Pentagon advisor puts his job on the line to warn of free-speech crackdown among military

According to the Biden administration, the greatest national security threat to the United States isn’t Russia, China, or Iran, but rather “white nationalism”, which is why the Pentagon is looking to crack down on possible threats within the military, potentially trampling on free speech rights along the way.

Mike Berry, general counsel for First Liberty Institute and Marine Corps reservist, is an advisor to the Pentagon’s Counter-Extremism Working Group (CEWG), and he believes a lot of time and energy is being wasted on a problem that isn’t there. A recent CEWG conference call with the Pentagon revealing that people are willing to violate free speech laws has him even more concerned.

“Instead of monitoring external threats, the Pentagon is on a mission to identify and remove whomever it labels as extremists from America’s armed forces,” Berry wrote in an article for the Washington Examiner. “Ironically, the CEWG has yet to define what it means by ‘extremism.’ Extremism is usually defined as the threat or use of violence to achieve an ideological agenda. But the Pentagon is now poised to expand upon that definition to include constitutionally protected speech. In other words, sticks and stones may break our bones, but words are the biggest threat.”

When Berry asked what “extremism” means, he was told something along the lines of “We’re still working on that, we’ll probably take the existing definition and expand it.” The expansion of this definition is what Berry calls “problematic.”

“The existing definition — which has been around for years and has developed really through a law enforcement perspective — it seems to be pretty adequate,” Berry said. “It sufficiently captures what needs to be captured. And if they want to expand it, they’re really going to expand it to things that have been traditionally protected by the Constitution.”

Berry writes that much of the conversation revolved around the notion that the military is just full of white supremacists, with one of the hypotheticals being what would happen in the event a soldier had an 88 tattoo, possibly meaning “Heil Hitler”, as H is the eighth letter of the alphabet. Those on the call speculated that if a soldier were to deny their affiliation to a group, they could use their social media accounts to validate or refute those claims, something Berry likens to what communist China would do.

“The social media monitoring thing really reminds me of what China does with its social credit system,” he said.

In spite of the Biden administration’s insistence that white supremacy is a problem in the military, Berry says the numbers don’t add up. “If you look at the data, over the last five years there have been 21 service members who have been separated for extremist activity,” Berry says. “And you have the president saying that white supremacy is the No. 1 threat to national security… I think we should be focusing our attention and our resources and our energy on China, Russia, Iran, North Korea. Those are quaint old-fashioned ideas now.”

Recognizing that his op-ed could have him removed from the group, Berry says that he felt compelled to come forward following the call. “I love my country too much not to sound the alarm,” he wrote.“ And if my love of America is what leads to my removal, then so be it, as long as my discharge papers state ‘discharged for love of country.’”

“Eradicating the scourge of actual extremism is a noble undertaking. But instead of focusing on what divides us, the Biden administration should focus on what unites the public. Instead of sending the message that conservatives, evangelicals, and Catholics are unwelcome in the military, we should reinforce to America’s young men and women what makes America exceptional.”


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