Jarrett William Smith was arrested by FBI agents last week near Fort Riley, Kansas where the soldier was stationed. He was previously stationed in Texas before being relocated to Kansas earlier this year.
Federal law enforcement officials say they received a tip about Smith’s social media activities by an unnamed informant earlier this year. Police say Smith and another American, Craig Long, discussed joining militants in Ukraine starting in 2016.
According to chat transcripts released with the charging document, Smith told Lang he would join the U.S. Army if he was unable to secure a spot fighting alongside soldiers in Ukrane. He enlisted in mid-2017 and was stationed at Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas.
Starting around 2018, the FBI said Smith had frequent online conversations with other individuals in which he expressed a desire to target political and media foes with improvised explosive devices. His Facebook page was full of information about how to build IEDs, and at least one of the posts triggered a tip to the FBI in March 2019.
Last month, Smith told an undercover FBI agent he wanted to recruit “radicals” as part of a crusade to “destroy” numerous targets, including cell phone towers and an unidentified local television station. He also described plans to target a major American television news network by building an IED that a FBI bomb technician later determined would “not result in a viable explosive device,” according to charging documents reviewed by The Desk.
That news network was not identified in court documents, but a law enforcement source told The Desk that CNN’s global headquarters in Georgia was the target. Smith reportedly discussed plans to drive the explosive between Kansas and the CNN Center in Atlanta where he intended to leave the vehicle for a half hour before it detonated, according to the source who asked not to be identified because of the sensitive nature of the case.
In a memo sent to news staff on Monday, CNN executive Jeff Zucker said the news network was never in danger.
“I want to assure everyone that there was never any imminent threat to any CNN locations,” Zucker wrote. “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.”
Prior to his arrest on Saturday, Smith reported confessed to distributing information about IEDs and other explosives, saying he wanted to cause “chaos,” according to a FBI special agent.
Smith has been charged with one count of distributing information related to explosives and weapons of mass destruction. His criminal case is docket number 5:19-MJ-05105-ADM.