigan.”

Cersosimo replied that he was declining to join the Haven, but was instead opting to invest in retrofitting his own thousand-acre property. Moore and Thor were able to find some people who agreed that the U.S. faced an era of great reckoning for which it had failed to repent or prepare, but few who were willing to write checks based on that premise.


Photographs showing a small selection of Brad Thor’s survival equipment stored inside the “Garage Mahal.” In 2014, Thor sued Moore and one of his companies, alleging among other things that he had refused to return $200,000 worth of doomsday gear after their relationship collapsed.

Photos: Civil Court Filings

The Garage Mahal

Even if they didn’t always make sense, the Haven’s construction projects were no illusion, and Moore spared no expense as he developed his main Burt Lake properties in Michigan. A 2015 sworn affidavit by former Haven contractor and “handyman” Brian Cole recounts a “massive concrete pole barn” erected at the Haven called the Garage Mahal because of its “huge size and fortress-like construction.” Cole added, “I have a background in warehouse logistics and understood that Mr. Moore planned to store a significant quantity of supplies inside the Garage Majal [sic].” The Garage Mahal also served as, Thor later alleged in court, a site for “the display of Moore’s expensive collection of meteorites and animal tusks.”

And according to Thor, Moore told people that there was a full bomb shelter beneath the garage, though he never saw it. Moore’s plan to hoard vast amounts of doomsday supplies (both at Pellston’s hangars and inside facilities like the Garage Mahal) did more or less pan out, though in the end it provided little more than lawsuit fodder. In 2007, Louis M. Gerson Co., Inc. sued Sovereign Deed, alleging the company hadn’t paid for over 10,000 cases of N95 masks they’d received, a haul worth more than $500,000 and only a portion of a ballooning stockpile of guns, ammunition, survival gear, gold bullion, freeze-dried food, and other essentials (the N95 lawsuit was eventually settled). That same year, the company was telling potential investors “we believe that at the present, Sovereign Deed owns the world’s largest stockpile of a critical piece of protection equipment,” per its pitch document.


Photograph of pallets of survival supplies and rations stored at the Haven that was entered as an exhibit in court filings.

Photo: Civil Court Filings

Preparing for the great global unraveling would not come cheap, and Moore was nearly constantly seeking new investors, customers, and loans. In the 2007 pitch document, Sovereign Deed claimed it had already netted roughly $17.5 million in investments, with a C round of financing expected to bring in another $25 million. Despite assurances that this infusion would make Sovereign Deed “self-sufficient with respect to our need for capital,” this self-sufficiency never arrived. Bankruptcy court filings show Moore secured millions in dollars in business loans, personal loans, home mortgages, on top of a $350,000 American Express bill. Some of these loans were backed by unusual collateral arrangements. In a 2007 email thanking one backer for his “support and belief in Sovereign Deed” in the form of a $250,000 loan, Moore offered a selection of Hummers from the Sovereign Deed “fleet” as collateral, on top of an incredible range of promised items, including the URL “” (somehow valued at $250,000), 20 rifles plus “scopes and accessories,” and 18 handguns. Moore asked, however, that the investor not actually use these vehicles. Sovereign Deed’s gigantic N95 order itself had been backed by 30 Sig Sauer pistols and 80 rifles put up as collateral.

It seemed every year was filled with financial and legal setbacks for Moore, small crises that should have been disastrous, a personal apocalypse for someone putting their name and reputation on the line with promises of safety and stability amid future chaos.

Moore’s apparent use of a dizzying number of corporations, and the fact that many of his legal disputes were relegated to smaller state courts, may have helped avoid national notoriety.

Moore’s apparent use of a dizzying number of corporations, and the fact that many of his legal disputes were relegated to smaller state courts, may have helped avoid national notoriety. Nor did it hurt that Sovereign Deed’s chief financial backer was none other than the late Texas finance billionaire Richard Rainwater, a legitimate businessman par excellence and himself an avid doomsday prepper. Although the details of his role, beyond being a moneyman, are unclear, Moore would later describe Rainwater as “a wonderful guy” and “proponent of what we were trying to do,” as well as a “financial backer” and “door-opener” for the company.

