Shannen Rossmiller, American Hero
by Daniel Pipes
A National Guardsman named Spc. Ryan G. Anderson stands accused of trying to aid Al-Qaida; the case looks strong, as the government has a 58-minute videotape of him telling undercover military personnel such things as: "I wish to desert from the U.S. Army. I wish to defect from the United States. I wish to join al-Qaida, train its members and conduct terrorist attacks."
And just how did the military come to suspect Anderson? Was it the military police, a counterintelligence agency, or a particularly alert fellow-soldier who found him? None of the above. Here's an account from Montana's Great Falls Tribune:
The Seattle Post-Intelligencer cites cites Rossmiller's explanation that 7-Seas Global Intelligence is a group of seven amateur counterintelligence Web-surfing hobbyists tracking terrorist activity and providing information to the government. Its members include four in the United States, one in Australia, one in Indonesia and another in Canada.
Comment: Rossmiller is not unique. I know of several highly dedicated, increasingly skilled Internet warriors helping to defend their countries from jihadis through their scrupulous research and tracking. (May 14, 2004)
June 16, 2004 update: A long story in today's Seattle Times provides more details on what Rossmiller actually did in the Anderson case:
As for her methods, over the past two years,
In addition, this account tells more about 7-Seas Global Intelligence and cites other examples of citizen activism.
Sep. 2, 2004 update: Anderson was convicted of trying to aid Al-Qaeda.
Sep. 3, 2004 update: Anderson was sentenced to life in prison.
Feb. 11, 2006 update: Would-be terrorists, beware; Shannen Rossmiller is back on your trail!
Michael Curtis Reynolds, an unemployed man from Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, was arrested two months ago at a rest stop on an interstate highway in southern Idaho. The Philadelphia Inquirer explains he was jailed "on charges that he tried to conspire with al-Qaeda to wreck the American economy. Agents say Reynolds plotted to blow up the Trans-Alaska Pipeline, a Pennsylvania pipeline, and a New Jersey refinery. The sensational allegations … reveal a convoluted plot that includes cyberspace intrigue, an elaborate FBI sting, and a clandestine money-drop on a deserted Idaho road." The Inquirer then notes Rossmiller's role:
Is she not magnificent?
June 4, 2006 update: In a major Washington Post piece on Rossmiller by Blaine Harden, "On the Web, Looks Can Be Deceiving: Judge Tracks Terrorism Suspects From Home," she reveals that she has turned over to federal investigators about 60 "packages" of information on suspects outside the United States. That makes the two Americans arrested seem like an afterthought.
June 26, 2006 update: As a supplement to a profile of Rossmiller, the Daily Telegraph adds two important pieces of information about her: that she has worked on 99 cases, not 60, and providing new details on three arrests:
Oct. 4, 2006 update: Reynolds was indicted by a federal grand jury with providing material assistance to terrorists, soliciting explosives, knowingly distributing information about the construction and use of explosives, and possessing hand grenades. The indictment accuses Reynolds, who currently makes his residence in the Lackawanna County jail, of having "offered to assist al-Qaeda in engaging in acts of terrorism within the United States by... identifying targets, planning terrorist attacks, describing bomb-making methods, among other services." He hoped to enlist "al-Qaeda members to carry out violent attacks against pipeline systems and energy facilities in an effort to reduce energy reserves, create environmental hazards, increase anxiety, and require" federal officials to spend money to protect them, the indictment said.
July 11, 2007 update: Rossmiller tells her story in "My Cyber Counter-jihad," Middle East Quarterly, Summer 2007 issue. By coincidence, today also sees the unveiling of her website, www.shannen-rossmiller.com.
July 14, 2007 update: Michael Curtis Reynolds was convicted yesterday of on two counts of providing material support to terrorists; soliciting a crime of violence; unlawful distribution of explosives; and unlawful possession of a hand grenade. Specifically, he tried to help al-Qaeda to blow up the Trans-Continental gas pipeline, a Wyoming refinery, and the Trans-Alaska oil pipeline. The federal jury of six women and six men pondering his fate took little more than an hour to find him guilty of attempting to provide "material support to al-Qaeda" and "resources to be used in maliciously damaging or destroying property by means of force or explosive." It also decided that that Reynolds "solicited others to engage in a felony using physical force against property" and "knowingly distributed through the Internet information to be used and in furtherance of criminal violence."
Shannen Rossmiller responded to the verdict, saying, "I'm very happy justice prevailed. This will hopefully serve as a deterrent to anyone to cause this country harm in the name of al-Qaeda."
Nov. 6, 2007 update: Michael C. Reynolds, 49, was sentenced today to 30 years in federal prison.
Jan. 9, 2009 update: Rossmiller announced yesterday her plans to join with an unnamed defense contractor to teach internet counterterrorism to a "cyber corps" of intelligence experts. As the only known private U.S. citizen who has successfully initiated arrests and convictions of terrorists, she has helped with 214 espionage and terrorism cases. But Rossmiller found it too taxing testify in open court and plans not to become part of the chain of evidence again. The responsibility of making the prosecution's case in the Reynolds trial persuaded her to turn to teaching. "I was vomiting blood before I had to testify in court against Reynolds. I developed kidney stones and a bleeding ulcer. It takes you down. I thought it was going to be the end of me. … There are a lot of people who can be trained to do what I do. I don't want the notoriety or the pressure. I can teach people who will be paid professionals, not volunteers like me."
For a Fox News Channel report on her and the announcement, see "Fighting Cyberterror."
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