Are ‘jihadists’ infiltrating
U.S. military?

By Jon Dougherty

A disturbing pattern of infiltration of lower levels of the U.S. military by would-be Islamist jihad warriors is emerging, cautions one analyst of military affairs and terrorism.

The Defense Department heavily screens all personnel competing for high-security positions involving nuclear weapons and military intelligence. Before applicants are ever allowed inside those small elite circles, they are subjected to rigorous background and criminal checks, as well as comprehensive psychological evaluations.

The reason is obvious: Only the fittest of mind, body and soul can be trusted with such positions of vital importance. The wrong person in the right place at the wrong time could wreak untold levels of havoc on an unsuspecting nation and – in terms of nuclear weapons – the world itself.

But the Pentagon is much less thorough in screening its “average” soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines, troops who are slated for the much more numerous and mundane positions that comprise most of the cogs in the world’s most powerful military machine – the average trooper, the logistics and supply personnel, the cooks, clerks and typists, the fuel handlers, the mechanics and maintenance personnel.

And yet, many of these troops – while not individually significant, per se – could transform themselves quickly into terrorist assets simply because they have access to important components of the United States military, some professionals believe.

“The threat of enemy operatives within our homeland is not a new challenge to those charged with our security. There exists a long history of hostile governments seeking to take advantage of our open society to turn or plant operatives within the American government and military,” writes military analyst and writer Tom Knowlton, for the Nov. 13 issue of Defense Watch, an Internet-based magazine published by Soldiers For the Truth.

“For the most part, these operatives are people who had access to information or technology that would be of value to our enemies during times of war: diplomats, intelligence agents, key military personnel, scientists and federal agents,” Knowlton says. But in these times of terrorism, jihadists — those looking to infiltrate America and turn U.S. citizens into pawns of terrorist warfare – may be looking to penetrate lower echelons within the U.S. military.

Writes Knowlton: “On Nov. 5, 2002 Abdul Raheem Al Arshad Ali, a former Marine and Gulf War veteran, became the third suspected terrorist associated with the Dar-us-Salaam mosque in Seattle (now renamed the Dar ul Islam Masjid mosque) to be arrested for alleged ties to al-Qaida.”

Authorities earlier had arrested James Ujaama and Semi Osman, he notes, on charges connected to the scouting of a ranch in Bly, Ore., as a possible terrorist training site in 1999. On an anti-American website, operator James Ujaama said, “My brother and I will join those who fight in the cause of Allah.” That brother, authorities learned, is Mustafa Ujaama, who was converted or recruited to radical jihadist Islam while serving in the U.S. military.

Meanwhile, Osman was a drilling Construction Mechanic 3rd Class in the U.S. Naval Reserve at the time of his arrest. Osman “served in the U.S. Navy’s Supply Support Battalion 1, Company F, a fueling unit based in Tacoma, Wash., with access to fuel trucks similar to the type used by al-Qaida in the 1996 bombing of the Khobar Towers and the 2002 bombing of a synagogue in Tunisia,” Knowlton said. “Such converted fuel truck bombs possess the equivalent energy of 10-15 tons of TNT.”

Add to this mix John Allen Muhammad, a former U.S. Army Gulf War veteran and prime suspect in the Washington-area sniper attacks, and there appears to be an emerging pattern that jihadists are eyeing “recruits” in key positions in the U.S. military.

“Ali, Mustafa Ujaama, and former Army sergeant and alleged sniper John Muhammad appear to be indicative of an emerging threat of jihadists attempting to infiltrate or turn members of the U.S. military,” Knowlton writes. “However, at this time only Osman, former Green Beret Ali Muhammad (a conspirator in the Tanzania and Kenya embassy bombings), and former Army reservist Jeffrey Leon Battle, indicted in October 2002 of conspiring to levy war against the United States and ‘enlisting in the Reserves to receive military training to use against America,’ have definitively been proven to participate in jihadist activities concurrent with their military service.”

“While all military personnel undergo background screening when entering the service,” he writes, “heightened and continuous scrutiny is generally only paid to those in occupations that require enhanced levels of clearance.

“A jihadist operative in a food service or supply unit could potentially contaminate the meals of our troops, similar to the salmonella attacks by Rajneeshee cultists in Oregon in 1984, or the clothing articles of military personnel in a method reminiscent of British colonials giving smallpox-tainted blankets to Indians in 1763 and 1767,” Knowlton said.

Referencing former CIA Director Allen Dulles’ 1963 comments about why an operative betrays his country – namely, blackmail, money, sympathy for the cause, for “kicks,” or for “reasons that defy rational analysis” – Knowlton points out that “all of these reasons apply to potential jihadist operatives.”