In Rainwater, as with Thor, Moore seemed to have hooked someone who shared the same set of anxieties. In a 2005 interview with Fortune, Rainwater spoke frankly about both the threat posed by imminent global oil shortages (“This is the first scenario I’ve seen where I question the survivability of mankind”) and how he seeks to turn large profits from such threats (“Most people invest and then sit around worrying what the next blowup will be,” he said. “I do the opposite. I wait for the blowup, then invest”). It’s little wonder, then, that Rainwater and Moore did business together. But even with Rainwater’s capital in hand, Moore still struggled.

In 2009 alone, Moore, Sovereign Deed LLC, and Sovereign Deed, Inc. were fined by the Illinois Department of Labor for unpaid wages and sued for breach of contract by his own sister. By this time, it appears that the Sovereign Deed brand had become too toxic, leading Moore to quietly fold the venture and instead continue offering Life Continuity services through other corporate entities. A complaint against Moore by a federal bankruptcy trustee in 2018 is scathing on the subject of this pivot:

Sovereign Deed collapsed around 2008, with millions of dollars of debts outstanding that have bled into this bankruptcy case. After that time, Mr. Moore ran his business efforts through corporate entities ostensibly owned by his wife, but for which Mr. Moore was really the one in control. Mr. Moore solicited and received millions of dollars from investors and other acquaintances in the years leading up to his bankruptcy, and now has nothing to show for it and no documents to explain what really happened to the funds.

That all of this apparently went unnoticed by both his investors and clients at the time is perhaps Moore’s greatest achievement. No matter how badly things appeared to be going, he seemed to be able to find another person with a checkbook he hadn’t yet alienated.

Though Sovereign Deed was defunct, Moore kept pursuing the business of Life Continuity, as “individuals paid hundreds of thousands of dollars each to secure access to the Haven, often contracting with Mr. Moore through one of his wife’s corporate entities,” according to the U.S. trustee in his bankruptcy proceedings. While Moore pitched potential clients for a spot on the right-wing disaster ark in 2011, the Haven itself was in foreclosure and on the verge of being sold at auction due to Moore’s hopelessly muddied finances — a fact Thor claims in court documents was hidden from him, but which Moore says he would have undoubtedly shared with his friend at the time — and Moore owed Citizens National Bank of Cheboygan $3.78 million. Though Sovereign Deed’s investor pitch had projected profits of $50 million by 2011 based on seizure of an “unaddressed market with unlimited potential,” the state of the business seemed to align with one of the “risk factors” quietly flagged for investors: “There can be no assurance that any market for our services actually exists.”

“There can be no assurance that any market for our services actually exists.”

Despite the limitless potential outlined to investors, the business of emergency rescue was itself in dire need of rescuing, a decline in fortune Moore later attributed in a deposition to the 2008 global financial crisis — though the irony of a business designed to withstand global crises laid low by a global crisis was left unmentioned. Disastrous, too, was the fact that Richard Rainwater had been the firm’s largest shareholder, according to Moore, but “ultimately he got sick, and then he got sicker and then, unfortunately, he died,” leaving Life Continuity without its billionaire “cornerstone” and his flow of capital. Luckily for Moore, Rainwater wasn’t the only bottomlessly rich man concerned with an imminent collapse of American sovereignty and tireless faith in the private sector.

Although he was merely a multimillionaire, Jack Templeton, the scion of a multibillion-dollar family fortune, fit the bill, especially when it came to ideological affinity. Templeton’s father John, a legendary stock picker, had launched his success streak in 1939, when he spent $10,000 in borrowed money on cheap shares of companies whose values then exploded as World War II consumed the planet. By 1992, when he liquidated his $13 billion fund, he was the renowned religious philanthropist behind the Templeton Prize, which awards a cash sum “to recognize discoveries that yielded new insights about religion.” Jack Templeton shared some of his father’s interest in the spiritual realm, though with a political bent. As an ardent evangelical Christian, he’d spent a million dollars opposing gay marriage legalization.

Perhaps hoping to replicate his father’s investing instinct and turn an impending cataclysm into a fortune, in 2012 Templeton agreed to give Moore $10 million over a period of several years for a venture called “SecRef 1,” presumably short for Secure Refuge, which was more or less a bespoke Sovereign Deed for this single VIP client.

