The Military’s ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ Policy On Racism And Extremism

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), a nonprofit that tracks racist and right-wing militia groups, sent a letter to congressional leaders today revealing the “threat posed by racial extremists who may be serving in the military”:

Evidence continues to mount that current Pentagon policies are inadequate to prevent racial extremists from joining and serving in the armed forces. In recent months, we have found dozens of personal profiles listing “military” as an occupation on a neo-Nazi website. Because the presence of extremists in the armed forces is a serious threat to the safety of the American public, we believe Congressional action is warranted.

Approximately 40 profiles on — “a racist version of Facebook run by the National Socialist Movement” — show a disturbing number of Nazi and Confederate flags, white supremacist language, and identification as active duty members of the U.S. military. One hundred thirty members out of a total 7,906 users list their job as “military.” Member “geisler,” for example, identifies himself as a “human resources specialist” in the Army and says he wants to “find a woman I can settle down with and have a nice, WHITE family (unlike some in the army with all the race traitors).” Among his hobbies is “to further the preservation and existence of our race”:


The problem of white supremacists in the military started gaining attention a few years ago, when recruiting shortfalls caused by the Iraq war allowed “large numbers of neo-Nazis and skinhead extremists” to sign up. A Defense Department investigator admitted, “We’ve got Aryan Nations graffiti in Baghdad. That’s a problem.” Similarly, in 2008, the FBI issued this report:

Sensitive and reliable source reporting indicates supremacist leaders are encouraging followers who lack documented histories of neo-Nazi activity and overt racist insignia such as tattoos to infiltrate the military as “ghost skins,” in order to recruit and receive training for the benefit of the extremist movement.

The Bush administration ignored the problem. The SPLC called on then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to appoint a task force to study the issue and more strictly enforce zero-tolerance. Under Secretary David Chu refused to take action, saying that the military was already doing enough. But in a 2005 report for the Defense Department, investigators found that officials were basically turning a blind eye to the problem:

Additionally, as seen in Appendix A, the relatively larger number of message board postings warning new recruits from revealing their extremist group associations exemplifies the presence of both military policy and action to disallow such activities in the Armed Forces. Effectively, the military has a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy pertaining to extremism. If individuals can perform satisfactorily, without making their extremist opinions overt through words or actions that violate policy, reflect poorly on the Armed Forces, or disrupt the effectiveness and order of their units, they are likely to be able to complete their contracts.

Of course, the right wing was apoplectic over the recent Department of Homeland Security report that warned extremists may “attempt to recruit and radicalize returning veterans.” This doesn’t mean that all members of the military are racist or likely to sign up with extremist groups. But with more than 12,500 valuable service members discharged since 1994 for nothing more than their sexual orientation, it seems that the military is kicking out the wrong people.