The FBI has arrested a U.S. Army infantry soldier on a weapon of mass destruction charge after he reportedly discussed a plotting to bomb a major U.S. news network.
Jarrett William Smith, a 24-year-old private first class infantry soldier who was trained in combat and tactical operations and stationed at Fort Riley in Kansas, was charged with one count of distributing information related to explosives and weapons of mass destruction. FBI Special Agent Bradon LaMar wrote in an affidavit that Smith had disseminated information on building improvised explosive devices and had “spoken about his desire to travel to Ukraine to fight with the Ukraine-based violent far-right paramilitary group, Azov Battalion.”
Before he joined the military in 2017, Smith reportedly connected with Craig Lang, who had traveled to Ukraine to fight with another right-wing group called Right Sector. In late 2018, Smith allegedly wrote about his ability to make cell phone IEDs. Then, last month, Smith discussed a plan to conduct an attack in the United States with a FBI confidential source. Smith, the FBI said, talked with the informant “about killing members of the far left group, Antifa, as well as destroying nearby cell towers or [a] local news station.” He also suggested bombing the headquarters of a “major American news network.”
Then, in a discussion on the app Telegram with an FBI undercover employee, Smith reportedly offered instructions on building a IED, though the FBI affidavit also says that some of the instructions would not create a “viable explosive device.”
The undercover FBI employee solicited Smith to suggest potential targets for “fire, destruction and death.” Smith allegedly offered up the name Beto O’Rourke, a former congressman from Texas and current Democratic presidential candidate. In a subsequent interview, Smith reportedly admitted to providing information on explosive devices in an attempt to cause “chaos.”
Domestic terrorism, which has caused more deaths than foreign terrorism in the U.S. in recent years, has proved a difficult challenge for federal law enforcement, which lacks tools to go after potential acts of terror inspired by designated foreign terrorist organizations like the Islamic State. FBI Director Chris Wray told lawmakers in July that the FBI had been involved in 100 domestic terrorism arrests in the first nine months of the 2019 fiscal year.