Many years of DOD efforts fail to stamp out bias, extremism – Related Press

In February, with the photographs of the violent rebel in Washington nonetheless contemporary within the minds of Individuals, newly confirmed Protection Secretary Lloyd Austin took the unprecedented step of signing a memo directing commanding officers throughout the navy to institute a one-day stand-down to handle extremism throughout the nation’s armed forces.
The stand-down got here in response to the participation and the following arrests of a number of veterans and at the very least one energetic obligation service member, who together with 1000’s of supporters of former President Donald Trump on Jan. 6, stormed the U.S. Capitol in a melee that despatched lawmakers scrambling for security, left one individual fatally shot by Capitol Police and induced tens of millions of {dollars} in damages to the constructing largely seen because the image of American democracy.
Austin’s order, which additionally got here as America as an entire was grappling with methods to tackle systemic racism, was the newest in a sequence of decades-long efforts by the navy to purge its ranks of extremists and white supremacists. Final week, in response to the order the navy issued new guidelines to cope with extremism that included social media utilization coverage updates the place liking and reposting white nationalist and extremist content material might end in disciplinary motion. The DOD additionally up to date its screening of recruits and is methods to put together troops who’re retiring from being focused by extremist organizations.
However an AP investigation discovered that regardless of the brand new guidelines, racism and extremism stay an ongoing concern within the navy.
The investigation reveals the brand new pointers don’t tackle ongoing disparities in navy justice below the Uniform Code of Navy Justice, the authorized code that governs the U.S. armed forces. Quite a few research, together with a report final 12 months from the Authorities Accountability Workplace, present Black and Hispanic service members have been disproportionately investigated and court-martialed. A latest Naval Postgraduate College research discovered that Black Marines have been convicted and punished at courts-martial at a fee 5 instances increased than different races throughout the Marine Corps.
The AP investigation additionally reveals the navy’s judicial system has no express class for bias-motivated crimes – one thing the federal authorities, at the very least 46 states, and the District of Columbia have on the books – making it tough to quantify crimes prompted by prejudice.
Because of this, investigative businesses such because the Naval Prison Investigative Service or Military Prison Investigative Division additionally don’t have a selected hate crime class, which impacts how they examine circumstances.
“Whereas it’s attainable hate crimes have occurred, our investigations are usually not titled as such,” the NCIS mentioned in an e-mail. “For instance, an assault on an individual, whatever the motive for the assault, would nonetheless be categorized as an assault…no matter what motivated the crime.”
The brand new Nationwide Protection Authorization Act signed into legislation by President Biden on Monday directs the Secretary of Protection to make a advice to Congress inside 180 days if a brand new statute is required to handle violent extremism, however doesn’t tackle hate crimes or racial disparities in navy legislation.
The brand new Pentagon guidelines don’t outright ban service members from being members of extremist organizations, such because the Ku Klux Klan, Oath Keepers, or different right-wing and white nationalist teams. The laws, just like the earlier ones, solely prohibit “energetic participation,” in such teams, a murky coverage that civil rights organizations have raised issues about for years. The navy describes energetic participation as “publicly demonstrating or rallying, fundraising, recruiting and coaching members,” in addition to organizing or main organizations.
Consultants interviewed by the AP say there’s additionally ongoing concern over the navy commander’s potential to enact a variety of administrative and disciplinary actions — together with administrative separation or applicable legal motion — towards navy personnel who interact in prohibited actions.
Commanders primarily have complete discretion to find out methods to tackle conditions as they come up, which specialists say has created non-uniform, scattershot enforcement, with some commanders establishing a no-tolerance method and others using weak enforcement of the foundations.
The AP investigation additionally discovered that whereas the DOD says it considers racism and extremism throughout the navy to be a “safety concern,” it doesn’t have funding that particularly helps efforts to handle extremism. As a substitute, navy officers mentioned the Pentagon makes use of personnel vetting applications, coaching, and education schemes, and the Insider Menace Program to “positively contribute to countering extremism throughout the power.”
