Just in case you were starting to feel too comfortable with the state of affairs on the domestic front, you can go back to panic mode now. John T. Booker Jr. of Topeka, Kansas was arrested this week on charges that he was in the final stages of planning a suicide bombing attack on the United States Army base at Fort Riley, all in the name of ISIS. The good news in this case is that the FBI was all over the scheme from Booker’s early planning stages and they ensured that the 1,000 pound “bomb” he had prepared was a dud, so military personnel were never in immediate danger. The bad news is that this guy didn’t come slinking into the country through the back door… he was right from the heartland.
A Topeka, Kansas, man has been charged in federal court with attempting to detonate a vehicle bomb at Fort Riley military base near Manhattan, Kansas, announced Assistant Attorney General for National Security John P. Carlin, U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom of the District of Kansas and Special Agent in Charge Eric K. Jackson of the FBI’s Kansas City Division. The defendant was arrested as part of an FBI investigation, and the device used by the defendant was, in fact, inert.
John T. Booker Jr., 20, of Topeka, Kansas, was charged in a criminal complaint unsealed today with one count of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction (explosives), one count of attempting to damage property by means of an explosive and one count of attempting to provide material support to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), a designated foreign terrorist organization. Booker is expected to make an initial appearance this afternoon before U.S. District Judge Daniel Crabtree of the District of Kansas in federal court in Topeka.
Booker was arrested this morning near Manhattan, as he completed his final preparations to detonate a vehicle bomb targeting U.S. military personnel.
“As alleged in the complaint, John Booker attempted to attack U.S. military personnel on U.S. soil purportedly in the name of ISIL,” said Assistant Attorney General Carlin. “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. 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.”
Booker has been going by the name of Muhammad Abdullah Hassan recently and cited the Quran, which he said told him to “kill your enemies wherever they are.” As horrible as it sounds to say, this is beginning to sound like a rerun of a really bad movie.
In the days and weeks to come there will no doubt be an avalanche of reporting on exactly how Booker wound up on the radical side of the fence. He was actually talking to recruiters about joining the Army himself just last year. His father is an Army veteran who served in Desert Storm. According to Booker Sr. his son moved out of the family home after high school and he’s only spoken to him a couple of times in the past year. The father is a Methodist and mom is a Catholic, both apparently unaware that their son had converted to Islam.
One question which may be harder to nail down is the timing of Booker’s “conversion” and what he was doing when he looked into enlisting in the military. Apparently he was already on the road to jihad because his early plans were discovered during the recruiting process and he was dropped from consideration at that time. (In fact, that was apparently how he was found out to begin with.) So while it’s tough to prove, it’s not difficult to imagine that Booker’s early, unformed plans involved joining the military so he could carry out an attack from the inside, similar to the terrorist attack at Fort Hood.
I wouldn’t expect this guy to qualify for bail, so he’s probably out of action for good at this point. But since he’s still a civilian and he was caught before anyone was actually killed, it sounds like the death penalty is off the table and the best we’ll get is life in prison without parole. Barring some discovery of staggering incompetence on the part of the FBI, this trial will probably be little more than a formality and will no doubt take several years to play out. In closing, I’d like to offer a tip of my hat to the feds for staying on top of this and bringing it to a successful conclusion before anyone was murdered.