Jarrett William Smith is a U.S. Army soldier arrested by the FBI on charges accusing him of discussing plans to “bomb a major U.S. news network,” according to a federal criminal complaint. While it was not named in court documents, CNN is reporting that it was the news network targeted by Smith.
“I want to assure everyone that there was never any imminent threat to any CNN locations,” CNN President Jeff Zucker said in a memo to staff.
“We continue to actively monitor these issues on a daily basis and work closely with our security teams around the world and our partners in law enforcement.”
The 24-year-old soldier, a South Carolina native, also talked about targeting Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke, attacking anti-fascists and traveling to Ukraine to fight for a violent far-right militant group, Azov Battalion according to the criminal complaint. The FBI also accuses Smith of distributing information online about “how to build bombs.”
According to the federal complaint, Smith, who has been stationed at Fort Riley in Kansas since July, “has been in communication with another American, Craig Lang, who traveled to Ukraine and fought with another far-right group, the Right Sector.”
The Department of Justice has charged Smith with one count of distributing information related to explosives and weapons of mass destruction based on a Facebook post where he is alleged to have provided instructions for building bombs.
The FBI charging document says that in a Facebook chat, Smith offered to “teach other Facebook users how to make cellphone explosive devices ‘in the style of the Afghans.'”
The FBI also said undercover agents engaged with Smith: “On Aug. 19, 2019, Smith told an undercover investigator he was looking for ‘radicals’ like himself. Smith talked about killing members of Antifa and destroying nearby cell towers or a local news station.”
Smith faces a maximum of two decades in federal prison if convicted. Smith is originally from Conway, South Carolina. It is not clear if he has been appointed an attorney who could speak on his behalf. His family could not be reached for comment.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. The FBI Says Smith Hoped to Fight With a Far-Right Group in Ukraine, but Would Join the US Army if He Could Not Find a ‘Slot’ in Paramilitary Group Azov Battalion
In March 2019, the FBI got a tip that on a Facebook account belonging to Smith were instructions on how to build an improvised explosive device and spoke about his desire to travel to Ukraine to fight with the Ukraine-based violent far-right paramilitary group, Azov Battalion,” the complaint says.
Back in 2016, before he enlisted in the U.S. Army, Smith met with a man in El Paso, Texas, named Craig Lane who the FBI says traveled to Ukraine and fought with the Right Sector, another group in Ukraine similar to the Azov Battalion, between 2017 and 2019, according to the complaint. The FBI says the Facebook communication between the two men showed Lang was mentoring Smith and the soldier planned to go and join the violent far-right group. In a June 2016 conversation, Smith said he had “No former military experience, but if I cannot find a slot in Ukraine by October I’ll be going into the Army … To fight is what I want to do. I’m willing to listen, learn, and train. But to work on firearms is fine by me too,” the complaint states.
According to the complaint, Lang said, “Alright, I’ll forward you over to the guy that screens people he’ll most likely add you soon … Also as a pre-warning if you come to this unit and the government comes to shut down the unit you will be asked to fight. You may also be asked to kill certain people who become on the bad graces of certain groups.”
According to the complaint, Smith joined the U.S. Army on June 12, 2017. Following his initial entry training at Fort Benning, his first duty station was in Fort Bliss, Texas beginning in late November of 2017. As an infantry soldier, he trained in combat and tactical operations, the complaint reads.
A few weeks after landing in Texas, Smith and Lang spoke in a Facebook chat where Smith talked about his ability to build IED’s: “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. .. ” he wrote in the chat, the FBI says. And then, went on to detail how to “construct a cell phone detonator for an IED” that the complaint reads was, “according to an FBI Special Agent Bomb Technician with whom I consulted, is accurate.”
When a chat group member asked about the explosive, Smith explained “how to manufacture an explosive material using the heads of matches,” according to court documents. But an FBI Special Agent Bomb Technician said of the bomb instructions, they were “not accurate if the wrong type of matches are used. They are accurate, however, if the right type of matches were to be used.”
A private first class, Smith was transferred from Texas to Fort Riley, Kansas on July 8, 2019.
2. Smith Discussed a Plan to Conduct an Attack in the US, Was Looking for ‘More Radicals’ to Join in & ‘Kill Members of the Far Left Group Antifa’ & Talked About ‘Destroying’ a News Cell Tower, the FBI Says
According to the complaint, in August 2019, Smith “engaged” with an FBI confidential source in an online chat group and “discussed a plan of conducting an attack within the United States and that he was looking for more ‘radicals’ like himself.”
Smith talked to the FB informant “about killing members of the far-left group, Antifa, as well as destroying nearby cell towers or local news station.”
Two days later, the complaint reads, Smith told the informant that the “headquarters of a major American news network would be a suggested target, utilizing a vehicle bomb.”
This is that conversation with the name of the major news station not used. CNN reports that it is the network described in the complaint:
SMITH: [major news network] headquarters.
CS: That would make a statement.
SMITH: A large vehicle bomb. Fill a vehicle full of [various explosive materials], 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.”
In the complaint, an FBI agent wrote that Smith’s “instructions would not result in a viable explosive device.”
