A U.S. Army soldier has been charged with distribution of information related to explosives and weapons of mass destruction after FBI agents allegedly uncovered chats about his plans to carry out terrorist attacks in the U.S. and to travel to Ukraine to fight with extremist right-wing militias.
Federal prosecutors in Kansas said law enforcement intercepted Facebook messages from Jarrett William Smith, who was arrested on Sept. 21, in which he discussed various designs for bombs.
The soldier allegedly bragged of having “knowledge of IEDs for days” after he enlisted as a private in the Army, and FBI explosives technicians claimed in a criminal complaint that a number of the bomb designs he shared were feasible.
Excerpts of Smith’s conversations in a Facebook group chat show that he talked about targeting left-leaning organizations and individuals, in addition to media outlets. In one chat, an FBI agent with the Kansas Joint Terrorism Task Force wrote, Smith discussed using a “large vehicle bomb” against an unspecified major news network’s headquarters and assassinating Democratic presidential hopeful Beto O’Rourke.
Smith allegedly told an associate he had “a few” political figures as targets in mind, including unnamed officials in Congress, the federal government, and “a liberal Texas mayor.” Smith also talked about “killing members of the far left group, antifa, as well as destroying nearby cell towers or local news station [sic],” according to a criminal complaint.
In a statement to ABC News, which first reported the arrest, O’Rourke’s campaign said it was grateful for law enforcement efforts and was in “direct contact with the FBI” about the case, which is being taken “very seriously.”
Smith had designs on going to Ukraine to join the Azov Battalion, a right-wing militia, even before he joined the U.S. military, the complaint says.
He told an associate who had fought there that 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.”
Azov, which conducts vigilante patrols in Ukraine and adopts Nazi iconography and ideology, has attacked LGBTQ Ukrainians, members of the Roma ethnic minority, and others. In recent years, Azov has sought to cultivate and recruit neo-Nazis and right-wing extremists in the U.S. and Europe.
The criminal complaint says Smith was mentored by Craig Lang, a former Army soldier who went to Ukraine to fight with Right Sector, another right-wing militia.
Lang was arrested in 2016 after he allegedly deserted from Fort Bliss, loaded up his vehicle with military equipment and told another soldier he was going to kill his pregnant wife.
“I told my commanders repeatedly that I was going to murder her,” Lang later told Vice. “The motherfuckers thought I was bluffing.”
In 2017, Lang was detained while trying to enter war-torn South Sudan with two other ex-soldiers, including one who went AWOL.
Smith faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted.