Kansas soldier accused of giving out bomb-making instructions, talking about attacks

A 24-year-old soldier based at Fort Riley has been charged in federal court in Topeka with using social media to send instructions on how to make bombs triggered by cellphones, according to federal prosecutors in Kansas.

Pfc. Jarrett William Smith has been charged with one count of distributing information related to explosives and weapons of mass destruction, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Kansas announced in a news release Monday.

In addition to making bombs, Smith allegedly discussed plans to bomb a major American news network and mentioned Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke as a possible target, according to court documents.

According to the charges:

Smith, an infantry soldier, joined the army in June 2017. His first duty station was at Fort Bliss, Texas, and he was transferred to Fort Riley in July.

The FBI received information in March about a Facebook user ID that belonged to Smith. Smith allegedly had provided information on how to make improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, according to an FBI investigator’s affidavit.

Smith also allegedly spoke about his interest in traveling to Ukraine to fight with a paramilitary group called the Azov Battalion, according to the affidavit.

Smith was connected via social media with an American who had traveled to the Ukraine and fought with another group, the Right Sector, between 2017 and 2019, according to the affidavit. The two met in person on one occasion in El Paso, according to the charges.

Facebook communications received by the FBI allegedly showed the man’s mentorship of Smith as Lang prepared Smith to join the fighting in Ukraine.

The two had been in contact prior to Smith enlisting in the army. Smith allegedly said in June 2016 that if he couldn’t find a slot in Ukraine, he would enlist in the army.

Social media chat

In December 2018, Smith allegedly led a group chat on Facebook with Lang included discussing Smith’s ability to build IEDs.

“I got knowledge of IEDs for days,” Smith allegedly said. “We can make cellphone IEDs in the style of the Afghans.”

Smith allegedly went on to provide how to make the cellphone detonator that, according to an FBI bomb technician, was accurate, according to the affidavit.

A member of the chat asked about the explosive, and Smith allegedly replied with a description of how to make an explosive material using the head of matches. Smith’s instructions are accurate if the right type of matches were used, according to the affidavit.

Smith allegedly engaged a confidential source on Aug. 19 in an online chat group and said he was looking for radicals like himself. Smith allegedly discussed a plan of conducting an attack within the United States.

He allegedly talked about killing Antifa members and destroying nearby cell towers or a local news station, according to the affidavit.

Two days later, Smith allegedly told the confidential source that the headquarters of a major American news network would be a suggested target, using a vehicle bomb, according to the affidavit.

Smith allegedly described how to make the bomb and set it off. But according to an FBI bomb technician, Smith’s instructions would not have resulted in a viable explosive device.

On Sept. 20, Smith allegedly exchanged messages on the app Telegram with an FBI undercover investigator about making various types of bombs.

When the investigator commented that one of the bombs described used household items as components, Smith allegedly said, “Making AK47s out of expensive parts is cool, but imagine if you will if you were going to Walmart instead of a gun store to buy weapons.”

Smith also allegedly described in detail how to the investigator how to build a bomb that could be triggered by calling a cellphone.

“Be very careful with the fully armed device,” Smith allegedly warned the investigator, according to the affidavit.

“There have been cases where Middle Eastern insurgents built these bombs only for them to detonate prematurely because of telemarketers or people with wrong numbers who unwittingly called the devices and ended up accidentally blowing up the insurgents.”

Undercover FBI suggests target

Smith allegedly asked the investigator who their target was. The investigator replied that it was a Texas politician, possibly someone in the federal government. Later on he mentioned the possibility of a liberal Texas mayor.

The investigator asked Smith if he had anyone down in Texas who would be “a good fit for fire, destruction and death?”

“Outside of Beto? I don’t know enough people that would be relevant enough to cause a change if they died,” Smith allegedly replied.

Smith was arrested on Saturday. During questioning, Smith allegedly said he knows how to make IEDs and routinely provides people how to make the bombs in online chat rooms, even if they tell him they will use the knowledge to harm others.

He does that to cause “chaos” and if that chaos results in deaths, it doesn’t affect him, he allegedly told the FBI.

Smith faces up to 20 years in federal prison and a fine up to $250,000 if convicted.


How we did this story

The Star received information about the charges from the FBI, on behalf of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Kansas. Details of the accusations were contained in a news release and a federal complaint filed in court.

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Robert A. Cronkleton gets up very early in the morning to bring readers breaking news about crime, transportation and weather at the crack of dawn. He’s been at The Star since 1987 and now contributes data reporting and video editing.