UPDATE, 4:53 p.m. PT: In the wake of the arrest of an Army soldier who had discussed bombing a major news network, CNN presidentJeff Zucker sent a memo to staff to assure them that “there was never any imminent threat to any CNN locations.”
“We continue to actively monitor these issues on a daily basis and work closely with our security teams around the work and our partners in law enforcement.”
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CNN’s Josh Campbell reported that the suspect had been referring to CNN as a target but the identity of the news network was redacted in court documents.
PREVIOUSLY 2:21 p.m. PT: The FBI arrested an Army soldier who allegedly talked of plans to bomb a major American news network and of targeting Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke.
According to the FBI affidavit, it received information in March that Smith “was reported to have disseminated guidance on how to construct, Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) and to have spoken about his desire to travel to Ukraine to fight with the Ukraine-based violent far-right paramilitary group, Azov Battalion.”
The FBI’s affidavit said that Smith joined the military in 2017 and serves as an infantry soldier. Trained in combat and tactical operations, he was transferred to Fort Riley, KS, on July 8.
The FBI said that Smith had an in-person meeting in El Paso with Craig Lang, who traveled to Ukraine and fought with another far-right group there, the Right Sector, similar to the Azov Battalion. According to the affidavit, Lang became a mentor to Smith and helped prepare him for fighting in the Ukraine. In December 2018, Smith led a group chat on Facebook, with Lang included, and Smith discussed how to construct a cell phone detonator for an IED.
According to the affidavit, on August 19, Smith engaged in a conversation with a confidential source in which he “talked with the CS about killing members of the far left group, Antifa, as well as destroying nearby cell towers or local news station.” Two days later, Smith told the source that a major news network would be a target using a “large vehicle bomb.” But according to a FBI special agent bomb technician, though, his instructions would not result in a working device.
On September 20, Smith engaged in a chat with an undercover FBI employee in which he gave specific instructions on how to build an explosive device. He also talked of targeting O’Rourke, the former Texas representative who has made gun reform one of his signature issues.
Smith was arrested on September 21.
According to FBI Special Agent Brandon LaMar, Smith “admitted ‘that he provides this information even to individuals who tell him they intend to use the information to cause harm to others. Smith stated that he did this to cause ‘chaos.’ He told me that if chaos results in the death of people, even through information he provided, it doesn’t affect him.”