Got news? Mother Jones on ghosts in FBI’s Hasan probe

Your GetReligionistas normally do not spend much time looking at ideological media outlets, such as National Review or Mother Jones.

But rules are made to be broken. The progressive outlet Mother Jones has a great straight news story right now that many other outlets seem to have downplayed or missed. And it has an important religion angle. The piece reveals how internal documents show that the FBI completely mishandled information that could have helped avoid the Fort Hood massacre perpetrated by Nidal Hasan.

The story is published in the context of increasing revelations about how our intelligence system includes the capability of spying on American citizens. In this case we have a story about how intel agencies have long monitored communications with Muslim clerics with ties to terrorism. And a year prior to the massacre, the FBI intercepted emails between Anwar al-Awlaki and Hasan. They described them as “fairly benign.” Mother Jones‘ reporting questions that assessment. It begins:

Last Thursday, as the jury in the trial of Nidal Hasan was deliberating, outgoing FBI Director Robert Mueller appeared on CBS News and discussed a string of emails between the Fort Hood shooter and Anwar al-Awlaki, a radical Islamic cleric with ties to the 9/11 hijackers. The FBI had intercepted the messages starting almost a year before Hasan’s 2009 shooting rampage, and Mueller was asked whether “the bureau dropped the ball” by failing to act on this information. He didn’t flinch: “No, I think, given the context of the discussions and the situation that the agents and the analysts were looking at, they took appropriate steps.”

In the wake of the Fort Hood attacks, the exchanges between Awlaki and Hasan—who was convicted of murder on Friday—were the subject of intense speculation. But the public was given little information about these messages. While officials claimed that they were “fairly benign,” the FBI blocked then-Sen. Joseph Lieberman’s efforts to make them public as part of a two-year congressional investigation into Fort Hood. The military judge in the Hasan case also barred the prosecutor from presenting them, saying they would cause “unfair prejudice” and “undue delay.”

As it turns out, the FBI quietly released the emails in an unclassified report on the shooting, which was produced by an investigative commission headed by former FBI director William H. Webster last year. And, far from being “benign,” they offer a chilling glimpse into the psyche of an Islamic radical. The report also shows how badly the FBI bungled its Hasan investigation and suggests that the Army psychiatrist’s deadly rampage could have been prevented.

Much of the story deals with how the FBI bungled its handling of an investigation into a man who was openly asking Awlaki for permission to kill American soldiers. We get specifics about the bureaucratic mis-steps and failures. We learn from the article that “a group of more than 100 Fort Hood victims and victims’ relatives has filed suit claiming that the government’s ‘gross negligence’ and ‘reckless disregard’ for the lives of Fort Hood residents and staff paved the way for the tragedy.”

The emails themselves have some religious components and context that I do wish were further explored:

Meanwhile, Hasan kept writing Awlaki…

The San Diego field office intercepted these missives, too. But the database where the FBI stored intercepted emails didn’t automatically link messages from the same sender, so the staff didn’t realize that Hasan’s early 2009 emails were from the person who had set off alarms the previous December. Meanwhile, the Washington-based DCIS agent assigned to investigate Hasan put off his inquiry for another 90 days, the maximum allowed under joint task force rules, before conducting a cursory investigation. Over the course of four hours on May 27, 2009, he ran Hasan’s name through several databases to see if the psychiatrist had been targeted in previous counterterrorism probes. He also reviewed Hasan’s Pentagon personnel file. Hasan’s officer evaluations were mostly positive, and the chair of psychiatry at Walter Reed had written that Hasan’s research on Islamic beliefs regarding military service had “extraordinary potential to inform national policy and military strategy.”

The Senate investigation later found these reports “bore no resemblance to the real Hasan, a barely competent psychiatrist whose radicalization toward violent Islamist extremism alarmed his colleagues and his superiors.” Nevertheless, the DCIS investigator concluded, based on Hasan’s file, that the Army psychiatrist had contacted Awlaki in connection with his academic research and “was not involved in terrorist activity.” The DCIS investigator and a supervisory agent in the Washington field office debated interviewing Hasan or his superiors. They ultimately decided doing so could jeopardize the Awlaki investigation or harm Hasan’s career.

