Terrorist deemed 'not a danger' to the public arrested in suicide bomb plot
An American citizen who tried to join the army until he posted pro-Islamic State sentiments on his Facebook page was arrested by the FBI and charged with wanting to perpetrate a suicide attack on Fort Riley, KS.
Joihn T. Booker - AKA Mohammed Abdullah Hassan - was an army recruit scheduled to start basic training last year until his Facebook posting caused the military to reject him. He told an undercover FBI agent that he wanted to attack Fort Riley in a suicide car bomb and began to purchase materials and construct a bomb.
Later Friday, the authorities arrested a second man, Alexander E. Blair, 28, from Topeka, who they said shared Mr. Booker’s extremist views, knew about his plot and gave him money to rent a storage locker. Mr. Blair was charged with failing to report a felony.
The Army recruited Mr. Booker in February 2014, and he had been scheduled to start basic training last April. But in March 2014, according to the complaint, he posted multiple messages on Facebook that expressed terrorist aspirations, including: “I will soon be leaving you forever so goodbye! I’m going to wage jihad and hopes that i die.”
Later that month, F.B.I. agents interviewed him and, according to the complaint, he told them he wanted to commit an insider attack against American soldiers as Maj. Nidal Hasan did in 2009 at Fort Hood, Tex.
Mr. Booker was denied entry to the Army because of his statements, but the authorities said then that he was not a danger to the public, and he was not arrested. But in October, Mr. Booker began speaking with an F.B.I. informant about his terrorist goals, the complaint said. He told the informant he wanted to join the Islamic State, and the informant introduced him to another informant, who proffered himself as a “high-ranking sheikh planning terrorist acts in the United States,” the complaint said.
Mr. Booker told the informants he wanted to target the base at Fort Riley. The informants then helped Mr. Booker put together what he thought was a car bomb but was actually a dud.
The authorities said that Mr. Booker never breached Fort Riley’s perimeter. Mr. Booker agreed to let the informants make the car bomb and planned to drive it onto the base to detonate it, killing himself in the process, the complaint said.
Not a danger to the public? It's one thing to express sentiments in support of AQ or Islamic State. You can support whoever you want. It's quite another to actually threaten violence, as Mr. Booker did on his Facebook page.and then be deemed "not a threat" to the public.
The same thing happened with the Tsarnev brothers, who the FBI knew had traveled abroad and met with jihadists. When they returned, the FBI lost track of them. The tragic result of such complacency should have been a lesson for all of law enforcement.
In this case, the FBI appears to have been more careful and set up the sting operation to catch Booker. But it would have been easy to lose track of him given the judgment that he posed no threat to the public at the time he was kicked out of the army.
And when the military refused to take him, the FBI introduced Booker to a Muslim cleric who says Booker is mentally ill:
Imam Omar Hazim of the Islamic Center of Topeka said that two FBI agents took Booker to him last year for counseling, hoping to turn the young man away from radical beliefs. Hazim said the agents told him that Booker suffered from bipolar disorder, characterized by unusual mood swings that can affect functioning.
Hazim said he expressed concerns to the FBI about allowing Booker to move freely in the community after their first encounter.
Hazim said he later heard that two others were involved in a bombing plot with Booker. He said the FBI told him they were undercover FBI agents and that the sting was arranged to get Booker “off the streets.”
Millions of people with bi-polar disorder live normal lives. Trying to excuse Booker's actions in this way doesn't cut it.
If not the bomb plot, I suspect Booker would have eventually purchased a gun and shot up a mall, or school in his bid for martyrdom. Deeming him no threat to the public was wrongheaded and dangerous.