The Pentagon didn’t reply to questions on how a lot cash it has spent or budgeted for efforts solely associated to variety and inclusion, and what number of workers are devoted to it. Officers additionally didn’t reply to dozens of questions from the AP on the way it plans to implement its new pointers on extremism.
Pentagon Spokesperson Maj. César Santiago acknowledged in a press release to the AP that extremism and extremist ideology can have an outsized impact on the navy power.
However he added: “The overwhelming majority of the men and women in uniform serve their nation with honor and integrity.” He mentioned since taking workplace in January, Secretary Lloyd Austin, the primary African American to function Secretary of Protection, has taken speedy motion to handle extremism. Along with the brand new pointers on extremism, the Protection Division appointed an interim deputy inspector normal for variety and inclusion and navy insider threats in April.
Susan Corke, the director of the Southern Poverty Regulation Middle’s Intelligence Undertaking, recommended the DOD for taking key steps this 12 months, together with the adjustments introduced final week, to handle extremism. She mentioned the DOD sought the experience of civil rights organizations, teachers, and others who’ve sounded the alarm concerning the risks of extremism within the ranks for years.
However Corke mentioned it’s too quickly to definitively say whether or not the up to date insurance policies will purge extremism from navy ranks.
“The satan will probably be within the particulars,” she mentioned. “ I do admire that there’s a dedication from the Protection Division to have rather more session with exterior companions and that there’s rather more give attention to doing further analysis. So, we’re going to carry their ft to the hearth.”
Corke mentioned the SPLC remains to be urgent for extra reforms, together with how the navy’s command construction permits commanders to have just about absolute command authority over subordinates, which could discourage members from reporting incidents or issues of extremism.
Even some within the navy agree that the armed forces have to do extra. “There must be a change in motion and behaviors – components that may’t be so simply influenced by a change in navy legislation, ″ mentioned Maj. Tyrone Collier, a choose advocate within the Marine Corps Reserve, in an interview with the AP.
“Even when some laws is handed from the very best echelons of presidency that claims you’ll do that and that, will it truly get executed?” Collier mentioned.
DECADES OF REPEATED WARNINGS
Extremism and racism within the navy are hardly new. Racist attitudes and discrimination towards individuals of coloration within the navy have been official insurance policies earlier than President Harry Truman, on July 26, 1948, signed Govt Order 9981, which formally desegregated the armed forces. Nonetheless, many models remained segregated till late 1954.
Within the Sixties, Black troopers in Vietnam filed quite a few complaints with the Pentagon about white troopers flying Accomplice flags. Following the loss of life of civil rights chief Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968, white U.S. service members based mostly on the Cam Ranh Bay, South Vietnam naval base, celebrated his loss of life by parading across the base in Ku Klux Klan-style white sheets and hoisted a Accomplice flag atop the headquarters constructing, in accordance with the 1997 e-book “Preventing on Two Fronts: African Individuals and the Vietnam Struggle.”
Within the Seventies, extremism within the navy gained nationwide consideration when the Ku Klux Klan was discovered to be working brazenly at Camp Pendleton, a U.S. Marine Corps base in southern California. White Marine klansmen brazenly distributed racist literature on the bottom, pasted KKK stickers on barracks doorways, and hid unlawful weapons of their rooms. The hate group’s presence on the bottom got here to gentle in 1976 when 14 Black Marines have been charged with assault once they broke into the flawed room and tried to interrupt up what they thought was a celebration of klansmen.
In June of 1986, the Southern Poverty Regulation Middle’s Klanwatch Undertaking issued one of many first of many warnings to the DOD about white supremacists in its ranks and urged then-Protection Secretary Caspar Weinberger to bar energetic obligation service members from belonging to Ku Klux Klan factions. The middle at the moment alleged it had proof, together with photographs, of active-duty U.S. Marines who had participated within the Accomplice Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, a North Carolina-based Klan faction that modified its title final 12 months to the White Patriot Social gathering.
