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Mental Disorder Led Soldier to Seek Al Qaeda -Lawyer


By Elaine Porterfield

FORT LEWIS, Washington (Reuters) - A U.S. Army soldier charged with trying to aid al Qaeda had a mental disorder that drove him to brag to undercover agents about ways to destroy U.S. weapons and kill soldiers, his lawyer said at the opening of his court martial on Monday.

Specialist Ryan Anderson was filled with grandiose visions of his own importance that led him to lie and encouraged him to role play, defense attorney Maj. Joseph Morse said in opening remarks in the case that has drawn national attention.

"They (prosecutors) want you to believe he was a militant Muslim, that he sympathized with al Qaeda," Morse said, "The evidence is not going to show it. He had a mental condition."

Morse did not specify what that mental condition was, and prosecutor Maj. Melvin Jenks, disagreed with Morse's claim.

"This is a case about betrayal," Jenks told jurors. "Betrayal of our country, betrayal of our Army and betrayal of our soldiers."

Jenks said he will present evidence from various sources, including instant text messages and e-mail, that Anderson intended to aid enemy forces and gave evidence to undercover agents posing as Muslim extremists.

The documents he is alleged to have given the agents provided detailed vulnerabilities in certain tanks and Humvees. It included specifics such as the caliber of a bullet needed to penetrate the tank's armor, Jenks said.

In earlier hearings, Ryan's attorney insisted much of the technical information Anderson provided was unclassified and relatively easy to find.

The 27-year-old converted Muslim and gun-rights advocate from Lynnwood, Washington, was based at Fort Lewis, near Tacoma. He could face up to life in prison if convicted.

His court martial is being heard by a nine-person panel of commissioned officers. Unlike a civilian court, which requires a unanimous decision, only a two-thirds vote by the panel is needed for a conviction.

In another departure from civilian court practice, the panel, not the judge, will set Anderson's sentence if he is convicted. His sentence would be served in a military prison. The court martial is expected to run at least through Friday.

Anderson, a tank loader, was scheduled to ship out to Iraq when he began posting messages on extremist Muslim web sites seeking to contact al Qaeda. He was caught in a sting operation in which he was videotaped blasting U.S. leaders over the war.

Anderson, also known as Amir Abdul Rashid, was arrested in 1998 for approaching an elementary school toting a rifle and bayonet while on a break from Washington State University.

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Does it matter? Legally you aren't insane unless you don't know what you did is wrong. If you know what you are doing is wrong then it is up to you to seek help before you get someone hurt.

This guy didn't seek help. So sick or not, too damn bad.

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Now, I don't mind the insanity claim, if the result is they are still getting locked up -- just receiving different treatment (psychiatric vs. penal). However, it would have to be a really unique situation for me to believe that anyone that claims the insanity defense should received a lesser sentence if convicted.

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