Sadly, the fear of being accused of Islamophobia is almost certainly hampering some of these cases.
The FBI has conducted more than 100 investigations into suspected Islamic extremists within the military, NPR has learned. About a dozen of those cases are considered serious.
Officials define that 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.
Details Revealed At Closed Congressional Hearing
The FBI and the Department of Defense declined to discuss the figures on the record, but three sources with direct knowledge confirmed that the numbers were revealed in a closed session of a House-Senate committee hearing in December. The FBI also declined to say whether it has compiled more up-to-date figures since that time.
“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. [...]
The FBI compiled its tally of Islamic extremist cases in the military late last year for a joint hearing that Lieberman co-chaired. The hearing was looking at possible threats to military communities inside the United States, and the number of cases was revealed at that time.
About A Dozen Cases Face Full Investigation
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.