Has an American president's administration ever requested the military to perform political purity tests on soldiers?

Business Insider:

The National Guard is running additional background checks on its guardsmen ahead of President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration on Wednesday, in an attempt to weed out potential extremists...

...National Guard spokesperson Major Matt Murphy, USAF, told Insider the reserve branch was working with the Secret Service and the FBI to determine 'which service members supporting the national special security event for the Inauguration require additional background screening.'...

...Gen. Daniel R. Hokanson, chief of the National Guard Bureau, told the AP that 'If there's any indication that any of our soldiers or airmen are expressing things that are extremist views, it's either handed over to law enforcement or dealt with the chain of command immediately.'"

What is the reason for political purity tests for soldiers?

  • 1
    I'd expect military personnel, especially in sensitive positions or when they gain access to secret information, to be routinely screened by secret services in all countries. Of course it is hard to draw the line between what counts as "extremist" and just non-mainstream political opinions. On the other hand it will be hard to explain why you didn't know you put an Islamist in charge of guarding the Israeli ambassador. Running extra checks before important events is probably not the worst idea. They are usually not about "Party Loyalty", though.
    – Hulk
    Jan 20, 2021 at 15:09
  • While not a president McCarthy did just that with his communist scare and he didn't just limit it to members of the military.
    – Joe W
    Jan 21, 2021 at 16:58
  • @Philipp: Note that I had answered the final q in the post body. The old q title "Party Loyalty Standards" was ambiguous and didn't give any priority to the historical q, which you've now preferred. But I understood the q more as a request for clarification as what those "standards"/"purity tests" for the military actually are.
    – Fizz
    Jan 21, 2021 at 17:18

1 Answer 1


You're confusing "party loyalty standards" with identifying any would be terrorists. Neo nazis got e.g. purged from the German special forces last year.

These things are not unheard of in the US army either. VOA reported in 2019

The arrest of a U.S. soldier with far-right sympathies who is suspected of plotting an attack on American soil to spark “chaos” has highlighted a challenge for the Pentagon: purging its ranks of extremists.


Earlier this year, a U.S. Coast Guard officer who espoused white supremacist views, Christopher Paul Hasson, was arrested on firearms and drug charges outside Washington.

Hasson, an avowed admirer of Norwegian right-wing extremist Anders Breivik, whose attacks in 2011 left 77 people dead, allegedly had drafted a hit list of Democratic politicians and prominent media figures.

Prosecutors have said Hasson identified himself as a “White Nationalist for over 30 years and advocated for ‘focused violence’ in order to establish a white homeland.”

And in May, the U.S. Army said it was investigating a 22-year-old soldier for suspected ties to neo-Nazi group Atomwaffen Division.

“Our standards are clear; participation in extremist activities has never been tolerated” and is a punishable offense, Pentagon spokeswoman Jessica Maxwell told AFP. [...] “While we can’t guarantee that every person who enters the service will be free from holding extremist thoughts, various screening tools provide us the best opportunity to identify those who do not share our values,” she said.

Someone who swore to abide by the constitution but is plotting to do something contrary to that probably doesn't belong in the US army (or NG etc.)

Anti-extremism measures have been common, at least on paper, in the US army for at least 25 years; I found a report from 1996 which involved some personnel surveys etc., all triggered apparently just by the bad news of some (apparently) racially motivated murders committee by army personnel (off duty, I think). The legal basis for such anti-extremism measures, at least then, was given as

In discussing extremist activity and organizations we used the definition found in Amy Regulation 600-20, Command Policy, paragraph 4-12, "Extremist Organizations," that:

Military personnel, duty bound to uphold the Constitution, must reject participation in organizations which --

  1. Espouse supremacist causes,
  2. Attempt to create illegal discrimination based on race, creed, color, gender, religion, or national origin, or
  3. Advocate the use of force or violence, or otherwise engage in efforts to deprive individuals of their civil rights.

