Judicial Watch announced today that it filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the Department of Defense seeking records of communications from Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, and Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff John Hyten regarding the DOD’s Countering Extremism Working Group (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of Defense (No. 1:21-cv-02145)).
Judicial Watch filed the lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia after the Defense Department failed to reply to a May 7, 2021, FOIA request. Judicial Watch asked for to the following public records:
All emails exchanged between Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and email accounts ending in .gov and/or .mil referencing “Countering Extremism Working Group” and/or “CEWG.”
All emails exchanged between Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley and email accounts ending in .gov and/or .mil referencing “Countering Extremism Working Group” and/or “CEWG.”
All emails exchanged between Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. John Hyten and email accounts ending in .gov and/or .mil referencing “Countering Extremism Working Group” and/or “CEWG.”
During his Senate confirmation hearing in January, which followed the January 6 disturbance at the U.S. Capitol building, Austin vowed that he would purge the U.S. military of “racists and extremists.” Austin told the Senate Armed Services Committee, “The job of the Department of Defense is to keep America safe from our enemies. But we can’t do that if some of those enemies lie within our own ranks.”
On February 3, Austin ordered a 60-day military stand down to address the “challenge of extremism in the ranks.”
Austin established the Countering Extremism Working Group (CEWG) on April 9.
Austin selected Bishop Garrison, Senior Advisor to the Secretary of Defense on Human Capital and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, to head up the CEWG. The effort has been criticized as a racialized vehicle to attack supporters of President Trump and others who espouse conservative views.
In July 2019, Garrison tweeted of then-President Donald Trump:
Silence from our Congressional leaders is complicity. He is only going to get worse from here, & his party and its leadership are watching it happen while doing nothing to stop it. Support for him, a racist, is support for ALL his beliefs.
He’s dragging a lot of bad actors (misogynist, extremists, other racists) out into the light, normalizing their actions. If you support the President, you support that. There is no room for nuance with this. There is no more “but I’m not like that” talk.
“The Afghanistan humiliation is further evidence that the Biden Pentagon’s obsession with targeting conservatives in the military undermines our national security,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “Why is the Pentagon’s leadership hiding records about its ongoing political purge and attack on the First Amendment rights of our troops?”