Washington, DC – Congresswoman Jackie Speier (CA-14), Chair of the House Armed Services Military Personnel Subcommittee, in a letter sent Friday called on President Biden, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, and DNI Avril Haines to issue an executive order identifying white supremacy and violent extremism as a critical threat to national security and directing agencies to screen for violent extremism on social media for all incoming military recruits and those seeking government security clearances.
Chair Speier wrote, “The Fiscal Year 2021 National Defense Authorization Act includes provisions to improve tracking and reporting of white-supremacist and violent-extremist activities by servicemembers and to establish a Deputy Inspector General responsible, in part, for monitoring and evaluating DoD’s response to these threats. But these actions are not nearly enough. At the insistence of President Trump, the conferees dropped my provision to create a standalone violent extremism offense under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, despite DoD’s support for this policy change.
Perhaps most importantly, DoD and the U.S. Government at large are not effectively screening servicemembers and other individuals with sensitive roles for white-supremacist and violent-extremist ties. Social media platforms, such as Facebook, Gab, Parler, and 4Chan, are frequently used by domestic terrorist groups to recruit members and plan violent attacks, including in some of the above cases involving military servicemembers. These platforms were crucial for planning the January 6, 2021, domestic terrorist attack upon the U.S. Capitol and the Congress of the United States. Yet social media is not reviewed during the military’s accessions process or even as part of the background investigation process for security clearances, despite collection and reporting of other intrusive, private data, such as financial and behavioral health information.”
The letter notes the longtime nature of the problem and cites several recent examples of the threat posed by white supremacist and violent extremist groups that have recruited military servicemembers to their cause, including:
- In June 2020, an Army soldier was accused of plotting with a neo-Nazi group to ambush his own unit.
- That same month, an Air Force sergeant with ties to the extremist boogaloo movement was charged with murder for killing a federal security officer in Oakland, CA.
- Three current or former servicemembers with ties to the boogaloo movement were charged that month with planning a violent attack on peaceful protestors in Las Vegas.
- As the investigation continues into the recent attack on the Capitol, there are increasing reports of rioters with military affiliations.
In addition to calling on President Biden to issue an executive order identifying white supremacy and violent extremism as a critical threat that must be considered as part of the security clearance adjudication process and directing all relevant agencies to update the background investigation process to incorporate a review of social media information to identify white-supremacist or violent-extremist ties, the letter also calls on Secretary Austin to direct the military services to establish procedures to review the social media activity of recruits as part of the accessions process, including the development of guidance to assist recruiters in identifying extremist groups and activities.
A copy of the letter is attached to this press release below.
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