A U.S. Army sergeant stationed in Hawaii will serve 25 years in prison after admitting he attempted to provide material support to the Islamic State militant group, federal prosecutors said.
Ikaika Erik Kang, 35, was working as a military air traffic controller based at Schofield Barracks in Oahu when he was arrested last year after an investigation that involved undercover agents and sources who posed as Islamic State operatives and sympathizers, the FBI has said.
Kang, who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, pleaded guilty on Wednesday to four counts of attempting to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization, the U.S. Justice Department said. Under a plea deal with federal prosecutors, he agreed to serve 25 years in prison and then at least 20 years of supervised release.
“Kang swore to defend the United States as a member of our military but betrayed his country by swearing allegiance to ISIS and attempting to provide material support to the foreign terrorist organization,” John Demers, assistant attorney general for national security, said in a statement.
According to court documents, Kang became sympathetic to Islamic State by at least early 2016 and regularly watched the group’s online propaganda, including execution videos.
He also made numerous statements supporting Islamic State, talked about wanting to join the group and spoke approvingly about committing acts of violence, prosecutors said.
In mid-2017 he met several times with undercover FBI agents who he believed had Islamic State connections, giving them secret military documents, a commercially purchased small aerial drone, and various items of military-style clothing and gear.
On July 8, 2017, Kang swore an oath of allegiance to Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and told undercover FBI operatives he wanted to get his assault-style rifle, go to downtown Honolulu and the Waikiki strip and start shooting, court records showed. He was arrested later that same day.
Kang’s attorney, Birney Bervar, could not immediately be reached for comment on Thursday.
Last year, Bervar said Kang suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder that the Army failed to address after he returned from Iraq in 2011 and Afghanistan in 2014. Bervar accused the FBI of exploiting his client’s mental issues.
Kang is due to sentenced formally on Dec. 10.
In late June and early July of 2018, Kang met numerous times with undercover FBI agents who he believed had connections to ISIS. He provided them with sensitive, non-public military documents, some of which were classified at the SECRET level, which he intended that they later provide to ISIS. The documents included, among other things: classified air traffic control documents that describe call signs, aircraft types, route points, directives, mission procedures, and radio frequencies; the U.S. military’s “weapons file,” which describes all the armament capabilities of the U.S. armed forces; details about a sensitive mobile airspace management system used by the U.S. military; and documents containing personally identifiable information of U.S. service members.
Kang later provided the undercover agents with a commercially purchased small aerial drone, a military chest rig, and other military-style clothing and gear. Kang described how ISIS could operationally utilize the drone to track U.S. troop movements and gain tactical advantage by evading American armored vehicles. Kang then met two additional undercover FBI personnel, one who purported to be a high-ranking ISIS leader, or “sheikh,” and another who played the role of an ISIS fighter. Kang lead them in a hand-to-hand military combatives training session using his weapons, in order to train the purported ISIS member in fighting techniques. The sessions were video-recorded, with the understanding that the video would be taken back to ISIS-controlled territory and used to train other ISIS fighters in hand-to-hand combat and weapons techniques.
On July 8, 2017, Kang swore an oath of loyalty, known as “bayat,” to ISIS and its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, in a ceremony conducted by the purported ISIS sheikh. After the ceremony, Kang kissed the ISIS flag. Kang then said that he wanted to get his rifle and go and fight; just go to downtown Honolulu and Waikiki strip and start shooting. Kang was subsequently arrested and taken into custody.
As noted previously: Muslim soldier in U.S. Army arrested, pledged allegiance to ISIS
Kang, who received extensive combat training, also helped purchase a drone that he believed would help Islamic State soldiers escape from American tanks, the affidavit says.
Kang, a trained air traffic controller based at Hawaii’s Wheeler Army Airfield, had his military clearance revoked in 2012 for making pro-Islamic State comments while at work and on-post and threatening to hurt or kill fellow service members.
His clearance was reinstated a year later after he completed military requirements.
However, the affidavit says the Army believed Kang was becoming radicalized in 2016 and asked the FBI to investigate.
The senior Kang [his father] said his son started studying the Islamic faith a couple of years ago during one of his deployments.