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Pentagon to trawl military personnel’s social media for extremist activity

The Pentagon is planning to ‘continuously’ trawl the social media accounts of military personnel for ‘extremist behavior and views’ – and will use a private security company to shield itself from concerns that it’s violating First Amendment rights.

The pilot program, which is being created as part of the Biden administration’s plan to crack down on domestic extremism, will result in the ongoing monitoring of military personnel for ‘concerning behaviors’, according to sources and internal documents obtained by The Intercept

The so-called ‘concerning behaviors’ haven’t been explicitly identified, leading to concerns that social media commissars could squash protected free speech – just as ‘Big Tech’ has in some cases shut down opinion, such as when Facebook locked former President Donald Trump‘s accounts or when Amazon yanked hosting services from Parler, a social site frequented by conservatives

The program is being spearheaded by Bishop Garrison, a senior advisor to President Biden’s Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, who has previously said Trump and his supporters are racist and is an advocate for Critical Race Theory and the 1619 Project, which teaches that America is an inherently racist nation founded on slavery. 

It has already sparked backlash over concerns about free speech and fears military members could be targeted for ‘lack of wokeness’.

The Pentagon is planning to ‘continuously’ trawl the social media accounts of military personnel for extremist behavior and views under a pilot program

The Department of Defense has not commented about Garrison’s program but a House Armed Services Committee spokesperson said they believed the social media screening would be in addition to background checks, and not as ongoing surveillance.

The program will likely use keyword searches on social media to identify military personnel with extremist political views or behaviors.

Furious critics have been quick to slam news of the potential program, saying the keyword search strategy is flawed because it is an invasion of privacy.

The program is being spearheaded by Bishop Garrison, a senior advisor to President Biden's Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin Garrison has previously said Trump and his supporters are racist and is an advocate for Critical Race Theory and the 1619 Project

The program is being spearheaded by Bishop Garrison, a senior advisor to President Biden’s Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin Garrison has previously said Trump and his supporters are racist and is an advocate for Critical Race Theory and the 1619 Project

They also argue it will return ‘false positives’ and will undermine morale if military personnel are constantly second guessing what they post on social media.

‘Using key words to monitor social media isn’t just an unnecessary privacy invasion, it is a flawed strategy that will ensure it is short-lived,’ Mike German, a retired FBI agent who now works for the Brennan Center for Justice’s Liberty and National Security Program, said.

‘It will undoubtedly produce a flood of false positives that will waste security resources and undermine morale, without identifying the real problem, which is the tolerance for those that openly engage in racist behavior and discrimination.

‘Trying to suss out ‘extremists’ with an algorithm isn’t likely to identify problem employees within the department nearly as effectively as simply making clear that racist misbehavior and discrimination won’t be tolerated, requiring the troops and officers to report this misconduct when they see it, and then protecting them from reprisal when they do.’ 

Meanwhile US Rep. Lauren Boebert argued: ‘We should not be removing military members for lack of wokeness. Will the next step be pledging loyalty to the Democrat Party to fight for our country.’ 

Tucker Carlson said Austin was focusing on diversity and inclusion initiatives and ‘political purges’ instead of investigating UFOs and focusing on other readiness issues. 

A Pentagon official with knowledge of the program said it had already proven challenging to create a list of keywords that would help identify extremists but not infringe on protection of free speech.  

Officials say the program will use the services of a private surveillance company to try and circumvent or avoid any criticism regarding First Amendment protections. 

Babel Street, a private company in Washington DC that sells social media monitoring software, is the front runner to carry out the surveillance, according to Pentagon officials.  

Garrison is a senior advisor to President Biden's Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin (above). The Department of Defense has not commented about Garrison's program but a House Armed Services Committee spokesperson said they believed the social media screening would be in addition to background checks, and not as ongoing surveillance

Garrison is a senior advisor to President Biden’s Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin (above). The Department of Defense has not commented about Garrison’s program but a House Armed Services Committee spokesperson said they believed the social media screening would be in addition to background checks, and not as ongoing surveillance

Babel Street, a company that sells social media monitoring software, is the front runner to carry out the surveillance, according to Pentagon officials. That company has previously been criticized for buying cellular location data and selling it off to the Secret Service and other federal agencies

Babel Street, a company that sells social media monitoring software, is the front runner to carry out the surveillance, according to Pentagon officials. That company has previously been criticized for buying cellular location data and selling it off to the Secret Service and other federal agencies

While the Defense Department has not publicly released any details regarding Garrison's pilot program, it noted a potential crackdown on extremist behavior in the military last month when it officially announced its new Countering Extremism Working Group

While the Defense Department has not publicly released any details regarding Garrison’s pilot program, it noted a potential crackdown on extremist behavior in the military last month when it officially announced its new Countering Extremism Working Group

Bishop Garrison: The adviser spearheading the military program

Bishop Garrison is the senior advisor to President Biden’s Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin who has been tasked with creating the program. 

He appointed to advise the defense secretary on issues regarding ‘human capital and diversity, equity and inclusion’ within the department.

Garrison, who is a West Point military graduate, has previously suggested that anyone who supported President Trump was a racist. 

Garrison – who is also an advocate of the 1619 Project and Critical Race Theory – has made a career out of advising mostly left-leaning organizations and politicians.

He worked as a foreign policy adviser for Hillary Clinton during her 2016 presidential campaign. Garrison also helped guide the Biden-Harris transition team’s counterterrorism policies. 

He also co-founded the Joseph Rainey Center of Public Policy in 2018, which is a think tank that advertises itself as being ‘founded on the values of equality, freedom and a more perfect union’. 

That company has previously been criticized for buying cellular location data and selling it off to the Secret Service and other federal agencies, including Border Patrol and ICE. 

It once bought location data related to the users of a Muslim prayer app and one of Babel Street’s products, Locate X, was used by the military to track people for a special forces operation. 

Bishop Garrison, the man in charge of the program, was appointed to advise the defense secretary on issues regarding ‘human capital and diversity, equity and inclusion’ within the department.

Garrison, who is a West Point military graduate, has previously suggested that anyone who supported President Trump was a racist.

He argued in a Trump-related Twitter thread back in 2019: ‘Silence from our Congressional leaders is complicity. He is only going to get worse from here, & his party and its leadership are watching it happen while doing nothing to stop it. Support for him, a racist, is support for ALL his beliefs.

‘He’s dragging a lot of bad actors (misogynist, extremists, other racists) out into the light, normalizing their actions. If you support the President, you support that. There is no room for nuance with this. There is no more ‘but I’m not like that’ talk. 

‘Because you’re watching what he says. You’re listening to his careful choice of words. And you’re still willing to follow him and/or not speak out. So yes, you’re very much like that. It’s time we all step up.’ 

He was recently described by conservative outlet Revolver News as a Biden administration mercenary, commissar and a ‘Counter Extremism czar’.  

Garrison – who is also an advocate of the 1619 Project and Critical Race Theory – has made a career out of advising mostly left-leaning organizations and politicians.

He worked as a foreign policy adviser for Hillary Clinton during her 2016 presidential campaign. Garrison also helped guide the Biden-Harris transition team’s counterterrorism policies. 

Garrison, who is a West Point military graduate, has previously suggested that anyone who supported President Trump was a racist in this Twitter thread from back in 2019

Garrison, who is a West Point military graduate, has previously suggested that anyone who supported President Trump was a racist in this Twitter thread from back in 2019

A Counter Extremism czar: How commissars in Russia watched over troops’ talk 

Conservative publication Revolver News says that Garrison and his program will serve as a de facto ‘Opinion Police’ for the Pentagon.

They’ve described Garrison as a Biden administration mercenary, commissar and a ‘Counter Extremism czar’.

Commissars in Russia were responsible for watching over troops’ talk. 

The Soviet Communist government created after the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917 established the ‘Red Army,’ which had as part of it a Council of People’s Commissars.

Commissars were attached to army units to ‘watch over the reliability of officers and to carry out political propaganda among the troops,’ according to a history compiled by Britannica.

The commissars spread socialist ideas and enforced a strict loyalty to the Bolsheviks. Under Vladimir Lenin, the Bolsheviks banned political parties and arrested their leaders. They closed down newspapers that didn’t support the party. 

Meanwhile, a secret police monitored political opponents and had executed more than 100,000 of them.

Leon Trotsky: He was the ‘people’s commissar for war’ from March 1918 until November 1924. He was an anti-Stalinist but emerged defeated following Vladimir Lenin’s death.

Mikhayl Nikolayevich: Appointed first deputy people’s commissar of war in May 1937 after a drastic purge of political opponents of Joseph Stalin. Under him, Army generals who were ‘disloyal’ were found guilty of plotting to betray the Soviet Union and were shot. Other generals and colonels were sent to forced-labor camps.

He also co-founded the Joseph Rainey Center of Public Policy in 2018, which is a think tank that advertises itself as being ‘founded on the values of equality, freedom and a more perfect union’. 

While the Defense Department has not publicly released any details regarding Garrison’s pilot program, it noted a potential crackdown on extremist behavior in the military last month when it officially announced its new Countering Extremism Working Group.

In an announcement about the new group last month, the defense secretary said it would be led by Garrison and pursue screening capabilities to counter extremism in the department.

‘(It) will discuss the department’s pursuit of scalable and cost-effective capabilities to screen publicly available electronic information in accessions and continuous vetting for national security positions,’ the statement read.

‘(It) will make recommendations on further development of such capabilities and incorporating machine learning and natural language processing into social media screening platforms.’

The group also plans to ‘ensure training addresses issues raised by commanders and supervisors on ‘gray areas’ such as reading, following, and liking extremist material and content in social media forums and platforms.’ 

While there are no public details about the program, a House Armed Services Committee spokesperson said they believed the social media screening would be in addition to background checks.

‘The Committee understands that the Department of Defense is exploring a means of implementing social media screening in conjunction with background investigations,’ the spokesperson said.

‘We anticipate that any social media screening would be intended only as an additional means of vetting cleared individuals or those seeking to obtain a security clearance, not as a tool for ongoing surveillance of all men and women in uniform.

‘That said, Secretary Austin has been clear about his intentions to understand to what extent extremism exists in the force and its effect on good order and discipline. 

‘We look forward to hearing the results of the stand down and the Department’s plan to move forward.’ 

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