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In FBI Terrorism Sting Against Mentally Ill Kansas Man, Informants Built Bomb & Provided List of Materials

In a terrorism sting operation, the FBI arrested a twenty year-old man from Topeka, Kansas, who United States government officials claim attempted to “detonate a vehicle bomb at Fort Riley military base near Manhattan, Kansas.” He also apparently suffers from mental illness.

John T. Booker Jr., who also goes by the name Mohammed Abdullah Hassan, was charged with attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction, attempting to damage property by means of an explosive and attempting to provide material support to the Islamic State.

“Thanks to the efforts of the law enforcement community, we were able to safely disrupt this threat to the brave men and women who serve our country,” Assistant Attorney General for National Security John P. Carlin declared. “Protecting American lives by identifying and bringing to justice those who wish to harm U.S. citizens remains the National Security Division’s number one priority.”

But, according to an affidavit [PDF] by an FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force in Topeka, Booker had no direct interaction or communication with any terrorists or terrorist organizations prior to the FBI targeting him. He had obtained no explosives to carry out any sort of attack. He lacked the resources or capabilities act and told one of the informants in the case that he wanted to join the Islamic State but “didn’t know anyone who could help him do so.”

An informant (CHS 1) introduced Booker to a second informant (CHS 2), who claimed to be a “high ranking sheik planning terrorist acts in the United States.” CHS 1 provided the list of materials that Booker needed to have in order to build a vehicle bomb. The two informants built the vehicle bomb, not Booker.

However, Booker allegedly had plans to commit violence against the US military prior to the sting operation. He had enlisted in the military and the affidavit says he posted a message on Facebook on March 15, 2014, that stated, “I will soon be leaving you forever so goodbye! I’m going to wage jihad and hopes that I die.” On March 19, he posted, “Getting ready to be killed in jihad is a HUGE adrenaline rush!! Iam so nervous. NOT because I’m scared to die but I am eager to meet my lord.”

A citizen complained and the FBI interviewed Booker on March 20. He was allegedly “advised” and “waived” his Miranda rights. Then, he admitted to enlisting in the Army to “commit an insider attack against American soldiers like Major Nidal Hassan had done at Fort Hood, Texas.” He allegedly informed agents questioning him “if he went overseas and was told to kill a fellow Muslim he would rather turn around and shoot the person giving orders.”

“Booker stated that he formulated several plans for committing jihad once enlisted, including firing at other soldiers while at basic training at the firing range or while at his pre-deployment military base after completing his initial military training,” according to the affidavit. “Booker clarified that he did not intend to kill ‘privates,’ but that he instead wanted to target someone with power. Booker also said that he did not intend to use large guns, but instead a small gun or a sword.”

The military, as one might expect, denied him entry to the military. However, the FBI stunningly did not arrest him. The US government did not charge him with conspiracy to commit terrorism for allegedly confessing to having these plans. Instead, the FBI let him go and began to target him in a sting operation later in October.

On October 8, 2014, the affidavit alleges that Booker engaged with CHS 1. He expressed his “desire to engage in violent jihad on behalf” of the Islamic State. He “dreamt of being in the Middle East.” He allegedly watched a video of “Muslim forces” fighting Americans in Iraq and said he “dreamt about going with the fighters and wished he was with them.” So, Booker had the desire to commit an attack but not the knowledge of how to carry out an attack. The FBI informants preyed upon this desire to bring him closer to “detonating” a bomb.

Next month, on November 12, CHS 1 essentially informed Booker that he could solve all of the problems he had with trying to launch a terrorism attack on behalf of the Islamic State because he knew somebody with connections to people overseas.

On December 18, Booker allegedly proposed some plans for possible attacks, including the idea of  getting a “gun or grenade to kill American soldiers at a local base.” Booker also allegedly planned to capture a “high ranking military officer” and force him to say on video that the Islamic State was in the United States.

Nearly two months later, on February 3, 2015, Booker allegedly suggested during a conversation with CHS 1 that he should create a propaganda video similar to the “Flames of War” video from the Islamic State. It would warn Americans that “their family and friends” should “quit the military.” Again, he allegedly wanted to show that the Islamic State was in America and scare people.

On March 9, CHS 1 introduced Booker to CHS 2 and told him CHS 2 was a “high ranking sheik planning terrorist acts in the United States.” CHS 2 would essentially play the role of mentor and help him develop and prepare to carry out his alleged plans.

Booker allegedly told CHS 2 that he had seen the video of American Syrian suicide bomber, “Jihadi Joe,” and wanted to build and detonate a bomb like “Joe” had done. He allegedly suggested to CHS 2 that a “good target” would be Fort Riley.

According to the affidavit, “Booker said that if they had a better target he was willing to go anywhere and do anything CHS 1 and CHS 2 asked him to do. CHS 2 counseled Booker that he can only move forward with his (Booker’s) plan for the sake of Allah and that one cannot do it for any other person or reason.” CHS 2 also counseled that he “must be truthful.” And Booker allegedly insisted he only wanted to do this attack for Allah.

Booker went to Freedom Park near Marshall Army Airfield at Fort Riley. CHS 2 allegedly recorded video of Booker delivering a message from the Islamic State that he had written. (Though, it was what he thought the Islamic State would want him to say, since he had no communications with anyone in any leadership position in ISIS.)

On March 25, Booker was informed by CHS 1 that he had been “selected” to “accompany Booker on his suicide mission.”

Booker apparently had absolutely no idea what materials were needed to make this vehicle bomb that would be used. CHS 1 helped him by providing a “list of supplies that they needed to purchase in order to build the bomb.” CHS 1 and Booker allegedly went to several retailers in the area and purchased the supplies.

On March 26, the two informants and Booker went out to conduct reconnaissance. Booker allegedly identified the routes that would be used to travel from Topeka to Fort Riley, “as well as several locations and access gates near the southeast corner” that would be “worthwhile targets.”

The two informants built the vehicle bomb. They also, at Booker’s alleged request, provided a “map of the area of Fort Riley.”

On April 10, the FBI informants helped Booker carry out what he thought would be an attack on a US military base. CHS 2 even had to inform him how to arm the vehicle bomb because he did not know.

Does anyone seriously think Booker is or was capable of carrying out a bombing against a US military base without the aid and assistance of FBI informants?

Booker’s family reportedly has tried to get him treatment for mental health issues previously. He clearly seems to be suffering from some kind of psychosis and yet the FBI decides to make him the target of a terrorism sting instead of allowing the family space to get Booker medical care.

Should this sting against a mentally vulnerable young man, even have been carried out in the first place?

If he was dangerous, the FBI could have arrested Booker after they questioned him. He allegedly confessed to having plans to attack people in the military. But the FBI let him go and then turned around and targeted him, and it all seems intentional, like the FBI knew they could put him behind bars for much longer and make a bigger terrorism case out of Booker if they didn’t charge him and later made him the target of a sting.

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Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure."