Military Investigating After Report Links Troops to White Nationalist Group

White nationalist demonstrators use shields as they clash with counter demonstrators at the entrance to Lee Park in Charlottesville, Va., Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017.  (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
White nationalist demonstrators use shields as they clash with counter demonstrators at the entrance to Lee Park in Charlottesville, Va., Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

After the Huffington Post publicly identified five military service members and two Reserve Officers' Training Corps cadets as part of a well-known white nationalist organization earlier this month, military officials say they're investigating the allegations, and broadening the probe to see whether other troops might be involved.

In a March 17 story, the publication named an Air Force airman, two Army ROTC cadets, two Marine reservists, an Army reservist and a member of the Texas National Guard as members of Identity Evropa, which has been labeled a white nationalist organization by the Anti-Defamation League.

Huffington Post reported that it had linked the troops to the organization through online chat logs.

So far, military officials say they are not ready to punish or process out any of the troops named in the story, but they continue to investigate.

The Office of Special Investigations at the 39th Air Base Wing at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey, is still investigating Airman First Class Dannion Phillips, who was identified as being involved with Identity Evropa.

Lt. Col. Davina Petermann, a spokeswoman for U.S. Air Forces Europe-Africa, could not say what actions the service has taken in regard to Phillips.

The U.S. Air Force has not found any other airmen tied to the alt-right extremist group, officials said.

The service "has not been made aware of any other members tied to this group," spokesman Maj. Nick Mercurio told Military.com on Wednesday.

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The National Guardsman allegedly linked to the group was identified as 25-year-old Joseph Kane, the Huffington Post said.

"We can confirm that Joseph Ross Kane is a member of the Texas Army National Guard, assigned to the 636th Military Intelligence Battalion," Texas Guard spokeswoman Laura Lopez said in a statement Tuesday. "He joined the Texas Guard in June 2016. We are looking into this matter and remain committed to excellence through diversity."

"Participation in extremist organizations and activities by Army National Guard personnel is inconsistent with the responsibilities of military service," added Master Sgt. Michael Houk, a National Guard Bureau spokesman. "It is the policy of the United States Army and the Army National Guard to provide equal opportunity and treatment for all soldiers without regard to race, color, religion, gender, or national origin."

The Huffington Post story also identified Army reservist Lt. Col. Christopher Cummins as a physician who allegedly bragged about putting up Identity Evropa posters in southern states. The Reserve did not respond to Military.com's request for additional details by press time.

Maj. Roger Hollenbeck, spokesman for Marine Forces Reserve, said the service's investigation into Lance Cpl. Jason Laguardia and Cpl. Stephen Farrea -- both identified by the Huffington Post -- was still underway as of Wednesday.

"The Marine Corps is investigating the allegations and will take the appropriate disciplinary actions if warranted," Hollenbeck said in an email. "Because the investigation is ongoing, it would be premature to speculate and further comment on the outcome or the timeline."

He continued, "Should an investigation substantiate that any Marine is advocating, advancing, encouraging or participating in supremacist, extremist, or criminal gang doctrine, ideology, or causes, including those that advocate illegal discrimination based on race, creed, color, sex (including gender identity), religion, ethnicity, national origin, or sexual orientation, or those that advocate the use of force, violence, or criminal activity, or otherwise advance efforts to deprive individuals of their civil rights, then they will have violated the Marine Corps Prohibited Activities and Conduct Order."

Anyone in violation of those rules "would be subject to criminal prosecution and/or administrative separation," Hollenbeck said.

He did not say whether the investigation has identified other Marines with ties to Identity Evropa.

The Army identified one of the ROTC cadets as Jay Harrison of the Montana Guard, but did not offer additional information. Huffington Post identified the other cadet as Christopher Hodgman, a member of the Army Reserve.

The individuals named in the article were looking to connect with other group members or spreading anti-Semitic speech or other racial or derogatory content, according to the published logs.

The news comes as U.S. officials and experts who track violent extremism have seen an upward trend in white nationalism and its rhetoric in the U.S. and overseas, including the military.

Earlier this year, the Anti-Defamation League said that domestic extremism killed at least 50 people in the U.S. in 2018, up from 37 in 2017, The Associated Press reported.

A Military Times poll last year demonstrated the uptick of extremism in the ranks.

According to the survey, roughly 22 percent of service members have witnessed white nationalist behavior while on duty. Roughly 35 percent of those surveyed in the fall of 2018 said they believed white nationalism poses a significant threat to the country and national security, Military Times said in February.

Coast Guard Lt. Christopher P. Hasson, who previously served in the Army National Guard and the Marine Corps, was arrested Feb. 15 on drug and gun possession charges, and was accused of plans to "murder innocent civilians on a scale rarely seen in this country."

According to documents filed in Maryland District Court, Hasson created a targeted list of media personalities, as well as prominent lawmakers such as Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-New York; Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts; Sen. Cory Booker, D-New Jersey; and Sen. Kamala Harris, D-California.

Hasson appeared to blame "liberalist/globalist ideology for destroying traditional peoples, especially white. No way to counteract without violence," he allegedly wrote, according to the documents.

-- Oriana Pawlyk can be reached at oriana.pawlyk@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @Oriana0214.

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