Rep. Pete Aguilar, D-Calif., said Republicans in Congress quietly removed the term “white nationalist” from a defense bill amendment aimed at keeping white nationalists out of the military.
Aguilar introduced the amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act in July in response to reports about the rise of white nationalists in the military. The House of Representatives approved the amendment, which was specifically aimed to screen military enlistees for white nationalist views.
The amendment sought to address white nationalists in the military by requiring the secretary of defense to “study the feasibility” of screening for “individuals with ties to white nationalist organizations.”
But the Republican-controlled Senate passed its own version of the bill and the term “white nationalist” was quietly removed when the two bills were reconciled, HuffPost reported.
The final version of the NDAA now calls for the Pentagon to screen military enlistees for “extremist and gang-related activity.”
It’s unclear who changed the language in the bill or why it was altered. Members of the Senate Armed Services Committee, including Chairman Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., did not comment on the report.
Aguilar told HuffPost that white nationalists have already “successfully enlisted in our military in order to gain access to combat training and weaponry.”
“We cannot turn a blind eye to this growing problem which puts our national security and the safety of the brave men and women serving our country in jeopardy,” he said. “It’s disappointing that Senate Republicans disagree.”
The move comes after a series of stories revealing an alarming rise in white nationalism in the military.
A 2017 poll from the Military Times found that nearly a quarter of all service members had “experienced examples of white nationalism in the military,” including 42 percent of non-white troops.
That poll came nearly a decade after a 2008 FBI report warned that “white supremacist leaders are making a concerted effort to recruit active-duty soldiers and recent combat veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.” Nearly a third of service members believe that white nationalism in the military is a bigger threat than Afghanistan or Iraq, according to the Military Times poll.
Earlier this year, U.S. Coast Guard officer Christopher Hasson, an apparent white supremacist, was arrested for plotting a terrorist attack against lawmakers and journalists inspired by Norwegian terrorist Anders Breivik.
The military launched an investigation into 11 members of the Marines, Air Force and Army, and the Texas and Minnesota National Guard, after HuffPost reported their ties to Identity Evropa, which was labeled a “white supremacist” group by the Anti-Defamation League.
A Vice News investigation also found at least three military members registered on the neo-Nazi forum Iron March, including a Marine who sought to recruit others for a “racial holy war.” A ProPublica and Frontline investigation also found that numerous Marines were members of neo-Nazi groups.
“The fact that Senate Republicans are actively working to help shield white nationalists in the military should set off alarms across the country,” said journalist John Stanton.
Amy Spitalnick, the executive director of Integrity First for America, an organization suing the Nazis that attacked Charlotteville in 2017, said the move shows that Congress is willfully ignoring “the crisis of white nationalism in America.”
“In totally unrelated news, right-wing extremists killed more people last year than any year since 1995,” she wrote.
“When they ask where they were radicalized,” added journalist Kaz Weida, “you can point to a Republican-controlled Senate.”