Nov. 17, 2009 -- Ever since he told a British reporter that he felt "no pity" for the victims of the Fort Hood massacre, Duane Reasoner Jr., an 18-year-old Muslim convert who frequently dined with accused shooter Major Nidal Malik Hasan and attended the same mosque, has ducked the media. His parents ordered ABC News off their property over the weekend and on Monday, Reasoner again dodged ABC -- this time by using a pass to drive onto the Fort Hood Army base, home of the soldiers for whom he said he felt no pity.
For the most part, Reasoner has stayed close to the one-story Copperas Cove, Texas house he shares with his parents, who have reportedly worked on the base and who, according to a friend of Reasoner's, are "not particularly supportive" of the faith adopted by their son.
But while Reasoner may not be making himself available in person, his presence on the Web is unmistakable. During the past two years, Reasoner has shown a marked interest in jihadi Web content and videos of figures associated with al Qaeda, including Osama Bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri and Anwar al Awlaki, the radical Yemeni-American cleric and al-Qaeda recruiter who exchanged e-mails with Major Hasan and told the Washington Post he considered himself Hasan's confidant.
According to terrorism expert Jarret Brachman, Reasoner appears to be a classic example of a "jihad hobbyist," one of a group of young, online obsessives who radicalize themselves by ingesting hardcore jihadist Web content, from YouTube videos to discussion forums.
"They make hating America, hating the West, their hobby," said Brachman, author of "Global Jihadism" and former research director of the West Point-based Combating Terrorism Center.
Brachman said these "Ji-hobbyists," as he dubbed them, nearly always confine their jihadism to the Web and that a "Ji-hobbyist" who becomes operational -- who commits a violent act -- is an anomaly.
But when it does happen, said Brachman, "They are celebrated." When Kuwaiti Bader al-Harbi went to Iraq and blew himself up, it thrilled his fellow online jihadis. "The posters were all freaking out because he had been one of them."
'Ji-Hobbyists' Thrive Online, Said Terrorism Expert
For Western youth who are attracted to jihadism, said Brachman, the Internet is a way to work out the contradictions between the culture in which they were raised and the demands of religious fundamentalism. "The only way they can reconcile that is through posting and externalizing the process." One jihadi who started by working out his opinions and his reasons for conversion in public postings was Adam Gadahn, an American convert who is now a media advisor to al-Qaeda.
"I've tracked the trajectory of kids," explained Brachman. "They're dabbling in lighter stuff, then harder stuff. Their appetite for blood grows over time. As they understand the set of grievances that drive the ideology, they fall into It deeper and deeper."
In March of 2007, Reasoner created a YouTube account under the name "ooklepookle." He has used the handle on other accounts as well, but they can always be traced back to Duane Reasoner Jr. or another name he has used, Duane Edwards.
On his YouTube account, Reasoner chose as favorites 14 different videos by Anwar al-Awlaki, the imam described by a former top CIA official to ABC News as an operational al-Qaeda recruiter. Reasoner also chose videos featuring Osama Bin Laden, the Taliban, Omar Abdur Rahman – the so-called "blind sheikh" now in prison in connection with the 1993 World Trade Center bombing -- and Adam Gadahn.
In December 2008, Reasoner created a profile on Stickam.com. Under personal tags, Reasoner wrote "extremist, fundamentalist, mujhadeen, Muslim." He posted a picture of the U.S. Capitol in ruins, as well as a picture of a Muslim warrior on horseback and a rendering of the "Sword of Tawheed."
Tawheed, said Brachman, means the oneness or unity of God. He told ABCNews.com, "It's a very general concept within Islam, but al-Qaeda and jihadist groups make it their core. It's the basis on which they reject democracy and everything that is not in line with their ideology."
On his MySpace account, created in March 2008, Reasoner called himself "Salah ad-Din," after the famous Muslim Sultan who won back Jerusalem from the Crusaders and is often known as Saladin in the West. Reasoner also referred to himself as "Salah ad-Din" on Facebook. According to Brachman, references to Saladin are a jihadist staple. On an unknown date, Reasoner created a photobucket.com account. Among the photos on that account is a composite shot of Osama Bin Laden's head rearing above the White House, which is surrounded by flames and armed men in Arab dress. The picture is captioned "Osama caliphate." Another picture shows the White House with an Islamic flag above it and the caption "Nation under Islamic Law."
Reasoner's Frequents Many Online Communities
On another unknown date Reasoner became a subscriber to the YouTube channel of a YouTube user named Sahab929 who posted videos of al-Qaeda leaders Osama Bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri. "Sahab" is the name of the media company that produces al-Qaeda's videos and, said Brachman, might be adopted as a user name by a fan or supporter of jihad.
On August 1, 2009, in response to a video that was posted on YouTube by user IslamicRevolution TV, "ooklepookle" posted the comment, "Ya Abdullah do you have any vids on martyrdom operations or the ruling on them." The user answered, "No I don't but look around online on the Jihadi blogs."
According to Brachman, the Internet itself is not what radicalizes a "ji-hobbyist." She said, "It can take you pretty far on that radicalization path. Some people stay at that red line for years on the forums. To cross over you need that next step, the human touch."
In the months leading up to the Fort Hood shooting, Reasoner and Hasan ate dinner together often at the Golden Corral restaurant, apparently after prayer services at the Islamic Community Center of Greater Killeen. It is not known what they discussed.