01 February, 2020
By SJA Jafri + Agencies
Officials said Christopher Hasson, 50, was planning to target liberal politicians and news broadcasters.
Prosecutors said this was “domestic terrorism”, but US law does not classify this as a distinct offence without an attack being carried out.
Hasson pleaded guilty to firearms and drugs charges.
When he was arrested last February, officers found a cache of 15 firearms – which, as a drug user, Hasson was banned from owning – and two illegal gun silencers. He was also in possession of the narcotic Tramadol without a prescription.
Before and during his sentencing hearing, prosecutors and defence attorneys sparred on whether or not Hasson would have gone on to commit mass murder.
The former lieutenant from Silver Spring was inspired by racist mass murderers, including Anders Breivik, and “intended to exact retribution on minorities and those he considered traitors”, prosecutors told the court.
He created an Excel spreadsheet with a list of targets, which included 12 prominent Democrats in Congress and a number of CNN and MSNBC journalists.
US Federal Attorney Robert Hur added that if he hadn’t been arrested when he was, “we now would be counting bodies of the defendant’s victims instead of years of the defendant’s prison time”.
Hasson’s lawyers, however, argued that prosecutors had overstated the threat he posed.
Hasson was an aircraft mechanic with the Marine Corps in the first Gulf War, and later went on to serve in the Virginia National Guard before joining the Coast Guard in 1996.
During this time he amassed the weapons in his apartment in Silver Spring. His arsenal included six handguns, seven rifles, and two shotguns, more than 1,000 rounds of ammunition, knives, smoke grenades and tactical gear.
According to the FBI, he also had 30 vials of a human growth hormone – a steroid that prosecutors said he took thinking it would “increase his ability to conduct attacks”.
Hasson studied bomb-making and sniper manuals, as well as racist and anti-Semitic writings – including the manifesto of Norwegian mass murderer Anders Breivik, who killed 77 people in 2011 in two terror attacks. He murdered eight people with a car bomb in central Oslo and then shot dead 69 others, many of them teenagers, at a Labour Party youth camp.
Hasson’s web searches, on mass shootings and biological warfare, triggered an investigation by the Coast Guard after they were flagged up by software on his work computer.
In a lengthy memo to him, US media report that he wrote: “Please send me your violence that I may unleash it unto their heads. Guide my hate to make a lasting impression on this world.”
Hasson’s lawyers told the court he had developed an addiction to opioids and this had poisoned his mind against people of other ethnicities. This caused him to fantasise about carrying out violent attacks, they said.