“It’s merely insupportable that members of the U.S. armed forces, sworn to uphold and defend the structure of the US, be allowed to carry membership in a corporation which seeks to overthrow the federal authorities via violent means,” the SPLC wrote.
The navy responded by saying it discovered no proof to assist these allegations and whereas it strongly discouraged membership by navy personnel in organizations “which have clear racist goals, we additionally notice that our navy personnel don’t forfeit their constitutional rights below the First Modification upon entry into the navy service. Thus DoD doesn’t prohibit personnel from becoming a member of such organizations because the Ku Klux Klan.”
Weinberger did problem a directive instructing service members to “reject participation in white supremacy, neo-Nazi and different such teams which espouse or try and create overt discrimination.”
However critics say the navy’s response fell quick and failed to satisfy the second by not instituting new, stricter insurance policies.
In 1995, extremism within the navy was thrust into the nationwide highlight once more when three white Military paratroopers at Fort Bragg in North Carolina have been arrested within the homicide of a Black couple, Michael James and Jackie Burden, who they shot and killed in downtown Fayetteville. Two of the paratroopers, James Burmeister and Malcolm Wright, have been sentenced to life in jail. One other 19 Fort Bragg troopers have been discharged for participating in neo-Nazi actions.
Burmeister had made no makes an attempt to cover his beliefs: Police discovered a Nazi flag over his mattress and white supremacist pamphlets and directions for making bombs in a room he rented off base. Earlier that 12 months, Military veteran Timothy McVeigh, an anti-government extremist who earned a Bronze Star in Operation Desert Storm, parked a truck with a do-it-yourself bomb in entrance of a federal constructing in Oklahoma, killing 168 individuals, together with 19 youngsters.
The Pentagon, once more, pledged after the slayings to handle extremism inside its ranks. Congressional leaders held hearings and the Military fashioned an extremism activity power. However navy management mentioned the duty power discovered minimal proof of extremist exercise within the Military.
“The SPLC has been writing to Protection Division officers about our issues about white supremacy, white nationalism within the navy because the mid-Nineteen Eighties,” mentioned Margaret Huang, the president and CEO of the Southern Poverty Regulation Middle. “This has been a difficulty that we’ve talked about fairly various instances as a result of it has been a big drawback within the U.S. navy for a lot of a long time now.”
A 2005 Protection Division report, “Screening for Potential Terrorists within the Enlisted Navy Accessions Course of,” famous that the Pentagon has established quite a few insurance policies defining and limiting participation in extremist organizations. Nevertheless it additionally discovered that “successfully, the navy has a “don’t ask, don’t inform” coverage pertaining to extremism.”
“If people can carry out satisfactorily, with out making their extremist opinions overt via phrases or actions that violate coverage, mirror poorly on the Armed Forces, or disrupt the effectiveness and order of their models, they’re seemingly to have the ability to full their contracts,” the report learn. “This actuality demonstrates the steadiness the Armed Forces have achieved between screening for extremists whereas respecting privateness and preserving federally protected rights to freedom of speech, faith, and affiliation.”
In July 2009, civil rights organizations once more wrote to the DOD. This time to then-Secretary of Protection Robert Gates urging the Obama Administration to take applicable measures to cope with extremists within the ranks. No sweeping motion was taken.
The rules final week characterize a serious step on steerage for troops’ social media utilization. Retweeting or liking extremist content material will now be considered as advocating the content material. The brand new guidelines don’t present a listing of extremist organizations that troops mustn’t actively take part in.
Retired Air Pressure Col. Don Christensen, who served because the chief prosecutor for the U.S. Air Pressure between 2010 and 2014, mentioned the brand new insurance policies are “loosely outlined,” and “lack steerage” by way of what organizations service members mustn’t work together with.
He additionally mentioned that the brand new insurance policies are unclear on how commanders would implement the social media guidelines.
