Army soldier accused of sharing instructions to make IEDs online, suggesting attack on news network

Army soldier accused of sharing instructions to make IEDs online, suggesting attack on news network

The seal of the F.B.I. hangs in the Flag Room at the bureau's headquarters March 9, 2007, in Washington, DC.

Federal authorities have arrested a U.S. Army soldier accused of sharing information on how to build explosives online and suggesting attacks against activists, Democratic presidential hopeful Beto O'Rourke and a major news network.

Authorities arrested Jarrett William Smith, 24, on suspicion of distribution of information related to explosives, destructive devices and weapons of mass destruction. Smith joined the U.S. Army on June 12, 2017, and most recently served as a private first class based in Fort Riley, Kansas, investigators said.

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Officials with the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force opened an investigation into Smith in March after receiving a tip about his Facebook page. In an affidavit filed in court, FBI Special Agent Brandon LaMar said Smith shared information on constructing improvised explosive devices in several group chats and spoke about his interest in traveling to Ukraine to fight with a far-right paramilitary group called Azov Battalion.

LaMar said authorities uncovered connections between Smith and Craig Lang, a man who traveled to Ukraine to fight from 2017 to 2019 with Right Sector, a group described as similar to Azov Battalion. Facebook communications showed Lang was mentoring Smith as he prepared to join the fighting in Ukraine, authorities said.

Smith also spoke about carrying out an attack on the United States, authorities said. He discussed the plans in August with an unidentified, confidential source.

"Smith talked with the (confidential source) about killing members of the far left group, Antifa, as well as destroying nearby cell towers or (the) local news station," LaMar wrote. Days later, Smith suggested an unidentified major news network would be a good target for a "large vehicle bomb," LaMar said.

On Friday, Smith shared instructions for creating several explosive devices during a chat with an undercover agent who claimed to be targeting an unnamed Texas politician.

"You got anyone down in Texas that would be a good fit for fire, destruction and death?" the undercover agent asked Smith, according to a transcript shared by LaMar.

"Outside of Beto?" Smith replied, according to LaMar. "I don't know enough people that would be relevant enough to cause a change if they died."

LaMar said Smith admitted to sharing details for creating IEDs in online chat rooms and that he claimed he did so "to cause 'chaos.'"

"He told me that if chaos results in the death of people, even through information he provided, it doesn't affect him," LaMar said.