Culture Wars/Current Controversies

At Least 458 U.S. Crimes Tied to Extremism Involved Veterans, Active Duty Troops

By Tara Copp, Defense One

The “underlying factors are not going away,” says one researcher.

The number of people with military backgrounds who committed criminal acts motivated by extremist views has jumped during the last ten years, according to new research at the University of Maryland. Without intervention, experts worry, those numbers will continue to rise.

What they want to do is get ahead of the problem, and increase outreach to this new generation of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans to get them engaged and supported to prevent any allure of extremist groups from taking hold.

“It’s very easy to say, well, Charlottesville, and 2020 and 2021, those were anomalies,” said William Braniff, an Army veteran who leads the university’s National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism, or START. “I think they’re a reflection of the political climate in the United States, and veterans are a subset, a cross section of America. They reflect the same trend lines that we’re seeing in the broader American population. So I don’t think we’re seeing, I don’t think this is some sort of blip that will completely reverse itself in any sense.”

START’s latest report, released Wednesday, identifies 458 people with military backgrounds who were either arrested, charged, or indicted after committing criminal acts that were motivated by extremist political, economic, social, or religious goals since 1990.

That total includes 107 veterans and 11 others with military ties, including “one active-duty Marine, two Army Reservists, two Army National Guard members, two Marine Reservists, two Civil Air Patrol Cadets, and one member of the Army and one member of the Air Force who enlisted after January 6, 2021,” the study found.


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