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FBI arrests US soldier who discussed bombing news stations, Beto and Antifa

FBI agents. (Melanie Rodgers Cox/US Air Force)
September 23, 2019

The FBI arrested a U.S. Army soldier in connection with a number of allegations, including that the soldier had expressed interest in bombing Democratic presidential candidate Robert “Beto’ O’Rourke, as well as an American news network.

According to charging documents, Jarrett William Smith was charged with distributing bomb-making information, ABC Texas affiliate KVIA reported Monday. In comments made in August to an undercover FBI informant on the Telegram messaging app, Smith gave the informant specific instructions on how to make a bomb and expressed interest in carrying out attacks within the United States.

In one comment, Smith suggested using a vehicle bomb on a “major American news network.” Smith suggested filling a vehicle with explosives and then putting a ping pong ball filled with a chemical compound, inside the vehicle’s gas tank. Smith suggested the means, much of which was redacted from the court documents, would result in an explosion roughly 30 minutes after the materials were put in place; however, an FBI bomb technician said Smith’s method would not result in a viable explosive device.

Among his targets, Smith considered the left-wing political group known as Antifa to be a viable target. He also discussed attacking cell towers and local news stations.

In a separate conversation, the informant asked Smith for his suggestions of good potential targets in Texas, to which Smith reportedly replied “Outside of Beto? I don’t know enough people that would be relevant enough to cause a change if they died.”

In July of this year, Smith was transferred from Fort Bliss in Texas to Fort Riley, in Kansas. Fort Bliss is located in O’Rourke’s hometown El Paso. The charging documents detailed the FBI’s awareness of Smith’s comments dating as far back as March of this year, and the charging documents noted the change in duty station but did not specify if Smith was transferred in connection to the FBI’s investigation.

Along with the specific targets Smith discussed, he also expressed interest in joining a Ukrainian paramilitary faction known as the Azov Battalion, which the court documents identified as a far-right organization.

The Azov Battalion is a group of volunteers that has fought pro-Russian separatists on Ukraine’s eastern border. The group has been credited for their effectiveness in battle, but has also drawn criticism for right-wing leanings. A 2014 article by the Guardian, detailed Azov Battalion’s connections with Neo-Nazis.

The FBI has worked in recent years to track the Azov movement’s interactions, training and radicalizing white supremacy organizations in the U.S., according to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

Smith also reportedly spoke with and, on at least one occasion, met with Craig Lang. From 2017 to 2019, Lang reportedly fought in Ukraine with Right Sector, another Ukrainian paramilitary faction.

In 2016, prior to Smith’s enlistment, he told Lang he would join the Army if he could not find a slot to come fight in Ukraine. In 2018, while again speaking with Lang and others in a Facebook group chat, Smith boasted of his abilities to make improvised explosive devices.

“Oh yeah, I got knowledge of IEDs for days,” Smith said. “We can make cell phone IEDs in the style of the Afghans.”

Smith reportedly did provide the group with instructions for creating a cell phone detonator. This time, the instructions were accurate, according to an FBI bomb technician.