Did members of an Arabic translation team attempt to poison the food supply at Fort Jackson, South Carolina?
That's the allegation currently under investigation by agents from the Army's Criminal Investigation Division.
Both Fox News and CBN News report that the inquiry began two months ago, and has remained active since that time. Sources say the investigation has focused on five members of a Lima 09 translation team, which was apparently training with U.S. troops at Fort Jackson. The translators were reportedly detained in December, when the complaint first surfaced. It is unclear if the individuals are still in custody.
Lima 09 is the name for an Army program that hires native Arabic speakers (and those fluent in other Middle Eastern languages) to serve as translators for American units in the war zone. Fort Jackson provides both basic and advanced training for thousands of soldiers every year.
However, an Army spokesman at the Pentagon cautioned that "no credible information" has been found to support the allegations. Lt Col Christopher Garver told The State newspaper in South Carolina that he could not release specifics of the investigation, to protect the integrity of the on-going probe.
Meanwhile, a local law enforcement source tells the paper there was "never" any threat to troops at Fort Jackson. The official blamed the poisoning scare on a few soldiers "who shot their mouths off."
Still, it's hard to believe that the CID would spend two months looking into completely baseless allegations. On the other hand, it's hard to believe that a translation team could pull off the alleged poisoning plot, because (we assume) they had little access mess hall food supplies.
That's because the days of recruits pulling extended KP duty is long since past; when I went through Air Force basic three decades ago, each recruit spent just one day in the mess hall, usually scrubbing pots or doing other menial chores. Food preparation and serving--even in those days--was entrusted to contractors, closely supervised by food service NCOs.
If the translators did try something in the mess hall, it would have been as customers, and not as cooks or servers. And, their opportunities for contaminating the food would have been limited. Dining facilities at training bases at not places for leisurely meals; Drill Sergeants patrol the mess halls, "actively" encouraging soldiers to finish their food, in minimum time.
In time, we may learn if there's anything to the allegations at Fort Jackson. Until then, the CID is clearly taking no chances. After the recent massacre at Fort Hood, preceded by countless missed warning signs and clues, CID investigators (and the Army brass) have no margin for error.
ADDENDUM: An official with "intimate" knowledge of the investigation tells CBN's Erick Stakelbeck that the "Fort Jackson 5" may have been in contact with a group of five Muslims from the Washington, D.C. area who traveled to Pakistan to wage jihad against U.S. troops. Those men were arrested by Pakistani authorities in December, about the time the translators were detained at Fort Jackson.
The reported link between the two groups may be one reason the CID investigation is continuing. And, we're guessing that other agencies (like the FBI and CIA) are also involved. If the connection pans out, there will be new questions about the Lima 09 program, and its penetration by suspected terrorists.