House Democrats are calling upon the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security to address renewed concern over the incidence of white supremacy and other extremist affiliations among members of the military, following the recent arrest of a Coast Guard lieutenant who, according to federal prosecutors, was actively plotting deadly acts of domestic terrorism.
In a letter sent to Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan and DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen on Monday, Maryland Reps. Elijah Cummings, Anthony Brown and Jamie Raskin, as well as California Rep. Jackie Speier, praised the “swift action taken by federal agencies” to arrest Christopher Hasson before he could carry out his alleged plans, but expressed concern “that an individual that espouses these views could repeatedly serve in the military across multiple services.”
According to court records, Hasson’s military career began in the Marine Corps, where he served from 1998 to approximately 1993, followed by two years of active duty with the Army National Guard. Since 2016, the 49-year-old lieutenant had been working as an acquisitions officer at the Coast Guard’s headquarters in Washington, D.C. It was from his work computer that federal prosecutors say Hasson, a self-described white nationalist who was arrested earlier this month on weapons and drug charges, studied the manifesto of the far-right Norwegian terrorist Anders Breivik and other extremist killers, and wrote of his desire to “kill almost every last person on the earth.”
“This latest incident is another in a series that tarnishes the proud legacy of the United States Armed Forces,” the Democratic lawmakers wrote in their letter, asking Nielsen and Shanahan to provide more information on the kinds of policies and procedures that their respective departments have in place to screen recruits for supremacist or extremist ties, and how Hasson and other military service members with ties to extremist movements were able to circumvent such checks.
In a phone interview with Yahoo News Monday, Maryland Rep. Jamie Raskin, one of the signatories of the letter, compared the “very disturbing pattern that has begun to emerge of racist and white supremacist activity taking place in the armed forces,” to the issue of “sexual assault and sexual harassment within the military: It just doesn't have any place there.”
Raskin said that he “definitely took note of what happened in Charlottesville,” referring to the 2017 white nationalist rally in Virginia where, as he and his colleagues noted in their letter Monday, at least a handful of attendees have since been identified as active duty service members or veterans with ties to extremist groups. However, Raskin said, “the Hasson event was a huge wake-up call, given that he lived in my district, about 10 minutes from my house, and he was on the hunt for liberal democratic Jewish politicians, which definitely caught my attention.”
Hasson, who reportedly lives with his wife in Silver Spring, Md., had allegedly listed “Sen blumen jew” (presumably a derogatory reference to Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn.) on a high-profile hit list that prosecutors say he had compiled of Democratic politicians and cable news commentators.
Concerns over right-wing extremists in the military goes back decades. Timothy McVeigh, who killed 168 people in the 1995 bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building, was a veteran of the Gulf War. Wade Michael Page, who murdered six people at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin in 2012, served in the Army. Frazier Glenn Miller, a Vietnam veteran, killed three people while targeting a Jewish center in Kansas in 2014. And James Alex Fields, who murdered Heather Heyer at the 2017 Charlottesville rally, served briefly in the Army in 2015 but was released after failing to meet training standards.