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Federal Investigators Thwart Potentially Massive Terrorist Attack


Federal investigators have thwarted what they say could've been a massive terrorist attack. They discovered a stockpile of weapons in a Maryland home. And now Coast Guard Lieutenant Christopher Hasson is in custody. He's accused of planning to, quote, "murder innocent civilians on a scale rarely seen in this country," according to court documents.

Reporter Lynh Bui is covering the story for The Washington Post and joins us now. Welcome.

LYNH BUI: Thank you so much.

SHAPIRO: Beyond the weapons cache, what did investigators uncover about this man and his intentions?

BUI: Investigators detailed a lot of chilling things in their court documents filed. They said that he followed closely the manifesto of Norwegian mass murderer Anders Breivik, who launched a bomb and shooting attack in Norway that killed 77 people.

They said he had a stockpile not only of guns and ammunition, but also narcotics and steroids to help keep him strengthened during whatever attack he might plan.

SHAPIRO: Now, he described himself as a white nationalist. He appeared to be a Nazi sympathizer. Tell us about what his plan was.

BUI: So investigators didn't detail a specific date or event, but they said that he'd been planning since at least 2017 to do something. And he created a spreadsheet of targets. Those targets included Liberal politicians, including possibly Nancy Pelosi, also journalist Joe Scarborough of MSNBC, Don Lemon of CNN.

But also, he had a series of letters that he wrote to himself. He contemplated biological attacks and how to get his hands on, you know, Spanish flu or botulism.

But, you know, when investigators raided his home last week, they found a cache of 15 weapons, at least - lots of rifles, firearms and more than a thousand rounds of ammunition.

SHAPIRO: Now, he was active-duty Coast Guard. Has the Coast Guard commented on this?

BUI: The Coast Guard has said that they have removed him from duty. He's no longer with the Coast Guard. But when he was arrested, he was active at the time.

SHAPIRO: Do you know how investigators found him? What tipped them off?

BUI: It's not clear what launched them on this path - at least they haven't said so in court documents or public records. The initial filings had only charged him with drugs and weapons charges. But in a later filing, you know, arguing that he should remain in jail till trial, they outlined his larger plans for this, you know, chilling attack.

SHAPIRO: What do you expect to happen to him next?

BUI: He is going to appear in federal court tomorrow in Greenbelt, Md., where the judge will determine what his detention status will be.

SHAPIRO: Lynh Bui of The Washington Post, thanks for joining us.

BUI: Thank you so much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.