Federal authorities announced on Monday that they had arrested a U.S. soldier who had considered joining a far-right Ukrainian militant group and sought out other “radicals” for possible violence against news organizations.
Jarrett William Smith, a 24-year-old private class infantry soldier, was arrested Saturday and charged with sharing bomb-making tips after telling an undercover agent that he wanted to build a “large vehicle bomb” to attack a major news outlet, according to court documents. Smith allegedly admitted to the FBI that he has provided instructions for building bombs to people he’s met online.
According to the charging documents, Smith in 2016 had expressed a desire to join the violent Ukranian group Azov Battalion. Instead, in June 2017, he joined the U.S. Army. He was stationed at Fort Bliss, Texas, until this July, when he transferred to Fort Riley, Kansas, according to ABC News.
In December 2018, Smith told Craig Lang, an American who traveled to Ukraine to fight with another far-right group, that he had “knowledge of IEDs for days.” He had been in contact with Lang since 2016, and he told Lang that he could teach him how to make “cell phone IEDs in the style of the Afghans.”
Last month, Smith allegedly discussed with an FBI informant a plan to find fellow “radicals” and carry out some kind of domestic attack or attacks. He allegedly mentioned the possibility of killing members of Antifa and toyed with the idea of blowing up a cell tower or local news outlet. In another conversation in August, he suggested attacking the headquarters of a major news network with a “large vehicle bomb.” He allegedly described the exact way he would construct that bomb.
Then, on Friday, an undercover FBI agent asked Smith if he knew of anyone in Texas who would be an appropriate victim for a violent attack. “Outside of Beto?” Smith allegedly answered, in reference to Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke. “I don’t know enough people that would be relevant enough to cause a change if they died.”
The next day, authorities arrested Smith. According to the affidavit, Smith said he gave the bomb-making instructions to create “chaos.” The authorities, however, determined that while several of the recipes appeared “accurate,” at least one of the instructions he provided in the past few days would have failed as an explosive device. He was charged in federal court in Kansas with distributing information relating to weapons of mass destruction and faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted.