The FBI has conducted more than 100 investigations into suspected Islamic extremists within the military, NPR has learned. About a dozen of those cases are considered serious.
Officials define that as a case requiring a formal investigation to gather information against suspects who appear to have demonstrated a strong intent to attack military targets. This is the first time the figures have been publicly disclosed.
The FBI and Department of Defense call these cases "insider threats." They include not just active and reserve military personnel but also individuals who have access to military facilities such as contractors and close family members with dependent ID cards.
Officials would not provide details about the cases and the FBI would not confirm the numbers, but they did say that cases seen as serious could include, among others things, suspects who seem to be planning an attack or were in touch with "dangerous individuals" who were goading them to attack.
Details Revealed At Closed Congressional Hearing
The FBI and the Department of Defense declined to discuss the figures on the record, but three sources with direct knowledge confirmed that the numbers were revealed in a closed session of a House-Senate committee hearing in December. The FBI also declined to say whether it has compiled more up-to-date figures since that time.
"I was surprised and struck by the numbers; they were larger than I expected," Sen. Joseph Lieberman, an independent from Connecticut and chairman of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security, told NPR. He stopped short of confirming the numbers.
"I know one can say that as a percentage of the millions of people in active military service or working with contractors, the numbers you talk about are a small percentage of the total, but the reality is it only took one man, Nidal Hasan, to kill 13 people at Fort Hood and injure a lot more," Lieberman said.