Leo Shane III, Deputy Editor of the Military Times, warned CNBC that extremism in the U.S. military “has been an issue for quite some time,” as concerns grow after a number of former and current military members participated in the insurrection at the Capitol last month.
“We know that especially White Nationalist groups, extremist groups like to recruit military folks because of the skills they bring,” Shane said. “These are desirable things if you have these crazy ideas of waging a revolution … We’ve seen for years they’re targeted on social media, fed false information.”
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin ordered a “stand down” by all units in the next 60 days to give military leaders the chance to talk with their troops about extremism in the ranks. Shane told “The News with Shepard Smith” that it will be important for senior military leaders in the next two months to not only discuss extremism among themselves, but to also speak to the lower ranks.
“Are they going to get down to the individual units…where we’re hearing from folks… seeing signs of tattoos, seeing stuff posted on social media that indicates that folks are affiliated with these violent groups, in some cases, there’s even Nazi symbolism, Nazi flags, or Nazi paraphernalia that the folks are showing, but that’s not seen by commanders all the time?” said Shane.
The FBI produced a report that warned about the infiltration of white nationalists in local law enforcement in 2006. A Department of Homeland Security and an FBI assessment from last year showed that racist terror groups are displaying unparalleled activity in the modern era. Shane pointed out that the U.S. military hasn’t done “any really good surveys up to this point to find out how many folks have been affiliated” with extremism.
The Military Times has surveyed its readers for the past four years on extremism and found that “one-third of all active-duty troops and more than half of minority service members say they have personally witnessed examples of white nationalism or ideological-driven racism within the ranks.”
Shane told host Shepard Smith that the military thinks the one-third figure is high, however, they don’t have the date to refute it either way.
“They haven’t looked at the numbers before, so this 60 days should be a chance for them to really assess that and get a sense of whether or not we’re right, which we think we are, or whether or not they’re right and it’s a very small problem,” said Shane.