Military Personnel and Domestic Terrorism

                   Complete Survey:  Race Relations 2011


Home Up Executive Summary Military Personnel and Domestic Terrorism Historical Review Contemporary Domestic Terrorism Rising Trends of Concern Conclusion Bibliography



From LCDR Steven Mack Presley, MSC, USN, Rise of Domestic Terrorism and Its Relation to United States Armed Forces (April 19, 1996)

Various recent events, most particularly the bombing of the Federal Building in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma in April, 1995, and the racially motivated murders of two civilians by active-duty United States Army personnel in Fayetteville, North Carolina in December, 1995, have focused the attention and suspicion of both military and civilian authorities on the possibility that extremist and potentially terroristic elements have established themselves within the Armed Forces of our country. Organized extremist/terrorist groups of particular concern with regard to their abilities to recruit from, and exist within the United States armed services have historically been racist and/or anti-government in character. Although preliminary investigations by law enforcement agencies, both civilian and military, following the Fayetteville murders, have been able to identify only a very few military personnel actually associated with such groups, some such people have been found. The potential threat to readiness, good order and discipline posed by even a few such personnel should be considered significant.(1) The significant detrimental impact these elements might pose to unit morale, cohesiveness and their ability to be employed efficiently are not the only factors that should be considered. The potential threat of, and actual theft of weapons, ordinance and supplies can be equally as damaging to a unit's efficiency and morale.

This paper will review the historical and contemporary trends of domestic terrorism within the United States as a means of establishing the similarities that exist between domestic extremist/terrorist groups of yesteryear and today. I will then discuss the ways in which military personnel may be influenced, involved or utilized by extremist and /or terrorist organizations or groups in pursuing and accomplishing their ultimate goals through these service members. Additionally, the current threats and evolving characteristics of domestic extremist and terrorist groups and their impact on military personnel and the military "establishment" as a whole are discussed. A survey of approximately 175 mid-grade military officers, predominantly United States Marine Corps Majors, was conducted to determine the perceptions and attitudes common among such a cohort regarding the threats posed to "civilian and military authority" by contemporary extremist and terrorist groups. Particular emphasis is placed on discussing the two most significant extremist and/or terrorist threats facing America today, the first being the racial hate-groups and racial supremacists, and the second most significant rising threat is that of anti-government, ultra right-wing separatists and state's-rights armed militia groups. A major point of concern that must be considered in delineating these groups along these lines, is the ever-increasing "blur" that is developing between and among these groups. Many of the ultra right-wing groups are also racial supremacists, as well as religious extremists, and are thereby able to recruit from and influence a larger portion of the population.

In a free, democratic society such as ours the First Amendment freedoms of thought and speech are among those most cherished by the citizenry, whether serving their country in the military or as a civilian. The recent incidents of domestic terrorism and widespread vocal and printed rhetoric of hate-groups motivated by racism, religious intolerance, anti-government, or anarchist views have awakened many Americans, including leaders in government and military service, to the reality that "freedom isn't free", and that to solve these problems we must first acknowledge and attempt to understand them.