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After Hasan trial: Spot big religion ghost in this story

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The military trial of Maj. Nidal Hasan was never — as a journalism story — really about whether or not he was guilty of massacring his unarmed colleagues at Ft. Hood, Texas. With Nasan representing himself and openly discussing his role as the gunman, the key issues in the trial were linked to his own explanation of his faith-driven motives and the degree to which his superiors knew of his convictions in the months before his rampage.

Now, with the guilty judgment in and sentencing ahead, information continues to trickle out.

Hasan is not hiding anything, to say the least. In fact, he is continuing his drive to receive the death penalty and, thus, martyrdom for his violent actions in defense of his own radicalized Islamist beliefs.

So what is the most obvious GetReligion “ghost” angle in the following story in this new Los Angeles Times report? What is the most crucial information that is missing that is clearly linked to this subject, a gap that could be filled with a paragraph, a few sentences? Yes, you will need to read the short story.

Here is the top of the story:

Months before the Ft. Hood shooting in November 2009, the Army psychiatrist convicted Friday of killing 13 and wounding more than 30 was completing a fellowship at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, where military supervisors praised his unique interest in Islam’s impact on soldiers, according to documents provided to The Times.

Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan’s supervisors had also repeatedly recommended him for promotion, according to documents. … Among Hasan’s “unique skills,” the report listed “Islamic studies” and “traumatic stress spectrum psychiatric disorders,” concluding that “Maj. Hasan has great potential as an Army officer.”

The officer evaluation report, and another from earlier that year, were provided to The Times by Hasan’s civil lawyer, John Galligan, who says he believes they are relevant to Hasan’s sentencing, which is set to begin Monday. He is eligible for the death penalty.

Once again, the key is what Hasan’s superiors knew, in advance, about his frame of mind and his fierce opposition to the U.S. Army’s role in Afghanistan and in the Islamic world.

The story also notes:

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Major Nidal Hasan talks about faith, like it or not

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Some may disagree, but I think we have reached the point where we can say that journalists in the mainstream press are going to have trouble keeping the religion angle out of the coverage of the Fort Hood trial of U.S. Army psychiatrist Major Nidal Hasan.

It will be hard to stay faith-free, now that Hasan wants to be granted the death penalty — to die the death of a martyr. He also has offered his apologies that he didn’t do a better job of representing his holy cause during his act of what the White House at one point called “workplace violence.”

Hasan, of course, has stated that his attack on his Army colleagues at Fort Hood was an act to protect other Muslims, an act carried out after his own solitary preparations to act on what he believed were his duties as a Muslim. It’s crucial to stress the degree to which he stood apart from other Muslims, other than some contacts on the Internet.

Nevertheless, it’s hard to talk about his motives without getting into the religious details of the life of this troubled believer, especially since Hasan is acting as his own lawyer and spokesperson.

But Reuters, among others, is giving it a try. Here’s a key chunk of one report from the courtroom:

Hasan, who opened fire on unarmed soldiers days before he was to be deployed to Afghanistan, also told the jury he switched sides in what he called America’s war on Islam, saying, “I was on the wrong side.” He has previously said he was protecting fellow Muslims from imminent threat.

He spoke quietly from his wheelchair, taking off a green knit cap when the court was in session.

The standby defense team wants to avoid being forced by the court to help Hasan achieve the death penalty, calling such a goal “repugnant to defense counsel and contrary to what our professional obligations are.”

At this point, it would really help to explain to readers why Hasan wants to die, while the representatives of the military want him to live. Why do I think that?

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Reporting on Islam and lone-wolf terror attacks

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Details are continuing to emerge on Wednesday’s murder of British soldier Lee Rigby near the Woolwich barracks in London — a crime described by Prime Minister David Cameron as a terrorist attack.

The killing was carried out by two British nationals of Nigerian origin who converted to Islam from Christianity within the past few years. MI5, the British domestic security agency, is reported to have been aware of the radical nature of their religious beliefs, but until Wednesday the two had not done anything to warrant prosecution. No terrorist groups have yet claimed responsibility for the attack.

Like the Fort Hood shooting and last month’s Boston Marathon bombings, the Woolwich killing appears to have been a lone-wolf attack — a terror attack carried out by an individual or small group on the radar of the FBI or MI5 but not under the operational command of the terrorist organization like Al Qaeda or the Taliban. While no evidence has so far been published that connects these local cells with overseas terrorist groups, the radicalization via the internet of the terrorists in Cambridge, London, and Texas draw upon a common religious or ideological indoctrination from the wider jihadist movement.

