Federal authorities have arrested a Coast Guard lieutenant they say concocted a white supremacist-fueled plot to “murder innocent civilians on a scale rarely seen in this country.”
According to court documents unsealed this week, Christopher Paul Hasson was arrested Friday on gun and drug possession charges. But prosecutors said that was “the proverbial tip of the iceberg,” pointing to rantings against liberal ideology and a target list that included House Speaker Nanci Pelosi, figures from CNN and MSNBC and a number of members of Congress.
He also made “thousands” of visits to pro-Russian, neo-fascist and neo-Nazi web pages.
And to dispel the possibility that the rantings were words without threat, prosecutors filed a picture in court documents showing a major arsenal of 15 firearms, both handguns and military-style rifles, and ammunition boxes packed with more than 1,000 rounds.
“The defendant is a domestic terrorist, bent on committing acts dangerous to human life that are intended to affect government conduct,” prosecutors said in a memo begging a judge to keep Lt. Hasson detained.
Lt. Hasson is currently being detained, with a hearing set for Thursday in federal district court in Maryland to decide whether to grant him bail.
Hoping to head off any chance of release, prosecutors filed a 15-page memo Tuesday laying out the stunning extent of the plot.
Among the details are that Lt. Hasson wrote a letter to a “known American neo-Nazi leader” saying he himself has been a “White Nationalist” for more than 30 years, and has been an advocate of “a little focused violence” to further creation of a white homeland.
Prosecutors pointedly said the letter was crafted seven weeks after the August 2017 white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.
In another writing the lieutenant wondered whether anthrax, botulism or Spanish flu would be a better way to pursue mass murder.
“I am dreaming of a way to kill almost every last person on the earth,” he mused.
Lt. Hasson also showed a deep devotion to the writings of Anders Breivik, a Norwegian terrorist whose two attacks lead to the death of 77 people.
From early 2017 onward, Breivik’s massive manifesto detailing his own preparations for his attacks served as a roadmap for Lt. Hasson, authorities said.
It guided the lieutenant’s decisions about amassing firearms, food and disguises, coming up with a target list and even taking steroids to boost aggressiveness in preparation for an attack.
Agents who searched Lt. Hasson’s Silver Spring, Maryland, apartment found dozens of bottles labeled Human Growth Hormone.
Lt. Hasson, who worked as an acquisitions officer for the Coast Guard, had previously served in the Marine Corps in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and did two years of active duty with the Army National Guard.
Authorities said he bought weapons across the country. They traced purchases from California, North Carolina, Virginia, Missouri, Florida and Pennsylvania.
Following the guidance in Breivik’s manifesto, Lt. Hasson last month wrote up with a target list of 22 names, listed in a spreadsheet. Among the names was “Sen blumen jew,” who authorities said was Sen. Richard Blumenthal; “shumer,” who was taken to be Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, “gillibran,” who is likely Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand; “poca warren,” likely a reference to Sen. Elizabeth Warren; “booker” and “harris,” likely references to Sens. Cory Booker and Kamala Harris; and “cortez,” who authorities said is probably Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
Other names included “JOEY,” which authorities say was likely MSNBC host Joe Scarborough; CNN personalities Van Jones and Chris Cuomo; and MSNBC host Chris Hayes.
The same day that he produced his target list Lt. Hasson did Google searched such as “what if trump illegally impeached” and “where in dc to[sic] congress live.”
Lt. Hasson also appeared to be taking precautions to prevent his steroid use from being detected. Agents found purchase records for “synthetic urine” and “clean kit” systems meant to be worn to drug testing, already filled with the synthetic urine, which is then dispensed to try to beat the test.
The lieutenant’s arrest is likely to renew a debate on Capitol Hill over domestic terrorism in the U.S.
Democrats have said right-wing terrorism poses a larger threat to American lives domestically than does left-wing or radical Islamic terrorism.
The court documents detailing Lt. Hasson’s case were unsealed Tuesday, when prosecutors also filed the memo urging he be kept in detention. Seamus Hughes of The Program on Extremism at George Washington University spotted the documents and they went viral online Wednesday.