An Army sergeant based in Hawaii pleaded guilty on Wednesday to attempting to lend material support to ISIS, the result of an elaborate sting operation orchestrated by FBI agents wearing costumes.
Ikaika Erik Kang, 35, a sergeant first class stationed at Schofield Barracks in Honolulu, agreed to serve 25 years in prison for handing over classified security documents to undercover agents but could face more years of supervised release, the Justice Department announced.
“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,” said Assistant Attorney General for National Security John Demers. “With today’s plea, he will be held accountable for his crimes.”
“This office will vigorously prosecute anyone who attempts to provide material support to terrorists who seek to spread fear and cause mayhem in our communities through senseless acts of violence,” added U.S. Attorney Kenji Price for the District of Hawaii.
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Kang will be sentenced on Dec. 10 by Senior U.S. District Judge Susan Oki Mollway.
He was indicted July 19, 2017, on terrorism charges, having become “sympathetic” to ISIS by early 2016. He watched propaganda videos online that depicted ISIS members violently executing civilian and military victims, according to court documents and information presented to the judge. He began making statements favorable toward ISIS and stated his wish to join the group, which led federal agents to put him under surveillance. In his residence, he kept an AR-15-style assault rifle and a pistol, law enforcement found.
In late June and early July of 2017, Kang met with contacts he believed had connections to ISIS but who in fact were undercover FBI agents. That’s when he gave them “sensitive, non-public military documents, some of which were classified at the SECRET level, which he intended that they later provide to ISIS,” Justice said in a statement.
Included in the cache were classified air traffic control documents that describe call signs, aircraft types, route points, directives, mission procedures and radio frequencies. Also handed over were the U.S. military’s “weapons file,” which describes all armament capabilities of the U.S. armed forces, Justice noted, along with details about a sensitive mobile airspace management system used by the U.S. military.
In addition, the documents contained personally identifiable information of U.S. service members.
Kang then provided the agents with a commercially purchased small aerial drone, a military chest rig, and other military-style gear, explaining how ISIS could “operationally utilize the drone to track U.S. troop movements and gain tactical advantage by evading American armored vehicles.”
Most dramatically, Kang then met two additional undercover FBI personnel, one posing as a high-ranking ISIS leader, or “sheikh,” and another impersonating an ISIS fighter. Kang led them in a hand-to-hand military combat training session using his weapons, sessions the FBI videotaped with a promise the tapes would be taken back to ISIS-controlled territory to train real ISIS combatants.
On July 8, 2017, Kang swore an oath of loyalty, or “bayat,” to ISIS and its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, in a ceremony conducted by the fake sheikh. Kang then kissed the ISIS flag, saying he wanted to get his rifle and "just go to downtown Honolulu and Waikiki strip and start shooting," Justice said. That triggered his arrest.
The investigation of Kang was run by the Joint Terrorism Task Force in Honolulu and the Army’s Criminal Investigative Division. The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Kenneth Sorenson and Marc Wallenstein of the District of Hawaii, and Trial Attorney Taryn Meeks of the National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section.