A Coast Guard lieutenant and self-proclaimed white nationalist was arrested on charges of illegal drug and weapons possession on Friday. But authorities say the charges are just the “proverbial tip of the iceberg” and that the man is a “domestic terrorist, bent on committing acts dangerous to human life.”
Christopher Paul Hasson, a 49-year-old resident of Silver Spring, Maryland, had stockpiled weapons and ammunition and was allegedly planning to kill a number of prominent Democratic politicians and journalists as well as professors, judges, and “leftists in general,” federal prosecutors said in a court filing on Tuesday.
The filing details disturbing allegations, including Hasson’s writings about a potential race war, where he asserts that “much blood will have to be spilled to get whitey off the couch,” and his study of Anders Breivik, a Norwegian far-right domestic terrorist who killed 77 people in 2011. Law enforcement agents discovered 15 firearms and more than 1,000 rounds of mixed ammunition when they searched Hasson’s home on Friday. Seamus Hughes of George Washington University’s Program on Extremism was first to uncover the filing.
Authorities allege that Hasson had created a spreadsheet of potential targets of violence, including Sens. Chuck Schumer, Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker, Tim Kaine, Kamala Harris, and Richard Blumenthal. He listed Blumenthal as “Sen blumen jew” and Warren as “poca warren,” presumably a reference to President Donald Trump’s nickname for her, “Pocahontas.” Other of his targets included House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Sheila Jackson, and Maxine Waters, and journalists Chris Cuomo, Chris Hayes, and Ari Melber.
BTW, here it is. Christopher Hasson. This is the face of the man who wanted to murder "poca warren" and "sen blumen jew" pic.twitter.com/WQ1RfE8k5C— Jennifer Hayden (@Scout_Finch) February 21, 2019
Authorities say that Hasson conducted internet searches on whether senators and Supreme Court justices have Secret Service protection. They also describe a December 2018 instance in which Hasson looked up MSNBC host and former Rep. Joe Scarborough after seeing a headline where Scarborough called Trump “the worst ever.” He looked at Scarborough’s Wikipedia page and website and then tried to find where his show was hosted and where he used to live.
In an email draft in 2017, Hasson wrote that he was “dreaming of a way to kill almost every last person on the earth” and discussed ways to carry out his plans.
After racist violence erupted in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017, Hasson sent himself a draft letter — which he allegedly had written to a neo-Nazi leader — identifying himself as a “long time White Nationalist” and a “skinhead” for more than 30 years. In the letter, he called for a “white homeland.”
From January 2017 to January 2019, authorities say, he conducted searches and made “thousands of visits” to websites containing pro-Russian, neo-fascist, and neo-Nazi literature.
It’s not clear when or if Hasson intended to carry out his plot. He compiled the list of targets on January 17, 2019. The same day, he performed Google searches including “what if trump illegally impeached, “best place in dc to see congress people,” “where in dc to congress live,” “civil war if trump impeached,” and “social democrats usa.”
Hasson appeared to take advice from Breivik’s manifesto, which he spent three years creating prior to his attacks. He took cues for creating a list of and categorizing victims and for taking steroids prior to an attack. Agents found more than 30 bottles labeled as human growth hormones in Hasson’s residence.
Hasson is expected to appear in federal court on Thursday at 1 pm.
Coast Guard Chief Warrant Officer Barry Lane, a spokesperson for the Coast Guard, said in a statement to multiple media outlets that Hasson’s arrest was part of an ongoing probe by the Coast Guard Investigative Service.
“An active duty Coast Guard member, stationed at Coast Guard Headquarters in Washington, DC, was arrested last week on illegal weapons and drug charges as a result of an ongoing investigation led by the Coast Guard Investigative Service, in cooperation with the FBI and Department of Justice. Because this is an open investigation, the Coast Guard has no further details at this time,” Lane said.
White nationalist and right-wing domestic terrorism is a major threat in the US
Right-wing extremism is a growing problem in the United States, and threats such as those posed by individuals like Hasson are becoming more common, not less. Take the shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh in October, in which 11 people were killed; the pipe bombs that were sent to multiple prominent politicians the same month; or the 2017 shooting at a black church in Charleston, South Carolina, that left nine people dead.
According to the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the number of terrorist attacks in the US by far-right perpetrators more than quadrupled between 2016 and 2017. From 2007 to 2011, there were five or fewer attacks by right-wing extremists per year. In 2017, there were 31. According to the Anti-Defamation League, right-wing extremists were responsible for 71 percent of extremist-related murders from 2008 to 2017. Islamic extremists were responsible for 26 percent of the killings.
As Janet Reitman explained in the New York Times Magazine in November, law enforcement for years failed to see the threat white nationalism could pose in the US and was instead focused on Islamic extremism. The piece details how a report from a Homeland Security senior intelligence analyst named Daryl Johnson on the rising threat of white nationalism and right-wing extremism was crushed by political backlash. Republicans vehemently objected to descriptions of “right-wing extremism,” and DHS withdrew the report.
But report or not, as the Washington Post laid out in November, the problem has only become worse, under President Barack Obama and now Trump:
Terrorism researchers say right-wing violence sprouted alongside white anxiety about Obama’s presidency and has accelerated in the Trump era. Trump and his aides have continuously denied that he has contributed to the rise in violence. But experts say right-wing extremists perceive the president as offering them tacit support for their cause.
After the violence in Charlottesville, for example, Trump asserted that “both sides” were equally to blame and that there were “some very fine people” among the far-right demonstrators, many of whom wore “Make America Great Again” caps while chanting racist and anti-Semitic slogans.