The British press appears to be following the Greenberg template for reporting on Islamist terror attacks in its coverage of the Woolwich jihad murder. In 2009 GetReligion scribe Brad Greenberg outlined the progression of stories in the American press on Maj. Nidal Hasan and the Fort Hood shootings.

Start with shock and awe. Then, as information starts to get out, report that the suspected shooter has an Arabic name. Confirm that he was, in fact, a Muslim. Once that has settled in, add to the story about motive the possibility of jihad and the references to 9/11. Finally, within short order, fill out the picture with a story about American Muslims condemning the alleged act of their misguided brother.

Some things remain the same. The Muslim Council of Britain has denounced the murder is being unrepresentative of Islam and the Thursday print editions put the killers’ jihadist motivations at the top of their stories.

The Daily Mail led its story with photos of the two knife-wielding killers with this extended caption:  “2.20pm on a suburban high street, Islamic fanatics wielding cleavers butcher a British soldier, taking their war on the West to a new level of horror”.  It opened with:

‘You people will never be safe,’ he declares in a clear south London accent. ‘An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.’ In broad daylight, he and an accomplice had just repeatedly stabbed and tried to behead an off- duty soldier in front of dozens of passers-by. Throughout the frenzied attack they shouted ‘Allah Akbar’ – Arabic for ‘God is great’ – then demanded horrified witnesses film them as they ranted over the crumpled body. The two black men in their 20s, waited calmly for armed police to arrive before charging at officers brandishing a rusty revolver, knives and meat cleavers.

The Daily Telegraph reported:

“A BRITISH soldier was butchered on a busy London street yesterday by two Islamist terrorists, one of whom proclaimed afterwards: “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.”

The Guardian:

A man suspected of staging a terrorist attack that left a British soldier dead near a military barracks in London, was caught on camera clutching a meat cleaver and knife in hands apparently covered in the blood of his victim, as he justified the violence as part of a jihadist-inspired fight against the west.

The Independent:

Terrorism returned to the streets of Britain yesterday when a soldier was murdered by two suspected Islamists who attempted to behead and disembowel him as he left a barracks, in the first deadly attack since the 2005 London bombings. One of the suspected killers, who addressed an onlooker who had a camera, said the pair had carried out the attack “because David Cameron, [the] British government sent troops in Arabic country”.

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Islamist crimes against humanity in Mali

The Washington Post has a tough, but very important, read on the deteriorating situation in Mali. The first point to make is to thank the paper for devoting the resources necessary to bring to light this story about terrorism against vulnerable people. It can’t be easy and it’s deeply appreciated.

The story begins with Fatima Al Hassan being sentenced to 100 lashes with an electrical cord for giving a male visitor to her house. We’re told that “Islamist radicals” who’ve seized the north are to blame. We’re told that a coalition of Western and regional powers are preparing to retake northern Mali within the next year.

But such an action, if approved by the U.N. Security Council, is unlikely to begin until next summer or fall, U.S. and other Western officials say, and political turmoil in the south is adding to the uncertainty. That has raised fears that the extremists could consolidate their grip over the Texas-size territory and further terrorize civilians, particularly women and children.

“The people are losing all hope,” said Sadou Diallo, a former mayor of the northern city of Gao. “For the past eight months, they have lived without any government, without any actions taken against the Islamists. Now the Islamists feel they can do anything to the people.”

Refugees fleeing the north are now bringing stories that are darker than those recounted in interviews from this summer. Although their experiences cannot be independently verified — because the Islamists have threatened to kill or kidnap Westerners who visit — U.N. officials and human rights activists say that they have heard similar reports of horrific abuses and that some may amount to war crimes.

I had previously criticized a piece for writing about the horrors in Mali using a single anonymous source. I liked the way this reporter acknowledged the limits to verifying reports, while doing a great job of working around that problem.

Early in the piece, I hoped we’d learn about what religious beliefs separated these Islamists from the Muslims they’re terrorizing. While that was not as well fleshed out as I may have hoped for, we did get specifics about what the Islamists are doing:

The refugees say the Islamists are raping and forcibly marrying women, and recruiting children for armed conflict. Social interaction deemed an affront to their interpretation of Islam is zealously punished through Islamic courts and a police force that has become more systematic and inflexible, human rights activists and local officials say.

