Thursday, February 18, 2010

Ft Jackson Food Supply: Muslim Soldiers Try to Poison Food Supply at Ft Jackson SC?

According to Katherine Herridge on FOX News this minute, there is an investigation underway into Muslim soldiers at Fort Jackson, South Carolina attempting to poison the food supply on base. This appears to be connected to an Arabic language translator program. Ongoing updates as info becomes available. I'll have links confirming latest news as soon as possible. Update 2-19-10 9:35 AM CDT: Katherine Herridge on FOX this minute saying the military is investigating, but that after two months, the FBI is NOT involved. 

------UPDATED BELOW---------

Update 2-19-10: Important commentary on this story. 
Today, Media Matters and others are criticizing the reporting on this story. It seems "right-wingers" are accused of jumping the gun, but no...that is not the case.

After my original report quoting Katherine Herridge, FOX News' Homeland Security reporter, in the first paragraph of this post, CBN came out with the story linked below - which backed up Herridge's story, and added to it. Note that CBN names their source as Patrick Jones, the Deputy Public Affairs Officer for Fort Jackson. They also say they had a second confirmation by a government official. Then there appears to be a third source "with intimate knowledge of the investigation."

Then FOX News came out with the second story linked below, which was more cautious, BUT QUOTED Chris Grey, a spokesman for the U.S. Army. Grey confirmed an "ongoing probe" going back two months." Two other sources confirmed to FOX that the "suspects" were part of the Arabic translation program, and confirmed that the "suspects" spoke Arabic, as their first language, not English as their first language. Grey did not confirm or deny those sources.

Now today, Friday, February 19th, a day later, CBN  has the following story:

CBN 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." 
Military service has always been a way for non-citizen US residents to obtain citizenship, and thousands have performed honorably in service to our country before it actually became their country. 

Though the Army must certainly have a thorough vetting process in place to try and avoid a scenario like that described by Erick Stakelbeck's recent blog, in the case of the 09 Lima program, the ability to receive "expedited American citizenship" must present a tempting opportunity for jihadi extremists with ulterior motives.

This is relevant not only because of the Fort Hood case, but because in the last month, there was an incident (see here) of an interpreter in Afghanistan murdering U.S. troops.
The following is yesterday's post

CBN has the story now, dated February 18, 2010:
CBN News has learned exclusively that five Muslim soldiers at Fort Jackson in South Carolina were arrested just before Christmas and are in custody. The five men were part of the Arabic Translation program at the base.
Patrick Jones, the Deputy Public Affairs Officer for Fort Jackson, confirmed for CBN News Thursday afternoon that an investigation was ongoing.

Prior to this posting, CBN News learned that these details were also confirmed by a government official with knowledge of the investigation.
The men are suspected of trying to poison the food supply at Fort Jackson.
A source with intimate knowledge of the investigation, which is ongoing, told CBN News investigators suspect the "Fort Jackson Five" may have been in contact with the group of five Washington, DC area Muslims that traveled to Pakistan to wage jihad against U.S. troops in December. That group was arrested by Pakistani authorities, also just before Christmas.
 From FOX News, this cautious report:
The ongoing probe began two months ago, Chris Grey, a spokesman for the Army’s Criminal Investigation Division, told Fox News.

The Army is taking the allegations “extremely seriously,” Grey said, but so far, "there is no credible information to support the allegations."

The suspects were part of a Arabic translation program called "09 Lima" and use Arabic as their first language, two sources told Fox News. Another military source said they were Muslim.

Grey would not confirm or deny the sources’ information.
Fort Jackson is the U.S. Army's largest training center. The English as a Second Language (ESL) program moved to Fort Jackson, S.C. from Lackland Air Force Base, Texas. This program is for translators and interpreters, and is the first step for Arabic-speakers wanting to become interpreters for the U.S. Army.

The CBN report above cited the arrest of 5 Muslim Americans in Pakistan in December which may be connected to the Fort Jackson story. Here are some quick details:

Five young Muslim American men were arrested in Pakistan yesterday after police raided a house with alleged ties to Islamic militants, according to various media reports. Their discovery in Pakistan yesterday is one more piece of evidence that radicalized American Muslims are traveling overseas for training in their desire to wage jihad.

The men, ranging in age from their late teens to their mid 20s, vanished from their Northern Virginia suburbs in late November. When they arrived in Pakistan, according to The New York Times, the five men went searching for extremist contacts in an effort to reach Afghanistan and fight U.S.-led forces.

After touching down in Karachi, Pakistan’s biggest city, the men tried to join an extremist Islamic school near Karachi and approached another extremist organization, Jamaat-ud-Dawa, in the eastern city of Lahore, the officials said.

They were rebuffed in both places because of their Western demeanor and the fact that they did not speak the national language, Urdu, an investigator said. They then came here, to Sargodha, a city in the north of Punjab Province, en route to North Waziristan, said the police chief of Sargodha, Usman Anwar. 

The men were arrested at the home of an uncle of the eldest of the group, Umer Farooq, 25. Farooq's parents were also in the house during the raid and his father, Khalid, was also arrested.  He is alleged to have ties with Jaish-e-Mohammed, an outlawed militant group fighting for the disputed territory of Kashmir with India, and also knew his son was wanted by the FBI, reports the Times.
End CBN report dated February 19th, 2010, time stamped 12:36 PM

Fort Jackson Food Poisoning Story - Updated

Read the entire story of the December arrest in Pakistan at Security Management.

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