Unsurprisingly, this relationship quickly imploded. With her father’s health suffering in 2013, Templeton’s daughter and son-in-law stepped up to manage his investment in SecRef and the relationship with Moore.

By that point, Moore had received around $2 million of the promised $10 million. Then the checks stopped coming. SecRef quickly sued Templeton for breach of contract, prompting a counterclaim from his estate that claimed Moore had lied about the existence of additional investors, falsely promised to chip in $10 million himself, and failed to explain how Templeton’s mammoth wire transfers of over $500,000 each were being spent. Moore disputed the allegations, and the case was settled out of court in 2014.

At around the same time as the Templeton investment, the Haven’s bottom line had also been bolstered by a Missouri plastic surgeon named Gregory Tobin, who contacted Moore after seeing him discuss Life Continuity on TV with Glenn Beck. In a later deposition, Moore says he was eager to recruit Tobin as a client because his skill set would be invaluable during a crisis, particularly a pandemic: “I can’t even go to the hospital because it’s contaminated today and they’re not letting people there. … And that’s indicative of what would happen during a pandemic, as a way of an example.” But Tobin’s Life Continuity subscription deal appears more or less terrible compared to Thor’s: Whereas the latter received lifetime access to the Haven in exchange for his initial investment of $100,000, Tobin paid Moore a staggering $850,000 for only 10 years of access, “a relatively inexpensive investment for what was being offered,” according to Moore’s deposition. Despite all this, Moore was still desperate for cash — and even with a billionaire at his side, he came back to Tobin for a further $250,000 loan in 2013.

Illustration: Michael Byers for The Intercept

A Pile of Gold Coins

But for all Rainwater’s billions and Templeton’s millions, Moore likely never had an ally as staunch as Brad Thor, who stuck by his side as a friend and client even when, in hindsight, he says he ought to have turned and run. Despite little evidence that the Haven was being built into anything worthy of the name, Thor was fiercely loyal to Moore and shot back on his behalf when local journalists at the Michigan Messenger criticized the Pellston airport deal. In a thundering 2010 post on Breitbart titled “When Liberal ‘Journalists’ Attack, Real Americans Suffer,” Thor defended Sovereign Deed’s CEO in terms usually reserved for George Washington, evoking Triple Canopy, “one of America’s first private military companies” and “one of this nation’s most impressive fighting forces.” Triple Canopy helped “carry our burden in Iraq” at “a fraction of the cost and much more efficiently than the American government ever did.”

Unfortunately, the record of the mercenary firm Moore had co-founded was a questionable part of his resumé to hold up as proof of his patriotism: In 2012, long after Moore had left the company, the U.S. government sued Triple Canopy for billing the Pentagon for mercenaries who were incapable of “firing their AK-47 assault rifles and other weapons safely and accurately.”

Thor also saw anyone who might criticize Sovereign Deed as part of a vast, left-wing conspiracy against American self-reliance: “Sovereign Deed is all about helping people survive situations all of us hope never happen,” his Breitbart post continued. “But being self-reliant threatens the Liberals’ vision of dependence upon a glorious, utopia-promising big government, so they attacked Sovereign Deed as being nothing more than salvation for the rich. In their twisted view of the world, private sector businesses should simply give their services away.”

Despite such vehement defenses, Thor’s tireless defense of his friend was eventually worn down by the inconsistencies and hitches he could ignore for only so long. The beginning of the end for the pair began in the spring of 2013, when Moore offered to sell Thor 30 ounces of gold bullion (or “yellow,” as he called it) in order “to make ends meet” for the company that quarter. Moore, crucially, offered to store the coins on his behalf at the Haven, rather than shipping them to Thor. Moore already had some of his gold — Thor had previously sent a Maglite flashlight covertly filled with $17,000 in gold coins the year before as part of a larger bundle of survival gear — so what was a little more? He bought half the coins.

Soon after the bullion sales, Moore approached Thor for even more money, this time to purchase a government surplus Lighter Amphibious Resupply Cargo vehicle, or LARC, which would in turn be flipped to Templeton for a tidy profit. “Both the buy and sell side of the transaction are nailed down,” Moore wrote in an email, “with a nice guaranteed return built in.” Thor agreed and paid Moore $35,000 out of money he and his wife had previously put aside for their children’s school tuition, expecting to see the promised $10,000 return in two weeks.

