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Fort Fort Stewart Terror Plot Uncovered

Four idiot privates from Fort Stewart planned to take over the base, kill the president, and take over the government.

AP (“Prosecutor: Ga. murder case uncovers terror plot“):

Four Army soldiers based in southeast Georgia killed a former comrade and his girlfriend to protect an anarchist militia group they formed that stockpiled assault weapons and plotted a range of anti-government attacks, prosecutors told a judge Monday.

Prosecutors in rural Long County, near the sprawling Army post Fort Stewart, said the militia group of active and former U.S. military members spent at least $87,000 buying guns and bomb components. They allege the group was serious enough to kill two people – former soldier Michael Roark and his 17-year-old girlfriend, Tiffany York – by shooting them in the woods last December in order to keep its plans secret.

“This domestic terrorist organization did not simply plan and talk,” prosecutor Isabel Pauley told a Superior Court judge. “Prior to the murders in this case, the group took action. Evidence shows the group possessed the knowledge, means and motive to carry out their plans.”

What evidence, pray tell, showed that these morons had the knowledge, much less the means, to carry out this plan?

One of the Fort Stewart soldiers charged in the case, Pfc. Michael Burnett, also gave testimony that backed up many of the assertions made by prosecutors. The 26-year-old soldier pleaded guilty Monday to manslaughter, illegal gang activity and other charges. He made a deal to cooperate with prosecutors against the three other soldiers.

Prosecutors said the group called itself F.E.A.R., short for Forever Enduring Always Ready. Pauley said authorities don’t know how many members it had.

Burnett, 26, said he knew the group’s leaders from serving with them at Fort Stewart. He agreed to testify against fellow soldiers Pvt. Isaac Aguigui, identified by prosecutors as the militia’s founder and leader, and Sgt. Anthony Peden and Pvt. Christopher Salmon.

All are charged by state authorities with malice murder, felony murder, criminal gang activity, aggravated assault and using a firearm while committing a felony. A hearing for the three soldiers was scheduled Thursday.

Prosecutors say Roark, 19, served with the four defendants in the 4th Brigade Combat Team of the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division and became involved with the militia. Pauley said the group believed it had been betrayed by Roark, who left the Army two days before he was killed, and decided the ex-soldier and his girlfriend needed to be silenced.

So . . . we’ve got four teenagers with basic infantry training. How is it, exactly, that the were going to take over the base, assassinate the president, and then take over the United States Government with $87,000 worth of stuff?

Pauley said Aguigui funded the militia using $500,000 in insurance and benefit payments from the death of his pregnant wife a year ago. Aguigui was not charged in his wife’s death, but Pauley told the judge her death was “highly suspicious.”

She said Aguigui used the money to buy $87,000 worth of semiautomatic assault rifles, other guns and bomb components that were recovered from the accused soldiers’ homes and from a storage locker. He also used the insurance payments to buy land for his militia group in Washington state, Pauley said.

In a videotaped interview with military investigators, Pauley said, Aguigui called himself “the nicest cold-blooded murderer you will ever meet.” He used the Army to recruit militia members, who wore distinctive tattoos that resemble an anarchy symbol, she said. Prosecutors say they have no idea how many members belong to the group.

“All members of the group were on active-duty or were former members of the military,” Pauley said. “He targeted soldiers who were in trouble or disillusioned.”

The prosecutor said the militia group had big plans. It plotted to take over Fort Stewart by seizing its ammunition control point and talked of bombing the Forsyth Park fountain in nearby Savannah, she said. In Washington state, she added, the group plotted to bomb a dam and poison the state’s apple crop. Ultimately, prosecutors said, the militia’s goal was to overthrow the government and assassinate the president.

Look, I’m glad these yahoos are off the street. They’ve already murdered two people and could certainly have killed others in not stopped. But the plot is otherwise reminiscent of an episode of “Pinky and the Brain.”

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About James Joyner
James Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway, an associate professor of security studies at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. He has a PhD in political science from The University of Alabama. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter.

Comments

  1. al-Ameda says:

    The prosecutor said the militia group had big plans. It plotted to take over Fort Stewart by seizing its ammunition control point and talked of bombing the Forsyth Park fountain in nearby Savannah, she said. In Washington state, she added, the group plotted to bomb a dam and poison the state’s apple crop. Ultimately, prosecutors said, the militia’s goal was to overthrow the government and assassinate the president.

    The hate of Obama neither surprises nor shocks me, I’ve come to expect it. Perhaps not this extreme, but it’s definitely out there. Many people on the right are unhinged when it comes to Obama.

    But, what did they have against Washington State apples? Did some of them do basic training in Washington and drink bad apple juice?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 1

  2. The Onion: Nation Celebrates Full Week Without Deadly Mass Shooting

    “UPDATE: Never Mind”

    Sure these guys are idiots, and nuts, but the weekly pattern is getting a bit much.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  3. J-Dub says:

    @al-Ameda:

    Did some of them do basic training in Washington and drink bad apple juice?

    They thought it was Apple Jews. The only worse than a black president is Apple Jews.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 15 Thumb down 0

  4. Chris Berez says:

    But the plot is otherwise reminiscent of an episode of “Pinky and the Brain.”

    “What do you want to do tonight, Brain?”
    “Same thing we do every night, Pinky: stockpile $100k worth of weapons, set up a secret clubhouse in the woods, and get arrested by the FBI.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  5. Franklin says:

    @john personna: The Onion is a national treasure.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  6. Rafer Janders says:

    Four idiot privates from Fort Stewart planned to take over the base, kill the president, and take over the government.

    So four idiot privates from Fort Steward planned to take over the base, kill President Obama, and take over the government. But on the other hand, I’m sure that somewhere four other idiot privates from Fort Stewart planned to take over the base, kill Mitt Romney, and take over the government.

    So isn’t this really proof, yet again, that both sides do it? These idiot privates are merely trying to advantage their own side, just as Democrats do.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 19 Thumb down 2

  7. Rafer Janders says:

    By the way, calling these terrorists “idiot privates” and “morons” and going on about how they couldn’t actually do what they had planned to do, seems in some sense to be oddly excusing of their culpability in this terrorist plot. If a plot by a group of Qaeda operatives to do the same thing had been exposed, would you be going on in the same vein, or would you be taking their attempted terrorism a bit more seriously?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 0

  8. James Joyner says:

    @Rafer Janders:

    If a plot by a group of Qaeda operatives to do the same thing had been exposed, would you be going on in the same vein, or would you be taking their attempted terrorism a bit more seriously?

    You’re clearly new here. That prosecutors overhype these plots to make themselves look good is a recurring topic here going back to, oh, 2003. Indeed, since there was an actual double homicide here, this is actually much more serious than many of the “al Qaeda plots” uncovered over the years.

    Again: I’m glad these yahoos are off the streets. They have already killed and might well have killed others. I’m just saying this plot had zero chance of accomplishing its objectives.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  9. @Rafer Janders:

    We know the shoe bomber and the underwear bomber were both stupid and mentally ill.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  10. mantis says:

    The ringleader was a page at the 2008 Republican National Convention (h/t Gawker).

    Please note: I do not imply that this means Republicans are responsible for these nitwits. But I do find it amusing.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 0

  11. Anderson says:

    Had a little better security been in place, we might be laughing about those morons who thought they could hijack 4 jet planes using only box cutters and crash them into the WTC and the Pentagon. If we bothered to remember them at all.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  12. James Joyner says:

    @Anderson: Sure. I’m not sure what your point is, though. Hijacking a plane is easier, by orders of magnitude, than overthrowing the US Government.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  13. Anderson says:

    Of course they weren’t going to overthrow the government., in any sane terms.

    Assassinating the president would be much more do-able, and since their theory was probably that Obama is a socialist devil destroying the Constitution, removing him = overthrowing the Kenyan usurper and restoring the U.S. government.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  14. Al says:

    A 26 year old PFC? Was he already reduced in rank or did join when he was 25?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  15. Rafer Janders says:

    @James Joyner:

    You’re clearly new here.

    Well, that’s true. I hadn’t really heard much about you or your writing until a few weeks ago.

    That prosecutors overhype these plots to make themselves look good is a recurring topic here going back to, oh, 2003.

    My fault then in this case. But you have to admit that throughout the media there’s a reluctance to use the word “terrorism” regarding plots planned or committed by Americans, compared with the freedom with which they sling it about regarding non-American Muslims. And in those cases the default is often “oh, they never could have done it, they were Keystone Kops!”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 0

  16. grumpy realist says:

    Remember, it was an equvalent group of Japanese soldiers who set off the Manchuria Incident.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  17. Rafer Janders says:

    @James Joyner:

    Hijacking a plane is easier, by orders of magnitude, than overthrowing the US Government.

    Yes, but, then again, Lee Harvey Oswald managed to destroy a presidency with one rifle shot.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  18. Vast Variety says:

    So we finially got our version of th gunpower plot?

    We can call it the Pinky-Brain Plot

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  19. MBunge says:

    @James Joyner: “I’m just saying this plot had zero chance of accomplishing its objectives.”

    What chance did the original Beer Hall Putsch have of succeeding? No, I don’t think one of these losers is going to wind up being named Chancellor of America someday, but I’m not sure James Joyner’s “It can’t happen here” obliviousness is all that wise.

