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Five Muslim Soldiers Under Terror Investigation at Fort Jackson

Erick Stakelbeck at CBN News broke a story last night about five Muslim soldiers under investigation by the U.S. Army for allegedly trying to poison the food supply at Fort Jackson. The soldiers were arrested some time before Christmas. The five are part of a team of Arabic translators at the base located in South Carolina.

Fort Jackson is home to the Army’s English as a Second Language (ESL) program. The program is for Arabic, Dari, and Pashto speaking individuals who wish to become translators for the US Army.

An Army spokesman confirmed the story to Fox News, adding that the five were part of the “09 Lima program.”  The “09 Lima program” recruits Muslims willing to serve in Iraq or Afghanistan, offering them an expedited path to citizenship. It is not clear whether the five men accused in the poisoning plot are U.S. citizens or not.

Were the five part of the military’s effort to reach out to Muslims, offering them citizenship in return for much-needed translation skills?

Reached by phone, Erick Stakelbeck of CBN, who broke the initial story, said, “In light of Fort Hood, this raises a lot of questions and a lot of concerns. Is this a trend here emerging? Are there more Muslims in the military with jihad sympathies?”

Since 9/11 we only have two examples of Muslims soldiers betraying their country and trying to kill their fellow soldiers: Nidal Hasan and Hasan Akbar.

In both of those cases the terrorist worked alone. Anwar al-Awlaki encouraged Hasan, but he didn’t plot with him.  And Akbar was motivated by the ideology of the Nation of Islam, not al-Qaeda.

But if this pans out — the Army says they have “no credible information to support the allegations” — that would mean that we had an active cell, a plot by would-be jihadists, within the ranks of the U.S. Army. The number five may be small in the big scheme of things, but to have five Muslim soldiers plotting together? That is a scary, scary thought.

But those under suspicion in the plot may also have had contacts with other accused would-be terrorists. A source told Stakelbeck that the five at Fort Jackson may have been in contact with a group of five Washington, D.C., area Muslims currently being held in Pakistan. The five are alleged to have traveled to Pakistan in order to join a radical Islamist group and wage violent jihad against U.S. forces in the theater.

If the five are foreign born, then the question raised by this case is whether or not the Army is fully vetting these would-be soldiers or is hurrying them through the process because their skills are much needed. And in light of the Army’s failure to investigate Nidal Hasan when there were clear signs that he was sympathetic to the ideology of violent jihad, is there still a culture of political correctness which is in denial that Muslims are far more likely to become terrorists than any other group?

Stakelbeck also had this to say: “There are a lot of Muslims in the Army that serve bravely and honorably, but maybe the Army is going to have to step back and take a serious look at devoutly Muslim soldiers. We had Akbar and Hasan, both devout Muslims.  We also know that al-Qaeda wants to infiltrate the military.”

He’s right. Al-Qaeda has publicly called on Muslims to infiltrate the U.S. military and follow the examples of Nidal Hasan and Hasan Akbar.

Clearly we need Muslims in the military, as they are the group most likely to have the language skills that we need to win the war against Islamist aggression. Further, there are a lot of Muslims who despise Islamism (political Islam) just as much as the next guy. By far, the greatest number of victims of Islamist aggression are Muslims.

In Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Chechnya, and wherever Islamists make demands for the institution of Islamic law through violence, tens of thousands of Muslims have died — most of them innocent civilians.

But it’s also undoubtedly clear that Muslims are also far more likely to sympathize with terrorism and violent jihad than any other group. Muslims are also far more likely to have those language skills needed to help our military win in Iraq and Afghanistan. How do you balance that against the need for more Muslims to serve in our intelligence ranks?

The answer might be heightened scrutiny for devout Muslims — the unspeakable and much hated profiling. But such profiling might also turn Muslims off from joining the ranks.  It also reinforces the widely held belief in the Muslim world that America is engaged in a war against Islam.

A vicious catch-22.

We can only hope that the allegations against these five are not true. That Nidal Hasan and Hasan Akbar are such rare exceptions that instituting a policy of religious profiling is as unnecessary as it is unseemly. Because if not, then the problem of jihadis within the ranks of the military might warrant such a policy.  And for the sake of victory, let us hope that if such a policy were instituted that it would be done in such secrecy that the New York Times never got whiff of it.

UPDATE: From Army Times:

The Army is investigating allegations that four or five soldiers training to be translators and interpreters were trying to poison the food supply for Fort Jackson, S.C., officials said.

However, there is no credible evidence to support the allegations, said Patrick Jones, a spokesman for Fort Jackson.

“Allegations were made and the command took it very seriously,” Jones said, adding that Army Criminal Investigation Command was conducting the investigation, which is still ongoing.

“Two months of investigation, there has been no credible evidence to support the allegations,” Jones said.

Jones did not know who reported the allegations or how they came to light.

The soldiers being investigated are not being detained, Jones said, but he did not know if they were still at Fort Jackson or whether they completed their training.