Monday, March 01, 2021

The Dark Night of Fascism, USAF Edition

Remember "Samizdat"? It was impermissible literature in the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Remember how we were proud of being an open society back then? Those were good days.

Now look at this graphic:

This graphic is taken from page G5 of the Department of the Air Force's "Extremism Stand-Down Day Playbook", dated 24 Feb 2021, although the pdf copy in my posession may have been created on 15 February. It is not currently available on the open internet that I can find, but those with access to the Air Force Portal can find it at go dot usa dot gov slash xs9YR. It was prepared in accordance with SecDef Lloyd Austin's directive that all the Armed Services conduct an Extremism Stand-down Day within 60 days of the order.

Strap in, everyone. This is going to be a long post.

Under the heading of "Identifying Impermissible Behavior", we read, starting from the left:

  • Interest

    • Watching impermissible videos
    • Reading impermissible literature
    • Visiting websites promoting impermissible ideology
    • Membership in an impermissible group
  • Language

    • Making statements sympathizing with impermissible ideologies
    • Making social media posts that mention impermissible causes

And so forth. The graphic cites DoDI 1325.06, "Handling Dissident and Protest Activities Among Members of the Armed Forces" (22 Feb 2012), and AFI 51-508, "Political Activities, Free Speech and Freedom of Assembly of Air Force Personnel" (12 Oct 2018).

From 51-508, Chapter 3, "Dissident and Protest Activities": On the one hand, we have

3.1.1. AF commanders must preserve the service member’s constitutional right of expression to the maximum extent possible, consistent with good order, discipline, and national security.

But what the AFI gives, the AFI takes away:

3.4. Prohibited Activities. Military personnel must not actively advocate supremacist, extremist, or criminal gang doctrine, ideology, or causes, including those that advance, encourage, or advocate illegal discrimination based on race, creed, color, sex, religion, ethnicity, or national origin or those that advance, encourage, or advocate the use of force, violence, or criminal activity or otherwise advance efforts to deprive individuals of their civil rights.

3.4.2. Active participation in such gangs or organizations is prohibited . . . . Active participation includes, but is not limited to:

  • Fundraising for, or donating money to, the organization;
  • Demonstrating or rallying;
  • Recruiting, training, organizing, or leading members;
  • Distributing material (including posting on-line);
  • Knowingly wearing gang colors or clothing;
  • Having tattoos or body markings associated with such gangs or organizations; or
  • Otherwise engaging in activities in furtherance of the objective of such gangs organizations that are detrimental to good order, discipline, or mission accomplishment or are incompatible with military service. Mere membership in the type of organization listed above is not prohibited. However, membership must be considered in evaluating or assigning members, both military and civilian, as addressed in AFI 36-2406, Officer and Enlisted Evaluation Systems, and, AFI 36-2706, Equal Opportunity Program, Military and Civilian.. A supremacist doctrine, ideology, or cause is characterized by, but is not limited to, having a fundamental tenet of its nature that particular members of one race, color, gender, national origin, or ethnic group are genetically superior to others. Membership in such organizations is usually restricted to those belonging to that particular race, color, gender, national origin, or ethnic group. An extremist doctrine, ideology, or cause is characterized by, but is not limited to, a common belief which might otherwise be politically or socially acceptable, but that espouse the use or threat of force or violence to obtain their goals.

DoDI 1325.06 has pretty much the same thing. It's specific enough to steer clear of, right? But then . . .

3.4.4. It is a function of command to be vigilant about the existence of the type of activities enumerated above. Commanders should intervene early, primarily through counseling, when observing such signs even though the signs may not rise to active advocacy or active participation or may not threaten good order and discipline, but only suggest such potential. Active use of investigative authority to include a prompt and fair complaint process, and the use of administrative powers, such as non-punitive counseling, and performance evaluations should be used to deter such activities. The goal of early intervention is to minimize the risk of future prohibited activities.

  • Examples of such signs, which, in the absence of the active advocacy or active participation, could include mere membership in criminal gangs and other organizations covered under paragraph 3.4.