Nonetheless, just last week, on September 20, Smith told an FBI undercover employee (UC), while Smith was using the “moniker Anti-Kosmik 2182, on the messaging app Telegram, that “…you may have a use for my knowledge and told me to contact you. What’s up?”
3. Calling Himself Anti-Kosmik on Telegram, Smith Told an FBI Undercover Agent How to Build a Bomb With ‘Enough Power to Take Out a Car,’ Feds Say
The conversation between the FBI undercover agent and Smith went like this, the complaint say:
UC: Thanks brother. Have an idea. Just don’t know the specifics on how to build it. , [PROTECT IDENTITY] said you knew your shit and would be someone good to talk to.
SMITH: What do you have in mind?
UC: Something that has enough power to take out a car and anything inside and something stable easy/enough to take from OK to TX?
SMITH: Ok. I think I have an idea for you. You will need [various household chemicals and commonly-available equipment]. You can keep all the materials separate until it’s time. Plus the randomness will aid you in the case of searches and the materials themselves usually aren’t considered suspicious.
[SMITH then gave further, very specific instructions for the ‘ construction of an explosive device. According to an FBI Special Agent Bomb Technician with whom I consulted, however, SMITH’s instructions would not result in a viable explosive device.]
UC: I am reading and thinking but this looks really good. I like the fact that everything is stuff you find around the house.
SMITH: That’s the best way to fight people. Making AK-47s out of expensive parts is cool, but imagine of you will if you were going to WalMart instead of gun store to buy weapons.
SMITH: Are you looking for any other interesting tricks?
UC: I’ll take anything you got. This is not my area of expertise. Just want to make sure the target is gone.
SMITH: What’s the target?
UC: TX politician
SMITH: What level? Mayor? State rep? Senator?
UC: I have a few. Primary, secondary, tertiary. Ideally, fed Gov, Congress. But know I can get close on other. Been looking.”
The plan was to build a “Middle East style bomb” that could “damage or destroy US military vehicles and obliterate civilian vehicles and people nearby,” the charging documents say.
The conversation between Smith and the undercover federal agent gets very dark and very specific.
SMITH: You would need [various chemicals and equipment], a large amount of either black powder or smokeless powder, and a cell phone with active service.
UC: I got money. Just need the knowledge. I was thinking of something stable so I could drive down but I could construct it down there.
SMITH: I’ll include the instructions. This is a Middle East style bomb that if big· enough or connected to the right explosive can damage or destroy US military vehicles. Most of the time it can obliterate civilian vehicles and people nearby.
SMITH: [SMITH then gave further, very specific instructions for constructing an explosive device, all of which have been determined by an FBI Special Agent Bomb Technician to be viable. At the end, SMITH cautioned: “Be very careful with the fully armed device. There have been cases where Middle Eastern insurgents built these bombs only for them to detonate prematurely because of telemarketers or people with wrong numbers who unwittingly called the devices and ended up accidentally blowing up the insurgents.”]
UC: This is incredible. Thank you.
SMITH: If you want a quick and cheap gas grenade, a [combination of commonly available chemicals] will work. [Instructions for activating the device]. Blows in 8- 15 seconds. One hell of a wallop and it leaves behind a cloud of toxic chlorine gas.
u. UC: Having these ideas opens up my thinking. Take all that you got and appreciate
SMITH: Last one for a quick incendiary/HE grenade. Tape a firecracker to a [commonly available household item]. You only need one for good effect, but you can get a HUGE explosion and a good fire going if you can tape 4 or 5 together. Simply ignite the firecracker and throw the device. Hope you’re fast on your feet, this one also gets loud. I consulted an FBI Special Agent Bomb Technician, who told me this recipe would likely result in construction of a viable device, although he believes anyone using this device would be within range of the device when it exploded.
4. The Target Was Supposed to be a ‘Liberal’ Texan, the FBI Says. Smith Suggested Beto O’Rourke, According to Court Docs
The FBI undercover agent tells Smith that he has a type of person as a target in mind, maybe a “liberal Texas Mayor.”
Well I’d be the fastest moving Aryan you ever seen. But, also awesome idea. Got a liberal texas mayor in my sights! Boom with that IED and that dude’s dead.
SMITH: There ya go.
UC: You got anyone down in Texas that would be a good fit for fire, destruction
MITH: Outside of Beto? I don’t know enough people that would be relevant
enough to cause a change if they died.
5. Before he Was Arrested, the FBI Says Smith Admitted He Provides Bomb-Making Instructions Online to People Who Are Planning to ‘Cause Harm’ & He Did So to ‘Cause Chaos’
Before Smith was arrested on September 21, he told the FBI in a “Mirandized interview,” meaning where he was read his rights before he spoke with agents, that he “admitted he knows how to make improvised explosives devices, and that in online chat rooms he routinely provides instruction on building explosive devices. The complaint says that he admitted “that he provides this information even to individuals who tell him they intend to use the information to cause harm to others.” He told agents that he did this to cause “chaos,” the complaint reads.
“He told me that if chaos results in the death of people, even through information he provided, it doesn’t affect him,” the agent wrote in the complaint.