An independent fact-finding report made public last week by the Pentagon in the wake of the November shooting spree at Fort Hood, Texas, concluded that the Pentagon was not well prepared to defend itself from many internal threats. The report, “Protecting the Force: Lessons From Fort Hood,” focused on the serious breakdown within the military that allowed Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, who has been charged with killing 13 people, to advance through the ranks despite concerns from his superiors about his behavior.
The report went much further than the Hasan case, however, examining the Pentagon’s efforts to weed out extremists of all kinds — including those involved in white supremacist hate groups. And it found those efforts lacking. In a section entitled “Indicators That DoD Personnel May Become a Danger to Themselves or Others,” the report states that current Pentagon policies are “outdated and fail to include key indicators of potentially violent behavior.” Specifically cited in this respect is “association with hate groups.”
The report recommends that the DoD (Department of Defense) review its policies on prohibited activities, which it says are currently “limited” and “unclear” and only apply to “active participation in groups [including hate groups] that may pose threats to good order and discipline.” And it proposes that the Pentagon broaden the definition of “active participation” to include “contacting, establishing and/or maintaining relationships with persons or entities that interfere with or present a clear danger to loyalty, discipline, mission, or morale of the troops” and may also “increase an individual’s propensity to commit violence.” The review, which was conducted by Togo D. West Jr., a former secretary of the Army, and Adm. Vernon E. Clark, a former chief of naval operations, suggests that the Pentagon come up with “policy changes” to address these purported failings.
In December, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) wrote to West and Clark about concerns that racist extremists were finding their way into the military’s ranks. The SPLC’s letter stated that the Pentagon’s current policy on “active participation” in hate groups is inadequate. Citing many examples of military personnel posting racist and anti-Semitic materials on the Internet, the SPLC called on the Pentagon to revise its regulations to more broadly prohibit contact with extremists.
J. Richard Cohen, the president and CEO of SPLC, wrote: “The fundamental problem is that current Department of Defense regulations prohibiting ‘active participation’ in extremist groups are inadequate because they can be — and apparently are being — interpreted to allow members of the armed forces to be ‘mere members’ of hate groups or to engage in unaffiliated extremist activities, such as posting racist and anti-Semitic messages to social networking websites and maintaining online profiles filled with racist materials.” The letter was accompanied by dozens of examples of hate material posted on the Web by persons describing themselves as active-duty military personnel.
Since 2006, the SPLC has issued a series of reports documenting white supremacist activity in the military (see here, here and here). At the same time, the SPLC has repeatedly written to the Pentagon and other government leaders about holes in current policies regarding extremists in the military (see here and here). This past July, Stars and Stripes, the independent newspaper for military personnel, ran a major article about the evidence that SPLC had gathered. The paper reported that military officers who its reporters interviewed seemed confused about the current policies and gave “conflicting answers … when asked how policies governing racist behavior is enforced.”
As if to emphasize the reality of the problem, a member of the white supremacist Stormfront.org Web forum on Monday posted a message saying that he or she had “extensive military experience” and had “had many opportunities to influence those around me toward pro-white causes.” “Take control of the US military WHITE MAN,” the post from “NOrthernConfederacy” that also bemoaned a “breakdown” in America concluded. “Every WN [white nationalist] who joins the US military and remembers his people is another stone heaped on the chest of our enemies.”