The Justice Department along with the New York City Police Department and the Army’s Counterintelligence (CI) unit announced on January 19 that a U.S. soldier was arrested on terrorism charges for allegedly attempting to help the Islamic State (ISIS) attack U.S. troops in the Middle East. PFC Cole James Bridges, aka Cole Gonzales, 20, has been charged with attempting to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization and attempting to murder U.S. military servicemembers.
The FBI and military CI agents arrested Bridges at his base at Ft. Stewart, GA. He will appear later today in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Georgia.
“Bridges is charged with giving military advice and guidance on how to kill fellow soldiers to individuals he thought were part of ISIS,” Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers said. “This alleged personal and professional betrayal of comrades and country is terrible to contemplate, but fortunately, the FBI was able to identify the threat posed by Bridges, and today’s charges are the first step in holding him accountable for his crimes. ISIS ideology continues to infect those who would threaten the nation’s security from within and without, and we will continue to fight this threat,” he added.
The Army released a statement acknowledging the threat and betrayal of Bridges.
“The Army is tasked with the duty and responsibility to protect our Nation from its adversaries, and Soldiers make incredible sacrifices in service to that cause. When any Soldier attempts to provide sensitive or classified information to an adversary, it is a betrayal of the oath they swore to the United States and the duty owed to their fellow Soldiers,” an Army spokesman said.
“This Soldier’s recent arrest was the result of a joint investigation between the Army and the FBI, and the Army will continue to work closely with federal authorities in this case,” the spokesman added.
Bridges started “researching and consuming online propaganda promoting jihadists and their violent ideology” and expressed his support for ISIS on social media soon after enlisting in the Army in September of 2019.
In the criminal complaint, the federal government claims that in October Bridges began communicating with an FBI covert agent who was posing online as an ISIS supporter pretending to be in contact with ISIS fighters in the Middle East. The criminal complaint says that Bridges gave guidance to purported ISIS fighters, as well as advice about hitting targets in New York City, such as the 9/11 Memorial.
Last month he instructed the agent posing as an ISIS fighter, on how to wire ISIS buildings with explosives to kill U.S. troops, according to the complaint. Bridges also “diagrammed specific military maneuvers intended to help ISIS fighters maximize the lethality of attacks on the U.S.”
Earlier in January, Bridges sent a photo of himself in body armor holding an M4 rifle standing in front of an ISIS flag and gesturing a show of support.
“Cole Bridges betrayed the oath he swore to defend the United States by attempting to provide ISIS with tactical military advice to ambush and kill his fellow service members. Our troops risk their lives for our country, but they should never face such peril at the hands of one of their own,” Acting U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss said in a statement.
FBI Assistant Director William F. Sweeney Jr. said, “Bridges could have chosen a life of honorable service, but instead he traded it for the possibility of a lengthy prison sentence.”
The entire criminal complaint can be read here.