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Thursday, February 19, 2004 - Page updated at 08:04 A.M.
Army airs charges against Lynnwood guardsman
By Ray Rivera
The Army has formally charged a National Guardsman from Lynnwood with attempting to supply military intelligence, including methods of killing American soldiers and destroying U.S. weapons systems, to the al-Qaida terrorist network.
Spc. Ryan G. Anderson, 26, was arrested last Thursday just weeks before he was to deploy to Iraq with the Washington National Guard's 81st Armored Brigade. The formal charges were filed later the same day but not made public until yesterday, said Army spokesman Lt. Col. Stephen Barger.
In a three-page charge sheet, military investigators accuse Anderson of three counts of violating the Uniform Code of Military Justice, including attempting to aid and provide intelligence to the enemy, and bringing discredit upon the armed forces.
Anderson, a tank crewman with the 81st, grew up in Everett and graduated from Washington State University. He reportedly converted to Islam as a college student and joined the National Guard shortly after graduation.
Federal sources have said that at no time were troops or national security at risk, and that the information Anderson attempted to share was "common knowledge" or unclassified material.
The most-serious charge, attempting to aid the enemy, alleges that Anderson passed sketches of the M1A1 and M1A2 tanks, as well as a computer disk with his passport photo, his military identification card and his military weapons card. The charge carries a maximum penalty of death, though capital cases in the military are rare. There currently are seven service members on military death row, all for murder.
A second charge, trying to give intelligence to the enemy, accuses Anderson of trying to provide information about "U.S. Army troop strength, movements, equipment, tactics," as well as "methods and means of killing U.S. Army personnel and destroying U.S. Army weapons systems and equipment."
Part of the charge, a violation of Article 80, which carries a maximum 20-year sentence, alleges that Anderson tried to communicate with the enemy by "oral, written, and electronic communication."
The final charge alleges that he brought discredit to the armed forces by "wrongfully and dishonorably" providing military information to people he thought were enemy terrorists. That charges carries a maximum one-year penalty.
According to military officials, Anderson attempted to contact al-Qaida through an Internet chat room that catered to Muslim extremists. In a sting operation involving the Army, the FBI and the Department of Justice, he ended up communicating with an undercover operative.
The alleged conduct occurred on different occasions in January and February while he was stationed at Fort Lewis and Yakima, where he was undergoing training for a yearlong deployment to Iraq, and in Lynnwood, where he and his wife live.
Before converting to Islam, Anderson had apparently attempted to join the militia and patriot movements.
In several messages posted in Internet discussion groups in 1995 and 1996, Anderson described himself as a "die-hard Christian" who had his own weapons and believed in the militia cause. He also posted to skinhead groups and white-supremacist groups. At the same time, he was critical of the actions of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh and the Montana Freemen.
In 1996, he began showing more interest in Islam and asked for help finding religious-studies programs abroad.
Mark Pitcavage, who tracks extremist groups for the Anti-Defamation League based in Columbus, Ohio, ran across Anderson's postings in 1996 and had a brief exchange with him. Pitcavage said Anderson showed the signs of someone "looking to fill some sort of philosophical, ideological or spiritual void.
"Here he was posting to militia and patriot groups, and the next fall he's posting in Islam groups, which apparently stuck," Pitcavage said.
Anderson is being held in a military jail at Fort Lewis.
"(He) has spoken with his family and he has been appointed a military defense attorney," said Barger, who would not release the lawyer's name.
Anderson will next face an Article 132 hearing, the equivalent of a civilian grand jury, to determine whether there is enough evidence to proceed with a court martial.
Ray Rivera: 206-464-2926 or email@example.com; Times reporter Allison Peryea contributed to this report.
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