FBI Previously Dismissed Would-Be Fort Riley Suicide Bomber as 'No Imminent Threat' Last Year
A bizarre turn of events as a 20-year-old man who had previously been deemed by the FBI as "no imminent threat" was arrested today for planning to conduct a suicide bombing on the Fort Riley U.S. Army base.
According to a press release from the FBI Kansas City field office:
John T. Booker Jr., 20, of Topeka, Kansas, was charged in a criminal complaint unsealed today with one count of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction (explosives), one count of attempting to damage property by means of an explosive and one count of attempting to provide material support to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), a designated foreign terrorist organization. Booker is expected to make an initial appearance this afternoon before U.S. District Judge Daniel Crabtree of the District of Kansas in federal court in Topeka.
Booker was arrested this morning near Manhattan, as he completed his final preparations to detonate a vehicle bomb targeting U.S. military personnel [...]
Booker is alleged to have spent months discussing multiple plans before deciding on a plan that involved the execution of a suicide bombing mission.
The complaint alleges Booker told another person “that detonating a suicide bomb is his number one aspiration because he couldn’t be captured, all evidence would be destroyed, and he would be guaranteed to hit his target.” Booker identified Fort Riley as a good target, “because the post is famous and there are a lot of soldiers stationed there,” the complaint alleges.
It is alleged that since March 2015, Booker plotted to construct an explosive device for an attack on American soil. It is alleged he repeatedly stated that he desired to engage in violent jihad on behalf of ISIL. Over a period of months, he took a series of actions to advance his plot. As alleged in the complaint, Booker assisted in acquiring components for a vehicle bomb, produced a propaganda video, rented a storage locker to store components for the explosive device, identified Fort Riley as the target and talked about his commitment to trigger the device himself and become a martyr.
However, this is not the first time that Booker has been in the news.
In April 2014, Fox News reported that military authorities had issued an alert for Booker stating that he intended to commit an attack on U.S. military personnel:
The FBI is searching for a recent Army recruit believed to be planning a "Fort Hood-inspired jihad against U.S. soldiers," FoxNews.com has learned.
The alert, whose legitimacy was confirmed by military and law enforcement officials, stated that a man identified as Booker had told friends of his "intention to commit jihad." Booker, who is also known as Muhammad Abdullah Hassan, was recruited by the U.S. Army in Kansas City, Mo., in February 2014 and was scheduled to report for basic training on April 7. But he was discharged last week, apparently after law enforcement authorities learned of his alleged plan.
Both the FBI and the 902d Military Intelligence Group at Fort Leavenworth are involved in the hunt.
The alert, a copy of which was obtained by FoxNews.com, was sent out by the FBI's Kansas City Division on Friday and distributed through the U.S. Marine Corps. The portion obtained by FoxNews.com 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.
And yet just days later, the same Kansas City FBI office that arrested Booker today was saying then that he presented "no imminent threat":
The FBI put out an alert on Monday for an apparent homegrown jihadi who had enlisted in the Army in Kansas with possible plans to commit a massacre on a military base.
A spokeswoman for the FBI said later in the day that agents had interviewed the man in question and decided that he didn’t, in fact, represent a threat. “There is no manhunt. There’s never been a manhunt,” said Bridget Patton, of the Kansas City-based FBI field office. “The individual was interviewed, and it is believed there is no imminent threat to the public.”
In light of today's events, that assessment last year seems either premature or intentionally deceptive. [See update below on active attempts by FBI & military to downplay the threat.]
The Kansas City Star added:
Roughly a year ago in early April 2014, FBI spokeswoman Bridget Patton said the bureau had questioned Booker in the wake of reports he harbored “jihad sympathies” and determined there was no public danger. She declined to release additional details.
“It is the belief that the public is in no imminent danger,” Patton said at the time.
She also told The Topeka Capital-Journal “there was never a manhunt” for Booker. When asked by the newspaper then if Booker was in custody, Patton said additional information wouldn’t be released.
If the current reporting is accurate, the FBI allowed a man with clearly expressed intentions to commit terrorist acts to roam freely between last April and October, when according to the indictment he encountered an FBI informant. Or alternatively, the FBI lied to the media and the public last year about how imminent a threat Booker really was. What we know now is that John T. Booker was ready to wage jihad against America and decided in recent weeks to act on those intentions.
This is yet another episode in the FBI's extensive history of failure with respect to what I have termed "known wolf" terror cases. While in this case Booker was targeted by a FBI sting and his bomb was inert, the Boston marathon bombs weren't inert and led to the deaths of three Americans.
How many more Americans have to die before the FBI is made to get its act together?
UPDATE: If to emphasize the point that the FBI worked HARD last year to publicly dismiss the nature of the threat, note this article "Military downplays threat from Army recruit":
KANSAS CITY, MO (KCTV) - Law enforcement officials say they interviewed a U.S. Army recruit about his Jihad sympathies and the FBI sent out an alert about him.
But officials downplayed a report by Fox News that the FBI in Kansas City had sent out an alert that was entitled, "Fort Hood-inspired threats against U.S. soldiers by Army recruit." The network said the man was to report to basic training next week.
The report alarmed many area residents. Law enforcement and military officials said the Fox story was a bit of a stretch, but the FBI did confirm interviewing the recruit.
"An individual was contacted by the FBI and was interviewed by the FBI but at no time was it believed that the public was in any imminent threat," FBI spokeswoman Bridget Patton said.
Fox News indicated that there was an active manhunt for the man.
"There's not a manhunt. There has never been a manhunt for an individual," Patton said.
She went on to say that the FBI follows up on tips from all different kind of sources and often shares that information with other law enforcement agencies and the military.
The FBI and military owe former Fox News reporter Jana Winter an apology.