Tagged: members

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Ellison Wants Answers About White Supremacists in the Military

Rep. Keith Ellison[1] wants the Pentagon to disclose any information it has about white supremacists currently serving in the the military[2].

The Minnesota Democrat sent a letter to Defense Secretary James Mattis last week asking about “steps currently being taken to screen recruits for extremist ties,” Military Times reported.

Ellison’s letter came after a ProPublica and “Frontline” report found that three active duty service members were associated with Atomawaffen, a white supremacist group that has been tied to five murders in the past year.

“The involvement of service members in white supremacist organizations or other hate groups is cause for significant concern, particularly given their combat and weapons training,” Ellison wrote in his letter[3].

Ellison also pointed to a Military Times survey that found that nearly 25 percent of respondents said they had seen “examples of white nationalism from their fellow service members.”

Similarly, the survey said that 42 percent of non-white troops had personally experienced white nationalism in the military.

Ellison’s letter requested that Mattis produce information on the number of reports of service members with extremist ties for the past five years.

“In addition, I seek information on the steps currently being taken to screen recruits for extremist ties,” he said.

The ProPublica and “Frontline” report highlighted that one member of the Marines was allegedly involved in the racial violence around white nationalist demonstrations in Charlottesville, Virginia, last year.

Since then, Mattis has praised the military’s “widely diverse force.”

Ellison requested that Mattis send the response by May 21.

Watch: Trump Thanks Kanye Again, Mocks Obama on North Korea

Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call on your iPhone[4] or your Android[5].

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Georgia police release 911 calls from deadly military plane crash

Police released 911 calls on Monday made by frightened onlookers as a WC-130 military plane crashed in Georgia last week and took the lives of nine airmen with the Puerto Rico National Guard.

The calls, some taken just seconds after the crash, offered details of the chaotic scene in Savannah, Georgia, last Wednesday when the WC-130 nose-dived onto a highway, covering the roadway with debris, and filling the surrounding area with thick clouds of black smoke.

There were no survivors.

“Yes, a plane just crashed. I’m looking at it right now and it’s up in flames,” one nearby witness said, giving authorities early details about the intense situation unfolding on the ground.

“I’ve got flames and smoke everywhere and stuff coming out of the sky,” another eyewitness said.

“It just literally nose-dived into the road,” another said.

The first call came in at 11:27 a.m. and it wasn’t long before dozens more followed, according to Savannah ABC affiliate WJCL[1], which obtained copies of the calls on Monday.

The Savannah Police Department released nearly four hours worth of 911 recordings from the morning of May 2, when the military cargo plane suffered an apparent malfunction just after takeoff.

“Yes, baby, it’s black smoke,” one frantic caller told a 911 operator. “The plane like incinerated whenever it hit the concrete.”

The plane, which took off from the Savannah airport, was en route to a so-called “boneyard” in Arizona, authorities said. All of the victims were members of the 156th Air Wing of Puerto Rico’s Air National Guard.

“I saw it take off from the airport and I noticed that one of the propellers wasn’t turning,” one female caller said. “And he banked like he was going toward [Interstate] 95, and then all of a sudden he lost altitude and just took a nose dive into the ground.”

“He did a barrel roll and went straight into the ground,” another caller added.

An Air Force official told ABC News that five of the victims were traveling as crew members on the flight and the other four were traveling as passengers. Some of victims had been with the Puerto Rico National Guard for decades.

The U.S. military, which is investigating the crash, has not released any details on what may have caused the crash.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

References

  1. ^ according to Savannah ABC affiliate WJCL (www.wjcl.com)
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Georgia police release 911 calls from deadly military plane crash

Police released 911 calls on Monday made by frightened onlookers as a WC-130 military plane crashed in Georgia last week and took the lives of nine airmen with the Puerto Rico National Guard.

The calls, some taken just seconds after the crash, offered details of the chaotic scene in Savannah, Georgia, last Wednesday when the WC-130 nose-dived onto a highway, covering the roadway with debris, and filling the surrounding area with thick clouds of black smoke.

There were no survivors.

“Yes, a plane just crashed. I’m looking at it right now and it’s up in flames,” one nearby witness said, giving authorities early details about the intense situation unfolding on the ground.

“I’ve got flames and smoke everywhere and stuff coming out of the sky,” another eyewitness said.

“It just literally nose-dived into the road,” another said.

The first call came in at 11:27 a.m. and it wasn’t long before dozens more followed, according to Savannah ABC affiliate WJCL[1], which obtained copies of the calls on Monday.

