Friday, February 19, 2010

Fort Jackson Food Poisoning Story - Updated

There is a lot of criticism on the reporting of this story today - and wouldn't you know Media Matters would be at the top of the heap. The bottom line is that the investigation is open and continuing. See a video below, and note that three of the five soldiers have now been cleared. Two remain under investigation.

The FBI has not been called into the case. An Army spokesman has said: "Two months of investigation, there has been no credible evidence to support the allegations,"...but the investigation is still open and continuing. There may or may not have been arrests, but the reporting by Katherine Herridge at FOX News, still stands as correct - and did I mention that the investigation is still...open and continuing.

Erick Stakelbeck's report for CBN yesterday was the first available to link to, after I heard Herridge's report. Read my original reporting here, where you can see the timeline as the report began to make news.

From among all of these reports, you can see that there have been numerous confirmations. Apparently, Media Matters does not think it worthwhile to talk about an incident - poisoning soldiers - that could have happened, but didn't.

Media Matters obviously sees no merit to an investigation that is "open and continuing," but I do, so here is the latest update from Erick Stakelbect at CBN, and at the end finish reading the rest of the story by Chuck Holton, Stakelbeck's colleague and a CBN Military Correspondent.

by Erick Stakelbeck:

This morning, I spoke to Army CID spokesman Christopher Gray and learned more details about a possible poisoning plot that I first reported here yesterday after CBN confirmed with Patrick Jones of Fort Jackson's Public Affairs Office and a reliable source with intimate knowledge of the investigation. Here is the latest on what we do know.

According to Gray, the Army is investigating allegations that a group of soldiers from the 09 Lima program (more on that later in this post) at Fort Jackson--which is based in South Carolina--had talked about poisoning food in the base's mess hall. The men were questioned about two months ago, around Christmas. Gray said that to protect the integrity of the investigation, he could not comment further. He stressed that the investigation is "open and continuing." 
CBN News also spoke to a Department of Homeland Security official with knowledge of the investigation who wished to remain anonymous. The official confirmed that the investigation was ongoing and said that someone in the Lima 09 program overheard five Muslim colleagues talking about poisoning food at the base. The person then reported the men, who were brought in for questioning.

The DHS official stressed that after the terrorist massacre at Fort Hood, the Army is taking a zero tolerance policy towards any potential threatening statements and is now extremely sensitive about any allegations in that regard.

Terrorism expert Patrick Poole, an anti-terrorism consultant for the U.S. military and law enforcement,  told CBN News that "if this incident had become public in late December while the military was still working on the Ft. Hood report it would  have no doubt been catastrophic. What exactly happened at Ft. Jackson and why is this only coming out now? That's a question that Congress should be asking. "
"As noted in the Washington Times last month,"  Poole continued. "My colleagues and I have been warning of jihadist threats - both external and internal - for several years. The Pentagon has entirely ignored us and the Ft. Hood report released last month is evidence of the culture of willful blindness that wants to pretend this threat doesn't exist. Regardless of how the Ft. Jackson incident is resolved, it demonstrates that this threat is not going away."

I spoke today to Army spokesman Christopher Garver, who said the five men are not currently in custody. He was unclear whether the men who were questioned were U.S.citizens. And that brings us to another interesting wrinkle to this story.

According to my colleague, CBN Military Correspondent Chuck Holton, the 09 Lima program, which these men are a part of:

...is specifically geared towards non-US citizens who bring to the table one very in-demand skill - the ability to speak fluent Arabic, Dari, Pashto, or some other needed language.  But these recruits also have a handicap - their grasp of the English language is not sufficient to allow them to make it through basic training.  So the 09 Lima program puts them through a sort of pre-basic basic, where they learn American culture, Army culture and work on their English language skills.  Once they finish the course, they are then able to enter normal basic training.  It' is a very small program, with something less than forty recruits in each class.
Holton continues:

Here's the interesting part.  According to Lt. Col. Frank Demith, these recruits are offered an "expedited citizenship program, once they serve one day of honorable active duty." 

Read more at CBN.
H/T to GatewayPundit for video

Fort Jackson Food Poisoning Update - 3 soldier cleared (video)
My original report with updates is here

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