A Florida man and a Maryland woman have been arrested on federal charges of plotting to attack multiple energy substation with the goal of destroying Baltimore, the U.S. Department of Justice announced Monday.
The suspects, Sarah Clendaniel of Catonsville, Maryland, and Brandon Russell of Orlando, Florida, were allegedly fueled by a racist extremist ideology as they “conspired to inflict maximum harm” on the power grid with the aim to “completely destroy” Baltimore, U.S. Attorney Erek Barron and a top FBI official said at a Monday morning press conference.
Russell is quoted in court documents saying that attacking power transformers is “the greatest thing somebody can do.” He is accused of providing instructions and location information for the substations he and Clendaniel allegedly sought to target as part of their plot, federal prosecutors said. [Continue reading…]
Extremist groups have targeted critical infrastructure for decades. In the 1970s, the anti-capitalist New World Liberation Front carried out over 20 bombings on California’s energy facilities. After 9/11 there was a surge in concern over Islamist extremist plots to target power, water and transportation infrastructure. Ted Kaczynski, otherwise known as the Unabomber, explicitly called for targeting the energy sector in one of his essays. White supremacist propagandists have done the same, viewing it as the most effective way to cause chaos.
Conspiracy theorists and extremist movements abroad have also found critical infrastructure an appealing target. During the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, a wave of arson attacks across Britain targeted cell phone towers based on the falsehood that 5G technology was somehow spreading coronavirus.
But despite the longstanding relationship between a variety of extremist movements and critical infrastructure, four extremism researchers who spoke with Insider all agreed that the far-right is now the dominant player in targeting the grid. A study released last year by George Washington University’s Program on Extremism found that as Salafi-Jihadist plots from ISIS supporters began to wane around 2017, neo-Nazi attempts on infrastructure grew. [Continue reading…]