  • Signs could also include possession of literature, or visiting websites, associated with such gangs or organizations, or with related ideology, doctrine, or causes.

  • While mere membership, possession of literature or visiting such websites on a non-Government computer normally is not prohibited, it may merit further investigation and possibly counseling to emphasize the importance of adherence to the AF values and to ensure that the Service member understands what activities are prohibited.

Regarding the two references above to AFI 36-2406, the performance evaluation system, it's important to understand what it does. Service members with so much as tepid evaluations, let alone actual negative evaluations, are typically blackballed for promotion, and members who are passed over for promotion are usually not permitted to remain in the service. DOD Civil Servants ("Civilians") do not generally have expectation of promotion once they reach journeyman grade. Otherwise, it varies by agency, but generally a sufficiently negative performance evaluation is usually one step towards dismissal. Civilians have a lot of protections that military don't have, but a sufficiently motivated and corrupt leadership can leave one fighting for his job.

So what does AFI 36-2406, "Officer and Enlisted Evaluation Systems" (14 Nov 2019) have to say? From section 1.8, "Evaluator’s Mandatory Considerations":

1.8.4. Prohibited Activities. Airmen are prohibited from actively advocating supremacist, extremist, or criminal gang doctrine, ideology, or causes, including those that advance, encourage, or advocate illegal discrimination or deprive others of their civil rights. Such behavior is incompatible with military service. Evaluators must consider a ratee’s membership in these types of groups and document prohibited activity by the ratee as prescribed in AFI 51-508, Political Activities, Free Speech and Freedom of Assembly of Air Force Personnel.

I suppose one could point out that "mere membership" should only be "considered", and only "prohibited activity" should be documented. But that would assume a good-faith interpretation of the language as written. The point of the Playbook is that, sure, you may technically have the right to freedom of association, but that won't stop the military from drubbing you out of the service anyway.

But, okay, so you don't join an organization that advocates violence. You're okay then, right? Don't be so sure. I had this very question about Oathkeepers, whose members pledge not to obey unconstitutional orders, of which they list ten specifically, including an order to disarm the populace. Does this count as "threatening violence"?

The Playbook has several QandA at the beginning. On p.C2:

Q6: I thought Service members retained their Constitutional rights when they joined the military. Are you telling me I no longer have the right to Free Speech or Peaceful Assembly?

A6: Remember that military members and DoD civilian employees have access to classified information and occupy sensitive positions with access to lethal equipment, training, and tactics. Everyone with access to classified information or in a sensitive position is evaluated continuously, using government-wide guidelines to assess their strength of character, honesty, discretion, sound judgment, reliability to protect classified or sensitive information, and trustworthiness. Any doubt is resolved in favor of the national security.

Potentially disqualifying conditions include:

  • involvement in, support of, or association/sympathy with persons attempting to or training to commit, or advocacy of any act of sabotage, espionage, treason, terrorism, or sedition against the United States;
  • association or sympathy with persons or organizations that advocate, threaten, or use force or violence, or use any other illegal or unconstitutional means, in an effort to:
    • attempt to overthrow the U.S. Government or any state government;
    • prevent federal, state, or local government personnel from performing their official duties;
    • gain retribution for perceived wrongs caused by the Federal, state, or local government; or prevent others from exercising their rights under the Constitution or laws of the United States or any state.

We'll see more references to the security clearance process, but be aware that all servicemen carry a SECRET clearance, normally granted after a favorable "National Agency Check", which as I understand it is looking for criminal records. The clearance in itself doesn't automatically grant a servicemen access to classified information; he must also have a "need to know", meaning his duties require the access. I can't claim to know how much burden not having such access would impose on most servicemen. I can say that people working in the IC, and who carry TOP SECRET clearances, would basically be unemployable without a clearance.

The characterization in answer A6, above, isn't what the current version of the SF-86, "Standard Questionnaire for National Security Positions" says. From Section 29, "Association Record":

For the purpose of this question, terrorism is defined as any criminal acts that involve violence or are dangerous to human life and appear to be intended to intimidate or coerce a civilian population to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion or to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination or kidnapping.

