White supremacy in the ranks
When I heard about the arrest of Jack Teixeira for leaking classified information which has significantly damaged our national security — documents he had access to as part of his work as an IT professional in the Air National Guard — I wondered how he was able to obtain and keep his security clearance.
Teixeira has been charged with posting hundreds of pages of highly classified documents on a Discord chat server, which was then shared widely. His posts included secrets that undermine the war in Ukraine and other intelligence on U.S. allies and adversaries. To say this leak undermines our national security is an understatement.
I held a top-secret security clearance for much of my life, both as a commissioned officer in the United States Navy and in support of my work with the Department of Energy. I know how background investigations are conducted. I have been interviewed as part of security background investigations for friends, colleagues, and neighbors. And the interviews always include questions about the candidate’s behavior, background, financial security, and whether there is any reason to question their loyalty to the United States.
Why didn’t anyone speak up about Teixeira?
Prosecutors in the Teixeira case have said he has a history of disturbing behavior, including a suspension in high school for violent and racist threats. He recently made a post about his conspiracy theories related to (and his interest in carrying out) mass shootings, and has posted numerous violent, racist, and anti-government statements.
His repeated mishandling of classified information was known by his military supervisors. He had been written up numerous times for not following the rules for classified material access, but records show he was allowed continued access even after ignoring instructions to stop accessing information he had no need to know.
So, how was he able to obtain and keep his security clearance? How was he even allowed to serve in the military with such violent, racist, anti-government views?
Because, like so many others, his views weren’t acknowledged as the threat they truly are.
FBI Director Christopher Wray testified before Congress following the attack on the U.S. Capitol that “January 6 was not an isolated event. The problem of domestic terrorism has been metastasizing across the country for a long time now, and it’s not going away anytime soon. At the FBI, we’ve been sounding the alarm on it for a number of years now.” Wray went on to say, “The amount of angry, hateful, unspeakable, combative — violent, even — rhetoric on social media exceeds what anybody in their worst imagination (thinks) is out there.”
Should we really be that surprised?
As a society, we have always looked the other way when our friends, neighbors, colleagues, and family members express their racist and anti-government views. We don’t consider those views as harmful until it’s too late.
White supremacy is a deeply embedded problem in both the military and police forces. Leaders and peers are either complicit or complacent about the threat and are too often unwilling to call out the problem or to take action. Passing off white nationalist rhetoric as locker room talk allows that incendiary language to smolder until the flames of hate result in violence.
We blame the police violence against unarmed Black Americans on rogue ‘bad apple’ police officers rather than recognizing it as a systemic problem. But studies show that racist views are endemic in police departments across the country. In April, the San Jose Mercury News reported that police officers in the city of Antioch routinely expressed racist, violent views in a private text messaging group — and openly used such language in front of their fellow officers and superiors — without fear of reprisal. Not only did they refer to Black citizens in the most vile racist terms, they openly celebrated violence against community members and called for violence against Mayor Lamar Thorpe, who is Black.
Why did it take an FBI investigation to uncover this? How many other police departments have a similar culture?
In Oklahoma, McCurtain County Sheriff Kevin Clardy and three other county officials were heard on a recording discussing the murder of local journalists they didn’t like, lamenting that they are no longer allowed to hang Black people, and that “they [Black people] got more rights than we got.” Following the news release of those recordings, Governor Kevin Stitt released a statement saying, “I am both appalled and disheartened to hear of the horrid comments made by officials in McCurtain County. There is simply no place for such hateful rhetoric in the state of Oklahoma, especially by those that serve to represent the community through their respective office.”
Why should the governor have been surprised?
Why are any of us surprised?
Republican Senator Tommy Tuberville of Alabama, when questioned about white nationalists in the military, told a reporter in an interview this month, “They call them that [white nationalists]. I call them Americans.” Tuberville has blocked over 200 Department of Defense nominations in the Senate to protest ‘woke’ military policies he doesn’t like. He claims that current efforts of the military to combat extremism and white supremacy are hurting military recruitment.
People like those in the Antioch Police Department — along with others like Jack Teixeira, Sheriff Kevin Clardy, and Senator Tommy Tuberville — seem to think that only white Christians can be ‘true’ Americans. They believe that progressive policies towards equality are a threat to their place of privilege, and therefore a threat to the United States of America.
They fail to recognize the real threat.
White nationalists have no place in the military or our police force. We must call out white supremacy in the ranks. We must recognize the threat when we see it. We can’t wait for an FBI investigation or a journalist’s report, and we can no longer act surprised when the extremists among us are exposed.
White supremacy is not just a threat to anyone who is not a white Christian, but a threat to the very existence of our constitutional democratic republic.