A U.S. Army soldier has been charged by federal authorities for sending instructions for making homemade explosives over social media while expressing a desire to bomb a major American television network and attack Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke.
Jarrett William Smith, 24, who is stationed at Fort Riley in Kansas, was charged with one count of distributing information related to making explosives and weapons of mass destruction, according to the Justice Department on Sept. 23.
Court documents (pdf) filed at the U.S. District Court in Kansas detailed Smith’s interactions on social media. Smith had admitted to an FBI investigator during an interview prior to his arrest that he knew how to build improvised explosive devices and routinely provides instructions on how to make these devices on online chatrooms. He allegedly told the agent that he does it in order to cause “chaos.”
“[Smith] told me that if chaos results in the death of people, even through information he provided, it doesn’t affect him,” an FBI agent said in his affidavit.
Smith, a private first class infantry soldier for two years, had told an FBI undercover investigator that he was looking for “radicals” like himself. He discussed his plans to kill members of the far-left extremist group Antifa as well as to destroy nearby cell towers or a local news station, according to the criminal complaint.
The complaint also stated that Smith had expressed interest in traveling to Ukraine to fight with a paramilitary group called the Azov Batallion.
On Aug. 21, Smith allegedly discussed plans to bomb an unidentified major news network headquarters using a vehicle bomb, something he told the undercover investigator he knew how to make.
Meanwhile, in another exchange with an undercover agent on the encrypted messaging service Telegram on Sept. 20, Smith discussed using various household chemicals and commonly available equipment to make a bomb.
“That’s the best way to fight people,” Smith said in the complaint. “Making AK-47s out of expensive parts is cool, but imagine … if you were going to Walmart instead of gun store to buy weapons.”
During that same exchange, Smith allegedly sent the agent instructions for building a “Middle East style bomb” that, if large enough, can destroy U.S. military vehicles. An FBI bomb technician later determined the specific instructions could have constructed a viable device.
The undercover agent asked Smith in the same conversation whether there was anyone in Texas that would be a good fit for “fire, destruction, and death.”
Smith allegedly replied, “Outside of Beto? I don’t know enough people that would be relevant enough to cause a change if they died,” an apparent reference to O’Rourke.
If convicted, Smith could face up to 20 years in federal prison and a fine up to $250,000, according to the Justice Department.
Lt. Col. Terry Kelley, with the 1st Infantry Division Public Affairs at Fort Riley, said in a statement that Smith has been assigned to Fort Riley since June 2019. He previously served at Fort Bliss, Texas, from November 2017 to June 2019. He entered the Army from Conway, South Carolina, as an infantryman and completed training at Fort Benning, Georgia. He has not deployed.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.