Yesterday there was a hearing in the Ryan Anderson case. Anderson, you may recall, is the Muslim National Guardsman who is accused of trying to join Al-Qaeda. Interestingly and without explanation, Muslim Army Chaplain James Yee, who was famously arrested and held on suspicion of espionage and then released with all charges dropped, attended the hearing. From the Seattle Times:
FORT LEWIS — In a covered parking garage near Seattle Center, National Guard Spc. Ryan Anderson sat in an SUV with two men who spoke with Arabic accents.
“What organization do you think we are?” said one of the men, an undercover agent calling himself Mohammed.
“I believe you are what Americans call al-Qaida,” Anderson replied.
Before the hourlong conversation was over, all of it captured by a hidden camera in early February, Anderson spoke of the possibility of defecting to join the terrorist group. He also offered to help train al-Qaida fighters to take out U.S. convoys in Iraq and shared ways of destroying U.S. tanks and killing their crews, according to the video.
When the other agent asked about Humvees equipped with added armor, Anderson replied that the vehicles were still vulnerable, particularly the windshield.
“It would be very easy to kill a driver, or the crew inside,” he said.
The damaging video was shown yesterday in day one of a two-day preliminary hearing at Fort Lewis to determine if Anderson should face trial by court-martial on charges of attempting to aid the enemy. The hearing, known as an Article 32, continues today.
If convicted, he could face the death penalty, though no one has been put to death in the military in more than 40 years.
Anderson, a 26-year-old Muslim convert from Lynnwood, was arrested Feb. 12, just weeks before he was to deploy to Iraq with the Washington state National Guard’s 81st Armored Brigade, where he served as a tank crewman.
Anderson, wearing desert fatigues, glasses and a crew cut, sat quietly throughout the hearing taking notes and conferring with his military attorney. Family members sat in the gallery behind him.
According to testimony, Anderson first came to the attention of investigators through a Montana judge who spent her off-hours hunting for terrorists on the Internet.
Shannen Rossmiller from Conrad, Mont., testified that she was monitoring a Web site that catered to Muslim extremists when she came across a posting by an “Amid Abdul Rashid.”
After a series of searches, she traced the name to Anderson and, posing as a Muslim extremist, exchanged e-mails with him. Learning that he was a member of the military, and believing that he might be a threat, she contacted authorities.
Anderson told her “he was curious if a brother fighting for the wrong side could defect,” Rossmiller testified.
Once alerted by Rossmiller, the FBI contacted military-intelligence officers, who set up a sting operation and traded dozens of text messages with Anderson. “Are you with us brother?” they asked in one. “Every step of the way, Inshallah (if God wills),” he replied, according to transcripts of the messages shown in court.
On Feb. 8, as his unit was undergoing pre-deployment training at Fort Lewis, Anderson met with undercover Officer Ricardo Romero at a bookstore in nearby Lakewood, Romero testified.
Romero said he asked if Anderson could provide a passport photo and a military manual. Anderson agreed, Romero said.
The next day, Anderson met with Romero and another agent near Seattle Center.
The prosecutors, Maj. Chris Jenks and Maj. Timothy MacDonnell, showed a videotape of the encounter.
On the tape, Anderson told the men that his mother was Jordanian and that he had converted to Islam because he “found no faith in Christian teachings and looked for a way to feel the emptiness.”
He showed them schematics of M1A1 Abrams tanks pulled from an unclassified Defense Department Web site and pointed out vulnerabilities in the tanks.
After being asked why he would want to help al-Qaida, Anderson replies on the video: “While I love my country, I think the leaders have taken this horrible road. I have no belief in what the American Army has asked me to do. They have sent me to die.”
The prosecutors also called two civilian witnesses who work for the military. They testified that Anderson’s statements about the Abrams tank were accurate.
Under cross-examination by Anderson’s lawyer, Maj. Joseph Morse, Romero acknowledged that some of the things Anderson told him, such as his mother being from Jordan, were untrue.
Romero also acknowledged that Anderson said things that were exaggerated or untrue, such as his claim of being a qualified pilot and holding a concealed-weapons permit.
Morse did not call any witnesses yesterday. Anderson and his attorney have declined interviews.
Among those at Anderson’s hearing was Capt. James Yee, a Muslim chaplain at Fort Lewis who until recently was embroiled in an investigation of suspected espionage at the GuantÃ¡namo Bay detention camp in Cuba. The Army has since dismissed all charges against Yee. Yee refused to say, and Army officials refused to disclose, why he attended the hearing.