U.S. Military is Developing a New Bright Line to Detect Extremism

The Project on Government Oversight, reporting on a 2023 Army Audit Agency report, says we’re a month away from another attempt to write an enforceable extremism policy with a clear definition.

[In 1995] white, active-duty soldiers murdered two Black people in North Carolina, who they picked randomly due to their race. The white supremacist views of one of the murderers was apparently “well-known” prior to the murders, according to a Washington Post article, underscoring why identifying and reporting extremist activity before there is violence is so important. The then-secretary of the Army launched a task force on racial extremism.

Then, like now, there were questions about how to define extremism and how to mount an effective approach to identifying extremists in the ranks. Yet “no clear definition of ‘extremism’ was established” by the task force, according to the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a think tank.

Here’s the news from 1997 that they are referring to:

A North Carolina jury found James N. Burmeister, 21, guilty of two counts of first-degree murder and conspiracy in the December 1995 shooting deaths of Jackie Burden, 22, and Michael James, 36. The couple was shot at close range while strolling down a dirt road near Ft. Bragg, home to the U.S. Army’s elite 82nd Airborne Division. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against Burmeister, who authorities said targeted the couple simply because they were black. The sentencing phase of the case was scheduled to begin today.

The shootings prompted an Army investigation that revealed 22 soldiers in the 82nd Airborne Division had “active, passive or former links” to extremist groups. Nine of the 22 faced discharges or civilian or military trials, whereas the other 13 received lesser punishments. […]

During the two-week trial, prosecutors argued that Burmeister killed the couple merely to earn a spider web tattoo as part of a rite of membership for racist skinheads at Ft. Bragg. The jury also heard testimony that Burmeister often said blacks should be rounded up and shipped to Africa or shot. […]

Months before the double murders, Burmeister had received an Army reprimand and counseling because of his extremist views. His security clearance had also been revoked after a fight with a black soldier.

A three-month Army study… recommended that the Army draft clearer rules on participating in extremist organizations, conduct more-thorough screenings of recruits to keep out those with extremist views and institute new training courses about extremist activity.

And so here we are 30 years later looking for that Army draft of clearer rules on extremist organizations and views. Something tells me that active propaganda spread by Elon Musk to undermine long-standing definitions of “far-right” extremism, while he’s building a commercial army of lethal robots, makes this more urgent than ever.

Is Tesla building Timothy McVeigh sentiments into their algorithmic driven products and customers to evade extremism detection?


  • Lawfare: “Why Defining ‘Extremism’ Matters to the U.S. Military”
  • Stars and Stripes: “Extremism in the US military remains dangerous threat even though DOD-commissioned report downplays it”
  • The Atlantic: “Extremism in the Military Is a Problem: It doesn’t have to be big to be lethal”
  • Politico: “The military has a hate group problem. But it doesn’t know how bad it’s gotten.”
  • CNN: “US Army survey results underline ongoing struggles to combat extremism after Pentagon made it top priority”
  • VICE: “US Military Veterans Are Increasingly Turning to Extremism: DOD Report”
  • The Guardian: “‘The Timothy McVeighs are still there’: fears over extremism in US military”
  • NYT: “Extremists in Uniform Put the Nation at Risk”
  • USA Today: “The military ordered big steps to stop extremism. Two years later, it shows no results”

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