“Sunlight is the best disinfectant.”

~Justice Louis Brandeis

In August 2013, Judicial Watch, a non-partisan judicial and government watchdog organization, announced in a press release that it has obtained educational materials from the Department of Defense (DOD) asserting that American Colonists fighting British tyranny during the American Revolution (1775-83), i.e., Washington, Franklin, Jefferson, Adams, Madison, Mason, etc., were members of an “extremist movement,” representing conservative organizations as “hate groups” and advising students to be aware that “many extremists will talk of individual liberties, states’ rights and how to make the world a better place.” The documents repeatedly refers to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), a partisan leftist organization, as a primary authority for classifying “hate groups.”

Judicial Watch obtained the documents in a response to a Freedom of Information Act request (FOIA) filed on April 8, 2013. The FOIA requested “Any and all records concerning, regarding, or related to the preparation and presentation of training materials on hate groups or hate crimes distributed or used by the Air Force.” Incorporated in the 133 pages of documents including PowerPoint slides and lesson plans is a January 2013 Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute “student guide” entitled “Extremism.” The document includes the bold heading “for training purposes only” and “do not use on the job.” Highlights include:

  • The document defines
  • A statement that “Nowadays, instead of dressing in sheets or publicly espousing hate messages, many extremists will talk of individual liberties, states’ rights, and how to make the world a better place.”
  • “[W]hile not all extremist groups are hate groups, all hate groups are extremist groups.”
  • Under a section labeled “Extremist Ideologies,” the document states, “In U.S. history, there are many examples of extremist ideologies and movements. The colonists who sought to free themselves from British rule and the Confederate states who sought to secede from the Northern states are just two examples.”
  • In this same section, the document lists the 9/11 attack under a category of “Historical events.”
  • “[A]ctive participation … with regard to extremist organizations is incompatible with military service and is therefore prohibited.”
  • The document details the “seven stages of hate” and 16 “extremists’ traits.”
  • The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) is listed as a resource for information on hate groups and referenced several times throughout the guide.
  • Of the five organizations besides the SPLC listed as resources, one is an SPLC project (Teaching Tolerance) and one considers any politically or socially conservative movement to be a potential hate group (Political Research Associates).
  • Other than a mention of 9/11 and the Sudan, there is no discussion of Islamic extremism. It’s like DOD purposely slandered all of the conservative and patriotic groups it could think of and conflate them with Muslim fanaticism while exempting Islam from even a minor critique.

In April 2013, after a terrorist shooting at the Family Research Council (FRC) headquarters that occurred in August 2012, Judicial Watch filed multiple FOIA requests to discover what, if any, connection SPLC’s classifying of hate groups had on government agencies. On its website, the SPLC has depicted the FRC as a “hate group” and skillfully conflated this group with other such mainstream Christian conservative organizations as the American Family Association, Concerned Women for America and Coral Ridge Ministries as equally “extremist” conservative groups. At the time of the shooting, FRC President Tony Perkins accused the SPLC of sparking the shooting, saying the shooter “was given a license to shoot … by organizations like the Southern Poverty Law Center.”

Though the document released by Judicial Watch was obtained from the Air Force, its ultimate origin was at a DOD office and is therefore likely to have been applied in other agency components within all U.S. military departments. Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton’s analysis of DOD documents exposed a prevailing, venal hostility against conservatives and conservative views and concluded with this important statement:

The Obama administration has a nasty habit of equating basic conservative values with terrorism. And now, in a document full of claptrap, its Defense Department suggests that the Founding Fathers, and many conservative Americans, would not be welcome in today’s military. And it is striking that some the language in this new document echoes the IRS targeting language of conservative and Tea Party investigations. After reviewing this document, one can’t help but worry for the future and morale of our nation’s armed forces.

In the history of American politics, the concept of FOIA isn’t new. Indeed, over 200 years ago, President Thomas Jefferson indirectly gave a pretext for FOIA: “When the people fear the government there is tyranny, when the government fears the people there is liberty.” Beyond the DOD scandal of characterizing America’s Founding Fathers and today’s Republican Party and conservatives as “extremists,” I’m certain Judicial Watch and other watchdog groups are even now submitting multiple FOIA requests to discover the extent the Obama administration has engaged in other Machiavellian and Alinsky-type acts against their political enemies. For example, in the 2012 election, the Obama administration used the IRS to attack conservative, Christian, Jewish and tea-party organizations, thus preventing their 501c4 nonprofit applications from being approved, and more importantly effectively prohibiting their First Amendment right to organize on behalf of the Republican Party, which in effect diluted the Republican vote.

How about using FOIA to find out the real truth about the Fast and Furious gun running scandal where the ATF policy of sending and tracking assault weapons into Mexico caused the death of two AFT agents and hundreds of innocent Mexican citizens? Also, FOIA requests are doubtlessly being made regarding the Benghazi terrorist attack on Sept. 11, 2012, leading to the deaths of four American citizens.

Despite the fact that the history of FOIA has had mixed results, I believe that with an aggressive and robust use of FOIA by We the People, perhaps one day the federal and state governments will heed Jefferson’s admonition and learn to fear the people so that liberty, truth, natural law and openness can once again flourish throughout America.

Media wishing to interview Ellis Washington, please contact [email protected].


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