Thor never saw that return because by the end of the year he and Moore were enemies. In August 2013, Moore informed Thor that a large quantity of the gold coins he’d been holding on his behalf had disappeared — stolen, he alleged personally to Thor and later in court, nearly two months prior by a former U.S. Army special forces operator who’d provided consulting services to Sovereign Deed. Whether it was the fact that Moore waited two months to inform him of the theft, or that Moore said the gold was pilfered after being relocated from a locked safe to a closet, or that it was simply one more expensive headache than Thor could stomach, the vanished coins proved too much for the friendship to bear. In a 2018 deposition, Moore stated that he never contacted the police regarding the purported theft of the coins.

In a December email, Thor, after five years of loans and favors, had lost his patience and what had always seemed like an unshakable faith in Moore: “Not being repaid has been very difficult for us,” he wrote, “as has the theft our [sic] all of our gold coins that we had entrusted to your care.” Moore had suggested that the sale of an “EMP-proof” SUV could be used to repay Thor, but none of these vehicles (there was more than one) had found a buyer. Moore had previously offered one of these retrofitted disaster vehicles in lieu of a cash repayment. Thor declined, and now he wanted his money back immediately. Moore assured Thor that he was attempting to liquidate “everything that is not mission critical” so that he could pay him back, but lamented that “the economy is in real trouble as the thirty or so items we have for sale have had little interest, even with aggressive pricing.” This cocktail of bad news killed off whatever mutual fondness was left between Thor and Moore. It was an enormous reversal for Thor, who now saw the man he’d previously believed was clever and confident enough to protect his family from societal collapse ducking him over money.

A mid-December email thread clearly shows the final, icily polite moments between two men preparing to destroy one another in court: “I had not realized until today that our relationship is likely unrecoverable,” wrote Moore. “That is unfortunate.” Moore added that because Thor had introduced him to the special forces operator, who had long served as another kind of black-ops muse for Thor’s novels, Thor was responsible for the thefts — triggering an immediate, catastrophic rift.

These final emails from the six-year friendship are a catalog of the grievances that’d piled up since their first meeting in Chicago, a litany of recriminations and hurt feelings that seem uncanny coming from two men who’d put so much time into projecting strength and machismo to the public and each other. But with the suddenness of a snapped supply chain, everything came tumbling out. Thor denounced Moore as an ingrate (“You took me for granted as some sort of an ATM and that hurts more than I can say”), a fool, and an incompetent businessman more preoccupied with tricking out his Michigan command center than ensuring the survival of the enterprise.

Moore fired back: It was Thor who’d proven ungrateful after so many years of helping flesh out his manuscripts with realistic, technical nitty-gritty (“Whether your ego lets you admit it, you are a much much better author because of our friendship”). In a later court filing, Moore claimed that Thor’s 2010 novel “The Athena Project” about an all-women group of special operatives was inspired by “female members of the United States Army Special Operations community … that I had worked with earlier in my career, but who up to that point in time, no one had every publically [sic] acknowledged to exist, much less a non-fiction or fiction writer had written about.”

Moore also countered that Thor’s million-dollar injection into the Haven was in fact small potatoes given the magnitude of what he was receiving in return: “What we do is very, very expensive,” Moore wrote. “Unfortunately, and as you will find out in the future, $1 M hardly dents the surface of an effective solution and not having a place to go in todays environment is tantamount to negligence.” Thor refused to budge on the matter of the coins, saying outright that Moore was “full of shit” for blaming the theft on an underling: “You put [the coins] in a closet … NOT one of your MANY floor safes, and magically – in the midst of all your financial troubles – the coins are ‘stolen.’ Wow! What a coincidence.” This dispute is still unresolved in bankruptcy court.

After five years, Brad Thor was finally saying he’d been ripped off. “You just called me a thief,” Moore replied the next day. “We are done. Forever.” It’s hard to read the exchange between two people who’d accumulated such a seething stockpile of mutual resentments over the years and imagine them living together in relative isolation in a Lower Peninsula barn, surrounded by guns and freeze-dried food, for decades.

