The FBI has arrested a U.S. soldier who allegedly discussed plans to bomb a major American news network, planned to travel to Ukraine to fight with violent far-right group Azov Battalion and allegedly distributed information online on how to build bombs. He also allegedly suggested targeting Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke of El Paso.
According to charging documents in the case (you can read those at the bottom of this article), 24-year-old Jarrett William Smith, who transferred from Fort Bliss in El Paso to Fort Riley in Kansas over the summer, joined the U.S. military in 2017 only after first expressing his desire to fight in Ukraine.
On Aug. 19, Smith allegedly spoke with an FBI informant in an online chat group and discussed a plan for an attack inside the U.S., his search for more “radicals” like himself, and the possibility of killing members of the group Antifa.
In suggesting that the headquarters of the major news network could be a target, Smith allegedly said: “A large vehicle bomb. Fill a vehicle full of [explosives] then fill a ping pong ball with [commonly available chemical] via drilling then injection. Put the ball in the tank of the vehicle and leave. 30 minutes later, BOOM.”
Then, in a Telegram conversation with an undercover FBI agent on Friday, Smith allegedly had this exchange:
FBI: You got anyone down in Texas that would be a good fit for fire, destruction and death? SMITH: Outside of Beto? I don’t know enough people that would be relevant enough to cause a change if they died.
Smith has allegedly been in communication with another American, Craig Lang, who traveled to Ukraine and fought with another far-right group, the Right Sector.
They were in contact since 2016. On Dec. 8 of last year, Smith allegedly led a group chat on Facebook with Lang that included discussing Smith’s ability to build bombs.
Smith allegedly said, “Oh yeah, I got knowledge of IEDs for days. We can make cell phone IEDs in the style of the Afghans. I can teach you that.”
Smith was arrested on Saturday, and he allegedly admitted to the FBI that he provides people online with instructions for building bombs.
According to charging documents, at least one of the instructions he allegedly provided in recent days would not have resulted in a viable explosive device.
He was charged Monday with distributing information relating to weapons of mass destruction. The U.S. Attorney’s Office said if convicted, Smith could face up to 20 years in federal prison and a fine of up to $250,000.
Smith served at Fort Bliss from Nov. 2017 to June of this year prior to his transfer to Fort Riley where he was arrested over the weekend, spokesman Lt. Col. Terence Kelley of the 1st Infantry Division told ABC-7.
“These allegations violate our Army values, so we take them seriously,” Kelley said. “Our law enforcement team cooperated with the FBI on his arrest over the weekend.”
A spokesperson for O’Rourke told ABC-7 that he was “grateful to the FBI for their diligence in handling this case and for their work to keep our country safe in the face of domestic terror threats.”
“We take any threat like this very seriously, and our team is in direct contact with the FBI regarding this case. This isn’t about any one person or one campaign, and we won’t let this scare us or cause us to back down in fighting for what’s right,” said Aleigha Cavalier, O’Rourke’s national press secretary.