Maryland (U.S.)– Coast Guard Lieutenant Christopher Paul Hasson, 49, was indicted in February on gun and drug charges in Maryland, but federal prosecutors may try to pin more serious charges on him. Part of the difficulty in bringing additional charges against him is that there is not a specific federal crime for plotting domestic terrorism. Since Hasson did not actually commit violence, and may not even have had a specific plan in place, can he still be charged for the intent? It's a gray area between free speech and actually making a serious criminal threat, says the Washington Times.
International terrorism is well-defined as a crime primarily occurring outside of the borders of the U.S., but for homegrown terrorists like Hasson or Robert Bowers, the man who killed 11 at the Tree of Life Synagogue in October 2018, the charges brought are not specific to terrorism. Bowers was charged with 29 criminal counts, including aggravated assault, 11 counts of homicide, hate crimes including ethnic intimidation, and using a firearm to commit murder. But there is no charge that is all-encompassing for acts of domestic terror.
Lt. Hasson, the would-be terrorist arrested last month in Maryland, had compiled a hit list of journalists and liberal politicians, including Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts. According to court documents, Hasson also wrote in a draft e-mail that he was “dreaming of a way to kill almost every last person on the earth” and expressed white nationalist sentiments. He went on to say that a plague might work, and that he would need to get ahold of the Spanish flu, botulism, or anthrax.
Hasson was arrested on February 15, 2019, after he was investigated by the FBI for his white nationalist views and suspicious activity. Federal law enforcement officials found 15 guns and over 1000 rounds of ammunition in his basement apartment (of course this guy would live in a basement). The Coast Guard lieutenant was inspired by Norwegian mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik. Hasson would often read parts of Breivik's manifesto. Breivik is currently serving 21 years in prison for killing 77 people in a bomb and shooting rampage back in 2011. Hasson's obsession with Breivik will be part of the prosecution's case that he was serious about committing acts of terror.
The detention memo issued for Hasson outlined the case against him:
- Hasson had a small arsenal of weapons in his home
- Hasson had obtained a plentiful supply of human growth hormone and the opioid known as Tramadol
- Hasson read the “Breivik” manifesto regularly
- Hasson created a hit list for targets in politics and the media
Names on the spreadsheet hit list included Senator Elizabeth Warren, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and TV reporters Joe Scarborough and Van Jones.
On the list, Hasson referred to Elizabeth Warren as “poca warren.” (Hasson adopted President Trump’s “Pocahontas” nickname for the senator, referring to her claims of Native American heritage.)
Domestic terrorism is a growing concern for the FBI. In 2017, 150 Americans were arrested for planning violent acts of terror—more than the number of international suspects arrested. The New York Magazine published a piece by Matt Stieb arguing that domestic terrorism is a greater threat to the American public than international Islamic extremists.
We'll see in the coming weeks if the FBI will bring additional charges against Hasson.