A new bill introduced in the House aims to improve the ability of the US military to prevent white supremacists from joining its ranks.
The “Protecting Our Military Against Extremists Act” was introduced Thursday by Representative Pete Aguilar (D-California), his office confirmed. The measure would force the defense secretary to adapt a series of recommendations made in an October 2020 Pentagon report on how to keep “domestic extremists,” namely white supremacists, out of the U.S. military.
The Pentagon’s report recommendations – a copy of which was obtained by HuffPost – include Department of Defense access to the FBI’s extremist tattoo database and the creation of more security clearance questions clear on white nationalism.
Aguilar told HuffPost he believed the Pentagon report “made it clear that white supremacists are using our military to promote their hateful and violent agenda, from gaining training to recruiting new members – they are joining our forces. armed with dangerous motives.
“And while we have systems in place to protect against this,” Aguilar continued, “we need more collaboration between agencies, like the DOJ, and the FBI to make sure we keep extremists away from our communities. military personnel and members of our community. ”
Aguilar’s legislation is part of increased attention to the danger posed by extremists in the military, who may pose a threat to their fellow military personnel and receive combat training that they can use to inflict violence against civilian targets.
A recent NPR analysis found that 15% of the 230 people charged in connection with the violent January 6 insurgency in Washington, DC, were current or former military personnel.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin – appointed by President Joe Biden and the first black American to hold the post – recently made the extraordinary decision to release a 60 day standby order, forcing every branch of the military to suspend its operations to discuss the problem of extremism in the armed forces.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby described the January 6 riot, in which supporters of former President Donald Trump stormed the Capitol, as a “wake-up call” for the government. Department of Defense. He also added that the FBI had opened 68 investigations into soldiers and veterans in 2020 for national extremism.
Last year, Congressman Aguilar wrote an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act requiring the Department of Defense to publish an “annual report and details of each incident of military activity. white supremacy ”in the military.
The resulting Pentagon report, sent to the House Armed Services Committee in October 2020, simultaneously recognizes the danger posed by fascists in the military – calling the military “highly prized” recruits for white supremacist groups – while acknowledging the struggle to adequately filter an average year of 400,000 military candidates for extremist beliefs.
The report also cites a series of HuffPost investigations exposing a dozen U.S. military personnel as members of the white nationalist group Identity Evropa.
Ultimately, the report makes seven recommendations, including that military recruiters have access to the FBI’s extremist tattoo database, to help them recognize more obscure fascist logos on potential enlisters; and that Department of Defense officials be offered an unclassified version of the FBI’s Ethnically Motivated Violent Extremism Training Program, in order to better identify extremists attempting to join them.
It also recommends revising the specific questions on security clearance requests to more specifically ask recruits and their neighbors if they have ever been affiliated with domestic extremist groups, arguing that the current language – which vaguely poses questions on “terrorism” – is not specific enough.
The report also calls for exploring ways to work with data companies to extract the social media accounts of potential recruits looking for evidence of extremism, but recognizes that civil liberties concerns will need to be addressed first.
The Pentagon also recommends establishing a special designation on release forms for those expelled from the military for domestic extremist activity. (The Ministry of Defense currently does not follow independently the number of soldiers being investigated for domestic extremist activity, and neither does any of the military branches, except the navy.)
Perhaps more interestingly, the report recommends that the Department of Defense “work with relevant government stakeholders to develop a specific definition of [domestic extremism] across government ”, raising the prospect of heated battles over what political groups pose a threat and which do not.
Aguilar’s bill would codify all of the Pentagon’s recommendations into law “to ensure that future administrations are also required to exercise the same due diligence in screening registrations,” he told the HuffPost.
What the legislation does not address, however, is how the military disciplines – or does not discipline – those already serving in the military who have ties to national extremism. As the HuffPost has it documented, the military sometimes allows white nationalists to remain in service.
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