A soldier based in Hawaii pleaded guilty Wednesday to attempting to aid the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), admitting to a judge that he provided the terror organization with secret military information, a drone meant to track U.S. soldiers, and additional support to undercover agents he believed were members of the radical jihadist group.
Sergeant First Class Ikaika Kang, 35, handcuffed and donning a beige prison jumpsuit, spoke in a clear voice when he pleaded guilty to all four counts before a magistrate judge.
“Your honor, I provided unclassified, classified documents to the Islamic State,” Kang said.
Kang agreed when Assistant U.S. Attorney Ken Sorenson described other means of support he provided to undercover agents he believed were part of the Islamic State.
Kang is said to have become sympathetic to the terror group in 2016, according to Sorenson. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) gathered information from sources Kang was acquainted with when the agency opened an investigation in August 2016.
According to Sorenson, the Army Sergeant provided voluminous, digital documents that included sensitive information, including the U.S. military’s weapons file, details about a sensitive mobile airspace management system, various military manuals, and documents containing personal information about U.S. service members.
Trained as an air traffic controller with a secret security clearance, Kang also reportedly provided documents including call signs, mission procedures, and radio frequencies, “all of which would have been helpful to ISIS.”
During one of the meetings with agents that Kang believed were affiliated with ISIS, he swore loyalty to the group in Arabic and English and kissed a the terror group’s flag presented to him by a purported “ISIS sheikh.”
“He was clearly enticed but the law of entrapment is quite complex and often very difficult for the defense to prove,” Kang’s defense attorney, Birney Bervar, said following the hearing.
In exchange for Kang’s guilty plea, prosecutors said they will not charge him with additional crimes, including violations of the espionage act, other terrorism-related laws, and federal firearms statutes.
Kang was obsessed with videos depicting terrorism beheadings, suicide bombings, and other violence, watching them in his bedroom for hours daily, a confidential informant told agents. Kang watched the videos for four to five hours each weekday and more on the weekends, the informant told agents in 2016. The informant “remembered feeling sick to his stomach, while Kang laughed and insulted the victims,” the affidavit said.
Further, Kang told the informant that if he became an ISIS member, he would volunteer as a suicide bomber and attack Schofield Barracks, a sprawling Army base outside Honolulu, according to an affidavit filed in the case.
At the start of September 2016, Kang told the informant “that if he were to do something like shoot up a large gathering, it would be out of his hatred for white people, the wicked and non-Muslims.”
The 35-year-old began researching Islam in 2014 and grew eager to relocate to move to the Middle East to “join the cause.” During one of the numerous conversations Kang had with the informant, he claimed he was “only in the military for a paycheck.”
The federal government asked a judge to allow a tracking device to be placed on Kang’s car in October 2016 and received several extensions because agents feared he would carry out an attack.
Officials with the 25th Combat Aviation Brigade told the FBI they were concerned about their ability to monitor Kang, noting that he was to return from leave on May 25, 2017, the same day as a change-of-command ceremony, the affidavit read. In addition, Brigade personnel feared the large gathering “represented a target of opportunity for Kang should he want to harm members of the unit.”
Kang has been held without bail since his July 2017 arrest and is expected to receive 25 years in prison as part of a plea agreement when he is sentenced December 10.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.