Ryan Anderson: A Man ahead of His Times
"While I love my homeland, I believe the leaders have taken this horrible road. I have no belief in what the American Army has asked me to do. They have taken me from my family and sent me to die," ...But Anderson, a convert to Islam, said he would not fight overseas against "brother" Muslims. "I am very upset about that," he said. "I love my country, but I fear my government."
Video records soldier's plans to join al-Qaida
Thursday, May 13, 2004
By MIKE BARBER
SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER REPORTER
FORT LEWIS -- Army Spc. Ryan Anderson talked with his lawyer and wrote on a notepad yesterday, but didn't look up at the screen showing an undercover video of his meeting near the Space Needle in February with two federal investigators posing as al-Qaida terrorist recruiters.
In the 58-minute recording made inside a vehicle, with about a minute censored for security reasons, Anderson, 26, of Lynnwood is shown volunteering ideas on how to defeat U.S. military vehicles and kill soldiers, sharing military documents, making plans to desert and join al-Qaida, and his reasons for it all.
"While I love my homeland, I believe the leaders have taken this horrible road. I have no belief in what the American Army has asked me to do. They have taken me from my family and sent me to die," Anderson said on the video, which was shown in a courtroom at this Army base yesterday.
"I joined the National Guard because they said I won't go over and fight -- I will fight at home," he said.
But Anderson, a convert to Islam, said he would not fight overseas against "brother" Muslims. "I am very upset about that," he said. "I love my country, but I fear my government."
On the video, Anderson gives Jordanian ancestry on his mother's side of the family as a motivation for defecting, claiming he was sickened when fellow soldiers denigrated Arabs and Muslims without reprimand.
"I believe you are what Americans would call al-Qaida," Anderson tells the agents. When they ask why they should trust him, he said: "If I walk away, I'm wanted in the country. It's called AWOL or desertion. If I leave, I cannot come back."
Anderson, a member of a tank crew with the state National Guard's 81st Armor Division that deployed to Iraq in March, was arrested in February after he allegedly tried to pass information to undercover Army investigators. He is charged with five counts of trying to communicate with terrorists.
Anderson seemed relaxed yesterday. He was dressed in a desert-camouflage uniform and wore black-rimmed glasses. He is appearing at an Article 32 hearing, similar to a grand jury in the civilian legal system except that Anderson can be present and cross-examine witnesses. Recommendations will be made to Lt. Gen. Edward Soriano, Fort Lewis commander, who will decide whether to convene a court-martial and whether charges will carry the death penalty.
Anderson, a 2002 Washington State University graduate in military history, was known to high school classmates in Lynnwood for his Christian and paramilitary enthusiasm and profuse letter writing to newspapers. Then he embraced his version of Islam and kept his ideas flowing on Internet forums.
One Internet forum sparked the case against him.
As the first witness, Shannen Rossmiller, a city judge in Conrad, Mont., described yesterday how she linked the name and e-mail address of Amir Abdul Rashid on the Web site to Anderson.
Under questioning and cross-examination, Rossmiller said she is a member of 7/Seas.net, a group of seven amateur "counterintelligence" Web-surfing hobbyists tracking terrorist activity and providing information to the government. Its members include four in the United States, one in Australia, one in Indonesia and another in Canada, Rossmiller said.
She told investigating officer Col. Patrick Reinert she saw a posting from "Rashid" after visiting a site that carries a graphic of Osama bin Laden and an American flag burning. She began a dialogue because "he was curious whether a brother fighting on the wrong side could join or defect."
"Soon very soon I will have the opportunity to take my own end of the struggle to those who oppress us, to the next level," a message from "Rashid" read.
Rossmiller played along for several months until January, performing a string of Internet searches to link Rashid to Anderson. She contacted the Homeland Security Department, which put her in touch with the FBI and U.S. Army Military Intelligence agents.
Special agent Ricardo Romero from the 902nd Military Intelligence Group at Fort Meade, Md., testified that he met undercover with Anderson on Feb. 8 in Lakewood and Feb. 9 at the Seattle Center. Romero said he posed as an al-Qaida recruiter.
He also contacted Anderson by cell phone text messaging, giving a Detroit area code because the city is home to many Muslim Americans. "I hope you aren't FBI or NSA (National Security Agency) or something," a cautious Anderson reportedly said.
"If you are who you say you are and things go where I think they are going, I will be unwelcome in the only land I've ever known as home, never to see my parents again," another message says.
In the undercover video, Anderson seemingly volunteers information freely, with little prompting, pulling his weapons card, military ID and others for Ramon to photograph. Talking in great detail, Anderson on the video produced literature about the M1A1 battle tank and how to defeat it and the kill the soldiers inside.
Among those at Anderson's hearing was Capt. James Yee, 36, recently restored to duty at Fort Lewis after successfully defending himself in a court-martial that grew out of his arrest in September as a suspect in an espionage ring at Guantanamo Bay.
Yee talked with soldiers and watched the proceedings but declined to comment.
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