According to a press release issued by the Department of Justice U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Southern District of New York, U.S. Army Private First Class Cole James Bridges, , a/k/a “Cole Gonzales,” Provided Tactical Guidance in Attempt to Help ISIS to Attack U.S. Forces in the Middle East.
Bridges faces federal terrorism charges based on his alleged efforts to assist ISIS to attack and kill U.S. soldiers in the Middle East.
He was charged by complaint with attempting to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization, and attempting to murder U.S. military service members.
Second Assistant Attorney General John C. Demers said: “Bridges is charged with giving military advice and guidance on how to kill fellow soldiers to individuals he thought were part of ISIS. 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.”
FBI Assistant Director William F. Sweeney Jr. said: “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. Fortunately, the person with whom he communicated was an FBI employee, and we were able to prevent his evil desires from coming to fruition. Bridges could have chosen a life of honorable service, but instead he traded it for the possibility of a lengthy prison sentence. This case should serve as a reminder that the FBI’s New York JTTF will never quit in its commitment to protect our Nation from all those who seek to do it harm.”
According to the criminal complaint charging Bridges which was unsealed today in Manhattan federal court: Bridges joined the U.S. Army in approximately September 2019, and was assigned as a cavalry scout in the 3rd Infantry Division based in Fort Stewart, Georgia. Beginning in at least 2019, he began researching and consuming online propaganda promoting jihadists and their violent ideology. Bridges also expressed his support for the Islamic State of Iraq and alSham (“ISIS”) and jihad on social media. In or about October 2020, he began communicating with an FBI online covert employee, who was posing as an ISIS supporter in contact with ISIS fighters in the Middle East. During these communications, Bridges expressed his frustration with the U.S. military and his desire to aid ISIS. Bridges then provided training and guidance to purported ISIS fighters who were planning attacks, including advice about potential targets in New York City, such as the 9/11 Memorial. Bridges also provided the OCE with portions of a U.S. Army training manual and guidance about military combat tactics, for use by ISIS. In or about December 2020, Bridges began to supply the OCE with instructions for the purported ISIS fighters on how to attack U.S. forces in the Middle East. Among other things, he diagrammed specific military maneuvers intended to help ISIS fighters.
Bridges further provided advice about the best way to fortify an ISIS encampment to repel an attack by U.S. Special Forces, including by wiring certain buildings with explosives to kill the U.S. troops. Then, in January 2021, he provided the OCE with a video of himself in body armor standing before a flag often used by ISIS fighters and making a gesture symbolic of support for ISIS. Approximately a week later, he sent a second video in which Bridges, using a voice manipulator, narrated a propaganda speech in support of the anticipated ambush by ISIS on U.S. troops.
Bridges, 20, of Stowe, Ohio, is charged in the Complaint with (1) attempting to provide material support to ISIS, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2339B, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison; and (2) attempting to murder U.S. military service members, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1114, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. The statutory penalties are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendant would be determined by the judge. Ms. Strauss praised the outstanding efforts of the FBI’s New York Joint Terrorism Task Force, which consists of investigators and analysts from the FBI, the NYPD, and over 50 other federal, state, and local agencies.