Coast Guard lieutenant is a 'domestic terrorist' who compiled hit list, investigators say
By LYNH BUI | The Washington Post | Published: February 20, 2019
A U.S. Coast Guard lieutenant and self-identified white nationalist has been arrested after federal investigators uncovered a cache of weapons and ammunition in his Maryland home that authorities say he stockpiled to launch a widespread domestic terrorist attack targeting politicians and journalists.
Christopher Paul Hasson called for "focused violence" to "establish a white homeland" and dreamed of ways to "kill almost every last person on earth," according to court records filed in U.S. District Court in Maryland. Though court documents do not detail a specific planned date for an attack, the government said he had been amassing supplies and weapons since 2017 at the latest, developed a spreadsheet of targets that included House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and searched the internet using phrases such as "best place in dc to see congress people" and "are supreme court justices protected."
"The defendant intends to murder innocent civilians on a scale rarely seen in this country," the government said in court documents filed this week, arguing that Hasson should stay in jail awaiting trial.
Hasson, of Silver Spring, is expected to appear before a judge for a detention hearing in federal court in Greenbelt on Thursday.
Hasson was arrested on illegal weapons and drug charges on Friday, but the government says those charges are the "proverbial tip of the iceberg." Officials with the U.S. attorney's office in Maryland outlined in court documents Hasson's alleged plans to spark chaos and destruction, describing a man obsessed with neo-fascist and neo-Nazi views.
"Please send me your violence that I may unleash it onto their heads," Hasson wrote in a letter that prosecutors say was found in his email drafts. "Guide my hate to make a lasting impression on this world."
A magistrate judge ordered that the Office of the Federal Public Defender represent Hasson; the office declined comment Wednesday.
Hasson has been working at the U.S. Coast Guard headquarters in Washington since 2016, according to court documents filed by prosecutors. He also served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1988 to 1993 and in the Army National Guard for about two years in the mid-90s.
Agents with the FBI field office in Baltimore and the Coast Guard Investigative Service arrested Hasson on Friday, FBI Baltimore spokesman Dave Fitz confirmed.
A Coast Guard spokesman, Lt. Cmdr. Scott McBride, said Wednesday that Hasson no longer works at Coast Guard headquarters.
"An active duty Coast Guard member stationed at Coast Guard Headquarters in Washington, D.C., was arrested last week on illegal weapons and drug charges as a result of an ongoing investigation led by Coast Guard Investigation Services, in cooperation with the FBI and the Dept. of Justice," McBride said in a written statement. McBride declined to comment further, citing the open investigation.
Court documents do not detail what prompted federal law enforcement to begin investigating Hasson, but they say Hasson has been studying the 1,500-page manifesto of right-wing terrorist Anders Behring Breivik, who unleashed two attacks in 2011 that killed 77 in Norway. They say Hasson's attack preparations resembled Breivik's.
The manifesto outlined how Breivik planned and prepared his attacks with the aim of providing an outline for others planning similar terrorist operations, the U.S. court filings say.
Breivik took steroids and narcotics, believing it would heighten his abilities to carry out attacks. When law enforcement raided Hasson's apartment, they said they found a locked container loaded with more than 30 vials of what appeared to be human growth hormones. He has also ordered more than 4,200 pills of the narcotic Tramadol since 2016, along with synthetic urine to allegedly bypass possible random drug screenings at work, they said.
Breivik encouraged identifying targets and traitors. In recent weeks, they said, Hasson developed a spreadsheet of targets that included top Democratic congressional leaders and media personalities. The list includes "JOEY," what prosecutors say is a reference to former Rep. Joe Scarborough, R-Fla., who works for MSNBC; "cortez," an alleged reference to freshman Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-New York; and "Sen blumen jew," presumably about Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn.
The filing was first reported Wednesday afternoon by the Program on Extremism at George Washington University.
Authorities seized 15 firearms, including several long guns and rifles, and more than 1,000 rounds of ammunition from his basement apartment after executing a search warrant this month. Over the past two years, he had made nearly two dozen purchases of firearms or related equipment and made thousands of visits to websites that sell weapons or tactical gear.
Authorities said Hasson harbored extremist views for years.
"The defendant is a domestic terrorist," the government said in court filings, "bent, on committing acts dangerous to human life that are intended to affect governmental conduct."
In an email he drafted in June 2017, he contemplated biological attacks and targeting food supplies, according to court filings. He considered the merits of a "bombing/sniper campaign" and included a "Things to do" list that included purchasing land "out west or possibly NC mtns" for family and researching tactics used during the civil war in Ukraine.
"During unrest target both sides to increase tension," Hasson wrote in the email, according to the court filings. "In other words provoke gov/police to over react which should help to escalate violence. BLM protests or other left crap would be ideal to incite to violence."
In another letter drafted months later to an American neo-Nazi leader, Hasson called for a "white homeland." He sent the letter to himself nearly two months after the neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, where torch-carrying white-supremacists clashed with anti-racist protesters.
"I never saw a reason for mass protest or wearing uniforms marching around provoking people with swastikas etc.," Hasson said in the letter, according to court filings. "I was and am a man of action you cannot change minds protesting like that. However you can make change with a little focused violence."
Hasson's commitment to destruction appeared to increase in recent weeks, according to details from prosecutors. He created a list of "traitors" and targets on Jan. 19 in a spreadsheet on his work computer, they said, which was created two days after he conducted a series of internet inquiries:
8:54 a.m.: "what if trump illegally impeached"
8:57 a.m.: "best place in dc to see congress people"
8:58 a.m.: "where in dc to congress live"
10:39 a.m.: "civil war if trump impeached"
11:26 a.m.: "social democrats usa"
The arrest marks the second time that the Coast Guard has responded to an incident involving alleged white supremacy in recent months. In September, the service reprimanded a worker who flashed what some people identified as a white-supremacy sign in the background of a televised interview with another officer during the response to Hurricane Florence.
"We are aware of the offensive video on twitter - the Coast Guard has identified the member and removed him from the response," the service said at the time in a tweet. "His actions do not reflect those of the United States Coast Guard."
That individual was not identified.
The Washington Post's Dan Lamothe contributed to this report.