Florida’s U.S. senators warned the Defense Department Wednesday against moves to “target” members of the military on ideological grounds.
Sen. Marco Rubio led a letter with Sen. Rick Scott and 10 other Republican colleagues, contending the U.S. Department of Defense’s recently established Countering Extremism Working Group (CEWG) could be used as “a cudgel to harass or silence conservative members of the armed forces.”
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announced the group’s formation in the spring. It is intended to evaluate whether stronger standards in the military code of conduct are needed against extremism, including discerning ways of screening and combating the so-called “Insider Threat.”
At least some of this action includes monitoring the service members themselves. Acts such as liking certain social media posts are described in the memo as a “gray area.”
But for Rubio, Scott, and the co-signers, there are very few gray areas in play. They see the Defense Department’s policy evolution in much starker terms.
“In the wake of the U.S. Department of Justice’s efforts to silence parents protesting anti-American racial indoctrination being taught in schools across the country, we are deeply concerned that this latest effort by the Biden Administration will target service members who voice opposition to woke, Leftist ideology under the guise of protecting our ‘national security interest,'” the senators contend.
The letter goes on to distinguish between “real threats,” such as the Saudi national who killed two people at NAS Pensacola in 2019, and “those who refuse to bow to the woke orthodoxy pushed by Liberal elites in the mainstream media, academia, and government.”
The senators blast the “intelligence collection effort,” contending throughout the letter that the idea of extremism itself is subjective.
“In today’s society, the definition of ‘extremist’ is skewed to the person creating the definition,” the senators wrote.
The letter seeks responses to a series of questions on whether the Pentagon is really targeting “legitimate threats.”
The senators want to know how many “extremists” have been found in the military in the last decade. They also want to know how due process rights of service members will be protected and how a “chilling effect” of presumptive censorship will be avoided for service members.