By the summer of 2014, Moore and Thor were legal adversaries: Moore sued Thor for the alleged theft of “trade secrets” pertaining to Sovereign Deed, and reneging on a promised 5 percent cut of Thor’s book sales in exchange for providing him with realistic military tradecraft details and storylines, while Thor sued to take possession of some of Moore’s properties to recoup unpaid debts (Thor denies any such royalty-splitting agreement). The two mens’ respective legal campaigns allege an incredible list of offenses against one another through a blitz of lawsuits and countersuits in Michigan state court and federal bankruptcy proceedings. Thor’s allegations are relatively straightforward, accusing Moore of breach of contract, fraudulent misrepresentation, and requesting damages to compensate for his lost coins and the survival gear he’d stashed at the Haven. Moore’s counterclaims include allegations that read like something from a Brad Thor novel, alleging the author had “hatched a clever scheme to place [the operator] as a mole in the Michigan operation to enable [him] to steal assets. … Including, but not limited to trade secrets and confidential information,” so that Thor and the ex-commando could create their own rival Haven with Moore’s expertise.

Even after the pair’s breakup, their legal complaints go to great lengths to depict the two not as business partners-turned-foes, but as dear former friends who also happened to believe societal collapse was on its way: “Their families enjoyed holidays together,” reads Moore’s complaint. “They vacationed together; and, they shared many mutual interests, including a concern for the fragility of the supply chain and how to mitigate the risk to the supply chain when impacted by black swan events.” Moore also downplayed the formality of the relationship, suggesting that he was allowing Thor and his family into the Haven not simply because he’d paid for it, but because they “were friends, and Thor asked for protection, as Thor lived in a densely populated urban area with significant racial tension.”

For his foibles, proven and alleged, there’s no doubt that Moore is a tenacious fighter and born survivor, at least when it comes to fending off lawsuits. Fighting Moore in court is a maddening campaign that requires navigating a vast corporate labyrinth of subsidiaries, trusts, and anonymous LLCs that make pinning down his assets — or even the basics of how he feeds himself — a surreal exercise. Moore has time and again attempted to distance himself from companies he’s accused of de facto owning or managing by pointing to the fact that they were themselves technically administered by yet another company or claiming to have never heard of it altogether. This tactic of obfuscation and corporate infinite regress made a 2016 deposition descend into farce.

Q. And is it correct that you signed this Complaint, apparently as the manager of SecRef Man 1, LLC?
A. What – where is my signature?
Q. Well, let me correct. Did you bring this Complaint on behalf of SecRef 1, LLC?
A. SecRef brought this Complaint against Mr. Templeton.
Q. Okay. And, again, SecRef, sole member of SecRef Man 1, correct?
A. I don’t think we established that, but there is a relationship.
Q. And the manager of SecRef Man 1 is you, correct?
A. It is not me.
Q. At this point?
A. At what point?
Q. Currently today you’re saying you’re not the manager of it?
A. I don’t believe I’m the manager of SecRef.
Q. You don’t know if you’re the manager of it?
A. I do not think I’m the manager of that organization today.
Q. Okay. At the time that this Complaint was filed, you were the manager, is that correct?
A. I believe I was the manager for an interim period for some period of time, yes.

Asked about another of his pre-Sovereign Deed ventures, Moore replied, “I don’t know if I founded it. I — I was involved in it. I don’t know if I was the founder.” He acted equally unsure about who controlled many of the other companies in his orbit, or shrugged it off as his wife’s domain.

In the same deposition, Moore claimed that he’s completely broke, with virtually no personal property of any kind or assets of his own — that he can recall, at least — and that his wife pays for the whole of his existence (“I’m living at the pleasure of my wife”). At times, this man who had convinced millionaires and billionaires that he had a plan and backup plan for every eventuality seems to exist in a condition of near-total ignorance, unable to answer who pays for his children’s school tuition (“Well, someone does”) or even the location of his own driver’s license:

Q. What do you have in your wallet right now.
A. I don’t have a wallet.
Q. You have no wallet?
A. I do not.
Q. How did you get here today?
A. I drove.
Q. Without your driver’s license?
A. I did have my driver’s license.
Q. And where is your driver’s license then?
A. It’s not on my possession.
Q. Where is it?
A. I’m not quite sure where it is. It’s not on my possession.
Q. Well, how do you know you even have it then?
(MR. HACKETT) Wait a minute. You’re asking does he have this driver’s license on his possession? He said he didn’t have it.
(MS. SCHAFER) And I’m asking where it is, because he said he drove here.
(MR. HACKETT) And he said he didn’t know.
Q. You have no idea where your driver’s license is?
A. You would be asking me a speculative question.

