Possibly the most insidious thing about white nationalism is that its disciples can and do pop up any and everywhere. White nationalism isn’t a profession. Racists don’t tend to include it in their LinkedIn profiles. They don’t work in designated buildings wearing clearly identifiable uniforms. Nope, that would be too easy on the rest of us. Instead, white nationalism tends to be represented through regular ol’ white people working regular ol’ jobs or, even worse, jobs that put them in positions of power.
They’re police officers, politicians, school teachers and college professors, school principals, commercial pilots, corrections officers and, of course, they’re steadily on the rise in the U.S. military.
Meet Christopher Hasson. Hasson is a U.S. Coast Guard lieutenant accused and convicted of stockpiling weapons and compiling a hit list of government and media figures. Hasson also happens to be a confessed white nationalist who, thankfully, has been sentenced to 13 years in prison for his crimes. But don’t let his sentencing cause you to think to yourself, “Whew, glad that’s over” and stop reading here in relief. Hasson and his like are still a problem.
According to NBC News, federal prosecutors said Hasson was inspired by racist murder cases and “intended to exact retribution on minorities and those he considered traitors.” U.S. Attorney Robert Hur said were Hasson not caught when he was, “we now would be counting bodies of the defendant’s victims instead of years of the defendant’s prison time.”
Hasson, 50, of Silver Spring, Maryland, pleaded guilty last October to charges of illegally buying prescription painkillers and amassing an arsenal of 15 firearms and two illegal gun silencers. As a drug abuser, he was not legally entitled to possess the guns. The FBI said he also had over 1,000 rounds of ammunition for those weapons.
When Hasson was arrested nearly a year ago, investigators found documents at his apartment in which he described himself as being a white nationalist for more than 30 years. The FBI said he drafted a letter to a neo-Nazi leader, advocating “focused violence” to establish a white homeland. Investigators said he was a follower of Anders Behring Breivik, the far-right terrorist who killed 77 people in two coordinated attacks in Norway in 2011.
Court documents said he spent roughly $12,000 over a three-year period to equip himself with knives, ammunition, body armor, and smoke grenades. He also studied sniper techniques and investigated ways to make bullet fragments untraceable.
The FBI said Hasson compiled a computer spreadsheet hit list with the names of 13 members of Congress, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, and six news media figures, including Joe Scarborough of MSNBC and Chris Cuomo of CNN.
Investigators tasked with bringing Hasson to justice said they considered him a domestic terrorist, but there are no such charges in the federal system. For that reason, the case was an example of the difficulty prosecutors face when potential terrorist attacks could’ve been prevented but weren’t. It’s long been my belief that in this country’s reluctance to label white domestic terrorists as, well, terrorists, the way we so easily do Islamic offenders, puts us in danger. Every time there’s even a whiff of a Muslim terrorist attack, airport security regulations get more strict and a dozen seemingly harmless items get added to the list of things you won’t make it past TSA with. I wish we took those kinds of precautions when a white American male is the face of terrorism.
To make matters worse, his lawyers are arguing that the threat Hasson posed has been grossly exaggerated and that the appropriate sentence for what they described as a “little more than a run-of-the-mill firearms possession case” was time served in jail and three years of supervised release. (Yes, please let a terrorist who is literally telling you, “Hey look at this list of politicians and brown people I plan to kill!” roam free since he hasn’t had the chance to catch any bodies just yet.) They’ve described him as “deeply ashamed” and seek to blame his criminal behavior on opioid addiction. (Don’t even get me started on all the black people sitting in prison cells who didn’t get to pawn their crimes off on all the drugs they were doing. That kind of thing is probably more likely to get us added time.) They’re claiming a clinical psychologist from Canada who examined Hasson concluded that he did not intend to commit dangerous acts and was not a domestic terrorist.
“We hope this analysis,” his lawyers said in a pre-sentence court filing, “puts to rest, for once and for all, the unsubstantiated allegations that the government has leveled.”
Just before his sentencing, Hasson addressed the court with a standard faux-pology. “I apologize for losing your trust and for the things I wrote.” (Because what he wrote was the problem and not all the guns and the murders he was plotting.)
Hopefully, US District Court Judge George Hazel sticks to his guns (no pun intended... Well, maybe a little) after saying “There is little if any doubt he was planning a mass casualty assault to further his white nationalist views,” adding that Hasson “is not being sentenced for his views. He’s been sentenced for the actions he was planning.”
The only problem with that is we really need protection from his views, as well.