A lieutenant’s murder plot; AFRICOM’s new hub; Russia’s Arctic UAVs; Europe rejects US’ Syria request; And a bit more.
Coast Guard lieutenant planned mass murder, federal prosecutors say. In a court filing, they called Lt. Christopher Paul Hasson, arrested Friday on gun and drug charges, a “domestic terrorist” and self-described white nationalist who intended “to murder innocent civilians on a scale rarely seen in this country.”
His letters and spreadsheets specified various targets, including journalists and prominent Democratic politicians, says the filing, citing documents seized from his home and work computers. But his ambition didn’t stop there: “I am dreaming of a way to kill almost every last person on the earth. I think a plague would be most successful but how do I acquire the needed/ Spanish flu, botulism, anthrax not sure yet but will find something.”
“I am a long time White Nationalist, having been a skinhead 30 plus years ago before my time in the military,” he wrote. Authorities say Hasson studied the writings of Anders Breivik, the far-right extremist who killed 77 Norwegians in 2011.
Hasson was also a Marine from 1988 to 1993, and served about two years in the Army National Guard, according to court documents. The filing was spotted by Seamus Hughes of GWU’s Program on Extremism, whose tweets led to longer pieces by the Washington Post and New York Times.
Also on Wednesday: The number of U.S. hate groups rose for the fourth year in a row by the Southern Poverty Law Center’s count, “pushed to a record high by a toxic combination of political polarization, anti-immigrant sentiment and technologies that help spread propaganda online,” the NYT reported.
More about extremists in U.S. ranks. Last May: “A Marine took part in the violent assaults in Charlottesville last summer and later bragged about it online with other members of Atomwaffen, an extremist group preparing for a race war. The involvement of current or former service members — often with sophisticated weapons training — in white supremacist groups has long been a concern.” That’s from a ProPublica team led by A.C. Thompson, who joined us on Defense One Radio last year to talk about extremism in America. Listen, here.
From Defense One
AFRICOM Adds Logistics Hub in West Africa, Hinting at an Enduring US Presence // Katie Bo Williams: From Ghana’s capital, a new supply network will ferry supplies and arms to special forces troops across the region.
Russian Attacks Hit US-European Think Tank Emails, Says Microsoft // Patrick Tucker: The same groups that hit the DNC recently targeted prominent think tanks, including one election-monitoring organization
Judge Puts Hold on Lawsuit on Pentagon’s JEDI Cloud Contract // Frank Konkel, Nextgov: The battle over the Pentagon’s Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure contract just got more interesting.
Russia Plans More Arctic UAVs // Samuel Bendett: Moscow’s equivalent of DARPA wants a cold-weather drone that can stay aloft for four days.
ISIS Might Come Back. That’s Just One More Reason to Get Out of Syria // Bonnie Kristian: U.S. military intervention cannot address the grievances that fuel ISIS. Nor does it protect American interests or serve our defense.
Welcome to this Thursday edition of The D Brief by Ben Watson and Bradley Peniston. Thanks for reading! And if you’re not subscribed, you can do that here. On this day 25 years ago, Aldrich Ames, one of the most damaging moles in CIA history, was arrested by the FBI. The CIA never forgets, here.
Some 150 ISIS fighters have been turned over to Iraqi authorities by the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces closing in on what’s left of the terrorist group in Baghouz, Syria.
Why this matters: “The transfer marks the biggest repatriation from Syria of captured militants so far — an issue that poses a major conundrum for Europeans and other countries whose nationals have been imprisoned as foreign fighters in Syria,” the Associated Press reports from Baghouz. “The SDF is holding more than 1,000 foreign fighters in prisons it runs in the country’s north, many of them Iraqis and Europeans.”
What you may not have known: We’ve heard the 1,000-foreign-fighters number before — since at least January 9. But a nameless Iraqi security official told the AP “the SDF are holding more than 20,000 Iraqis suspected of IS membership as well as their families in prisons and camps in northern Syria.” That first batch of 150 ISIS fighters turned over to Baghdad? There are believed to be another 350 like them in that group of 20,000.