When asked about, a website entirely about the business experience of Barrett Moore and how to contact him (with a “Copyright © Barrett H. Moore 2006-2020 notice at the bottom”), Moore stated, “I don’t know if I own that website.” Asked if he has “the ability to place content on this website,” Moore said, “I suppose that would be accurate.” Slightly later in the deposition, Moore suggested that he had had a hand in creating the website, but only to trick one of Thor’s lawyers into believing it was authentic, a sort of browser-based boobytrap. Infuriating as it must be to square off against an opponent unwilling to speculate as to the contents of his own wallet or who paid for the pants that holds it, there’s something about Moore’s radical plausible deniability act that projects supreme confidence. When the air is thick with fallout or microbes, someone as indefatigable as Barrett Moore might have been just who you wanted in the bunker next to you.

Illustration: Michael Byers for The Intercept

The Ernest Hemingway of Bullshit

Only Barrett Moore knows how much of Sovereign Deed and the broader project of Life Continuity was ever real, how much of the millions it received went toward bulking up the Garage Mahal. Thor says he simply has no idea where his cash went. According to the U.S. Trustee, Moore’s “transfers of assets through corporate entities controlled by the Moores often looked like classic ‘robbing Peter to pay Paul’ transactions.” But even the bankruptcy proceedings have provided more and more mysteries. “Mr. Moore’s [bankruptcy] schedules highlight over $7.3 million in debts,” explained the trustee. “Many of these debts represent dissipations of large amounts of money, but Mr. Moore has no records to explain what became of those funds.” In fact, the trustee laments that “Mr. Moore has almost no documents about his finances or assets,” has not filed a tax return since 2005, and “threw away” copies of a million-dollar family trust of which he was a beneficiary. “In total, the paucity of records Mr. Moore has provided about his major assets and financial circumstances makes it impossible for the Chapter 7 trustee to administer Mr. Moore’s bankruptcy estate with any confidence.” In a 2016 deposition, Moore went so far as to claim that he had no records of anyone who had ever been a Life Continuity client, nor any idea who might have such records.

Today, Thor is willing to say freely what seemed impossible a decade ago: He was beguiled by a man he describes as a “highly intelligent financial predator,” the “Ernest Hemingway of bullshit.” Yet Thor also admits that he wasn’t just victimized but completely duped for years on end by a storyteller more masterful than himself.

Fundamental building blocks of Moore’s carefully cultivated identity begin to collapse when scrutinized. A 2008 post by the Michigan Messenger questioned Moore’s military intelligence background; an Army spokesperson told the website that “Moore never completed his Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) program in college and was discharged from an inactive branch of the Reserves in 1994 without ever having gone through basic training.” Sovereign Deed’s 2007 prospectus told investors that “Mr. Moore served as an intelligence officer in the U.S. Army, specializing in issues related to the non-proliferation of biological weapons and related weapons of mass destruction,” a claim Thor argued in court “was a work of fiction that rivaled one of Plaintiff’s many best-sellers.” In his 2018 deposition, Moore conceded that his military career consisted mostly of college ROTC and eight years in the Army reserves attached to a military intelligence division, a stint he described as a “part time job” in a 2020 bankruptcy court filing. His full time job, he claims, was working odd hours “at the corporate headquarters of Eli Lilly and Co. in Indianapolis … where he worked with middle-aged scientists and seasoned unit members” and “advanced a significant mission of that unit, namely, the non-proliferation of biological weapons and related weapons of mass destruction.” Whatever the case, Moore’s claims of CIA subterfuge and WMD-hunting down under are almost entirely without public evidence.

