A Day After Report, Violent White Supremacist Loses Job With Defense Contractor

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July 6, 2018
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by A.C. Thompson

Michael Miselis (with arms raised) was front and center during the violence in Charlottesville, Va. last summer. (Photo Edu Bayer)

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This story is part of an ongoing collaboration between ProPublica and FRONTLINE that includes documentaries scheduled to begin on PBS in August 2018.

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Update, July 6, 2018: One day after being exposed as a member of a violent white supremacist group, Michael Miselis has lost his job as an aerospace engineer. In an email, company spokesman Tim Paynter told ProPublica and FRONTLINE that Miselis “is no longer an employee of Northrop Grumman.” Paynter did not say whether Miselis was fired or resigned from his position.

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Defense contractor Northrop Grumman said it will investigate an employee identified as a member of a violent white supremacist group in a recent report by ProPublica and FRONTLINE.

The employee, Michael Miselis, a 29-year-old aerospace engineer, works at the company’s facility in Redondo Beach, California, and holds a government-issued security clearance of the sort required for personnel assigned to classified military projects. Outside of his professional life, Miselis belongs to the Rise Above Movement (RAM), a racist Southern California group whose members have physically attacked their political foes in at least four different cities.

Through analysis of photos and video, as well as interviews with law enforcement officials, ProPublica and FRONTLINE were able to establish Miselis’ membership in RAM and verify his role at the center of melees last year in Charlottesville, Virginia, and an earlier pro-Trump event in Berkeley, California.

He showed up for the white power rally in Charlottesville prepared for combat: He was wearing an athletic mouth guard and had his hands wrapped in tape, like a boxer. Video and photos show him pushing an African-American counter-protester to the pavement and punching him; during the same altercation, another RAM member choked, kicked and punched two female counter-protesters, leaving them bloodied.

In Berkeley, Miselis was part of a RAM contingent that engaged in hours of street fighting. He was captured on video punching and wrestling with rivals.

Responding to ProPublica and FRONTLINE’s reporting, the company issued a statement, saying via Twitter: “We do not tolerate hatred or illegal conduct and we condemn racist activities in any shape or form. We are taking immediate action to look into the very serious issues raised by these reports.”

Northrop CEO Wesley G. Bush also sent out a message regarding Miselis to all company staff.

“I was deeply saddened yesterday to see news reports alleging that one of our employees engaged in violence as part of the Charlottesville protests,” wrote Bush in a letter sent out today and reviewed by ProPublica and FRONTLINE. “We issued a statement yesterday to reaffirm the values of our company and to state publicly that we will investigate these allegations and act upon our findings.”

Company spokespeople did not offer any additional comment.

Northrop was alerted to Miselis’ involvement in the white supremacist group at least as early as mid-May when the firm was contacted by ProPublica and FRONTLINE journalists seeking comment. Current and former employees of Northrop said Miselis had also informed the company that he had been approached by reporters — a requirement for contractors holding security clearances.

Internal Northrop records show Miselis is employed by the company’s aerospace systems division, but it’s not clear whether he works on military projects or on research for civilian endeavors. It’s also unclear precisely what type of security clearance he holds.

When approached by reporters, Miselis said he didn’t know anything about the events in Charlottesville, and when asked about his affiliation with RAM said, “I think you got the wrong guy.”

Today, in a status message to Northrop’s internal IM system posted by Miselis and reviewed by ProPublica and FRONTLINE, Miselis wrote, “Believe none of what you hear and half of what you see.”

RAM is a focus of an ongoing probe by the FBI, which is looking into the gang’s criminal activities, according to law enforcement officials with knowledge of the inquiry. An FBI spokesperson would not confirm or deny any investigation of RAM.

The revelations about the white supremacist working within Northrop’s ranks comes as U.S. Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, a Democrat from Illinois, is preparing legislation that would require federal agencies to submit an annual report detailing the number of individuals who were denied security clearances due to their affiliations with hate groups. Additionally, it would force agencies to list people who were granted clearances despite their involvement in racial extremist organizations.

Krishnamoorthi plans to introduce the proposal next week.

Grace Carmichael, a member of the congressman’s staff, said, “Not only is there no law that stops people affiliated with hate groups from obtaining a clearance, there’s no sense of how many people with these affiliations have been approved for clearances.”

 

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