The Savannah Police Department released nearly four hours worth of 911 recordings from the morning of May 2, when the military cargo plane suffered an apparent malfunction just after takeoff.

“Yes, baby, it’s black smoke,” one frantic caller told a 911 operator. “The plane like incinerated whenever it hit the concrete.”

The plane, which took off from the Savannah airport, was en route to a so-called “boneyard” in Arizona, authorities said. All of the victims were members of the 156th Air Wing of Puerto Rico’s Air National Guard.

“I saw it take off from the airport and I noticed that one of the propellers wasn’t turning,” one female caller said. “And he banked like he was going toward [Interstate] 95, and then all of a sudden he lost altitude and just took a nose dive into the ground.”

“He did a barrel roll and went straight into the ground,” another caller added.

An Air Force official told ABC News that five of the victims were traveling as crew members on the flight and the other four were traveling as passengers. Some of victims had been with the Puerto Rico National Guard for decades.

The U.S. military, which is investigating the crash, has not released any details on what may have caused the crash.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

References

  1. ^ according to Savannah ABC affiliate WJCL (www.wjcl.com)
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Senators lobby to bring new armored brigade team to Texas …

U.S. Senators Ted Cruz and John Cornyn sent a letter Monday to Secretary of the Army Mark Esper requesting the Army relocate a newly-designated armored brigade combat team to either Fort Hood or Fort Bliss.

The Army’s 2nd Brigade, 4th Infantry Division, currently located at Fort Carson, Colorado, is in the process of conversion from an infantry brigade combat team to an armored brigade combat team. The two Texas Army installations already have the training ranges necessary to prepare an armored brigade combat team for deployment.

“We write regarding the conversion of the Army’s 2nd Brigade, 4th Infantry Division from an infantry brigade combat team to an armored brigade combat team,” the senators wrote. “As this conversion occurs, we also write to express our strong support for the relocation of the 2nd Brigade from Fort Carson, Colorado to one of Texas’s premier armor installations. The conversion of an infantry brigade combat team to an armored brigade combat team is a daunting task. Nevertheless, as you look across the Army, Fort Hood and Fort Bliss stand out as hosts for a unit of this size and composition.”

Both installations are equipped with the infrastructure necessary to support the rapid deployment and redeployment of armored brigades, the letter stated. Fort Hood and Fort Bliss both have rail access, airfields capable of handling any size aircraft needed for rapid air transportation of personnel and equipment and the capacity to host an additional brigade.

The letter also touted the “superb quality of life including affordable housing, military friendly communities, recreational activities, and easy access to services” for family members. “Over the years, our installations and the surrounding communities have worked together to identify and provide the best available resources for soldiers and their families assigned to the region.”

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Lawmakers Move to Protect Fort Carson's 2nd Brigade Combat Team

Colorado’s congressional delegation and Gov. John Hickenlooper have sent a letter urging the Army[1] to keep Fort Carson[2]‘s 2nd Brigade Combat Team in town after it trades its infantry marching boots for armored vehicles.

And Colorado Springs Republican U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn isn’t stopping there. He wants the Army to also send an 800-soldier security force assistance brigade to Colorado Springs.

“I would love to see us expand,” he said.

The Army announced late last month that it would re-equip Fort Carson’s 2nd Brigade Combat Team with tanks and Bradley armored fighting vehicles. But in the shift, the Army is studying whether the brigade should be moved, with posts in Georgia, Kansas and Texas in play for the brigade.

Fort Carson remains all but certain to keep the 4,000-soldier unit, because moving it elsewhere could cost nearly $200 million. That’s because the Colorado Springs post already has the infrastructure an armored brigade would need.

But it doesn’t hurt to have the state’s full political might on Fort Carson’s side, said Rich Burchfield, who heads defense programs for the Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce.

Burchfield said the lawmakers are adding an assurance to the Pentagon that moves to expand the post will have political backing and federal cash.

He also said keeping the brigade in town would be a boost for the troops involved. Colorado Springs remains the most-requested destination for soldiers.

“You’re looking at 4,400 soldiers and 6,000 family members who are already part of the community,” Burchfield said. “We have to keep our neighbors here in town.”

While keeping 2nd Brigade here is a top priority, Lamborn wants more.

The Army examining options to house a new security force assistance brigade and the congressman wants to woo it to the Rockies.