In fact, records from the Australian Supreme Court of Victoria suggest that Moore spent his time in that country as part of an alleged car smuggling ring that was eventually raided by police, whereupon Moore “agreed to assist the plaintiff in making out its case against the defendants.” At a 1993 hearing related to the smuggling case, the court noted that the then-25-year-old Moore had admitted “his role in the illegal enterprise” and “admitted having been convicted, after a trial … of three counts of obtaining financial advantage by deception,” a course of events that led to the court’s conclusion that Moore was “a man who has so enshrouded himself in a tissue of lies and deception as to be a witness whose credit is of little value.” Moore’s account of the Australian caper in a 2020 bankruptcy pleading is rather different: After relocating to Australia as a CIA contractor under cover as a banker, and after completing his agency mission to take down a bioweapons dealer moonlighting as a car smuggler, an “attempt was made on Mr. Moore’s life, prompting Australia’s equivalent of our FBI to provide him 24-7 witness protection. … Because Mr. Moore was not dead, corrupt local police in New South Wales were engaged to ‘dirty him up’ — meaning they falsely accused him of financial crimes.” In his 2018 deposition, Moore claimed his conviction had been overturned on appeal and he was “exonerated because police officers that were involved were in fact proven to be corrupt.”

This isn’t the sort of thing you want to find out about someone in which you’ve trusted not only your family’s future safety but also a great deal of money. But according to Thor, Moore has always had a fast answer ready: The reason no one knew about his Army record was because he’d been doing top secret work for the Defense Intelligence Agency interdicting Russian WMDs in Australia, a mission that’d required him to go to prison to maintain his cover. Somehow, this landed. “What a sucker I was,” Thor told me, “when you look back at what bullshit that was.”

When Moore was eventually questioned under oath on the topic of his military history in a 2018 deposition, there was little effort to maintain the spook facade. Confronted with a 2007 Sovereign Deed document touting Moore’s Army intelligence and WMD counterproliferation work, Moore replied, “Look, when we parse it like we have today, the answer is obviously it’s not entirely true.” Pressed further on whether he could’ve ever accurately promoted himself as a WMD expert, military or otherwise, Moore pointed to his time with the Army ROTC and reserves: “Sure, I had some knowledge; sure, I’ve done some study; sure, I’ve learned a lot about that arena. But I’m not going to sit here and tell you I’m an expert on it. I’m not an expert.” But Moore remained insistent that he had indeed been sent to Australia in the first place under the auspices of the CIA: “I had an opportunity to be trained by the CIA and I was sent overseas,” as he put it in the deposition. “Occasionally you were asked to share a conversation” from the Australian bank at which he worked, Moore recalled of his handlers at Langley.

According to a source with direct knowledge of Sovereign Deed who requested anonymity because of fears of retaliation, there was very little substance behind Moore’s slick showmanship and bluster: “It’s relatively easy to pull it off having just read a few books.” Rote memorization and simple book learning, according to this source, is what made Sovereign Deed seem so real: “If he knew that you were his target and he could Google enough on you, he could then immerse himself. He would immerse himself, gaining enough information so that he could then have you think he’s the smartest man in the room. The reality is he’s just regurgitating points that he absorbed prior to the contact with you. It’s a thin facade.”

According to this source, there was little behind that facade besides whatever he’d recently read or Googled. This made him concerned for what would happen at the Haven were it ever to be populated during a crisis: “You can talk a good game, but until you actually understand and forecast out the number of meals required for X amount of people, medical [care], sustaining a large contingent of people … you can’t even fathom it.” Like Thor, this source admits that elements of the Haven were at least visually impressive, or looked so on paper: “He would overbuild the hell out of things … for something that required three circuits of electricity, he would put in twelve circuits … then people will wonder, why all the electricity?”

 “His concept of security was give everybody that could hold a gun a gun. That’s the only plan he had.”

This sense of constant wonder, misdirection, and grandiosity were part of what kept people so close to Moore even after he took their money and came back for seconds. But beneath all the preening and promising, the cement and false credentials, there’s no reason to believe anyone would have been safe at the Haven under any circumstances: “I always got the opinion that it would be totalitarian rule on his part,” said this source. “His concept of security was give everybody that could hold a gun a gun. That’s the only plan he had.”

Even Moore seemed confused by what he might offer his clients. Although he’d represented to clients that the Haven could accommodate the survival of 200 people, in a later deposition he significantly downgraded that estimate, noting that “it was designed to protect a large Catholic family.” Asked how he planned to “secure an area that is approximately four square miles, with an extended perimeter that extends to 10 square miles,” as advertised, Moore replied, “By offering the local police forces’ family care.”

