The Sikh temple shooting has put the spotlight on a longstanding problem in the US military: white supremacist soldiers. White supremacist groups have long encouraged members to join the military to learn the skills they'll need in an imagined future racial holy war, Reuters reports, and though the military banned racial extremists in 1986, some still slip through. Sikh temple shooter Wade Page, for instance, enlisted in 1992. He wasn't booted for his racist views until 1998.
"What's scary about Page is that he served in the 1990s when putatively this was being treated quite seriously by the military," says one author, whose upcoming book, Irregular Army, argues that lowered recruiting standards for the war on terror brought even more Pages into the military. But the Pentagon says that since 2009 it's put a renewed focus on rooting out racists, training commanders to recognize racist tattoos and spot racist recruitment efforts. "Participation in extremist activities has never been tolerated and is punishable under the Uniformed Code of Military Justice," says a Pentagon spokeswoman. A rep for the Southern Poverty Law Center calls the emphasis "the best we've ever seen."