The report also discussed some proposed changes to the regulations... The 2014 iteration thereof is a lot more detailed in this regard:

a. Participation. Military personnel must reject participation in extremist organizations and activities. Extremist organizations and activities are ones that advocate— (1) Racial, gender, or ethnic hatred or intolerance. (2) Creating or engaging in illegal discrimination based on race, color, gender, religion, or national origin. (3) The use of force or violence or unlawful means to deprive individuals of their rights under the United States Constitution or the laws of the United States, or any State. (4) Support for terrorist organizations or objectives. (5) The use of unlawful violence or force to achieve goals that are political, religious, or ideological in nature. (6) Expressing a duty to engage in violence against DOD or the United States in support of a terrorist or extremist cause. (7) Support for persons or organizations that promote or threaten the unlawful use of force or violence. (8) Encouraging military or civilian personnel to violate laws or disobey lawful orders or regulations for the purpose of disrupting military activities (subversion). (9) Participating in activities advocating or teaching the overthrow of the U.S. Government by force or violence, or seeking to alter the form of government by unconstitutional means (sedition).

b. Prohibitions. Soldiers are prohibited from the following actions in support of extremist organizations or activities. Penalties for violations of these prohibitions include the full range of statutory and regulatory sanctions, both criminal (UCMJ), and administrative. (1) Participating in public demonstrations or rallies. (2) Attending a meeting or activity with the knowledge that the meeting or activity involves an extremist cause when on duty, when in uniform, when in a foreign country (whether on or off duty or in or out of uniform), when it constitutes a breach of law and order, or when it is likely to result in violence or when in violation of off limits sanctions or commander’s order. (3) Fund raising activities. (4) Recruiting or training members (including encouraging other Soldiers to join). (5) Creating, organizing, or taking a visible leadership role in such an organization or activity. (6) Distributing literature on or off a military installation, the primary purpose and content of which concerns advocacy or support of extremist causes, organizations, or activities; and it appears that the literature presents a clear danger to the loyalty, discipline, or morale of military personnel, or the distribution would materially interfere with the accomplishment of a military mission. (7) Receiving financial assistance from a person or organization who advocates terrorism, the unlawful use of force or violence to undermine or disrupt U.S. military operations, subversion, or sedition. (8) Browsing or visiting internet Web sites when on duty, without official sanction, that promote or advocate violence directed against the U.S. or DOD, or that promote international terrorism or terrorist themes.

  • 6
    @acpilot: you've pretty much rewritten the entire q after I answered it. Your new post lacks the quotes from old one, which referred to "extremist views". You're new q/version is just asserting that "political purity tests" exist in the army now. Perhaps it would be better if you provided an actual example.
    – Fizz
    Jan 20, 2021 at 16:41
  • The question has been rewritten yet again, and not by me. Calling back to historical precedent is not allowed, despite the relevance to the question. The question has been sanitized. It is now fit for consumption, I guess.
    – acpilot
    Jan 21, 2021 at 16:37
  • @acpilot: From my perspective you're welcome to ask another question on that specific incident. I didn't say there can be no abuse of the rather intricate rules on the matter. In all honesty, I answered the q as I found it presented back then... That you really wanted to ask something else and changed 90% of the question to a concrete allegation (that if true would definitely be an abuse of the published rules and probably of some constitutional rights too)... was pretty annoying to me because I had answered. Again, from my POV, you're welcome to ask about that specific incident separately.
    – Fizz
    Jan 21, 2021 at 17:14
  • Again, I edited the question to soften it very early on. Even then, the inclusion of relevant (and accurate) historical references was streng verboten. I don't know how many times it has been edited since but I have nothing to do with the current form of this question, though it appears to have the seal of approval from whoever cleanses the questions. I consider the historical context to be critical in framing the question for reasons that should be obvious to everyone with even a cursory understanding of 20th century history.
    – acpilot
    Jan 26, 2021 at 15:56

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