By Elaine Porterfield
FORT LEWIS, Washington (Reuters) - A U.S. Army soldier charged with trying to aid al Qaeda had a mental disorder that drove him to brag to undercover agents about ways to destroy U.S. weapons and kill soldiers, his lawyer said at the opening of his court martial on Monday.
Specialist Ryan Anderson was filled with grandiose visions of his own importance that led him to lie and encouraged him to role play, defense attorney Maj. Joseph Morse said in opening remarks in the case that has drawn national attention.
"They (prosecutors) want you to believe he was a militant Muslim, that he sympathized with al Qaeda," Morse said, "The evidence is not going to show it. He had a mental condition."
Morse did not specify what that mental condition was, and prosecutor Maj. Melvin Jenks, disagreed with Morse's claim.
"This is a case about betrayal," Jenks told jurors. "Betrayal of our country, betrayal of our Army and betrayal of our soldiers."
Jenks said he will present evidence from various sources, including instant text messages and e-mail, that Anderson intended to aid enemy forces and gave evidence to undercover agents posing as Muslim extremists.
The documents he is alleged to have given the agents provided detailed vulnerabilities in certain tanks and Humvees. It included specifics such as the caliber of a bullet needed to penetrate the tank's armor, Jenks said.
In earlier hearings, Ryan's attorney insisted much of the technical information Anderson provided was unclassified and relatively easy to find.
The 27-year-old converted Muslim and gun-rights advocate from Lynnwood, Washington, was based at Fort Lewis, near Tacoma. He could face up to life in prison if convicted.
His court martial is being heard by a nine-person panel of commissioned officers. Unlike a civilian court, which requires a unanimous decision, only a two-thirds vote by the panel is needed for a conviction.
In another departure from civilian court practice, the panel, not the judge, will set Anderson's sentence if he is convicted. His sentence would be served in a military prison. The court martial is expected to run at least through Friday.
Anderson, a tank loader, was scheduled to ship out to Iraq when he began posting messages on extremist Muslim web sites seeking to contact al Qaeda. He was caught in a sting operation in which he was videotaped blasting U.S. leaders over the war.
Anderson, also known as Amir Abdul Rashid, was arrested in 1998 for approaching an elementary school toting a rifle and bayonet while on a break from Washington State University.
Monday, August 30, 2004 - Page updated at 02:21 P.M.
Trial begins for guardsman accused of trying to aid terrorists
By Melanthia Mitchell
The Associated Press
FORT LEWIS, Wash. — A National Guardsman jeopardized the safety of his country and fellow soldiers when he tried to share U.S. military information with people he believed were al-Qaida terrorists, prosecutors said today at the start of the soldier's court martial.
"This is a case about betrayal — betrayal of our country, betrayal of our Army, betrayal of his fellow soldiers," Maj. Melvin Jenks said in his opening statement.
Spc. Ryan Anderson's attorney, Maj. Joseph Morse, countered the government has no proof that the 27-year-old tank crewman had criminal intent when he contacted federal undercover agents he thought were members of al-Qaida.
A Muslim convert, Anderson pleaded innocent Aug. 9 to five counts of trying to provide the al-Qaida terrorist network with information about U.S. troop strength and tactics, as well as methods for killing American soldiers.
Anderson, a member of the Washington National Guard's 81st Armor Brigade, which is deployed in Iraq, faces life in prison without parole.
A conviction requires agreement by two-thirds of a panel of commissioned officers, unlike a federal trial that requires a unanimous decision.
The trial at Fort Lewis, an Army base south of Seattle, is expected to last five days. Wearing his dress greens, Anderson took notes during the proceedings today.
Pfc. Scott Specht, a witness for the prosecution, testified that Anderson once told him he had joined the Army so he could "go to the motherland and help liberate Muslim brothers."
"I was taken back by his statement. I was somewhat startled by it," said Specht, who trained with Anderson at boot camp at Fort Knox in January 2003. "I decided it was probably best that I kept my distance."
Shannen Rossmiller, a city judge in Montana, reiterated testimony she gave at Anderson's Article 32 hearing in May, saying she contacted Anderson after coming across a posting in October on a Muslim-oriented Web site she was monitoring for signs of extremist or terrorist activity.