Assistance brigades are a new kind of Army formation aimed at training allied troops and helping them in battle. Born out of fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, the assistance units would extend America’s reach in troubled regions while keeping deployed troop numbers low.

Lamborn said Fort Carson has a leg up in landing the unit thanks to the 10th Special Forces Group that’s already stationed here.

The 10th Group’s Green Berets are already expert at training foreign troops and Lamborn said having that experience handy would allow the new assistance brigade to “hit the ground running with a minimal length of time between activation and full operational capability.”

Lamborn also touted the popularity of Colorado Springs with troops in his pitch.

“Finally, I would point out the fact Colorado Springs sits in the congressional district with the largest number of veterans of any congressional district in the U.S.,” he wrote.

A final decision on the fate of 2nd Brigade is weeks away and any decision on an assistance brigade could take months.

But for now, the Army’s top brass knows that Colorado’s leaders love Fort Carson.

“Community support in our state for Fort Carson missions, personnel and families is unmatched,” the lawmakers said.

This article is written by Tom Roeder from The Gazette (Colorado Springs, Colo.)[3] and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred[4] publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to [email protected][5].

Show Full Article[6]

© Copyright 2018 The Gazette (Colorado Springs, Colo.). All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

References

  1. ^ Army (www.military.com)
  2. ^ Fort Carson (www.military.com)
  3. ^ The Gazette (Colorado Springs, Colo.) (gazette.com)
  4. ^ NewsCred (www.newscred.com)
  5. ^ [email protected] (www.military.com)
  6. ^ Show Full Article (www.military.com)
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Trump's transgender military ban 'worse than don't ask, don't tell,' advocates say

The Trump administration released two documents on Friday outlining the president’s ban on transgender people serving in the military[1]. While LGBTQ-rights advocates say this new measure is even more discriminatory than the now-defunct “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, they also note that recent court rulings prevent the ban from actually taking effect.

The administration’s first document, a memo[2] signed by the president, stated that “transgender persons with a history or diagnosis of gender dysphoria — individuals who the policies state may require substantial medical treatment, including medications and surgery — are disqualified from military service except under certain limited circumstances.”

 President Donald Trump walks across the South Lawn of the White House on March 23, 2018 in Washington. Manuel Balce Ceneta / AP

The second document[3], titled “Department of Defense Report and Recommendations on Military Service by Transgender Persons,” lays out the specific policy recommendations regarding trans individuals serving U.S. military. The 46-page report stated that the department had concluded “accommodating gender transition could impair unit readiness,” “undermine unit cohesion” and “lead to disproportionate costs.”

“This new policy will enable the military to apply well-established mental and physical health standards — including those regarding the use of medical drugs — equally to all individuals who want to join and fight for the best military force the world has ever seen,” the White House said in a statement[4] released on Friday.

“CATEGORICAL BAN”

The new report states “nothing in this policy precludes service by transgender persons who do not have a history or diagnosis of gender dysphoria and are willing and able to meet all standards that apply to their biological sex.”

Shannon Minter, legal director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), disagreed, claiming such a policy constitutes a “categorical ban” of transgender people from the military by requiring service members to live as their sex assigned at birth.

“It means you can’t be transgender,” Minter said. “This is worse than ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ in its justification … It would be as though the government had tried to justify the DADT policy by saying that you can serve in the military if you say you will stop being gay.”

With DADT, which was ended in 2011, “the government never went so far as to say that being lesbian or gay is not a legitimate identity and [lesbians and gays] should undertake therapy to become straight, but that is what this report is saying about transgender people,” according to Minter.

He argued the ideas in the plan “have zero medical credibility” and are “lifted whole from anti-transgender propaganda put out by right-wing groups.”

“PANEL OF EXPERTS”

A federal judge issued a court order[5] on Tuesday requiring that the Department of Justice disclose the names of the military experts the Trump administration consulted regarding its transgender military ban. On Thursday, the Justice Department filed a response[6] to the judge’s order, stating the administration chooses “not to identify” those consulted.

The Justice Department “is coming close to defying court orders,” Minter said. “They do not want to disclose what lay behind this process.”

An article published by Slate[7] on Saturday, which cited multiple unnamed sources, claimed that Trump’s “panel of experts” included several people with histories of opposing lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights, including Vice President Mike Pence[8]; anti-transgender activist Ryan T. Anderson[9]; and Family Research Council President Tony Perkins[10]. NBC News has not independently verified Slate’s findings.

Friday’s report addressed the findings and recommendations of a 2016 study commissioned by the Department of Defense and conducted by the RAND Corporation, a nonprofit think tank. That report found no reason to prevent the enlistment and service of openly transgender individuals. The new report stated the Pentagon had “reached a different judgment on these issues” than RAND and the previous administration, adding that the issue is “more complicated.”

Natalie Nardecchia, senior attorney at LGBTQ civil rights organization Lambda Legal, slammed Friday’s report and said the previous administration “did a real report and did a real analysis … and then they enacted a policy.”

“That is the way it’s supposed to work, and this is the very opposite,” she said of the Trump administration’s findings.

“NO IMMEDIATE IMPACT”

Minter said the new policy is “as bad as it could be.” However, he said it has “no immediate impact,” because “federal courts have already issued orders saying the ban cannot be enforced.”

On Friday, Pentagon spokesperson Maj. David Eastburn echoed Minter’s assessment, saying the announcement of a new policy would have no immediate practical effect on the military, because the Pentagon is obliged to continue to recruit and retain transgender people in accordance with current law.

Minter said he does not expect any impact on currently enlisted soldiers or those attempting to enlist in the near future. However, because of what he called the plan’s “complete repudiation of transgender identity,” Minter said transgender troops may face additional stigma.

 Nicolas Talbott Courtesy of Nicolas Talbott

Nicolas Talbott, a 24-year-old transgender recruit from Lisbon, Ohio, said for now his enlistment process continues to advance.

“It’s going great,” he told NBC News. “I’m working with a wonderful recruiter, and at this moment we are waiting to … schedule a date for my physical exam and written test.”

Talbott said Friday’s documents were discouraging and felt like “another bump in the road,” but he said this just “reaffirms the fight is not over.”

“I am very optimistic that I’m going to get into the U.S. Air Force,” Talbott said. “There is nothing about being transgender in any way, shape or form that impacts an individual’s ability to serve.”

Nardecchia, agreed, saying “there is no medical or scientific support for presuming that transgender people are unfit.” Gender dysphoria, she added, “is a fully treatable condition that only some transgender people experience.”

“LEGALLY IRRELEVANT”

Civil rights groups, including the ACLU, Lambda Legal, GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders (GLAD), NCLR and Equality California brought four different lawsuits before federal courts last year in attempts to block the transgender military ban. The courts issued preliminary injunctions, which prevent even this newly released implementation plan from taking effect.

Late last year, two different federal courts rebuffed the administration’s efforts to delay the enlistment of transgender troops, and the Justice Department declined to appeal those decisions[11]. Openly transgender troops began to enlist on January 1.

“Anything that the government comes forward with now is legally irrelevant,” Nardecchia said, adding that the burden is on the government to demonstrate a persuasive justification to stop allowing transgender troops to serve openly.

Nardecchia called Friday’s report “reverse engineering” in an attempt by the government to provide the courts with a valid justification for the ban.

“WE WILL KEEP FIGHTING”

On Tuesday, Nardecchia and other attorneys from Lambda Legal and OutServe-SLDN, which together represent nine transgender service members, will seek a permanent injunction against the ban.

“We are asking for the court to grant a summary judgment — without going to trial — and to permanently prevent the ban from going into law,” she explained.

Nardecchia said she doesn’t know when the court might hand down a decision, but she’s “optimistic.”

“We will keep fighting until we get a final judgment,” she added.

The release of the new transgender military policy, according to Minter, is good for LGBTQ advocates fighting the ban. “We now know exactly what we have to rebut in the court,” he said.

Minter is working on a separate case from Nardecchia, Doe v. Trump. The lawsuit, which was filed by NCLR and GLAD, was the first to challenge the ban.

“We are proceeding with discovery, which is all the more important now,” he said. “Where did they come up with these discredited views? What was this process? Who was involved?”

Minter expects the government — as it did in its refusal to disclose its “panel of experts” — to appeal any decision not in its favor.

“Eventually it is likely that it will reach the Supreme Court,” he said of the transgender military ban.

