A Conway man admitted to illegally distributing instructions for making explosive devices over social media while he was a member of the U.S. Army.
Jarrett William Smith, a 2014 Carolina Forest High School graduate, pleaded guilty Monday to two counts of distributing information related to explosives, destructive devices and weapons of mass destruction, the Department of Justice announced.
Smith joined the Army on June 12, 2017. Officials said he served as an infantry soldier and was trained in combat and tactical operations. He was transferred to Fort Riley, Kansas, on July 8, 2019.
According to an FBI affidavit, the former Army private was suspected of giving out instructions on Facebook about building improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and discussing possible targets, including Antifa and a major news network headquarters.
The FBI said before joining the Army, Smith first engaged with a person named Craig Lang who had fought in Ukraine. Smith told Lang that if he could not get to Ukraine to fight, he would join the Army.
On Dec. 8, 2018, the affidavit said that Smith led a group on Facebook that discussed Smith’s ability to build IEDs.
He told the group that he could make cell phone IEDs in “the style of the Afghans.” According to an FBI bomb technician, Smith’s instructions on making a cell phone detonator for an IED were accurate.
The FBI said that on Aug. 19, Smith talked with an FBI informant in an online chat group about conducting an attack in the United States and that he was looking for more “radicals” like himself. It was during this conversation that he talked about killing members of the far left group Antifa and destroying nearby cell towers or a local news station.
On Aug. 21, according to the affidavit, Smith told the informant that the headquarters of a major American news network could be a target using a vehicle bomb.
The document does not disclose which network was suggested.
Speaking with an FBI undercover agent on Sept. 20, Smith gave specific instructions using common household items that could blow up a vehicle, the FBI said. “That’s the best way to fight people. Making AK-47s 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 told the undercover employee.
The undercover agent led Smith to think he needed to take an explosive from Oklahoma to Texas to kill a Texas politician. The agent said he needed something stable enough to carry.
According to the FBI, Smith gave instructions on building a Middle East style bomb that could destroy military vehicles. He cautioned to be careful with the fully armed devices. “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.”
The undercover agent asked Smith if he had any suggestions that would be a good fit for fire, destruction and death.
According to the affidavit, Smith replied “Outside of Beto? I don’t know enough people that would be relevant enough to cause a change if they died.” The reference was to then-Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke from Texas. O’Rourke’s campaign released a statement that said they take all threats seriously and had been in contact with the FBI. A spokesman added that such threats would not deter their campaign efforts.
The FBI said in an interview prior to his arrest, Smith said he did this to cause “chaos” and if the chaos results in the death of people, even through information he provided, it doesn’t affect him.
Smith was arrested by the FBI in September.
He could face 20 years in prison and a fine up to $250,000 on each of the two counts.
Sentencing is scheduled for May 18.