All Department of Defense personnel will now have to go through “continuous vetting” and may soon be subject to surveillance of their social media posts in an attempt to spot extremists.

“Whether it’s an event-driven look at social media, whether it’s a regular continuous look at some social media or whether it’s a one-time — when they’re investigated — look at social media, there’s different ways you could use some of the social media, search capabilities that are out there,” William K. Lietzau, who leads the Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency, told Defense One. “We’re still right now analyzing how much value we think there is.”

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The new policy will look to improve the security clearance process for DOD personnel, who are currently subject to an initial investigation but do not have follow-up investigation performed for five or more years. The new system will look to automatically raise flags if new information pops up between checks, such as when someone has been arrested.

The new policy also comes as the DOD has sought ways to combat extremist views in the military, after it was revealed that one of every five defendants in the Jan. 6 Capitol riots had served in the military.

But the DOD will also have to grapple with how to handle social media posts, which are typically more difficult situations to analyze than an arrest report or an internal report generated by security agencies. 

Lietzau said that posts that hint toward violence and anti-government action tend to by more hyperbolic than literal, making it necessary for the DOD to gather more information before taking action against an individual.

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Lietzau also said that DOD has been using contractors in pilot programs in an effort to determine how to include the additional information into the screening process, but noted that DOD officials will still have the final say in specific cases.

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