By Larry Shaughnessy
In the wake of the massacre at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin, a number of reports emerged that the gunman was a former soldier who embraced the white supremacist movement during his time in the Army more than a decade ago.
Wade Michael Page served at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, from 1995 until he left the Army in 1998. A criminologist who interviewed Page told CNN that's where he became a white supremacist.
"What he told me during the course of our time together was that he really started to identify with the neo-Nazism during his time in the military," Pete Simi, a Univerisity of Nebraska criminologist told CNN recently. "He (Page) really started getting into during his time in the military."
But the Army Thursday said extremism in the military is not as widespread as the Page case might seem to indicate.
"We do not deny there are some gang and extremist-group-related activity and association within the Army community, and we take that very seriously," Army spokesman Paul Prince wrote in an e-mail to CNN.
"However the numbers indicate it is an extremely small percentage of Soldiers... associated with felony-level criminal misconduct linked to gang or "hate group-type" crimes."
Prince wrote that the Criminal Investigation Command (CID), the Army's main law enforcement unit, tracks hate crimes and gang activity. The CID, he said, says the threat of such activity in the Army is "LOW."
Prince said that out of 10,200 felony criminal investigations by the CID in 2011, 45 were "related to gangs and extremists... Only 0.7% of all CID felony investigations had suspected gang or extremist involvement."
After the 1995 murder case involving the three Fort Bragg soldiers, the Army appointed a task force to investigate the extent of white supremacists in its ranks and also started including training against extremism.
According to the Department of Defense website, the task force visited 28 installations and interviewed more than 7,500 soldiers. It found that less than 1% said they had seen soldiers or civilian employees involved with extremist groups.
But Simi recalled that when he talked to Page, Page told him, "If you join the military and you're not a racist, then you certainly will be by the time you leave."