The leader of a Pentagon working group overseeing efforts to root out domestic extremists in the military tweeted in 2019 that any supporter of former President Donald Trump unequivocally supports extremism and racism.
“Support for him, a racist, is support for ALL his beliefs,” Bishop Garrison, who was appointed by Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin to lead the Countering Extremism Working Group (CEWG), tweeted in July 2019 in reference to Trump.
“He’s dragging a lot of bad actors (misogynist, extremists, other racists) out into the light, normalizing their actions,” Garrison, an Army veteran, tweeted. “If you support the President, you support that.”
“There is no room for nuance with this,” he added. “There is no more ‘but I’m not like that’ talk.”
Garrison’s tweets were first reported by Revolver News.
The CEWG, under Garrison’s leadership, is tasked with reviewing and updating the Defense Department’s definition of prohibited extremist activities among uniformed military personnel, Austin said in an April 9 memorandum to senior Pentagon leadership.
The CEWG will also oversee military department secretaries as they update and standardize screening questionnaires for service members to solicit any current or previous extremist behavior, Austin’s memo stated.
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Defense Department spokeswoman Lisa Lawrence said the Pentagon has no intention of defining any level of support for Trump to be an indicator of extremism.
“The Countering Extremism Working Group is not concerning itself with political beliefs. Indeed, the Department actively encourages troops to participate in the electoral process,” Lawrence told the Daily Caller News Foundation. “The Department is focused on addressing the corrosive and potentially dangerous behavior that can be inspired by extremist ideology — behavior that harms good order and discipline and our readiness.”
Garrison also serves as a senior advisor to Austin on matters related to diversity, equity and inclusion throughout the defense department.
Garrison worked as a foreign policy advisor on Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, according to his LinkedIn profile. Prior to joining the Defense Department in February, Garrison worked as a director of Human Rights First, a nonprofit seeking to demilitarize law enforcement and root out white supremacy in the military.
Garrison is a vocal advocate for the 1619 Project, defending it against criticisms from historians in a 2019 essay calling extremism, racist policies and white supremacy existential threats to the nation.
The CEWG is reportedly designing a social media screening program that will “continuously” monitor active military personnel for “concerning behaviors,” according to documents obtained by The Intercept.
The social media monitoring program will circumvent First Amendment restrictions by utilizing a private surveillance firm, a senior Pentagon official told The Intercept.
Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said reports that Garrison’s working group is operating a social media monitoring program were false during a May 18 press conference.
“There’s no pilot program ring run by Mr. Garrison or the extremist working group to — to examine social media,” Kirby said.
“Mr. Garrison is leading the extremist working group on a number of efforts to try to help us come to grips with learning how — what the scope and scale of the problem of extremist activity in the ranks really is, and helping us divine some potential solutions, going forward,” Kirby added.
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