    Mike

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  20. DRE says:

    @James Joyner:
    Again: I’m glad these yahoos are off the streets. They have already killed and might well have killed others. I’m just saying this plot had zero chance of accomplishing its objectives.

    I agree that they had zero chance of accomplishing their objectives, but that is just due to the grandiose objectives. They certainly had the means to kill lots of people, and given that they appear to have killed 2 already, this plot seems to me to be completely different than all those FBI exposed plots, where the plotter(s) had zero capability, but had been duped by the FBI into believing that they did.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  21. Nikki says:

    Aguigui is probably very charismatic as he, a 19 year old private, managed to pull a 25 year old sergeant under his wing.

    James, you focus on the plot to overthrow the government, but reaching one’s ultimate goals must always begin with smaller steps. Aguigui had already raised $500,000 (probably by killing his wife for the insurance money), accumulated $87,000 in weapons and bomb making material and purchased a plot of land in Washington state. Who knows how much further along this group would be if they hadn’t gotten caught for murdering that couple? You know this nation is sitting on a powder keg when we have a judge in Texas predicting civil war if the president is re-elected. The plots and plans of terrorists are usually fluid enough to take advantage of more opportune paths to havoc.

    We can’t even be sure that this group has been stopped because the police don’t know yet if they’ve caught everyone involved.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  22. Anderson says:

    According to Burnett, the group’s rationale behind killing the president was “to give the government back to the people,” according to CNN. “The government needed a change, Burnett told the court. ‘I thought we were the people who would be able to change it.'”

    Killing the popularly elected president (yah, Electoral College, blah blah) = giving the government back to the people? I can’t imagine where anyone could get such an idea.

    (Ya gotta click through and look at that stuff — this guy’s paintings are selling out at the RNC.)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  23. jukeboxgrad says:

    Killing the popularly elected president (yah, Electoral College, blah blah) = giving the government back to the people? I can’t imagine where anyone could get such an idea.

    Yes, and there are some other places where someone could get such an idea. According to Palin, Obama is known for “palling around with terrorists.” According to Cheney, Obama had plans that were “likely to give encouragement — aid and comfort — to the enemy.” According to Sununu, Obama needs to “learn how to be an American.” According to a big chunk of the GOP, encouraged by Mitt’s ‘joke’ and his embrace of Trump, Obama is a foreign usurper who is lying to us about his citizenship.

    If I take these claims seriously, why shouldn’t I conclude that killing Obama is a patriotic act?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  24. legion says:

    @James Joyner:

    I’m just saying this plot had zero chance of accomplishing its objectives.

    That’s a rather faint endorsement of the end result, James. Regardless of how pie-in-the-sky their objectives were, 4 guys with military training, $87k worth of guns and explosives, and a demonstrated willingness to commit cold-blooded murder could have created a level of death and chaos on Ft Hood (or in any nearby metro area they chose) that would have made Oklahoma City look pissant. They may have been idiots, but they were incredibly dangerous idiots that undoubtedly would have murdered dozens more people if they hadn’t been caught at just this point.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  25. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @James Joyner:

    Sure. I’m not sure what your point is, though. Hijacking a plane is easier, by orders of magnitude, than overthrowing the US Government.

    Uh, James? I feel the need to point out that hijacking 4 planes and crashing them into various buildings was not the goal of Al Qaeda. The stated goal of Al Qaeda was, and still is, the removal of foreign infidel troops from the Holy Lands. To say that not only did they not succeed but actually exacerbated the situation would be an understatement.

    In fact, their goal is as wildly naive as these 4 idiots.

    So what makes $87,000 worth of arms and bomb making materials (not to mention the training provided by Uncle Sam to use these provisions in a most effective manner) a “plot … otherwise reminiscent of an episode of “Pinky and the Brain?”

    ps: I purposely used the words “stated goal” because I think all they really care about is killing the “foreign invaders”. But then, I also suspect that all these 4 idiots really care about is “taking their country back.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  26. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    . But then, I also suspect that all these 4 idiots really care about is “taking their country back.”

    At first I did not think it necessary to add the words “by force” but I probably should have.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  27. James Joyner says:

    @legion: @OzarkHillbilly:

    I’m specifically attacking the prosecutor’s inflated claim that “Evidence shows the group possessed the knowledge, means and motive to carry out their plans.”

    I think that, targeted differently, these people could have been dangerous, indeed. But the plot, as described, is farcical. No way in hell these guys had the ability to take over Fort Stewart, much less kill Obama or take over the government.