We’re told that the radicals have “imposed a hard-edged brand of sharia law, echoing Afghanistan’s Taliban movement, in this West African country where moderate Islam has thrived for centuries.”

I have suspicions about how moderate sharia and a hard-edged sharia differ but could have used some help spelling it out. Is it a difference in degree of punishment? A difference in what is deemed worthy of punishment? Something else altogether? And the things these radicals are doing — depriving people of basic freedoms, destroying historic tombs, denying children education, ridding the country of doctors and nurses and clinics — what, exactly, is the religious defense for these things? We’re told they’re doing them for religious reasons but I could use some info about the particular religious reasons.

Anyway, the situation sounds just horrific. Roving police squads scour neighborhoods for violations. A healthy amount of the story is devoted to the practices of rape and forced weddings.

[T]he Islamists have … encouraged their fighters to marry women and girls, some as young as 10, and often at gunpoint. After sex, they initiate a quick divorce. In an extreme case that has shocked the country, a girl in Timbuktu was forced last month to “marry” six fighters in one night, according to a report in one of Mali’s biggest newspapers.

“They are abusing religion to force women and girls to have intercourse,” said Ibrahima Berte, an official at Mali’s National Commission for Human Rights. “This kind of forced marriage is really just sexual abuse.”

In a telephone interview, a senior Islamist commander conceded that his fighters were marrying young girls.

“Our religion says that if a girl is 12, she must get married to avoid losing her virginity in a wrong way,” said Oumar Ould Hamaha, the military leader of the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa, one of the three radical groups ruling the north. The other two are al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), the network’s North and West Africa affiliate; and Ansar Dine, or “defenders of the faith.”

And kudos for getting a military leader on the phone to admit to the practice and explain the religious loophole. We’re also told how the radicals manipulate Muslim sentiment to buy children:

“They give $10 to impoverished parents to recruit their children in the name of defending Islam,” said Gaoussou Traore, the secretary general of Comade, a Malian children’s rights group. “The Islamists tell parents that their children will go to paradise, that they will benefit in the next world.”

I like the use of quotes to quickly explain how this practice works.

A section of the story deals with the practice of destroying or vandalizing businesses deemed unIslamic:

Inside his barbershop, Ali Maiga, 33, had a mural of hairstyles favored by American and French rappers on the wall. The Islamists sprayed white paint over it, he recalled, and warned him that he risks being whipped if he shaves off anyone’s beard.

This just reminds me of my requests for additional information on the trial of Nidal Hasan. He’s claimed he can’t shave his beard for religious reasons. I’ve wondered why this claim hasn’t been explored by journalists. Which schools of Islam teach this?

Anyway, this piece is well worth a read. It’s well written and well reported. The ending is quite powerful, too.

Nidal Hasan’s mysteriously religious beard

A few months ago, I looked at coverage of a judge’s order that the beard of alleged Ft. Hood shooter Nidal Hasan must be shaved. We have a bit of an update to that story from the Associated Press:

The military’s highest court ousted the judge in the Fort Hood shooting case Monday and threw out his order to have the suspect’s beard forcibly shaved before his court-martial.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces ruled that Col. Gregory Gross didn’t appear impartial while presiding over the case of Maj. Nidal Hasan, who faces the death penalty if convicted in the 2009 shootings on the Texas Army post that killed 13 people and wounded more than two dozen others.

But the court said it was not ruling on whether the judge’s order violated Hasan’s religious rights. Hasan has argued that his beard is a requirement of his Muslim faith, although facial hair violates Army regulations.

To be honest, the entire story left me a bit confused in the particulars. The general idea, though, is that the appeals court was worried that it had become a battle of wills between Gross and Hasan. One issue involved a medical waste bag and an adult diaper in the bathroom … but I was a bit confused about what was going on.

In any case, I’m reminded once again of how poorly the religion angle to this story has been covered. I’m just going to quote what I wrote months ago:

But more than anything I wonder why not a single expert on Muslim grooming could be cited. There have to be various schools of thought on this issue, right? What do they say? Do they say nothing? If nothing, that should be mentioned, too. Did Hasan just make this beard thing up? Did he have any justification? What did his defense argue? Shouldn’t these things be included in the story?