And from that fall of ISIS in Baghouz comes the tale of 24-year-old former Alabama resident Hoda Muthana and her toddler son. She left the U.S. four years ago to join ISIS. Now that that project collapsed, she has a kid and wants to return to the U.S. The U.S. State Department announced Wednesday (CNN) that neither she nor her son could enter the U.S. because “Hoda Muthana was not born a U.S. citizen and she has never been a U.S. citizen… Ms. Muthana’s citizenship has not been revoked because she was never a US citizen.” She was, however, the daughter of a former Yemeni diplomat, as The New York Times’ Rukmini Callimachi pointed out in a useful Twitter thread. Muthana’s attorney is challenging the State Department’s argument against Muthana — an argument emphatically endorsed by Trump on Twitter Wednesday.
Additional problem: This stance from the White House is at odds with Trump’s own advice to allies, the Washington Post reports this morning.
The gist of that contradiction: “How can the United States stand by its demand that allies should take back fighters and ISIS members who previously lived in Europe when it refuses to do the same for at least one former U.S. resident?” Read on, here.
Calling the WH’s bluff? America’s allies in Syria “unanimously” say if the U.S. leaves — they do, too, the Washington Post’s Karen DeYoung and Missy Ryan reported Wednesday. And that means no one remains for what many predict will be a resurgence of some very dangerous sort in and around Syria.
Part of the Trump WH’s post-U.S. withdrawal pitch involves asking allies to “form an ‘observer’ force to patrol a 20-mile-wide ‘safe zone’ on the Syrian side of the border, separating Turkey from the Syrian Kurds.” And backfilling for the U.S.? “Russia, meanwhile, has proposed that Assad’s forces simply be allowed to take over the entire area now controlled by the United States and its allies,” the Post writes.
One U.S. lawmaker reportedly very pissed over what’s transpired so far: Sen. Lindsey Graham, who is said to have berated acting SecDef Shanahan last week on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference. Graham wants some 200 U.S. troops to stay behind as a compromise with America’s pals in Syria like Britain and France. Retelling the story: the Washington Post’s Josh Rogin.
The exchange is said to have gone something like this:
- Graham: “Are you telling our allies that we are going to go to zero by April 30?”
- Shanahan: An order’s an order.
- Graham: “That’s the dumbest f—ing idea I’ve ever heard.” Read on, here.
House Democrats plan move to block Trump’s emergency declaration. So far, 92 lawmakers have co-signed a resolution that is to be introduced on Friday, aides to Rep. Joaquin Castro tell Reuters.
The bill has the backing of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who on Wednesday invited all her GOP and Democratic colleagues to sign on. Within weeks, she said, the House “will move swiftly to pass this bill.”
Ultimate outlook: unlikely. “Both the House and the Republican-led Senate could pass a resolution terminating the emergency by majority vote. However, any such measure would then go to Trump, who would likely veto it. Overriding the veto would require a two-thirds vote in both chambers.” A bit more, here.
Also on Wednesday: “Texas National Guard’s top general told Texas senators in a hearing today that they have two maintenance facilities at risk of losing funding because of the national emergency declaration,” reports Stripes’ Rose L. Thayer.
No big deal, but Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was just gifted a golden submachine gun in Pakistan. CNN has the picture and story, here.
Lower your expectations ahead of next week’s Trump-Kim summit 2.0, the Washington Post reports off the latest efforts from Trump’s North Korea negotiator Steve Biegun. AP has another preview of next week’s meeting in Hanoi, with a view to what South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in stands to gain — and how he could be disappointed — here.
And finally today: Wanna see some quiet and not-so quiet little submarines, bombers, rockets and missiles painted into iconic classical art works from Monet, Van Gogh, and Matisse? Inkstick Media’s Jamie Withorne has six works and 400 or so words on why she even brought this up, here.