FOLLOW NBC OUT[12] ON TWITTER[13], FACEBOOK[14] AND INSTAGRAM[15]

References

  1. ^ ban on transgender people serving in the military (www.nbcnews.com)
  2. ^ memo (www.lambdalegal.org)
  3. ^ document (www.lambdalegal.org)
  4. ^ statement (www.whitehouse.gov)
  5. ^ court order (www.washingtonblade.com)
  6. ^ filed a response (www.washingtonblade.com)
  7. ^ published by Slate (slate.com)
  8. ^ Mike Pence (www.nbcnews.com)
  9. ^ Ryan T. Anderson (thinkprogress.org)
  10. ^ Tony Perkins (www.glaad.org)
  11. ^ declined to appeal those decisions (www.nbcnews.com)
  12. ^ NBC OUT (www.nbcnews.com)
  13. ^ TWITTER (twitter.com)
  14. ^ FACEBOOK (www.facebook.com)
  15. ^ INSTAGRAM (www.instagram.com)
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Civil Rights Groups Are Fighting to Read Homeland Security's Mysterious 'Race Paper'

Image: Ted S. Warren (AP)

Two civil rights groups, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and Color of Change (COR), have filed a motion[1] asking a judge to force the Department of Homeland Security to un-redact a mysterious document known as the “Race Paper.” Following FOIA requests, the DHS turned over hundreds of pages to CCR and COR, but has fought releasing the so-called “Race Paper,” as its referred to in internal DHS emails. Little is known about the document, including its actual title, though COR and CCR believe it is potentially related to data-driven surveillance of protestors.

In 2016, CCR and COR, assisted by the Kramer Law Center, filed FOIA requests for documents relating to FBI and DHS surveillance of Black Lives Matter protestors. The DHS responded with hundreds of documents, including emails from the early months of the Trump administration in which DHS agents talked about composing and editing the “Race Paper.”

However, when the DHS handed the mysterious “race paper” over to the civil rights groups, it was redacted into oblivion, with nine full pages of completely obscured text.
[2]

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Little is known about this document, but lawyers believe it may be related to surveillance of Black Lives Matter protestors. All references to its actual name have been redacted.

“There’s not too much wiggle room when something is called ‘The Race Papers,’” Stephanie Llanes, one of the CCR lawyers filing the motion, told Gizmodo.

Here’s what we know for sure: the paper is a nine-page document put out by members of the DHS Office of Intelligence and Analysis. The DHS worked on its creation for months, producing multiple draft versions, all of which have been redacted. The Office of Intelligence and Analysis specializes in “information sharing and delivering predictive intelligence and analysis.” The office operates a network of Fusion Centers[3], which specialize in intelligence collection, analysis, and sharing between “state, local, tribal, territorial, and private sector partners.” It follows, then, the paper may relate to predictive technology or surveillance.

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“One of the emails says that the person included a section on ‘drivers and indications,’” Llanes said. “Given what [the Office of Intelligence and Analysis] does, which is predictive intelligence, it just raises serious concerns of the relationship between racial identity and drivers of future behavior.”

It’s speculative, but police have used data analysis to surveil[4] minority protestors in the past. From Massachusetts to Missouri, officers have used complex data-mining software[5] that could provide the locations of social media users to monitor protestors using the #BlackLivesMatter or #MuslimLivesMatter hashtags.

Being asked to produce the “Race Paper” and then handing over nine all-black pages might seem like a cheeky response, but, incredibly, the DHS argued that the documents, redactions intact, satisfy the FOIA request. The DHS insisted it is exempt from releasing all preliminary versions of the document because, as they were draft versions, they “wouldn’t be an accurate assessment of what the agency thinks,” Llanes explains.

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However, the DHS redacted all versions of the document, including the final version, which seemingly would accurately represent the agency’s stance. DHS argued that even partially redacting the final version would threaten national security by revealing sensitive information about how the agency operates.

“They haven’t explained at all how that would be the case. A government agency cant just make this broad, sweeping argument… without explaining how so,” Llanes said. “They still have to un-redact parts of the document that are purely factual, based on publicly available information, [or] would not reveal the pre-deliberative [assessment].”

CCR lawyers are arguing that, under FOIA law, the DHS has a duty to un-redact passages that are based on unclassified facts or public knowledge. By completely redacting every single word, including even the title of the document, the DHS is essentially claiming that every single detail of the “race paper” is, to some degree, sensitive, classified, or private.

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The next step in the case is for the DHS to reply to the motion. If they deny the lawyers’ claims, the case would move onto oral arguments.

[The Intercept[6]]

References

  1. ^ have filed a motion (ccrjustice.org)
  2. ^ race paper (ccrjustice.org)
  3. ^ Fusion Centers (www.dhs.gov)
  4. ^ used data analysis to surveil (gizmodo.com)
  5. ^ complex data-mining software (www.usatoday.com)
  6. ^ The Intercept (theintercept.com)