A program that once targeted Muslims in the military, the government says, is now being used to accelerate a program aimed at countering violent extremism.
The Pentagon said Thursday that it would allow Muslim-American applicants to apply for accelerated admittance into the military.
The Obama administration used the program to target Muslims who were deemed a threat to the homeland and could be considered potential terrorists.
President Trump’s Justice Department said it would suspend the program and would review all applicants who meet a set of criteria for potential terrorist status.
Trump has repeatedly pledged to crack down on radical Islam, and he has repeatedly accused Obama administration officials of being soft on terror.
The Justice Department’s policy change will apply only to applicants who were in active duty as of January 1, 2018.
Applicants who have been out of the military for more than two years will not be eligible.
The Department of Homeland Security said it has not yet determined which Muslim-majority countries the program would be applied to.
The Defense Department’s plan to accelerate the admittance program came after a report last week by the watchdog group Judicial Watch that found the administration was using it to deny Muslim applicants access to a program it says could help counter violent extremism in the United States.
The administration said Thursday it would review applications to the program.
It said it was reviewing whether Muslim-origin individuals would be eligible to apply.
In its report, Judicial Watch said the program had been under review since the start of the Trump Administration, and that the program was used to speed up the admission of applicants who could be linked to the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, also known as ISIL.
Judicial Watch found that since the program began in 2012, about 800 individuals were denied admittance to the military after being found to have ties to a terrorist group or to terrorism.
The group said the process had been designed to deny Muslims who could have become potential terrorists a pathway to the U.S. armed forces.
A review by the Pentagon’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion found that in 2017, more than 500 individuals were found to be Muslim-based extremists who were denied a military service.
The review also found that the military was relying on the program as a recruiting tool to target non-Muslim recruits.
The Office of the Inspector General has been conducting an independent review of the program since 2017.