“I perceive these things is tough, however the like button means so many alternative issues to totally different individuals. My major takeaway is that this isn’t going to be enforceable. There’s a number of subjectivity.” Christensen mentioned. “I additionally suppose they (the Protection Division) are naive to suppose it’s a small variety of service members who interact in extremist exercise.”
The DOD mentioned it’s commissioning a research to find out the extent of extremism within the navy.
However in its report final week, the Pentagon mentioned prohibited extremist exercise amongst service members was uncommon.
“The navy itself doesn’t know the extent of the issue,” mentioned Mark Pitcavage, a senior analysis fellow on the Anti-Defamation League, who testified earlier than Congress in February 2020 concerning the risks of extremism throughout the navy, one 12 months earlier than the rebel.
Pitcavage instructed Congress in 2020 that the ADL had reported 72 suspected white supremacists to the assorted branches in a three-year span, together with 38 within the Military, two within the Military Nationwide Guard, 4 within the Navy, 19 within the Marine Corps, two within the Air Pressure, and one within the Coast Guard, in addition to six with an indeterminate service department. The DOD mentioned it discovered fewer than 100 navy members who have been concerned in substantiated circumstances of extremist exercise prior to now 12 months.
“There’s no secure variety of extremists within the navy,” Pitcavage mentioned.
MORE CHANGES NEEDED
U.S. Rep. Jason Crow, a Colorado Democrat, was one of many many members of Congress trapped within the Home Chamber gallery on Jan. 6. as chaos erupted when a mob of insurrectionists stormed the U.S. Capitol.
Because the mob breached the outer safety perimeter and commenced banging on the gallery doorways in an try to interrupt down the makeshift barricades, Crow urged different members amid the pandemonium to take away their congressional lapel pins as a result of he frightened that if the mob had damaged via the door, “they have been going to attempt to kill members.”
They have been finally rescued however Crow mentioned a dialog from that day with a fellow Black Democratic congresswoman stays agency in his thoughts. He mentioned the congresswoman thanked him for urging members to take away their pins in an effort to stay undetected by the mob however she instructed Crow that as a Black girl, she would have by no means been in a position to mix in, not like her white counterparts.
“That was the primary time in my life that I used to be on the receiving finish of the violence of racism and white supremacy in our nation’s historical past,” Crow mentioned in an AP interview earlier this 12 months.
Crow, a former Military Ranger and Iraq Struggle veteran, who’s a member of Congress’ Home Armed Companies Committee, launched laws final 12 months known as the Realizing Efforts for Navy Fairness, Range and Inclusion Act. It will require and create a extra rigorous variety coaching program for troops, contractors, and civilian employees members on the Protection Division. The laws was handed this month as a part of the Nationwide Protection Authorization Act.
Crow mentioned final week it’s too quickly to find out whether or not the Pentagon’s coverage updates are sufficient to weed out extremism, however he believes Austin is the best individual to deal with the decades-long problem.
However Crow mentioned he’s planning to have conversations with the Pentagon about its up to date insurance policies, together with the truth that members are nonetheless allowed to be members of extremist organizations so long as it isn’t “energetic” participation.
“Membership in a few of these teams does give me concern and it does probably ship the flawed message,” Crow mentioned. “The navy is all about belief. It’s all about ensuring that you simply belief the individual in your proper and your left. Membership in a few of these excessive organizations go proper to the core of undermining that belief.”
Consultants on extremism say the navy’s efforts to handle racism and white supremacy want to begin earlier than recruits truly be a part of the assorted companies. One key space: vetting recruit’s social media posts.
The Pentagon mentioned it has a sturdy screening process, together with a fingerprint examine and an FBI background examine. Recruits are additionally screened for offensive, racist, or supremacist tattoos.
Nevertheless it doesn’t at the moment “have the potential to conduct social media screenings,” DOD officers mentioned in a press release.
