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Saturday, July 08, 2006

More neo-Nazis infiltrating US military - watchdog

WASHINGTON, July 7 (Reuters) - Neo-Nazis and other white supremacists have increasingly been able to infiltrate the U.S. military due to recruitment pressures created by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, a watchdog group said on Friday.

The Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks racist activities in the United States, said thousands of hate group members are now in the armed forces, especially in the Army, increasing the threat of domestic terrorism.

"There is mounting evidence that military recruiters and commanders, under intense pressure to meet manpower goals with the country at war in Iraq and Afghanistan, have relaxed standards designed to prohibit racist extremists from serving in the armed forces," the center's Chief Executive Richard Cohen told Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in a letter.

Cohen asked Rumsfeld to appoint a task force to determine the full extent of the problem and to adopt a "zero-tolerance" policy toward racist extremists in the military that could be rigorously enforced.

"The Army's dealing with that," Defense Department spokesman Bryan Whitman said when asked to comment on the issue.

He added that it was incumbent on individual commanders to address any activities that are inconsistent with "good order and discipline."


The military toughened its peace time policy toward extremists in 1996, after decorated Gulf War veteran Timothy McVeigh detonated a truck bomb that killed 169 people in Oklahoma City.

But the Montgomery, Alabama-based center said in a report that military officers were proving less likely in wartime to weed out extremists, especially those in combat units.

The Army missed its annual recruiting goal for the first time since 1999 last year, posting one of its poorest recruiting performances since the birth of the all-volunteer military in 1973 during the upheaval of the Vietnam War.

"We've got Aryan Nations graffiti in Baghdad," the report quoted a Defense Department investigator as saying.

The center said young civilian extremists are encouraged by adult leaders to enlist in the military to gain access to weapons and training and to recruit other military personnel.

"The reasons are obvious: soldiers are trained to be proficient with weapons, combat tactics, and explosives, to train others in their use, and to operate in a highly disciplined culture that is focused on the organized violence of war," the center said.

Its report cited examples of military personnel belonging to groups such as the National Alliance, whose founder William Pierce wrote the race war fantasy novel "Turner Diaries."

The Defense Department investigator quoted in the report said he has identified 320 extremists over the past year, only two of whom have been discharged.

Investigators also uncovered an online network of 57 neo-Nazis on active duty with the Army and Marines, spread across five military installations in the United States, the center's report said.
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