Published: Thursday, September 2, 2004
Mental health experts testify at Lynnwood soldier's hearing
By Jim Haley
FORT LEWIS - Spc. Ryan G. Anderson walked up to his sergeant on Feb. 11 and mumbled something about no longer speaking to members of his family.
As Anderson and his sergeant walked into a military mess hall, Anderson said that "they" had contacted him, Sgt. Francisco Velez testified Wednesday in Anderson's court-martial.
"I thought it was a strange way to start a conversation," Velez told the nine commissioned officers who will decide Anderson's fate on attempted treason charges.
As they got their meal and sat down, Anderson repeated that "they" had talked to him. Then he whispered loudly, so people across the table heard him and stared. "He said they, al-Qaida," Velez said.
By that time, Velez, Anderson's supervisor, had been warned by Army counterintelligence officers that they were investigating the Lynnwood soldier.
Two days before, Anderson had met with two agents posing as operatives of the al-Qaida terrorist network. At that meeting, Anderson disclosed numerous ways to disable American war vehicles. Those disclosures form the basis of five criminal counts, which could net the Washington National Guard soldier a life prison term.
Anderson has pleaded innocent, and his defense attorneys on Wednesday produced evidence of a mental defect. The jury is scheduled to hear closing arguments and start deliberations today.
The strange disclosure to Velez came as rebuttal evidence. Soldiers are supposed to immediately report improper contacts, such as with supposed terrorists. But Velez testified he asked Anderson if he had told al-Qaida agents anything. Anderson said he had not.
The jurors, however, saw a secretly recorded hourlong video of Anderson matter-of-factly telling agents how to disable M1A1 Abrams tanks and Humvee and Stryker military vehicles.
Anderson, a 1995 Cascade High School graduate and a member of the National Guard's 81st Armor Brigade, was arrested the day after his discussion with Velez, just before his unit was to be deployed to Iraq.
The defense hopes that mental health evidence will help Anderson's case.
Dr. Jack Norris, a neuropsychologist at Madigan Army Medical Center, diagnosed Anderson as bipolar and said the soldier also has an unspecified personality disorder that makes him prone to exaggerate, lie, fixate on normal activities, and which makes him a "social misfit."
The defense hopes to show that Anderson was prone to role playing and was an easy target for Army and FBI agents to lure into making damaging statements to people he believed were terrorists.
Defense attorney Maj. Joseph Morse insisted at the start of the trial that Anderson never intended to commit a crime.
Norris said Anderson has wide mood swings. The defendant's personality disorder makes it hard for him to get along in daily life, Norris testified. "He has for most of his life been socially awkward and has not had many friends."
Dr. Russell Hicks, a psychiatrist at Madigan, also testified that Anderson was bipolar. He diagnosed Anderson with a mental condition known as Asperger's syndrome, which impairs cognitive functions while demonstrating "a marked inability to perform social interaction."
Hicks testified that despite Anderson's mental problems, he had the ability to tell right from wrong.
Likewise, Norris was asked about Anderson's role playing.
"I believe he knew the difference between his role playing and the reality around him," Norris testified.
Thursday, September 2, 2004
G-I accused of trying to aid al-Qaida called bipolar, 'social misfit'
By MELANTHIA MITCHELL
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
FORT LEWIS -- A national guardsman accused of trying to help al-Qaida suffers from bipolar disorder and other mental conditions, a civilian psychologist from Madigan Army Medical Center testified yesterday.
"He has been an outsider, a social misfit, most of his life," psychologist Jack Norris said of defendant Spc. Ryan G. Anderson.
Norris said he began evaluating Anderson in mid-July, eventually diagnosing him with bipolar disorder, the condition formerly called manic depression.
The 27-year-old Muslim convert from Lynnwood is charged with five counts of trying to provide al-Qaida with information about U.S. troop strength and tactics, as well as methods for killing American soldiers.
Anderson, whose 81st Armor Brigade unit is now in Iraq, is accused of trying to give terrorists sketches and other information on the M1A1 Abrams, the Army's primary battle tank. He actually met with federal undercover agents posing as terrorists.
Testimony in Anderson's court martial concluded yesterday, and closing arguments are set for today. Conviction requires agreement by two-thirds of the jury of nine commissioned officers. Anderson could face life in prison.
Norris said Anderson also had features of other disorders and symptoms that included social discomfort and eccentric behavior.
He said he found Anderson has always been socially awkward, with very few friends.
A second defense expert said he had diagnosed Anderson with Asperger's syndrome, a form of autism that impairs cognitive and social functioning.
Dr. Russell Hicks, a retired Army colonel and a staff psychiatrist at Madigan, said his diagnosis and Norris' assessment did not conflict.
Norris, who has been in the courtroom for much of Anderson's court martial, affirmed defense statements that Anderson liked to inflate his abilities.
Anderson also used role-playing to help structure his life and maintain control of his emotions, Norris said. He knows the difference between his role-playing and reality, but he doesn't evaluate the consequences of his role-playing, the psychologist said.
At one point, Norris began to say Anderson believed he was role-playing during his secretly videotaped Feb. 9 meeting with undercover agents, but prosecutors objected.
"He is purporting to have knowledge that he does not possess," Norris then said.
"He is presenting himself as being more powerful and important than he actually is."
Prosecutors contend Anderson jeopardized the safety of his fellow soldiers by providing information to the men he thought were al-Qaida agents.
The Army late yesterday presented a rebuttal witness, Anderson's superior officer, who testified that Anderson whispered, a day before his Feb. 12 arrest, that he had been contacted by al-Qaida.
"They contacted me, sergeant," Sgt. Francisco Velez quoted Anderson as saying Feb. 11 at the Fort Lewis cafeteria.
Velez asked what he meant.
"Al-Qaida," Anderson whispered.
Velez noted that others could hear, and he suggested he and Anderson go to the base commanders.
Anderson responded that military intelligence wouldn't be any help.
BZ to the 97Bs!
Sounds more like a trip to a pysh hosp then a prison cell.