Internet searches linked the name on that posting, "Amir Abdul Rashid," to Anderson, Rossmiller said, and when she posted a phony call to jihad against the United States, Rashid wrote back, saying he was "curious if a brother fighting on the wrong side could join or defect."
Rossmiller contacted the federal Homeland Security Department, which put her in touch with the FBI.
Soon Anderson was text messaging a federal agent he believed was a member of al-Qaida. The conversations culminated in a face-to-face meeting with two undercover investigators at a parking lot near the Space Needle in Seattle. The hour-long discussion was secretly recorded Feb. 9, just days before Anderson was to deploy to Iraq.
On the video, Anderson offers sketches and information about weaknesses in the M1A1 Abrams, the Army's primary battle tank.
"While I love my country, I think the leaders have taken this horrible road," he said on the video. "I have no belief in what the American Army has asked me to do. They have sent me to die."
He was arrested at Fort Lewis three days after the meeting.
Anderson was raised Lutheran but began studying Islam while attending Washington State University. He's been described by high school classmates in Everett as a paramilitary enthusiast who was passionate about guns.
Anderson asked that his court martial be heard by commissioned officers rather than a judge or a mixed panel of officers and enlisted soldiers.
"He's making a tactical decision. They believe the officers, given this type of charge, will give him the fair shake," said David Sheldon, a Washington, D.C., attorney who specializes in military law.
Capt. Jay Stephenson, a spokeman for the Judge Advocate General's Office, said the charges against Anderson amount to attempted treason.
"We're at war now. This is a big thing," Stephenson said. "This is a very serious and grievous offense."
I had no idea this is what occurred.
Get a rope.
See, if you had been reading my posts....
I just can't decide if this guy deserves to die for this action.
Probably life in prision, but if he knew what he was doing and his actions resulted in the death of any US service people, then he should rightly fry for it.
I hear his information is laughably easy to find anyway. I guess thats a wasted life!
He probably was telling em about a 113... to the media its a tank......
Doesn't matter. He ACTIVELY sought out delcared enemies of this nation in a time of war and offered them information (even going as far as to meet with them) that could injure or kill our people. He had an agenda and a plan and followed up on that plan.
I'd like to see the fucker shot by firing squad on primetime national televison as a CLEAR warning to others (and Al Queda) that we aren't going to fuck around with this bullshit any more.
Yeah, I know... pipe dream.
PS: I'll be HAPPY to pull the trigger on this dirtbag. Hell, I'll bring my M1A and own ammo!
And thus we see that it is entirely possible for a retional, decent American, raised a Christian, to convert to Islam. Becoming a Muslim is no more an indication of serious problems than switching from Anglican to Presbyterian. It is is also important to tread lightly on the subject of Islam, lest we offend some good-hearted and innocent Muslim reading our posts.
I hope they burn him alive with a pork chop on a string around his neck and a mouthful of empty chitlins.
I think there would be a long lne of us willing to pull the trigger if only they would let us.
No goddamn way life in prison.. Shoot the little fucker. Cheap, quick, effective. None of this mollycoddling the little twerp for a decade or two 'til some bleedingheart springs him and lambasts the military justice system for "misunderstanding a tortured soul". *POP* *thud* -then charge his family for the bullet and disposal. On very rare occasions, the Chinese have the right idea.
The Neutral Observer would not call that son of a bitch rational, decent, or an American.
He's going before a panel of commissioned officers. Hopefully there will be enough hardasses on the panel to give that worm life without parole. The worst thing that could happen would be for the panel to be filled with a bunch of weiner careerist REMFs and women who think too much about the kinder, gentler bullshit image of the Army. Those assholes would give him 4 months and say he learned his lesson, and then spew shit about the Army being a diverse cross-section of the US and all of that PC public affairs bullshit.
The Neutral Observer knows that a death sentance won't come down in today's world, and the world is much the worse for that. But damn it, is it too much to hope for that the bastard gets life without parole and gets beaten and sodomized regulary by his fellow inmates until it drives him to hang himself with a bedsheet?
If The Neutral Observer had not been booted for medical reasons, He would have sucked any number of dicks and kissed all the ass in the universe for the honor to sit on that panel and take a personal hand in sending this motherfucker to Hell.