That’s one angle I’d like to see covered. Another comes from what one commenter to the previous post wrote:

As an Army Chaplain the issue surrounding Hasan’s beard is at its heart a religious freedom issue. With that said there is no inherent violation of his rights. All Soldiers, including Christian, Jewish or Sikh (among many) who desire to follow structures of their faith that collide with Army policy must, I repeat must, follow a process called “accommodation of religious practices.” The Soldier in question must go through an interview process, that includes a Chaplain, to verify the truth and reality of the claim and request for exception to Army policy, in this case a beard. Hasan, to my knowledge, has not followed the process, so whether he is in uniform or in civilian clothes he is still an Army officer required to follow Army grooming standards.

Has Hasan gone through the accommodation process? If not, why not? What do Hasan’s lawyers say about why he changed his mind about what his religion says about facial hair? Since the entire progress of the trial rests on answers to these questions, isn’t it kind of weird that we’re not seeing more about what’s going on? Why the sparse coverage of the key religion angles here?

Shaving Nidal Hasan’s irreligious religious beard

I hope you’re having a day that enables some thoughtful reflection on this anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks against the United States. It’s a day that changed many of our lives and is the main reason why I became interested in religion writing. Eleven years ago, I knew very little about Islam. The more I study it and read about it, the more I realize how little I know and how much I have left to learn. And the battle against Islamic terrorism continues, as this story about the trial of Fort Hood shooting suspect Nidal Hasan shows.

The Reuters piece, headlined “Fort Hood massacre suspect’s beard must go, says judge: US military judge orders forced shaving of Nidal Hasan, ruling his beard is not covered by laws protecting religious freedom,” shows how religion angles require good coverage.

Hasan is charged with 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder, coming from the shootings at Fort Hood Army base in Texas in 2009. A U.S. military judge has ordered Hasan to shave or be shaved, saying his beard is not covered by federal laws protecting religious freedom.

Colonel Gregory Gross ruled following a hearing that Hasan’s attorneys had failed to prove he had grown the beard, which he has worn since June, for religious reasons. Hasan, 41, has said he grew the beard in line with the beliefs of his Islamic faith and that it is part of his free exercise of religion.

Hasan, an army psychiatrist, faces 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted premeditated murder in the shootings at the army base in Texas in 2009.

“Bottom line is the judge ordered him to be forcibly shaved,” the Fort Hood spokesman Tyler Broadway said.

The story focuses on how the court of appeals for the armed forces had said that the ruling could be appealed and some background on the case Hasan is charged with. We learn how a forced shaving would work — with fairly explicit detail. But I left the story confused about the religion angles. For instance, above we’re told that the judge ruled that Hasan had failed to prove he’d grown the beard for religious reasons, but then we’re told something completely different:

Gross said army grooming regulations, which prohibit beards, overrode religion. Gross has repeatedly declared Hasan to be in contempt of court when he has appeared in court for pre-trial hearings with the beard, declaring it to be disruptive, and ordering him out of the courtroom.

So did the judge say Nasan failed to prove the beard was grown for religious reasons or did the judge say army grooming regs overrode religion? Those are two different things.

But more than anything I wonder why not a single expert on Muslim grooming could be cited. There have to be various schools of thought on this issue, right? What do they say? Do they say nothing? If nothing, that should be mentioned, too. Did Hasan just make this beard thing up? Did he have any justification? What did his defense argue? Shouldn’t these things be included in the story? And it’s not just Reuters. I had similar questions after reading this Associated Press account, too.

Image of man with beard via Shutterstock.

Why don’t we know more about Abdo’s motivation?

When I came across this Associated Press story about the trial of a Muslim U.S. soldier accused of planning to bomb Fort Hood troops, I had to go back and check out our analysis of stories from when then the news first broke last year. It’s instructive. In the breaking news, we looked at how the soldier, Army Pfc. Naser Jason Abdo, was identified as well as how his religion was put in context with other aspects. For instance, he’d recently had his efforts to be given conscientious objector status held up because he’d been caught with child pornography.

Tmatt pointed out that while Abdo’s allegiance to Islam was well known, we were given very little information about how that was practiced. Was he part of a particular strain of Islam? Did he have any religious guides? Where, if anywhere, did he worship? What were his personal pieties? Was he just a loner following his own brand of faith?

