It’s been a tough 2018 for aerospace contractor Northrop Grumman, culminating in today’s news that a member of its engineering team with a security clearance is part of a white nationalist group and has been filmed attacking protestors at two different events.
The Northrop employee, Michael Miselis, was identified by ProPublica and Frontline during an investigation into the identities of participants in a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, last year. The event spurred violence and ended in the death of one woman after a white nationalist drove his car into a group of counter-protestors.
In addition to working for Northrop, Miselis is a graduate student in aerospace engineering at UCLA. He is also part of an organization called the Rise Above Movement, or RAM, that espouses hateful views of Muslims, Jews, and immigrants. He was videotaped beating an African-American protestor in Charlottesville and attacking demonstrators at a Trump rally in Berkeley, California.
“Northrop Grumman was recently made aware of alleged employee actions that are counter to our values,” the company said in a statement provided to Quartz. “Northrop Grumman is absolutely committed to the highest levels of ethics and integrity in all that we do, and ensuring that our workplace reflects our values of diversity and inclusion. 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.”
Update, 7/6: Northrop Grumman tells Quartz it has terminated Miselis’ employment.
Perhaps most surprising is that Miselis was able to obtain a security clearance to allow him to work on projects classified for national security reasons. Background checks included in the clearance process are designed to identify any activity that could make the subject susceptible to potential blackmail.
“I can’t believe that participation in an organized white supremacist group focused on street-level violence wouldn’t jeopardize your security clearance,” Keegan Hankes, a researcher at the Southern Poverty Law Center who tracks white nationalist groups, told ProPublica.
This news is the latest in a bad streak for one of the country’s largest military contractors.
In January, Northrop lost a spy satellite worth billions when its deployment mechanism failed. In June, NASA announced that the company’s efforts to build a next-generation orbital observatory would be delayed again, costing an additional $1 billion, in part because employees used the wrong cleaning solvent, ruining a propulsion system.
This post was updated with comment from Northrop Grumman.