FBI: White supremacists plotted attack on US power grid
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — White supremacists plotted to attack power stations in the southeastern U.S., and an Ohio teenager who allegedly shared the plan said he wanted the group to be “operational” on a fast-tracked timeline if President Donald Trump were to lose his re-election bid, the FBI alleges in an affidavit that was mistakenly unsealed.
The teen was in a text group with more than a dozen people in the fall of 2019 when he introduced the idea of saving money to buy a ranch where they could participate in militant training, according to the affidavit, which was filed under seal along with a search warrant application in Wisconsin’s Eastern U.S. District Court in March. The documents were inadvertently unsealed last week before the mistake was discovered and they were quickly sealed again.
The teenager wanted the group to be “operational” by the 2024 election because he believed it was likely a Democrat would win, but “the timeline for being operational would accelerate if President Trump lost the 2020 election,” according to the affidavit. An informant told investigators that the teen “definitely wanted to be operational for violence, but also activism.”
The Ohio teen, who was 17 at the time, also shared plans with a smaller group about a plot to create a power outage by shooting rifle rounds into power stations in the southeastern U.S. The teen called the plot “Light’s Out” and there were plans to carry it out in the summer of 2021, the affidavit states.
One group member, a Texas native who was a Purdue University student at the time, allegedly sent the informant a text saying “leaving the power off would wake people up to the harsh reality of life by wreaking havoc across the nation.”
The affidavit identifies three people by name and references others who were allegedly communicating with or part of the group. The Associated Press is not naming any of the individuals because charges have not been publicly filed.
None of the three men immediately replied to emails, texts or voicemails left Tuesday seeking comment. The father of one of the men had no comment.
Federal prosecutors in Ohio are taking the lead on the case. Jennifer Thornton, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of Ohio, said she couldn’t provide additional information because the investigation is ongoing, but “we want to emphasize that there is no imminent public safety threat related to this matter.”
The affidavit details an investigation into group members, who allegedly share white supremacist ideology. The document outlines how they communicated over encrypted messaging applications before three of them eventually met up in person. They also allegedly shared recommended reading on white supremacist literature, required a “uniform” to symbolize their commitment and talked about making weapons. The affidavit says the Ohio teen put Nazi flags in his room, but his mother told him to take them down.
Some group members also indicated that they were prepared to die for their beliefs. One man from Oshkosh, Wisconsin, allegedly told the Ohio teen: “I can say with absolute certainty that I will die for this effort. I swear it on my life.” The teen replied: “I can say the same,” the court documents state.
According to the affidavit, the Wisconsin man also told an undercover FBI employee in February that the group was interested in taking “direct action” against the system and said, “If you truly want a fascist society I will put in the effort to work with you but recruitment is long and not going to be easy.”
He then outlined a “radicalization” process to instill a “revolutionary mindset” which ended with recruits proving they are more than just talk. He allegedly wrote that if it seemed too tough, “I recommend leaving now, we are extremely serious about our goals and ambitions.”
The affidavit says the Ohio teen also spoke numerous times about creating Nazi militant cells around the country like those of the neo-Nazi network the Atomwaffen Division.
Atomwaffen Division members have promoted “accelerationism,” a fringe philosophy espousing mass violence to fuel society’s collapse. More than a dozen people linked to the group or an offshoot called the Feuerkrieg Division have been charged with serious crimes in recent years.
This investigation apparently began after a fourth man, from Canada, was stopped while trying to enter the U.S. The man told border agents that he was going to visit the Ohio teen, whom he had recently met over an encrypted app, according to the affidavit. Agents found Nazi and white supremacist images on his phone.
Associated Press writer Michael Kunzelman in College Park, Maryland, contributed to this report.