Defense Contractor Fires Employee Linked To White Supremacist Group
A man who had been identified as an assailant at last year's Charlottesville rally and apparent member of a white supremacist organization has been dismissed by defense contractor Northrop Grumman.
Last week, James Joyner wrote about the case of Michael Miselis, a University of California, Los Angeles doctoral student with a U.S. government security clearance to work on sensitive research for a prominent defense contractor who somehow managed to get a security clearance and a job with Northrup Grumman. What made the case unusual is the fact that, as a Pro Publica report showed, Miselis had ties to a white supremacist organization and was apparently involved in the alt-right rally in Charlottesville last year that resulted in the death of one woman. Late last week, The Washington Post reported that Miselis had lost his job:
Michael Miselis, a Northrop Grumman systems engineer who allegedly is a member of a white-supremacist organization and participated in a violent rally in Charlottesville last summer is no longer employed at the company, a Northrop Grumman spokesman said Friday.
The news follows a Thursday report by the investigative news organization ProPublica and the television program “Frontline,” which identified Miselis in photos and videos from the rally, where he is seen with arms raised and tape covering his hands. The report also identifies Miselis in a video “pounding on” a black man at the rally.
“The individual is no longer a Northrop Grumman employee,” Northrop Grumman spokesman Tim Paynter said Friday afternoon, referring to Miselis.
Northrop was initially slow to respond to the allegations. ProPublica and “Frontline” reported early Thursday morning that Miselis had remained employed at Northrop even after his superiors had been informed of his actions. On Thursday afternoon Northrop published a statement saying it would “take immediate action to look into” the issue, but a company spokesperson declined to comment on Miselis’ employment at the time.
Then on Friday morning Northrop Grumman chief executive Wes Bush told employees in an internal email that the company would “take the appropriate actions to make sure that our foundation remains strong well into the future,” without saying which specific actions the company would take.
The email was forwarded to The Washington Post by a Northrop Grumman employee who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the employee feared retaliation. “They would end up firing me and not the white supremacist” for forwarding Bush’s email to a reporter, the person said.
In the email, which did not confirm whether Miselis had participated in the Charlottesville rally, Bush said he had heard from a number of people who “expressed concern for fellow employees” in light of the report’s findings.
“There is no place in our company for those who demonstrate behaviors that are counter to our values,” Bush wrote in the email. “If we allow such inconsistencies to be present in our company, we erode the foundation of our enterprise — our ethics and our integrity. Our leadership team will not allow that to happen, and we are determined to take the appropriate actions to ensure our foundation remains strong well into the future.”
According to ProPublica and “Frontline,” Miselis is a 29-year-old PhD student studying aerospace engineering at the University of California at Los Angeles. He also worked as a systems engineer at a Northrop Grumman facility in Redondo Beach, Calif., and holds a security clearance for that work, the report says.
The report identifies Miselis in photos and videos taken from a white-supremacist rally last summer in Charlottesville at which one person was killed when a car was driven into a crowd of counterprotesters.
A photo accompanying the report shows a man identified as Miselis. It also cites a video in which he “pushed an African American protester to the ground and began pounding on him.” The report states that Miselis was a member of the Rise Above Movement, or RAM, a white-supremacist group.
While I agree with the concern that James expressed about Frontline and Pro Publica putting resources into reporting about the activities of a non-public figure such as Miselis, especially since there appears to be little direct evidence of his involvement with organized white supremacist groups. That being said, both his participation in the Charlottesville rally and the fact that there is video and photographic evidence that clearly appears to depict him engaging in an what can only be described as a race-related attack on an African-American man. Regardless of whether or not he is formally a member of RAM or any other organization, he’s clearly sympathetic to such points of view, and he clearly seems to have committed a criminal act as part of his participation in the Charlottesville rally. (Whether he has been formally charged in connection with the incident is unclear.
Moreover, as James noted in his post, the fact that Northrop Grumman employs minorities of all types it would be untenable to continue to employ a known white supremacist after he’s been outed in this manner. Whether all of this will go on to effect Miselis’s security clearance, which he appears to have obtained independently of his employment with Northrup Grumman, is unclear.