An adviser to the Pentagon’s Counter-Extremism Working Group (CEWG) is warning the Biden administration’s efforts to purge the military of “extremists” could violate individual First Amendment rights.
Mike Berry, general counsel for First Liberty Institute and Marine Corps reservist, first sounded the alarm in a recent op-ed that said the CEWG is looking to formulate a new definition of extremism that could include constitutionally protected speech. He wrote in the Washington Examiner on June 19:
Instead of monitoring external threats, the Pentagon is on a mission to identify and remove whomever it labels as extremists from America’s armed forces. Ironically, the CEWG has yet to define what it means by ‘extremism.’ Extremism is usually defined as the threat or use of violence to achieve an ideological agenda. But the Pentagon is now poised to expand upon that definition to include constitutionally protected speech. In other words, sticks and stones may break our bones, but words are the biggest threat.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin set up the Counter-Extremism Working Group (CEWG) in April after vowing to root out extremists and ordering the entire military force to spend a day discussing “extremism.” Since there is no Pentagon definition for “extremism,” Austin tasked the CEWG, led by Bishop Garrison, to come up with a definition and to define activities that would be considered “extremist.”