A U.S. Army soldier was arrested on Tuesday in Georgia on terrorism charges after he spoke online about plots to blow up New York City’s 9/11 Memorial and other landmarks and attack U.S. soldiers in the Middle East, authorities stated.
Cole James Bridges of Stow, Ohio, was in custody on charges of attempted material support of a terrorist organization — the Islamic State group — and attempted murder of a military member.
Unbeknownst to Bridges, an FBI employee was in on the chat as Bridges provided detailed instructions on tactics and manuals and advice about attacking the memorial and other targets in New York City, Biase said.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation and Army Counterintelligence arrested Bridges on Tuesday, according to a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York.
“As we allege today, Bridges, a private in the U.S. Army, betrayed our country and his unit when he plotted with someone he believed was an ISIS sympathizer to help ISIS attack and kill U.S. soldiers in the Middle East,” said William F. Sweeney Jr., head of New York City’s FBI office.
“Fortunately, the person with whom he communicated was an FBI employee, and we were able to prevent his evil desires from coming to fruition,” Sweeney said in a release.
“Our troops risk their lives for our country, but they should never face such peril at the hands of one of their own,” U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss said.
A year after Bridges enlisted, he began messaging an FBI employee posing as a female ISIS supporter, according to court documents. He told this contact that he had joined the military to convince his family he was not involved with terrorist organizations.
“I used to have connections with people in Hamas and Isis, and my family found out and the government could have arrested me. So I needed to prove to them I wasnt what they thought I was, and I needed the government to get off my back. I dont tell people Im in the military, and I hate displaying the US flag on my shoulder,” Bridges messaged.
The FBI’s New York Joint Terrorism Task Force, which includes personnel from the NYPD, worked alongside U.S. Army Counterintelligence, Army Criminal Investigative Division, the 3rd Infantry Division, numerous FBI field offices, the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Georgia to bring Bridges to justice.
“The results of this investigation show the efforts of Army Counterintelligence agents working alongside our partners in the FBI,” said Roy T. Cochran, director of the Army Counterintelligence Coordinating Authority. “We are dedicated to protecting our Soldiers, Civilians, and Families from terrorist acts and insider threats.”