More than 100 investigations into suspected Islamic extremists within the military have been carried out by the FBI, including 12 cases considered serious, NPR is reporting. Investigators believe the main target to be military bases. NPR reports:
Officials define that [a serious case] as a case requiring a formal investigation to gather information against suspects who appear to have demonstrated a strong intent to attack military targets. This is the first time the figures have been publicly disclosed.
The FBI and Department of Defense call these cases "insider threats." They include not just active and reserve military personnel but also individuals who have access to military facilities such as contractors and close family members with dependent ID cards.
Officials would not provide details about the cases and the FBI would not confirm the numbers, but they did say that cases seen as serious could include, among others things, suspects who seem to be planning an attack or were in touch with "dangerous individuals" who were goading them to attack.
The investigation was discussed at a closed hearing on Capitol Hill in December. Though the FBI and Defense Department would not disclose details, Sen. Joseph Lieberman spoke to the radio network:
"I was surprised and struck by the numbers; they were larger than I expected," Sen. Joseph Lieberman, an independent from Connecticut and chairman of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security, told NPR. He stopped short of confirming the numbers.
“I know one can say that as a percentage of the millions of people in active military service or working with contractors, the numbers you talk about are a small percentage of the total, but the reality is it only took one man, Nidal Hasan, to kill 13 people at Fort Hood and injure a lot more," Lieberman said.
In 2009, Nidal Hasan, a military psychiatrist and a U.S. Army major went on a shooting spree at Fort Hood in Texas, killing 13. He presently faces charges of premeditated murder.
In December, the Pentagon was criticized by lawmakers for classifying the massacre as “workplace violence.” Republican Sen. Susan Collins then suggested political correctness was taking precedence over security concerns and blasted the Obama administration for not calling it a threat from radical Islam.
Prosecutors say Hasan, an American Muslim of Palestinian descent, had communicated with the U.S.-born al-Qaeda cleric Anwar al-Awlaki before the shooting. Awlaki was killed in a U.S. drone attack in Yemen last September. If he is convicted at his scheduled August court-martial, he could face the death penalty. Earlier this month, The Blaze reported Hasan's pre-trial hearing was delayed over his beard, which was in violation of the Army's grooming standards.
NPR provides more detail on the categories into which the FBI is dividing its current 100 investigations:
The FBI typically divides investigations into three categories: assessment, preliminary investigations, and then full investigations in which agents have enough evidence to justify using all the investigative tools at their disposal. As of last December, there were a dozen cases in that last category.
"This number speaks not only to the reality that there is a problem of violent Islamic extremists in the military, but also that the Department of Defense and the FBI since the Nidal Hassan case are working much more closely together," said Lieberman.
Officials stressed that the FBI and the Department of Defense track all kinds of extremism within the military community from white supremacists to neo-Nazis, not just Islamic extremists.
But the Fort Hood shooting inspired new reporting procedures aimed at catching plots before they unfold. Since 2001, law enforcement officials have foiled and prosecuted more than 30 plots or attacks against military targets within the United States.
Fox News detailed previous threats to domestic military bases:
In June , two men allegedly plotted to attack a Seattle, Wash., military installation using guns and grenades. In July, Army Pvt. Naser Abdo was accused of planning a second attack on Fort Hood. And in November, New York police arrested Jose Pimentel, who alleged sought to kill service members returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.
Both Pimentel and Abdo also allegedly drew inspiration from al-Awlaki and the online jihadist magazine Inspire, which includes a spread on how to "Make a Bomb in the Kitchen of Your Mom."
In December, New York Republican Rep. Peter King, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, suggested to Fox that “enlisted jihadists” pose a double-threat:
"There is a serious threat within the military from people who have enlisted who are radical jihadists," King said. "The Defense Department is very concerned about them. They feel they're a threat to the military both for what they can do within the military itself and also because of the weapons skills they acquire while they're in the military."
King believes military personnel are considered by terrorists to be a uniquely valuable target, since they are "symbols of America's power, symbols of America's might…And if they (military personnel) can be killed, then that is a great propaganda victory for al Qaeda," he said.