Law enforcement warned about 5G conspiracy theories months before Nashville bombing

Jana Winter
·Contributor
·3 min read

Law enforcement and intelligence agencies warned in May of this year about escalating threats targeting 5G communications infrastructure, a possible motive now being considered by investigators looking into the Christmas Day bombing in Nashville, according to government documents reviewed by Yahoo News.

Over the weekend, authorities identified Anthony Warner, a 63-year-old resident of Antioch, Tenn., as the man responsible for the bomb that was detonated inside an RV in Nashville’s downtown area next to an AT&T building. The FBI is also looking into whether Warner, who died in the bombing, was motivated by conspiracy theories that have focused on 5G communication networks, according to an update the FBI sent law enforcement agencies Sunday.

5G is the latest standard for broadband cellular networks, which is expected to dramatically increase data transfer speeds. AT&T is one of the American telecommunication companies involved in rolling out 5G. (Verizon, which owns Yahoo News, is also a provider of 5G technology.)

Emergency personnel work near the scene of an explosion in downtown Nashville, Tenn., on Dec. 25, 2020. (Mark Humphrey/AP)
Emergency personnel near the scene of an explosion in downtown Nashville on Christmas Day. (Mark Humphrey/AP)

A May 14 Joint Intelligence Bulletin produced by the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI and the National Counterterrorism Center warns of social media posts calling on people to “target critical infrastructure including cell towers, locations associated with the electric power grid, and other sites associated with perceived impending government action against citizens during the COVID-19 pandemic” and referring to past attacks in Europe and the United States on cell towers.

The bulletin notes that there have been dozens of recent attacks on cell towers, particularly those associated with 5G service, in Western Europe. While there have been fewer such attacks in the United States — just six, according to the bulletin — there have been increasing online calls for such attacks, according to the document.

“Online calls for targeting have focused particularly on those facilities believed to be equipped with 5G wireless technologies, probably in part because of the recent proliferation of conspiracy theories that falsely link the COVID-19 pandemic spread with 5G infrastructure development, including beliefs that 5G towers cause the spread of COVID-19 or weaken the immune system allowing transmission of COVID-19,” the document says.

The intelligence bulletin also says that some of the calls for attacks on critical infrastructure sites, like those connected to 5G, appear to come from white supremacists.

The National Counterterrorism Center declined to comment. The FBI and Department of Homeland Security did not immediately return requests for comment.

This is not the first time that federal law enforcement agencies have expressed concerns about violence linked to conspiracy theories. Last year the FBI warned that conspiracy theories, like those promoted by QAnon, represent a potential terrorist threat.

While the FBI is looking at 5G as a potential motive for Warner’s actions, no proof has yet been offered publicly to back up this theory. In the minutes leading up to the explosion, a speaker from the RV warned people to evacuate the area and played the 1960s hit song “Downtown.”

No one except for Warner himself died in the bombing, but three people were injured, and the blast caused extensive damage to the buildings in the area, knocking out 911 service and disrupting AT&T service across the state.

A 5G demonstrator
A 5G conspiracy theorist at a November demonstration in Berlin. (Maja Hitij/Getty Images)

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