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Pentagon report warns extremists use military to boost legitimacy, combat skill

A Department of Defense report released on Tuesday warned that members of White supremacist and other extremist groups covet military members to increase the legitimacy of their cause and ability to carry out attacks. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI
A Department of Defense report released on Tuesday warned that members of White supremacist and other extremist groups covet military members to increase the legitimacy of their cause and ability to carry out attacks. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

March 2 (UPI) -- Domestic extremist groups seek to recruit U.S. military members and join the armed forces to obtain combat training, according to a report released by the Department of Defense on Tuesday.

The report, compiled last year at the request of Congress, warned that military members are highly prized by White supremacists and other extremist groups as a means to "bring legitimacy to their causes and enhance their ability to carry out attacks."

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"In addition to potential violence, White supremacy and White nationalism pose a threat to the good order and discipline within the military," the report states.

While it did not estimate the number of White supremacists in the military, or assess whether the number of extremists among the ranks of the armed forces was growing, the report suggested that the number of extremists is low among the 2 million active-duty members and reservists.

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It warned, however, that even a small number of extremists within the ranks poses a threat to national security and the cohesion of the armed forces.

"Despite a low number of cases in absolute terms, individuals with extremist affiliations and military experience are a concern to U.S. national security because of their proven ability to execute high-impact events," the report states.

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At the request of lawmakers, the report detailed how the armed forces screen recruits and respond to members who are affiliated with extremist groups.

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It noted that some service members, such as a Marine involved in the 2017 "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville Va., with ties to the neo-Nazi group known as Atomwaffen Division were discharged, while others were disciplined but not removed from service.

The report also highlights statements from extremist military members on how their affiliations with such groups were received by their peers.

One Florida National Guards member who was part of a neo-Nazi group was cited in an online forum discussion in which he said he was "100% open about everything" with friends he made at training, adding "they love me too cause I'm a funny guy."

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In another forum chat, a user describing himself as an infantryman described identifying other White nationalists by wearing "a shirt with some obscure fascist logo."

The report recommended that the Department of Defense work closely with the Federal Bureau of Investigation to spot potential White supremacists by identifying affiliated tattoos or other symbols during the recruitment process.

It also said security clearance checks should add questions with wording altered to more clearly identify White supremacist links.

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While the report was ordered last year, it has taken on renewed interest after multiple veterans and active military members were among those who took part in the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol building.

Last month, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin ordered a military-wide stand down for 60 days to deal with extremism in the military's ranks.

Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said the purpose of the pause would be to reinforce the Pentagon's policies and values and to start a two-way conversation between the troops and leadership about extremism.

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