The Associated Press filed an update from his trial. And it’s just an update from a wire service but caught my eye with the headline “GI says Muslim faith motive for Ft Hood bomb plot.” Maybe we’ll get some more answers to the questions from last year.

WACO, Texas — A Muslim U.S. soldier accused of planning to bomb Fort Hood troops says he wasn’t seeking vengeance but justice for people in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to a recording played at his federal trial Wednesday.

Army Pfc. Naser Jason Abdo is heard telling his mother during a recorded jail visit that “their suffering is my suffering.” …

Abdo is heard telling his mother that “it’s all true” and “the reason is religion. There is no other reason.” He says what he did was selfless because he was trying to avenge the United States’ wrongful treatment of people he considers his family, and that he used every resource he had “to make things as right as possible.”

“I’ll be all right,” he is heard saying. “I made this decision.”

From there it goes on to explain the case against Abdo, which includes a magazine article about making bombs that tells “my Muslim brother” that anyone can make a bomb without arousing suspicion. We learn how suspicion arose and more details about the allegations against Abdo.

But I must admit I’m disappointed to not learn more about Abdo, his religion or otherwise. This Telegraph story provides a few more details. Headlined “HIV positive soldier accused of military base plot wears surgical mask in trial,” we’re told that in a previous appearance, he bit his lip and spat at federal officers. We’re told:

One witness said Abdo told him that the assault was intended to show support for Army Major Nidal Malik Hasan, a Muslim psychiatrist accused of killing 12 soldiers and a civilian in the 2009 shooting, which also wounded 32 others.

The FBI alleges Hasan had contacts with the charismatic US-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaqi, a leading member of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula who was killed in a September 2011 drone strike.

FBI agent Charles Owens said that Abdo told him in an interrogation session that “he wanted to do it for the sake of the men and women of Afghanistan, that they had been wronged.”

OK, so the relationship to the deceased American cleric gives us some indication, but I’m still curious about what role religion played in the day-to-day life of Abdo. The Telegraph does provide, however, a crazy story involving a body bag, a stun gun, a cattle prong and three handcuff boxes.

I couldn’t really find anything contemporary with more details, although this Associated Press story from last year gave us some information. He made outburts in support of Nidal Hasan. Which is weird since when he was appealing to anti-war groups to help him obtain conscientious objector status, he condemned Hasan’s attack.

Abdo’s father in Fuhais, Jordan, insisted all the allegations against his son were lies, from the child porn to the attempted attack. He says his son couldn’t kill anyone and couldn’t have done any bad thing. The father was deported from the United States the previous year after being convicted of soliciting a minor, however.

Abdo didn’t stand when the judge entered his pre-trial hearing. U.S. marshals pulled him from his seat. But he answered the judge’s questions politely. He shouted out the name of a 14-year-old Iraqi girl who was raped in 2006 before she and her family were killed. Five soldiers were sent to prison, including one for life, for their roles in that attack:

The allegations and Abdo’s defiance in court contrast with the words he used as he was petitioning for conscientious objector status. In an essay he sent to The Associated Press last year he said acts like the Fort Hood shootings “run counter to what I believe in as a Muslim.”

He was born in Texas to a non-denominational Christian mother and a Muslim father. Jamal Abdo said they divorced in 1993.

Naser Abdo said he became a Muslim when he was 17. He said he enlisted thinking that Army service would not conflict with his religious beliefs, but reconsidered as he explored Islam further.

“I realized through further reflection that god did not give legitimacy to the war in Afghanistan, Iraq or any war the U.S. Army could conceivably participate in,” he wrote in his conscientious objector application.

I’m not sure why “god” is lowercased in the quote. The father is quoted, again, as saying that his son was mocked as he prayed when he was in the Army. We’re also told that Abdo claimed soldiers often associated terror with Islam during routine training exercises:

“Only when the military and America can disassociate Muslims from terror can we move onto a brighter future of religious collaboration and dialogue that defines America and makes me proud to be an American,” Abdo wrote.

So that was all helpful information, obviously, but I’m still left confused. And I understand that confusion is not unexpected when dealing with terror suspects. But it would be nice to know more, if possible. What changed, if anything, between the time Abdo was saying Americans need to disassociate Muslims from terror and when he admits he was seeking to terrorize Americans? That part of the story still needs to be told.