Skip to comments.Mother of 3 hunts terrorists at night
Posted on 07/12/2004 6:58:06 AM PDT by Dog Gone
CONRAD, MONT. - By day, shes the municipal judge of this tiny town, a wife and mother of three, but by moonlight Shannen Rossmiller is a spy.
Then, Rossmiller petite, blond and 34 assumes one of several unlikely false identities, all angry, violent, Muslim men, nurturing hatred of the United States. In that guise, she combs the Internet through the late evening and early morning and sifts through the messages and declarations on extremist Islamic Web sites.
During those hours, Rossmiller is on a quest that consumes hours of each day, days of each week. Its one that will place her on the stand Thursday as the governments primary witness against a National Guardsman accused of offering information to help Muslim extremists kill U.S. troops.
Its a quest that has already placed her in danger.
Rossmiller works with an exclusive group, a coalition of seven civilians, international "cyber spies" who chase terrorists on the Internet.
They call themselves the "7-Seas."
Until recently they were a largely unknown, almost clandestine bunch. Named for its global scope, the group consists of Rossmiller; a nuclear physicist/software designer in Canada; a corporate security consultant in Houston; a former private detective in Singapore; an Australian; and two other Americans.
They might have remained unknown. That is, if some of Rossmillers efforts hadnt paid off, if she hadnt run across Ryan Anderson, a National Guardsman accused of attempting to defect to al-Qaida and offering information on troop strength and vulnerable points on a Bradley Fighting Vehicle.
Rossmiller never planned to be a witness. But then, shed never planned to become a spy. She had grown up, married and pursued her career in the little town of 2,750.
There, Rossmiller was perfectly happy as municipal judge and might have remained so if she hadnt broken her pelvis.
"It happened on the evening of 9/11," said Rossmiller. "Wed put in a new shower, I was just stepping into it and there I went. I was incapacitated for the next six weeks and all I heard was the news.
"I couldnt avoid it, and I couldnt help but feel that I had to do something."
Her first thought was to join the National Guard, a plan her husband, emphatically opposed. Rossmiller, however, describes herself as passionate in all her pursuits, and it wasnt long before she found a new avenue.
"I began fishing around on the Internet and I found these groups," she said.
The "groups" included both the violent fringe of Islamic extremists and those who tracked them. Soon, Rossmiller was conversing with Brent Astley, the Canadian member, and others in the 7-Seas, and found herself drawn into their efforts.
"Were not a bunch of alarmists, and were not politically motivated," said Dave, the Houston member who agreed to speak if not identified. "Were probably the only group of our kind. Most of us have never met the others in person, but were all joined by the desire to stop terrorism in any form.
"I guess were like a parody of a spy novel, but were real."
Rossmillers role, however, was circumventing reality. Once she joined 7-Seas, she began creating various personae of violent, Islamic men.
"Id never be taken seriously at those Web sites as a woman," she said.
An early riser, she makes most of her communications between the hours of 4 a.m. and 7 a.m., when it is afternoon in the Middle East.
Her efforts soon paid off. Within a few months of searching, she began communicating with a person who claimed to be an arms dealer. She calls him "Rocket Man."
"This character said he had missiles and missile parts for sale," said Rossmiller. "I went about it pretty slowly, said I didnt believe him.
"I really didnt believe it when he sent me a picture of himself and his address."
Rossmiller turned the dealer in to the FBI. Shes never learned what was done with the information.
Then, last October, she came across a man who called himself "Amir Abdul Rashid, a brother fighting on the wrong side." In reality, "Rashid" allegedly was Anderson, a 26-year-old tank driver with the 81st Armor Brigade at Fort Lewis.
Rossmiller will not discuss her upcoming testimony in Andersons court-martial. Her testimony in the May hearing, however, made it clear that she had extensive communication with the guardsman.
"This is like a second job for all of us," she said. "I probably devote as much time to it as I do to being a judge."
After exchanging 27 e-mails with "Rashid," Rossmiller called the FBI. Undercover agents then met with Anderson in a secretly videotaped session, during which he designated vulnerable points on a tank and offered other information.
Rossmiller netted an arrest.
"Shannens the only member of the group who makes contact with terrorists," said Astley, the longest tenured of the 7-Seas.
"I guess we could be likened to a militia and have been. For the most part we visit terrorist Web sites. We analyze the data and we try to inform the appropriate authorities.
"But the word militia has some unpleasant connotations. We believe in what were doing and we try to bring terrorists to justice, but were not vigilantes. ... "
Often, said Astley, the group has no idea what is done with the warnings they pass on to authorities.
Within the latter group however, 7-Seas has drawn some small praise.
"We applaud their efforts, what little we know of them," said Elizabeth Bancroft, executive director of the Association of Former Intelligence Officers in Washington, D.C.
That service has a price, however. When Rossmiller was called to testify in Andersons preliminary hearing in May, her identity and her membership in 7-Seas were revealed. Days after she appeared in court, phone threats were called in to Rossmillers office in Conrad, and she has been under police protection since.
The experience was sobering for Rossmiller and other members of her group.
"I think about it, but I dont worry about it constantly. One of the good things about living in a town the size of Conrad is that it would be pretty difficult for a stranger to be here for any length of time and not be noticed."
Wow! A patriotic judge who doesn't just collect a check and play golf.Outstanding!
I'm finding myself torn--it's great to read about her, but I wish she were still anonymous....
The best thing about this technique is that it has some salutary effects even if you do it badly. If you get caught out now and again, you're still inciting paranoia and making it more difficult for the enemy to use communications tools as effectively as they would otherwise.
Someone please remind me to never tell the press anything...
If anything happens to this lady, or her family, we need to do something.
Wow. If only more Americans were like her!
How about Minutemen and Minutewomen, similar to the patriots of old. Good to see that others outside of the country see the threat as well.
If more Americans were like her, we'd have constant civilain video surveillance of every mosque in the country, 24/7.
Ditto that. Kudos to a brave American hero, and SHAME on that odious National Guardsman Anderson who swore an oath to protect and defend his country. Court-martialing is too good for his sorry butt.
It's public record since she must appear to testify against Anderson. There's no sense in censoring information already known to an enemy.
but I wish she were still anonymous....
I hope she can stay safe.
I'm glad she now has police protection. Unfortunately, she may need it.
Cut his head off.