The Honolulu Star-Advertiser
In a case alleging homegrown terrorism, a Schofield Barracks soldier from Hawaii remained in federal custody Monday on accusations that he attempted to provide classified military documents, a drone and combat training to Islamic State — a group to which he is said to have pledged loyalty.
Sgt. 1st Class Ikaika Erik Kang, 34, a 2001 Kaiser High School graduate, was taken into custody Saturday night after telling an undercover FBI agent he wanted to take his AR-15 rifle and kill “a bunch of people,” according to the FBI affidavit in support of the criminal complaint filed Monday.
Kang’s arrest without incident by an FBI SWAT team followed a more than yearlong investigation involving at least six undercover FBI agents and the Army, according to officials and court filings.
Kang allegedly admitted he knowingly transferred information to what he thought was ISIS, but maintained it was old. He also admitted he wanted to help ISIS as early as 2015, the filing states.
ISIS stands for Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. The foreign terrorist organization, which is also known as the Islamic State group, is known for beheading enemies and is being fought by the United States in Syria and Iraq.
The affidavit said Kang, an air traffic control operator at Wheeler Army Airfield and hand-to-hand combat expert, deployed to Iraq in 2010-11 and to Afghanistan in 2013-14.
As far back as 2011, Kang made threatening statements and was reprimanded on several occasions for threatening to hurt or kill service members, and for arguing pro-ISIS views while at work and on-post, the report said.
Kang’s security clearance was revoked in 2012, but it was reinstated the following year after he complied with the requirements of the investigation.
“In early 2016 it appeared that Kang was becoming radicalized,” the affidavit said, and in August the Army referred the matter to the FBI.
The mixed martial arts competitor, with close-cropped hair and heavily tattooed arms, appeared in a white jumpsuit and hand and leg shackles for his brief initial appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge Kenneth J. Mansfield on Monday.
Kang’s only comment was in response to Mansfield’s question of whether he understood the preliminary charges against him. “I do, your honor,” Kang said while standing.
Mansfield appointed Birney Bervar as Kang’s attorney. Bervar said in court that “there are some assets,” but not enough to pay for legal counsel for Kang.
A bail hearing is scheduled for Thursday and a preliminary hearing for July 24. After the hearing, Bervar told reporters outside the federal courthouse that at that moment he knew little about the case.
“I just met Sgt. Kang, and while I was talking to him, I was handed a copy of the complaint, minutes before the court hearing. So that’s all I know right now,” he said. Bervar added that Kang was being cooperative.
Bervar later told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser that Kang “may have some service-related mental health issues.”
Special Agent Paul Delacourt, who is in charge of the FBI in Honolulu, also spoke to reporters alongside Elliot Enoki, acting U.S. attorney for Hawaii.
The preliminary charges accuse Kang of providing “material support or resources ” including classified and unclassified military documents, a drone and training on combat techniques to what he thought was ISIS, “knowing that ISIS was a designated foreign terrorist organization and that ISIS engages in and has engaged in terrorist activity.”
Delacourt said the probable-cause arrest “was made in the interest of public safety” after Kang had shown an “inclination to violence.” Kang had sworn a pledge of loyalty, known as a “bayat,” to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of ISIS, the FBI said.
Kang was a “lone actor” who was not linked to anyone else who could pose a threat to Hawaii, Delacourt said.
“In this case we worked closely with the U.S. Army to protect service members and the citizens of the state of Hawaii,” he said.
Delacourt added that the “investigation is ongoing” and that more information will be available at the time of indictment. “We have a lot of work to do,” he said.
During the course of the criminal investigation, the FBI used a “confidential human source” who “noticed an increase in Kang’s discussions of radical Islam,” and at least six undercover FBI agents who portrayed themselves as having connections with ISIS, the affidavit states.
The FBI criminal complaint says that on March 1, Kang indicated he was angry at a civilian who had taken away his air traffic controller’s license, and said he wanted to torture him by tying him down and pouring Drano in his eyes.
The same month, Kang was discussing the shootings at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla., and told the confidential source that the “shooter did what he had to do and later said that America is the only terrorist organization in the world,” according to court documents.
He later said that “Hitler was right” and that he believed in the mass killing of Jews, the affidavit said.
On Nov. 3, when Kang was at Fort Rucker, Ala., for a six-week training course for senior enlisted leaders, the FBI conducted a “full data extraction” from Kang’s USB hard drive and a partial data extraction from a laptop. The hard drive had 486 documents that referenced ISIS and violence, the FBI said.
One undercover FBI agent was introduced to Kang as a “guest lecturer,” and Kang reportedly discussed the possibility of joining and fighting with ISIS.
Kang, who had received extensive “combatives” training and had Level IV tactical combat instructor status, described June 22 how he could conduct combat training for ISIS. The following day he provided 14 classified military documents to an undercover FBI agent “for the purpose of ultimately providing them to ISIS,” the FBI said.
Cameras and videos
On Saturday, the day he was arrested, Kang paid $1,151 for a GoPro Karma drone with a GoPro camera that he thought would go to ISIS, and made “training videos” with an undercover FBI agent while wearing masks that included how to clear a weapon of ammunition, the affidavit said.
Lt. Col. Curt Kellogg, a spokesman for the 25th Infantry Division, said in an email to the Star-Advertiser, “I can confirm an active- duty soldier assigned to Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, was arrested by the FBI July 8. I would refer you to the FBI for further questions about the arrest and charges.”
Kang enlisted in the Army in December 2001, just months after the 9/11 attacks. He was assigned most recently to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 25th Combat Aviation Brigade, based at Wheeler Army Airfield.
Army records show that Kang’s awards include the Army Commendation Medal, Army Achievement Medal, Army Good Conduct Medal (4th Award), National Defense Service Medal, Humanitarian Service Medal and the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal.
Kang's alleged actions
According to the FBI affidavit:
- As far back as 2011, Ikaika E. Kang made threatening statements and was reprimanded on several occasions for threatening to hurt or kill other service members, and for arguing pro-Islamic State views while at work.
- Kang mentioned repeatedly throughout the more than yearlong investigation that he wanted to provide training for IS fighters.
- In early 2016 it appeared Kang was becoming radicalized, and around August the Army referred the matter to the FBI.
- Around November, Kang told an undercover FBI agent he wanted to travel to Turkey, and discussed the possibility of joining and fighting for IS. Kang said he could run a beginner’s course for IS teaching jiujitsu, judo, kickboxing and mixed martial arts.
- Despite earlier counseling by the Army, Kang continued to make pro-IS statements and from December to March made comments to fellow soldiers that if deployed to Iraq, he would not shoot back at IS.
- In March, Kang told an FBI source that the Pulse nightclub shooter in Orlando, Fla., did what he had to do and that America was the only terrorist organization. He also told the source that Hitler was right and that he believed in the mass killing of Jews.
- Around June 23, Kang provided 14 classified military documents to an undercover FBI agent for the purpose of providing them to IS.
- Kang offered to use his training as an air traffic controller to help IS with artillery fire by using an unmanned aerial system.
- Kang had hours of IS videos; his favorite depicted beheadings.
- On Saturday, Kang swore a pledge of loyalty, or “bayat,” to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of IS. After taking the IS pledge, Kang told an undercover FBI agent he wanted to use his AR-15 rifle to kill “a bunch of people.” He was arrested that night.
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