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CBS report: rise of gang members and felons in the military

You can’t serve if you’re openly gay or lesbian, but bring on the gang members and felons. A CBS report shows how bad the situation is.

The number of incoming soldiers with prior felony arrests or convictions has more than tripled in the past five years. This year alone, the Army accepted an estimated 8,000 recruits with rap sheets, reports CBS News correspondent Kimberly Dozier.

Most are guilty of misdemeanors, but around 100 in the past year had felony convictions.

George Bush’s military is increasingly looking like the gang-infested, crime holes many young men and women are trying to escape from. What’s appealing about a military that is recruiting folks convicted of aggravated assault, robbery, vehicular manslaughter, receiving stolen property and making terrorist threats. The number of convicted felons enlisted in the U.S. military has almost doubled in the past three years, and 43,977 individuals convicted of serious misdemeanors such as assault have enlisted under the moral waivers program.

There’s also a stunning piece by Radar Magazine’s Seamus McGraw, Gangs of Iraq. It’s a chilling account of how far the military has fallen, with its backdrop the murder of Sergeant Juwan Johnson a decorated war vet, who was killed as a result of a gang initiation by the Gangster Disciples while in the military.

It wasn’t until May 2006, five months after the Army papered the base with fliers offering a $25,000 reward (later upped to $50,000) for information leading to an arrest and conviction in the case, that investigators acknowledged a gang connection.

Ten months lapsed before the first suspect was charged. Since then, five soldiers have been charged in the case, according to a U.S. Army spokesperson. Only one of them, Specialist Bobby Morrissette – a friend who served alongside Johnson throughout his deployment overseas — has been slated to stand trial.

But according to gang experts, including one who has been called to testify, the real mystery is why it took the Army so long to accept that Johnson was the victim of a growing epidemic of gang violence that has infected all branches of the armed services. Lax enlistment standards have inadvertently allowed thousands of gang members to join the military, including young men who belong to the Crips, Bloods, Latin Kings, and various white supremacist groups. But no gang has infiltrated the armed forces as deeply as the Gangster Disciples, a 100,000-member Chicago-based syndicate that has been linked to an assortment of crimes ranging from murder to mortgage fraud.

“There’s no doubt about it — the Gangster Disciples are the biggest [gang] in the Army,” says Chicago Police Lieutenant Robert Stasch, who has spent 30 years tracking the group’s rise from a handful of street-corner hoodlums to what he calls “the most sophisticated criminal enterprise in the United States.”

* SLDN’s The Frontlines:  8000 Rap Sheets; 100 Felons
* Too Sense: Crip Walking In Baghdad

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding