The Defense Department’s efforts to eliminate military affiliates with white supremacists and other extremist groups are finally showing teeth now that the Pentagon has dramatically broadened the definition of what constitutes “active participation” in extremist activity.
For years, the US military has struggled with the problem of neo-Nazis and other extremists in uniform. A Defense Department report to Congress in 2020 found that extremists have many ways to avoid detection when screened as part of the enlistment process, such as using encrypted communications or aliases. on social networks. Separately, Task & Purpose has compiled a list of 40 current and former military personnel who have been involved in extremist activity since 2016.
Following the January 6 riots on Capitol Hill, which involved at least five military personnel and dozens of veterans, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin ordered the entire military to stand down to discuss the issue of extremism in the ranks. Austin then created the Anti-Extremist Activity Task Force to investigate the matter further.
Based on the feedback the task force received from these withdrawals, the Pentagon announced Monday that it has updated DoD Instruction 1325.06 to include a much longer list of activities that are now considered active participation in extremist organizations.
The Pentagon has also broadened its definition of “extremist activity” to include: the promotion or use of violence or unlawful force to achieve discriminatory, political or ideological objectives; advocate discrimination based on race, national origin, religion, sex (including pregnancy), gender identity or sexual orientation; use violence to deprive people of their rights under the US Constitution; and other actions.
Until now, a loophole in the Ministry of Defense policy allowed the military to belong to extremist groups as long as they did not actively participate in these organizations. What’s more, Previous definition of DoD instruction 1325.06 of what the military considers “active participation” was only one paragraph long.
âActive participation includes, but is not limited to, fundraising; demonstrate or rally; recruit, train, organize or lead members; distribution of material (including online publication); knowingly wearing the colors or clothing of a gang; have tattoos or body markings associated with such gangs or organizations; or otherwise engage in activities aimed at achieving the objective of those gangs or organizations which interfere with good order, discipline or the accomplishment of the mission or are incompatible with military service â, according to the instruction, which dates back to 2012.
Under the updated policy, military personnel can be sanctioned if they attend meetings or other activities for groups they know are involved in extremism with the intention of supporting those activities. extremists.
The policy further specifies that troops may not attend any meeting that constitutes a violation of law and order, that is in violation of prohibited sanctions or other orders, or that may result in violence.
The troops are also not allowed to distribute literature or other promotional material for extremist groups both on and off the base, and they may not receive any material from groups or individuals who support the. extremism, according to the latest policy updates.
In addition, the updated Defense Ministry policy explains in detail what troops cannot do online and in social media to support extremist groups: Intent to promote or otherwise support. extremist activities. Military personnel are responsible for the content they post to all personal and public Internet domains, including social media sites, blogs, websites, and applications.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told reporters on Monday that the Defense Department did not plan to constantly monitor troops on social media to see if they liked extremist content.
âThe Defense Department does not have the ability to monitor the personal social media content of every member of the armed forces,â Kirby said during a Pentagon press briefing. âAnd even if there had been, that is not the intention here. What we are talking about is a case where, for example, it emerged that an individual on social media openly advocated, transmitted, encouraged the dissemination of banned extremist material. This should be brought to light by various report feeds. It would not be something that the command or the department would actively seek. “
Like the Marine Corps, the Department of Defense has also broadened the definition of extremist activity, to include support for the overthrow of the United States government. In particular, the Pentagon does not define the groups it considers to be extremist organizations.
Over the past few months, the Defense Department has identified around 100 active-duty and reserve personnel who participated in extremist activity, said Kirby, who did not specify which groups the troops belonged to.
When asked why the Defense Department does not list extremist groups that troops are not allowed to join, Kirby said these organizations often change names and ideals, and can transform into new organizations. Not all extremists belong to a group, he added.
âIf we had to come up with a list of extremist groups, it would probably be as good as the day we published it, because those groups change,â Kirby said.
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