(AP) — A soldier in the U.S. Army wrote on Instagram that he joined the military “for combat experience so I’m more proficient in killing” Black people, investigators say.
Killian Mackeithan Ryan also had five Instagram accounts that were in contact with others “associated with racially motivated extremism,” according to court records.
Ryan’s alleged social media activity is documented in a case filed late last month in U.S. District Court in North Carolina that accuses him of providing false information on a security clearance form to serve at Fort Bragg.
The case was first reported by Rolling Stone and comes at a time when the U.S. military is trying to purge its ranks of extremists and white supremacists.
For example, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin directed commanding officers last year to institute a one-day stand-down to address extremism. The military also updated its social media policy where liking and reposting certain content could result in disciplinary action.
And just this week, the names of more than 100 current military members appeared on the leaked membership rolls of a far-right extremist group that’s accused of playing a key role in last year’s insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.
Ryan is accused of claiming on the security clearance form that he wasn’t in contact with his biological father for more than 10 years, according to court records. He also said that his biological father wasn’t listed on his birth certificate.
Ryan’s biological father is a convicted felon with a criminal history in Washington state and California for drug violations and auto theft, according to court records.
Ryan was investigated by a police officer in Fayetteville, North Carolina, who works as part of the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force.
Ryan served in the regular Army at Fort Bragg until his arrest by the FBI on Aug. 26 and “was separated for serious misconduct,” U.S. Army officials said in a statement.
The statement did not elaborate on what the misconduct was. Ryan was also charged with driving under the influence at Fort Bragg in July, according to court documents.
The Army said the FBI informed it earlier this year that Ryan was under investigation.
“The U.S. Army does not tolerate racism, extremism or hatred in our ranks,” its statement said.
Ryan served as a fire support specialist, which is someone who gathers intelligence on enemy targets for artillery forces. The Army said he had no deployments.
For one of his Instagram accounts, Ryan used an email that contained the name “naziace1488,” according to court records.
According to the Anti-Defamation League, 1488 is a combination of numeric symbols that are popular among white supremacists.
The first is the number 14, which is shorthand for a 14-word slogan about the “future for white children,” the ADL said. The second is 88, which stands for “Heil Hitler” because H is the 8th letter of the alphabet, the ADL said.
Ryan was in touch with his biological father through Instagram, court records stated. His father also posted a photo of the two at Ryan’s high school graduation in 2019.
Legal experts say that Ryan could have jeopardized his security clearance if he listed recent contact with his biological father.
“They’re looking at the potential for you to be compromised in any way because of your personal situation,” said Colby Vokey, a military criminal defense lawyer.
Ryan would have needed clearance to work with intelligence on enemy positions as well as information about U.S. weapons systems, Vokey added.
Phillip Stackhouse, another military criminal defense lawyer, said prosecuting someone for providing false information on a security clearance form is not routine in his experience. Many people often just have their clearance revoked without being charged.
“Maybe they’re going to make an example of him,” Stackhouse said of Ryan. “Maybe it’s to apply pressure on him to cooperate in some other investigation.”
Ryan’s federal public defender, James E. Todd , Jr., did not immediately respond to an email from The Associated Press seeking comment.