Jackie Speier Calls for Screening of Military Recruits’ Social Media Posts

Rep. Jackie Speier on CBS, 11/3/2019

Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA) is pushing President Joe Biden, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, and Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines to include social media posts as part of a military recruit’s background check, in order to prevent “white-supremacists and extremists” from joining the military.

Speier wrote in a January 29, 2021, letter to Biden, Austin, and Haines that the Department of Defense and the U.S. Government at large are not “effectively screening servicemembers and other individuals with sensitive roles for white-supremacist and violent extremist ties.”

She wrote, “Social media platforms, such as Facebook, Gab, Parler, and 4Chan, are frequently used by domestic terrorist groups to recruit members and plan violent attacks, including in some of the above cases involving military servicemembers.”

Referring to the January 6 protest and Capitol building breach, she added:

These platforms were crucial for planning the January 6, 2021, domestic terrorist attack upon the U.S. Capitol and the Congress of the United States. Yet social media is not reviewed during the military’s accessions process or even as part of the background investigation process for security clearances, despite collection and reporting of other intrusive, private data, such as financial and behavioral health information.

She called on Biden to issue an Executive Order identifying white supremacy and violent extremism as a critical threat that must be considered as part of the security clearance adjudication process and direct all relevant agencies to update the background investigation process to incorporate a review of social media information to identify white supremacist or violent extremist ties.

She called on Austin to direct the military services to establish procedures to review the social media activity of recruits as part of the accessions process, including the development of guidance to assist recruiters in identifying extremist groups and activities.

“While I believe strongly that the actions recommended in this letter have been justified for quite some time, the appalling events at the Capitol this month—and the central role of social media in their planning and organization—offer a new sense of urgency.

“The screening processes for servicemembers and others in critical national security positions are outdated. Modernizing background investigations to bring them in line with these new realities should be among your highest priorities as the new administration commences,” she wrote.

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