Luckily, it never came to that. No guns were handed out, no ammo or night vision goggles distributed, no ad hoc Michigan paramilitaries mobilized. No one will ever know how Moore or Sovereign Deed would have fared in the apocalypse. For one, total collapse hasn’t yet come to pass: You can still walk into a 7-Eleven and buy a hot dog without bartering for iodine tablets, Al Qaeda does not currently occupy the Mall of America, and an EMP hasn’t disconnected the U.S. from the internet.

But the Covid-19 pandemic and the pathetically negligent governmental response has given Moore’s obsession with crisis an unexpected vindication of sorts, though from indifferent cruelty of the American right, not the schemes of Barack Obama or the Muslim Brotherhood. Though Moore’s claim to investors that Sovereign Deed would become a staple of the global elite because the “Chinese are preparing for war with United States” is as fringe an opinion today as it was in 2007, you can’t say the same about his warning that “even a ‘mild’ pandemic could kill several million people” worldwide. What seemed kooky or alarmist in 2008 — the hoarding of N95 masks and shelf-stable food, warnings of supply chain collapse, worries of federal incompetence — are now mainstream positions. Doomsday bunkers for the wealthy are a status symbol coveted by the ultra-rich and suburban bourgeois alike. “Prepper” culture has spread from survivalists to urbanites, and Moore’s old warning that the U.S. lacked a “healthcare system adapted to cope with pandemics” isn’t hysteria, it’s simply true.

Moore hasn’t passed on his opportunity to gloat a bit: In a 2020 Michigan court filing, still bristling with vitriol, Thor’s attorneys wrote mockingly that “For the last 14 years, the ‘business’ Moore has marketed is based on a future dystopic hellscape riddled by natural and man-made disasters, ineffective or non-existent governmental response, riots and social upheaval.” Firing back, Moore’s lawyer countered that “It appears that the ‘future dystopic hellscape riddled by natural and man-made disasters, ineffective or non-existent governmental response, riots and social upheaval’ which Mr. Thor jeers at in his brief may in fact be upon us.”

With the idea of Life Continuity arguably more popular than ever, recent court filings suggest Barrett Moore is still working on the Haven in some form or another. In March 2020, as the coronavirus pandemic began exploding across the country, Moore asked the bankruptcy court overseeing his ongoing battle with Thor if he could forgo an in-person hearing: “Mr. Moore is actively working with long-time clients who may decide to stay on the haven property along with Mr. Moore’s family — he owes it to those persons to take as few risks as humanly possible.”

Reached by The Intercept via email, Moore provided only the following statement: “I remain convinced that you are acting as a shill for Brad Thor and his attorneys, who have the stated intention of ‘raining down hell,’ on me and my family, and who are apparently hoping to obtain free discovery, through you, for use in my ongoing bankruptcy proceeding.” As recently as 2020, Moore’s court filings contend that I’ve pursued this story as part of a conspiratorial smear campaign between Thor, the IRS, the U.S. Trustee, and The Intercept.

Not that this has kept Brad Thor down. In recent years, Thor published his 21st novel (“Near Dark”) which currently enjoys sterling Amazon reviews, adding to the reported 15 million books he’s sold worldwide, and appeared as a guest on MSNBC, Fox News, and Megyn Kelly’s NBC show. In 2020, Thor announced a brief, ill-fated presidential campaign against Donald Trump. He is, by nearly every measure, immensely successful, apparently not seriously worse for wear post-Sovereign Deed.

But if you ask Thor about Barrett Moore, the Fox News charisma slips down and reveals a man who is deeply, extremely pissed off, and deflated: “He absolutely should be in a federal prison somewhere for a long, long time,” Thor told me over the phone, audibly shaken. “He should never be able to prey upon people again.” He immediately regained his composure and assumed the supreme confidence of a book-tour veteran, admitting that aside from the wasted time and legal bills, meeting Barrett Moore in 2008 did change his life in one lasting way: He no longer cares about the end of the world. “I’ve got bottled water in my house,” Thor now says, “I’ve got a couple more cans of food, but the experience has been an antidote to that worry that I had. It just makes me sick to think about this stuff because it makes me think of him.” Really, it sounds like maybe Barrett Moore granted his client some lasting inner peace after all: “If Al Qaeda hits, whatever. If there’s a solar flare, whatever.”

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