Monday, March 31, 2014

The Search for Booker

Fox News reports that federal authorities have launched a nationwide manhunt for a military recruit who planned a "Fort Hood-style jihad" against his fellow soldiers.

Here's the good news (so far): the recruit wasn't in uniform yet and wasn't scheduled to report to basic training until next week.  The man, identified only as "Booker" (a.k.a. Muhammad Abdullah Hassan) was recruited by the Army in February 2014, and his enlistment contract was terminated last week, after officials learned of the apparent plot.  The FBI issued an alert after Booker reportedly told friends about his plan.    

The alert, a copy of which was obtained by, was sent out by the FBI's Kansas City Division on Friday and distributed through the U.S. Marine Corps. The portion obtained by did not include Hassan's photo or age. It was also sent to the Kansas City Police Department, which could indicate authorities believe he may have remained in the area where he was recruited.
The alert is titled, “Planned Fort Hood-inspired Jihad against US Soldiers by Army Recruit” and was issued “to inform and protect officers who may encounter this individual or others exhibiting the same aspirations.” The source of the information contained in the alert was listed as “An FBI agent.” 

Law enforcement sources familiar with the alert said others may have expressed similar intentions to commit jihad against American military installations.  The alert was initially sent to the Kansas City Police Department, suggesting that authorities believe Booker may still be in the area where he was recruited.

Along with local police and the FBI, the Army's 902nd Military Intelligence Group is also involved in the hunt.  Headquartered at nearby Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, the 902nd conducts counter-intelligence, counter-terrorism and counter-espionage operations in the United States.

Little information on the alleged plot has been released, and it was unclear what type of threat Booker--and potentially, others--might pose to military installations in the Kansas City area or elsewhere around the country.  As a basic trainee, Booker would have only limited access to weapons and ammunition in the tightly-controlled environment of a training base like Fort Jackson, SC; Fort Leonard Wood, MO, Fort Sill, OK, Fort Knox, KY and Fort Benning, GA.

The Army has not disclosed where Booker was scheduled for basic.  That assignment is based on a recruit's assigned military job, or MOS.  Fort Leonard Wood, located about four hours southeast of Kansas City, is one of four major military installations in the region, along with Whiteman AFB, Fort Riley, KS and Fort Leavenworth.

A more likely target could be the various armed recruiting stations in the Kansas City area and the Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS), where recruits report before shipping out.  Recruiting stations are typically located in shopping malls or similar locations, often with little security.  In 2009, Abdulhakin Mujahid Muhammad, previously known as Carlos Leon Bledsoe, attacked a recruiting office in Little Rock, AR, killing one soldier and wounding another.

Another unanswered question is why Booker was heading to basic training so soon after enlistment.  With on-going military budget cuts and personnel reductions, fewer soldiers are entering the Army and waiting times for recruits who are accepted have lengthened.  In some cases, soldiers wait up to a year for their desired military job.  In the past, recruits have been able to enter the ranks sooner by allowing the service to "pick their job."

Officials have not said what MOS Booker was slated to enter, of why he was shipping out barely a month after enlistment.  The quick departure suggests the suspect did very well on his Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB), had a particular skills the Army needs (such as fluency in a foreign language), or the recruiting battalion that handles the Kansas City area was below quota and trying to catch up.

Now, the feds are trying to catch up to a would-be jihadist who was a week away from wearing the nation's uniform.          


Vigilis said...

"Booker", 19 Y.O.A., must be immaturity personified. What a dunce!

Yet, something truly stinks: It surely should not have taken authorities this long to locate their quarry.

Instead, they have him under observation, recording his movements, conversations, e-mails, etc., and contacts.

Momo will be brought to justice when authorities document every shred of evidence, history and accessory with which he was ever connected -- anywhere on the globe.

Say, goodnight, Momo!

Vigilis said...

Aside from "Booker" incredible naivete and immaturity, the news of his elusiveness does not ring true.

Allow me to suggest a scenario with slightly more accuracy. U.S. authorities have known Muhammad Abdullah Hassan's whereabouts (anywhere on the globe) and are keeping him, his aquaintences and communiques under surveillance.

By the time his apprehension has been reported publicly, the agent of record will have a dossier of his life on file, appropriate evidence, including the identities of any and all of his co-conspirators (my guess is none), transcripts of pertinent communications, and results of who knows how many executed search warrants.

As quick as the NSA is alleged to be, this should not take more than 3-7 more weeks, at most.

If and only if Hassan is subsequently arrested would the news again be made public.

Nate Hale said...

Vigilis--Your scenario is certainly credible; I can see how the feds would announce discovery of the plot to deter the various conspirators from carrying it out. Meanwhile, as you indicate, Booker and any co-conspirators are under constant FBI surveillance, physically and electronically, and it's just a matter of rolling them up when the U.S. attorney has enough info for the case, or Booker and associates prepare to launch their plan.

As an Army enlistee, Booker wouldn't have access to any of the bases in the KC area, and the odds of him carrying out a plot in basic are pretty slim, too. On the other hand (as indicated in the post), various recruiting offices in the Kansas City area could be targets, along with the MEPS facility.

It will be interesting to see if the Booker plot was nothing more than talk, or there was actually something to it.