U.S. Military To Screen Out Recruits With White Supremacist Tattoos
The U.S. Department of Defense has updated its screening process, as new recruits will now have to face scrutiny about membership in extremist organizations and “questionable tattoos” that might suggest affiliation with such groups.
In a 21-page report detailing the Pentagon’s plan to fight extremism within its ranks, the Defense Department outlined efforts to ensure “only the best-qualified recruits are selected for services.” The January 6 Capitol attack—which included some retired and active service members—was the catalyst for the report.
“We owe the men and women of the Department of Defense an environment free of extremist activities, and we owe our country a military that reflects the founding values of our democracy,” Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said in a December 20 news release.
The report shows four action items completed by the Pentagon since April and an additional three recommendations moving forward. It includes a broadened definition of extremist activities, which now accounts for online behavior, as well as better training for service members leaving the military who may be recruited by supremacist organizations.
Knowingly displaying any sort of paraphernalia, words, or symbols that support extremism or groups promoting extremist ideology is considered “active participation” under the new guidelines. The Pentagon says that that includes “flags, clothing, tattoos, and bumper stickers” on or off a military installation.
The screening process for new recruits was also examined following “several tragic incidents involving people with access to Department of Defense installations.” The report mentions shootings at Fort Hood in 2009 and the Washington Navy Yard in 2013, both of which were carried out by current of former service members.
The updated screening questionnaires include specific questions about whether recruits have joined “racially biased entities and other extremist groups.” The forms will notify recruits that any involvement in criminal gangs or extremist organizations is forbidden.
Recruiters and military investigators now have access to an FBI database with “information on local gangs, white-supremacy and nationalist groups, gang signs, and extremist symbols and tattoos.”
If a recruit is flagged, senior leadership will issue a “Morals Eligibility Determination” that allows them to move forward in the application process.
“We look at that and the city, county, and state of residence at the time of enlistment,” a defense official said. “We also look for any offensive, racist, supremacist tattoos, including those that may reflect gang affiliation. Then we have a robust partnership with the FBI Cryptology and Racketeering Records Unit to be able to look at symbology as it may be evolving across the United States because, again, that’s one of the things that we found is that this changes so quickly and it can vary a lot region-to-region, state-by-state.”