  • 29.1: Are you now or have you EVER been a member of an organization dedicated to terrorism, either with an awareness of the organization's dedication to that end, or with the specific intent to further such activities?

  • 29.2: Have you EVER knowingly engaged in any acts of terrorism?

  • 29.3: Have you EVER advocated any acts of terrorism or activities designed to overthrow the U.S. Government by force?

  • 29.4: Have you EVER been a member of an organization dedicated to the use of violence or force to overthrow the United States Government, and which engaged in activities to that end with an awareness of the organization's dedication to that end or with the specific intent to further such activities?

  • 29.5: Have you EVER been a member of an organization that advocates or practices commission of acts of force or violence to discourage others from exercising their rights under the U.S. Constitution or any state of the United States with the specific intent to further such action?

  • 29.6: Have you EVER knowingly engaged in activities designed to overthrow the U.S. Government by force?

  • 29.7: Have you EVER associated with anyone involved in activities to further terrorism?

Those are very different questions (and a big improvement over the 2010 versions in effect when I first wrote on this topic). I could point out that they say nothing at all about "preventing government personnel from performing their duties". I could also point out that the formal purpose of the clearance process is to protect classified information, and nothing in the Playbook even pretends to establish a connection between "association or sympathy" with such organizations and its compromise. But again, these assume a good-faith interpretation of the regulations as written, and the Playbook clearly signals the intention to do the opposite. I would not expect the same standard would be applied to Oathkeepers and, say, BlackLivesMatter, which killed 18 people and caused $2B worth of damage on behalf of a fentanyl addict resisting arrest.

Well, okay, you'll play it safe and not join Oathkeepers. I'll be safe then, right?

The Playbook (p.C1) says "at this time we are not aware of an official, comprehensive U.S. government approved list of domestic extremist organizations." But some organizations are listed anyway.

This graphic is taken from an un-numbered page in Appendix G, "Impermissible Behaviors". Let's start with the easiest organization, Identity Evropa:

Who we are: We are a group of patriotic American Identitarians who have realized that we are descended from the great traditions, history, and people that flowed from Europe. We embrace the idea that our identities are central to who we are, and take pride in our history and rich cultural heritage. At a time when every other group is free to stand behind its identity, we choose to assert ours as well.

Identity Evropa is mentioned on p.22 of "Report to Armed Services Committees on Screening Individuals Who Seek To Enlist in the Armed Forces", Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, delivered to Congress on 14 October 2020. This, too, I could not find on the open internet, but it appears to be the subject of this article. The report, citing not the IE website but the Anti-Defamation League, calls the above statement "White Supremacy":

IE/AIM described their objectives as "an American Identitarian organization. As such, our main objective is to create a better world for people of European heritage particularly in America--by peacefully effecting cultural change. Identity Evropa is thus an explicitly non-violent organization (ADL, n.d.)." IE/AIM summarizes its views into "five principles: nationalism, identitarianism, protectionism, non-interventionism, and populism" (ADL, n.d.). Their goals include seeking political positions for its members and promoting several political candidates to run in the 2020 U.S. elections to shift the power structure in the United States and influence U.S. immigration policies.

The linked reference is to the archive page of the ADL on the day prior to when it was retrieved for the purposes of the Report (15 May 2020). I want to call attention to the fact that nothing cited claims superiority, let alone genetic superiority, on behalf of anyone. Yet apparently, the ADL asserts this to be true, and everything else -- the Report, the Playbook -- is downstream from that assertion. Thus an NCO, doxxed by the Huffington Post, was "discharged for misconduct" for his association.

Next up is Proud Boys. They don't have a website that I can find, so I can't give an account of them in their own words, but they are either stalwart defenders of the right to peaceably assemble (Ann Coulter) or an FBI honeypot (New York Times). (BTW, I'm going to try to use for links to MSM sources going forward.) Now, this person also was recorded making lose talk about getting into fistfights, "overthrowing the government", and "civil war", so it's hard to pin down what exactly got him barred from (I assume) Wright-Patterson AFB (AFMC HQ). My point here is that even the NYT is content to call them "far-right nationalist" rather than "supremacist", and their use of violence is by all accounts strictly defensive. So how does this meet the impermissibility criteria?

