Officer recommends soldier’s court-martial

/ Source: The Associated Press

A National Guardsman accused of trying to help al-Qaida by offering details on U.S. troop strength and tactics should be court-martialed, the officer overseeing a hearing in the case said Thursday.

Spc. Ryan G. Anderson, 26, a Muslim convert and member of the Washington Guard’s 81st Armor Brigade, was arrested in February and charged with four counts of trying to provide information to the terrorist network.

“These are serious criminal offenses that present a real and present danger to U.S. soldiers serving in Iraq,” Col. Patrick J. Reinert said.

Reinert’s recommendation will be given to the base commander at Fort Lewis, who will decide whether Anderson will face a court-martial. Military law says those convicted of trying to aid the enemy could face the death penalty.

Anderson was not present when Reinert announced his recommendation, which concluded an Article 32 hearing, similar to a preliminary hearing in civilian court.

Secret videotape
During the hearing, prosecutors presented a secretly recorded video of Anderson meeting with two undercover military officials posing as al-Qaida operatives. In the video, Anderson offers information about weaknesses in the M1A1 Abrams, the military’s primary battle tank.

“I have no belief in what the American Army has asked me to do. They have sent me to die,” Anderson told the officials. He was arrested days after the meeting.

In closing arguments, Army prosecutors reviewed the evidence presented during the two-day hearing, saying it was “only appropriate” that Reinert recommend the case for court-martial.

“It is clear that Spc. Anderson believed he was dealing and communicating with an enemy of the United States,” Maj. Chris Jenks said. “He disclosed the means and methods to destroy U.S. Army equipment and vehicles and to kill U.S. Army soldiers.”

Anderson declined to make a statement, and his attorney, Maj. Joseph Morse, kept his comments brief, asking that Reinert consider only the charges and the evidence presented during the hearing.

No defense witnesses
Anderson’s lawyer presented no witnesses, a common practice for defense attorneys who prefer to use such hearings as a means of learning about the prosecution’s case.

Closing arguments followed a closed session that included classified testimony, said Capt. Jay H. Stephenson of the Army’s Judge Advocate General Corps.

Anderson has spent the last three months jailed at Fort Lewis. His brigade is now in Iraq.

Anderson was raised a Lutheran and grew up in Everett, where high school classmates described him as a paramilitary enthusiast who was passionate about guns. Anderson began studying Islam while attending Washington State University.