A National Guard soldier at Fort Lewis, Washington, was arrested Thursday on suspicion of trying to pass information about military capabilities to the al Qaeda terrorist organization, military officials said.
Spc. Ryan G. Anderson, 26, was taken into custody following an internal sting operation, said Lt. Col. Stephen Barger, post spokesman.
He will be charged with “aiding the enemy by wrongfully attempting to communicate and give intelligence to the al Qaeda terrorist network,” Barger said.
Barger said the investigation involved the Army, the FBI and the Justice Department.
“This is part of a joint, ongoing investigation,” he said. “I can’t get into specifics of how the investigation started or proceeded.”
Barger said it could be four or five days before charges are formally filed.
Anderson allegedly offered to pass the information to al Qaeda agents through an Internet chat room, Pentagon officials said. But it is not believed he actually made contact with al Qaeda members, the sources said.
Law enforcement personnel were monitoring the chat room looking for people who might try to give up information, and Anderson allegedly tried to offer information to al Qaeda, according to sources.
Officials said Anderson, a tank crewman with the 303rd Armor Battalion of the 81st Armor Brigade at Fort Lewis, near Tacoma, was the only target of the sting.
The sting operation involved passing sensitive information about capabilities and vulnerabilities of armored Humvees and tanks, both of which are used in the brigade, officials said.
Anderson’s unit, the 81st Armor Brigade, was honored in a deployment ceremony Saturday.
The brigade is preparing to deploy for final training in California before it departs for a tour of duty in Iraq.
When asked if Anderson is a Muslim, Barger said, “Religious preferences are an individual right and responsibility, and I really can’t get into it.”
Sources said Anderson converted to Islam several years ago.
Local media outlets in Washington reported that Anderson was a 2002 Washington State University graduate and studied military history with an emphasis on the Middle East.