Finally*, we have the Patriot Front. I'm not even going to pretend I understand their manifesto, but I looked in vain for claims of "genetic superiority" or "threat of force to obtain goals". The graphic says, "SUBJECT engaged in white supremacist messaging over 2 years to include posting a slogan associated with the white nationalist group “Patriot Front” that read, “not stolen, conquered” over a map of the United States." So apparently, "Stolen, Not Conquered" joins "All Lives Matter" and "It's Okay to be White" on the list of trivially true statements that become "white supremacist messaging" because white supremacists are not allergic to trivially true statements. So, SUBJECT was "issued nonjudicial punishment, demoted 2 ranks, [and] administratively separated."

It's pretty clear from this graphic that the DoD isn't declaring war on "supremacy" or "extremism" but on nationalism generally. But okay, so you aren't going to join some obscure right-wing group. So what do you have to worry about?

This is the scenario description from Appendix G, "Impermissible Behavior" in the "Discussion Guide" section.

SCENARIO 6: A civilian employee routinely eats lunch in the unit breakroom. She sits alone and reads books that vilify a specific ethnic group.

Considerations: If the employee is sitting in the breakroom reading magazines that vilify another ethnic group; this behavior alone is not necessarily actionable. Supervision should contact the servicing SJA [Staff Judge Advocate] and CPS [Civilian Personnel Services] to discuss the situation and options available. However, if another employee or employees see this and complains, then it is incumbent upon the commander or management official to counsel the employee that such reading material in the public areas are offensive to others and instruct them to cease from reading such material in the open and in the workplace. Any verbal instruction should be documented in some manner, such as in either the employee’s 971 file or a Memorandum for Record. If the employee refuses to do so and continues the behavior, then progressive discipline may be in order; however, it is recommended that the commander or management official instruct the employee to cease and desist reading such material in the public workspace and contact their servicing CPS for next steps. If the employee uses her government computer to access websites that vilify another ethnic group, the employee should be instructed to cease and desist the behavior, remove their access to the computer and contact CPS. A search of the computer is likely the reasonable next steps, however, again the commander should contact their servicing CPS before taking this step or others. Depending on the egregiousness of the offense, a range of charges may be possible, to include misuse of government resources, inappropriate conduct, or conduct unbecoming a federal employee. The CPS will likely include Employee Assistance Program (EAP) information for the employee’s use. The Agency could also report the incident to the security manager/IP office as a potential security violation. If access to classified/secret information is removed, then possible “indefinite suspension” may be possible as well.

This scenario goes well beyond "violence", "supremacy". It goes beyond "advocacy" or "participation". It's not even about race. It's about a little old lady sitting by herself reading about the history of Islam or the crime rates of immigrants, and thus is considered guilty until proven innocent, and then still guilty. Again, we read the transparent abuse of the security clearance process to allege a security violation (in other words, breaking rules designed to protect classified information) to punish someone for something that doesn't involved classified information at all.

There is oh-so-much more in this Playbook, but I will have to save it for subsequent posts.

* Finally, as in I'm not even going to bother with criminal no-hopers like Atomwaffen.


heresolong said...

"Membership in such organizations is usually restricted to those belonging to that particular race, color, gender, national origin, or ethnic group."

The Proud Boys, whatever you think of them, might quibble with the actual application of this definition, given their racially diverse membership.

heresolong said...

"possession of literature, or visiting websites, associated with such gangs or organizations, or with related ideology, doctrine, or causes."

Quick, hide your copy of the Federalist Papers inside an old Big and Bouncy magazine.

heresolong said...

Three guesses as to whether reporting someone for sitting alone and reading "How to be an Anti-Racist" or "Das Kapital" will be grounds for investigation. If your third guess was that reporting such behavior will be grounds for investigating you, have another cookie.