    As it was, they’re a bunch of murdering yahoos with weapons and the ability to use them. They’re dangerous. But as criminals, not terrorist masterminds.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  28. Rob in CT says:

    Step 1: take over a base
    Step 2: blow up a dam and poison apples (?!)
    Step 3: Assassinate POTUS
    Step 4: ???
    Step 5: FREEDUM!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  29. Just Me says:

    “Evidence shows the group possessed the knowledge, means and motive to carry out their plans.”

    I think I agree that this is probably over inflating the threat. They seemed to have the motive (probably the easiest to prove in this case) and perhaps the means, but I question the knowledge and just how thought out the plan was.

    It isn’t easy to pull off an assassination and I think taking over the base and overthrowing the government was a pipe dream. There is no way, even with 500k worth of weapons 4 soldiers were going to take over the army base.

    These guys definitely weren’t afraid to kill, so that clearly made them dangerous but killing a couple of citizens isn’t exactly that difficult compared to creating and executing a plan to kill the president or take over the army base.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  30. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @James Joyner:

    They’re dangerous. But as criminals, not terrorist masterminds.

    Kill a couple of locals, and you’re just a murderer. Kill 168 innocents and you’re a terrorist mastermind.

    So James, tell me, at just exactly what number of dead does one progress from criminal to terrorist mastermind? Or does the # even matter? Maybe what really matters is motive?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  31. James Joyner says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: And those killed thus far were former co-conspirators. Regardless, motive isn’t enough–there has to be real capability and evidence of sophisticated planning. The plot here, while evil and even potentially dangerous, was laughable in terms of even its intermediate objectives.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  32. Nikki says:

    @James Joyner:

    They’re dangerous. But as criminals, not terrorist masterminds.

    So what makes these guys so fundamentally different from other terrorists? Success?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  33. mattb says:

    @James Joyner:

    As it was, they’re a bunch of murdering yahoos with weapons and the ability to use them. They’re dangerous. But as criminals, not terrorist masterminds.

    James, simple question that might help frame your position (and something I can’t remember if you’ve specifically said in the past):

    Nadal Hassan – Criminal or Terrorist? (We’ll leave out mastermind or issues of mental state)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  34. James Joyner says:

    @mattb: Hassan was clearly a terrorist: He was taking instruction from al Qaeda and committed an orchestrated action designed to incite terror.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  35. mattb says:

    @James Joyner:
    So, in your mind, what’s critical to the designation are (a) his being embedded in an existing terrorist network/organization (al Queda) and (b) the nature of the act he actually carried out?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  36. Rafer Janders says:

    @James Joyner:

    He was taking instruction from al Qaeda and committed an orchestrated action designed to incite terror.

    Well, so were these guys: they were taking instruction from Aguigui and planned to commit an orchestrated action designed to incite terror.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  37. Rafer Janders says:

    @mattb:

    It seems like a bit of circular reasoning, doesn’t it? You can’t be a terrorist unless you belong to an existing terrorist organization — but then how does the terrorist organization come into existence without member committing terrorist acts?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  38. swbarnes2 says:

    @James Joyner:

    there has to be real capability and evidence of sophisticated planning. The plot here, while evil and even potentially dangerous, was laughable in terms of even its intermediate objectives.

    Sophisticated planning? How sophisticated? If a group of guys splits up, and each group shoots up a black church simultaneously, is that sophisticated enough? If their goal is to incite a worldwide race war, and that doesn’t happen, does that make them not terrorists?

    If it turns out that the ringleader got the money by killing his wife, does that make him sophisticated?

    Didn’t Osama think that bringing down the WTC would utterly wreck the Western economy? Is he not a terrorist because that plan didn’t succeed?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  39. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @James Joyner:

    The plot here, while evil and even potentially dangerous, was laughable in terms of even its intermediate objectives.

    James, I laughed when Richard Reid tried to blow his foot.off. I found it absolutely hilarious when Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab immolated his balls.

    What exactly do you find laughable about the deaths of 2 human beings?

    I will now postulate, as one who respects you immensely, that you need to recalibrate your “terrorist detector.” James, the real world is one that is measured in lives and deaths. These guys killed 2, would have killed many more had they gotten the chance. Those guys? They are the punchlines to some really bad jokes.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  40. James Joyner says:

    @swbarnes2: I think of the Manson Family as mass murderers, not terrorists, despite their chief’s goal of provoking a race war.

    @OzarkHillbilly: The people murdered here were co-conspirators, not innocents. But I find the overall plot—taking over a Fort and then the country–laughable, not the murder of these two or the potential for violence. My bemusement is over the grandstanding of the prosecutor and the grandiose ambitions of the gang here. I stated in the original post and several times now that it’s nonetheless a good thing that these thugs are locked up.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0