When federal agents searched the Maryland home of the U.S. Coast Guard lieutenant accused of plotting to kill politicians and journalists in a quest for a “white homeland,” they didn’t find only guns and ammunition.
Law enforcement agents said they also turned up a locked briefcase filled with more than 30 bottles of what appeared to be human growth hormone, a drug used by athletes and bodybuilders who think that it augments muscle mass and boosts speed. Neither the supplements nor the opioid pills, also seized by authorities, had been prescribed by doctors.
According to court records, Christopher Paul Hasson found inspiration for beefing up elsewhere — in a 1,500-page manifesto prepared by Anders Behring Breivik, a right-wing Norwegian extremist who killed 77 people, many of them children, in a bomb-and-gun rampage in 2011 that he called his “martyrdom operation.”
The deluded pursuit of a masculine ideal is just one of many ways in which prosecutors say Breivik, who received Norway’s maximum sentence of 21 years in prison when his trial ended in 2012, was a model for Hasson, an avowed white nationalist who wrote that he was “dreaming of a way to kill almost every last person on the earth,” according to court records filed in U.S. District Court in Maryland. For the 49-year-old resident of Silver Spring, those reportedly included CNN and MSNBC personalities as well as lawmakers such as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), whom Hasson identified as “poca warren,” borrowing President Trump’s epithet. Hasson was arrested Friday on weapons and drugs charges.
The inspiration that he drew from Breivik, 40, illuminates the global exchange of extremist ideas binding apparently lone-wolf actors who portray themselves as martyrs for “Western civilization,” under siege, they claim, by immigrants and elite opinion makers espousing multiculturalism. The European allegedly emulated by the American extremist had quoted generously from American figures such as Robert Spencer, the director of the Jihad Watch website, and had modeled his act on the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, whose perpetrator is now a hero to some on the far-right fringes. The recycling of fearmongering shows how a nationalist, anti-immigrant vision has become international, sometimes with fatal consequences.
The far-right Norwegian terrorist was on a political mission — one that he hoped others would embrace. A report released Wednesday by the Southern Poverty Law Center, indicating that the number of hate groups operating in the United States reached a record high in 2018, suggests that his call has not gone unanswered.
On a July afternoon eight years ago, Breivik detonated about 2,000 pounds of explosives in front of a 17-story government building in Oslo, killing eight. He then drove 19 miles to a youth summer camp run by the Norwegian Labour Party, killing 69 more people, mainly teenagers. His was the deadliest attack in Norway since World War II, the deadliest gun rampage by an individual anywhere in the world and the deadliest far-right onslaught in Europe since a railway bombing in Bologna, Italy, in 1980.
The mass shooting was said to be unique in its day for converting hateful right-wing ideology into a civilizational crusade. Breivik wanted to cleanse the West of Muslims, but he also said he was inspired by al-Qaeda, calling the Islamic terrorism network, which also promoted a hypermasculine vision of adventure and self-sacrifice, “the most successful militant group in the world.”
In 2012, a year after Breivik’s killing rampage, Czech police arrested a man stockpiling weapons, ammunition and police uniforms — and using the name of the Norwegian killer online. Three months later, a Polish admirer of Breivik was detained for allegedly plotting to detonate a bomb outside the Parliament building in Warsaw. In Britain, four people were arrested between January 2013 and June 2015 for reportedly planning to conduct strikes inspired by Breivik. In 2016, an 18-year-old man shot and killed nine people in Munich on the fifth anniversary of the Norway attacks. The gunman, apparently seeking revenge for being bullied by people of “Turkish and Arab” origin, had recently changed a profile picture on social media to one of Breivik.
Breivik’s violence has not just inspired plots of similar ideological zeal. His example also has appeared to influence other types of mass killings, such as school shootings. Law enforcement officials told NBC News that Adam Lanza, the 20-year-old shooter in the 2012 massacre in Newtown, Conn., wanted to outdo Breivik. Lanza, who killed himself as police arrived at Sandy Hook Elementary School, apparently kept newspaper clippings about the slaughter carried out by Breivik.
The Norwegian mass murderer, whose deeds were re-created in the 2018 film “22 July,” has remained unapologetic, giving Nazi salutes at court appearances.
Breivik’s manifesto, called “2083: A European Declaration of Independence,” was intended as a how-to manual for “patriots” who wished to join him in his crusade against virtually every folk devil of the far-right movement. Among its targets are “globalism” and feminism, as well as cultural Marxism, a specter invoked to argue that leftists have given up their pursuit of class warfare in favor of an assault on cultural values. “They hate Europe, America, they hate Western civilisation, they hate white males, and they hate rationality,” Breivik wrote.
Ninety minutes before setting out on his 2011 rampage, Breivik emailed the document to about 1,000 recipients. He said his main reason for the attack was to promote his manifesto.
He had his desired effect.
In a court filing Tuesday, prosecutors detailed how the Coast Guard lieutenant had studied Breivik’s delusional, hate-filled rantings. Starting in 2017, he regularly examined the manifesto, which led him to websites advertising firearms and tactical equipment, authorities said.
According to court filings, he identified targets according to Breivik’s classification system, which separated “cultural Marxist/multiculturalist traitors” into three categories. Category A included high-profile targets who might be concentrated in a given location, and therefore vulnerable to a single strike.
“Obviously, focus on individuals who do not have armed body guards,” Breivik wrote. According to court records, Hasson conducted Web searches inquiring whether senators received Secret Service protection and whether Supreme Court justices had bodyguards. After viewing a headline describing MSNBC host Joe Scarborough’s judgment that the president was “the worst ever,” the Coast Guard lieutenant and former Marine sought information about where his show was filmed.
Heeding Breivik’s warning that conducting attacks would be physically grueling, Hasson stockpiled performance-enhancing drugs, as well as opioid pain medication. As far back as October 2016, the Maryland resident was acquiring Tramadol pills through overnight delivery “from an individual likely located in Mexico,” according to the court filing. He also appeared to have purchased synthetic urine to prepare for possible drug tests at work, prosecutors said.
It wasn’t clear whether authorities knew when he was planning to set out on his reported campaign of “focused violence,” or whether he even had a detailed plan.
The rule book he observed, however, recommended a six-week steroid cycle as part of preparations for an attack. At the beginning of this year, Hasson searched the word “steroids” in the 1,500-page manifesto, which brought him to a diary entry by the Norwegian terrorist in which he mused about the possibility of acquiring pills that would turn him into a “superhuman one-man-army for 2 hours.”