FBI arrests Army soldier who allegedly discussed plans to bomb major American news network

Jarrett William Smith allegedly distributed information on how to build bombs.

September 23, 2019, 7:17 PM

The FBI has arrested a U.S. soldier who allegedly discussed plans to bomb a major American news network, planned to travel to Ukraine to fight with violent far-right group Azov Battalion and allegedly distributed information online on how to build bombs. He also allegedly suggested targeting Democratic presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke.

According to charging documents in the case, Jarrett William Smith, who transferred to Fort Riley, Kansas, in July, joined the U.S. military only after first expressing his desire to fight in Ukraine.

On Aug. 19, 2019, Smith allegedly spoke with an FBI informant in an online chat group and discussed a plan for an attack inside the U.S., his search for more "radicals" like himself and the possibility of killing members of the group Antifa.

PHOTO: Soldier of the Azov battalion patrolling close to a Ukrainian bombed position in Shyrokyne, Ukraine, July 22, 2015.
Soldier of the Azov Battalion patrolling close to a Ukrainian bombed position in Shyrokyne, Ukraine, July 22, 2015.
Celestino Arce/NurPhoto via Getty Images

In suggesting that the headquarters of the major news network could be a target, Smith allegedly said: "A large vehicle bomb. Fill a vehicle full of [explosives] 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."

Then, in a Telegram conversation with an undercover FBI agent on Sept. 20, Smith allegedly had this exchange:

FBI: You got anyone down in Texas that would be a good fit for fire, destruction and death?SMITH: Outside of Beto? I don't know enough people that would be relevant enough to cause a change if they died.

PHOTO: Democratic presidential candidate, former Rep. Beto ORourke (D-TX) speaks during the Democratic Polk County Steak Fry, Sept. 21, 2019, in Des Moines, Iowa.
Democratic presidential candidate, former Rep. Beto ORourke (D-TX) speaks during the Democratic Polk County Steak Fry, Sept. 21, 2019, in Des Moines, Iowa.
Joshua Lott/Getty Images

Smith had allegedly been in communication with another American, Craig Lang, who traveled to Ukraine and fought with another far-right group, the Right Sector.

They were in contact since 2016, and authorities described Lang as a "mentor" to Smith.

On Dec. 8, 2018, Smith allegedly led a group chat on Facebook with Lang that included discussing Smith's ability to build bombs.

Smith allegedly said, "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."

PHOTO: Craig Lang in an undated photo.
Craig Lang in an undated photo.
Department of Justice

Smith was arrested on Sept. 21, and he allegedly admitted to the FBI that he provided people online with instructions for building bombs.

According to charging documents, at least one of the instructions he allegedly provided in recent days would not have resulted in a viable explosive device.

He has been charged in Kansas with distributing information relating to weapons of mass destruction.

Lang, meanwhile, is currently facing federal charges in Florida, North Carolina and Arizona in separate cases with alleged ties to -- among other things -- a murdered couple in Florida, the terrorist group al-Shabab in East Africa and groups fighting against the Venezuelan government.

According to court documents filed in those cases, in 2017 Lang met another Army veteran, Alex Jared Zwiefelhofer, in Ukraine, where they both fought with the Right Sector. And then in June 2017, Lang and Zwiefelhofer traveled to Kenya because they wanted to fight the al-Qaeda-linked group al-Shabab there, Zwiefelhofer allegedly told authorities. But when the pair then allegedly tried to enter South Sudan, they were stopped and sent back to the United States.

Lang had failed to pay outstanding child support payments, so his passport was canceled.

Almost a year later, in April 2018, Lang and Zwiefelhofer allegedly killed a husband and wife in Lee County, Florida, during an armed robbery. In court documents, authorities said Lang and Zwiefelhofer committed the robbery to fund travel to Venezuela, where they wanted to participate in armed conflict against the Venezuelan government.

But, faced with a revoked passport, in August 2018, Lang and three others met at a hotel in Roxboro, North Carolina, where they allegedly devised a plan: Lang would give one of the men guns and money in exchange for using his personal information and documents to obtain a passport in that man's name, court documents allege. A passport in another man's name would allow Lang to evade law enforcement while traveling overseas en route to Ukraine, authorities said in court documents.

On Sept. 11, 2018, Lang gave the man a suitcase with four pistols, a military smoke grenade and about $1500 in cash, and within a week Lang bought a plane ticket to Ukraine using the man's identity. But then Lang used an altered version of his original revoked passport to obtain a Mexican visa, and by late September 2018 he went to Mexico and then Bogota, Colombia, according to court documents.

On Nov. 23, 2018, he departed Colombia for Madrid, Spain, and, "It is believed that LANG used this revoked passport … to gain admission to Ukraine," court documents said.

"He is currently living in Ukraine," another court document noted.

Lang has since been indicted in Arizona on one count of misuse of a passport. He and three alleged co-conspirators were indicted in the Eastern District of North Carolina on nine counts of identity theft- and fraud-related charges. And he and Zwiefelhofer were most recently indicted in the Middle District of Florida on four counts for the armed robbery that left two people dead.