House Republicans added yet another brick in their growing wall of far-right extremism this week: They voted unanimously against a measure requiring federal military and law enforcement officials to analyze and report on the breadth and depth of the presence of right-wing extremists, particularly neo-Nazis and white supremacists, within the ranks of the nation’s military and law enforcement.
The legislation—an amendment to the yearly National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) sponsored by Democratic Illinois Congressman Brad Schneider—passed anyway on Wednesday in a party-line 218-208 vote. But Republicans put up a fuss, with Congressman Andy Biggs of Arizona calling it an “Orwellian” measure that “denigrates law enforcement.”
Schneider’s amendment would require the FBI director, secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the secretary of Defense to publish a report analyzing white supremacist and neo-Nazi activity among the ranks of their soldiers and officers, and offer strategies for combating it.
The need for such an analytical report—both for the military and for the nation’s police forces—has been apparent for a long while. But it became profoundly apparent in the wake of the Jan. 6 insurrection, which involved significant numbers of military and police veterans, as well as some in active service members.
Both the Pentagon and large police agencies began grappling with the problem, but it’s unclear how effective and sustained their efforts have been, as well as how much such efforts have spread to state and local agencies. Certainly, incidents involving extremists within the ranks plotting acts of far-right terror keep bubbling up, as well as evidence of entrenched extremism within the ranks of elite military forces.
Predictably, these efforts have been opposed and undermined at every turn by an increasingly radicalized Republican political apparatus, and attacked relentlessly by right-wing pundits as an assault on conservatives—thus openly identifying themselves with neo-Nazi extremists.
Biggs’ attack on the amendment tried to claim the problem is nonexistent: “This amendment attempts to create a problem where none exists by requesting investigations into law enforcement and the armed services for alleged rampant white supremacists or white national sympathies,” he said.
The problem of extremist infiltration within the ranks of military and police has in fact long been documented over the past decade, well before Jan. 6. It also has been thoroughly documented since then, as in the recent Defense Department report titled “Insider Threat and Extremist Activity Within the DOD,” which found, among other things, that the numbers of violent extremist criminals with military backgrounds had been steadily mounting, but skyrocketed in 2021. It also details a number of different cases of extremists prepared to use their training and military weaponry to commit acts of mass terrorism.
Moreover, while the problem of the growing numbers intensifies the likelihood of acts of mass violence, the reality is that the presence of any of these extremists within the ranks poses a serious security risk/threat to other serving officers, as well as to the success of official operations. This is the primary reason they need to be found out and weeded out—the sooner, the better.
Schneider noted this during the debate on the House floor: “Such behavior, such extremism is a threat to us in all segments of society. There is no reason to believe that our military is any different,” he said.
“These are exceptions, they are rare, but we must do everything we can to identify them and to thwart them before risks become a reality,” he added.
The passage of Schneider’s amendment in the house does not ensure the report will be undertaken, however. While the House is expected to pass the full NDAA this week, the measure will then enter conference with the Senate, where it can always be stripped out.
In 2019, that’s exactly what they did: At the behest of Republicans, the conference committee excised language intended to screen military enlistees for “white nationalism” from the NDAA.
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