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.
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
Stay tuned to this blog for more details as they unfold.