WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. service members are now subject to new Pentagon rules meant to prohibit them from actively participating in extremist activities.
This comes amid warnings that extremism in the ranks is on the rise as well as a broad Defense Department review following the participation of some current and former service members in the January 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol.
NewsChannel 34’s Jessi Turnure reports on the changes.
“It’s about prohibited extremist activity.”
New Pentagon rules say members of the U.S. military can technically belong to extremist groups, but can’t actively participate.
“There’s not a whole lot about membership in a group that you’re going to be able to get away with.”
Spokesperson John Kirby says the rules ban activities including supporting terrorism or the overthrow of the government, fundraising or rallying on behalf of an extremist group and reposting or liking extremist views on social media.
“The physical act of liking is of course advocating, right?”
While the rules focus largely on social media, Kirby stresses the defense department doesn’t have the capability to monitor every member’s personal accounts.
“Even if there was, that’s not the intent here.”
Commanders will ultimately decide whether a service member actively participates in a prohibited activity.
“They know their units and they know their people better than anybody.”
The Pentagon reports in the past year about a hundred of the more than two million active duty and reserve troops were involved in substantiated cases of extremist activity.
“While extremist activity in the force is rare, any instance can have an outsized effect.”
Kirby noted though that the actual number could be higher.
“Our data collection systems still need to get better.”
The Pentagon is also working to thwart recruitment efforts by extremist groups by expanding its screening for incoming troops, and education and training for those leaving.
In Washington I’m Jessi Turnure.