Throughout final week’s press convention saying the brand new pointers on extremism Kirby additionally emphasised that the DOD doesn’t display service members’ social media posts for extremist content material: “There’s no methodology in there. There’s no potential for the Division of Protection to observe the private social media accounts of each member of the armed forces.” He mentioned when commanders are notified of issues via “numerous streams of reporting,” they might be anticipated to talk to troops to find out whether or not additional steps have been wanted.
Veteran teams and specialists on hate teams mentioned the navy additionally must do extra to handle extremism in these separating from energetic obligation. The fashionable white energy motion was born out of the Seventies when disillusioned Vietnam Struggle veterans started to be recruited by white energy militia teams, in accordance with analysis by Kathleen Belew, an assistant professor of Historical past on the College of Chicago.
Beneath the brand new pointers, the DOD mentioned it will develop applications to organize troops who’re leaving the service from being focused by extremist organizations. Quite a few research have proven that some veterans are more likely to be focused for recruitment within the white extremist fringe, in comparison with the civilian inhabitants, and they’re disproportionately concerned in acts of violence.
The newest research, an October analysis temporary by the Nationwide Consortium for the Research of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism, discovered that from 1990 via the primary 9 months of 2021, at the very least 458 legal extremists with U.S. navy backgrounds dedicated legal acts that have been motivated by their “political, financial, social, or spiritual targets.”
That determine consists of 118 people who’re dealing with fees for his or her involvement within the Capitol rebel. Of the 458 individuals, 83.6%, or 383, have been now not serving once they have been arrested for committing extremist crimes.
“Total, numerically, that is nonetheless a small however rising drawback,” mentioned William Braniff, the director of the Nationwide Consortium for the Research of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism and a College of Maryland professor, throughout a Brookings Institute panel on extremism within the navy earlier this month.
“It’s a nationwide safety concern,” Braniff mentioned. “So, that is actually making a gentle underbelly in American society. So, it’s not only a numbers drawback. I believe it is a drawback concerning American democracy. And it’s an issue for which we’ve to place a preventative ecosystem in place now earlier than the numbers do get extra regarding.”
EVERYDAY RACISM
Veterans like Reuben Keith Inexperienced mentioned it’s disheartening to see the navy struggling decade after decade to cope with racism and extremism in its ranks.
Inexperienced, 64 and a retired Navy lieutenant commander, was a part of generations of males in his household who joined the navy. Each his father and grandfather served. However he grew disillusioned by the navy and what he believed have been damaged guarantees that each one servicemen and ladies have been equal and could be handled the identical no matter race.
He mentioned he endured and witnessed numerous acts of racism via his time within the service from when he first enlisted on Valentine’s Day in 1975 to when he left within the mid-’90s. Some fellow service members, he mentioned, proudly displayed Accomplice flags and expressed white supremacist views, with no retribution. Inexperienced wrote a e-book in 2017, “Black Officer, White Navy,” that detailed his private experiences. He’s additionally penned a number of articles, demanding navy accountability.
This 12 months, he mentioned he served as a visitor speaker for a Pentagon program that was a part of Secretary Lloyd Austin’s extremism stand-down.
However Inexperienced mentioned whereas the stand-down was a step in the best route, he believes the navy has but to handle the “on a regular basis racism that’s based mostly on extremist views.”
Inexperienced mentioned he worries the insurance policies launched final week received’t transfer the needle. He additionally questioned whether or not navy officers will be capable of uniformly implement and set up “intent” behind a service member’s determination to love or share extremist views and posts on social media.
“If my CO (commanding officer) is a member of the KKK, am I going to report discrimination or extremist habits to her or him?” Inexperienced mentioned.
He additionally famous that not one of the insurance policies particularly tackle acts of discrimination or racism that aren’t “violent” in nature however might nonetheless have disastrous impacts on unit cohesion and repair members of coloration.
“The navy has let this white supremacist, racist problem fester for thus lengthy,” Inexperienced mentioned. “They’ve been making an attempt to cover the precise fact and now it’s blowing up of their faces.”
___
Contact AP’s world investigative group at Investigative@ap.org or https://www.ap.org/ideas/

supply