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Press Release of Army Terrorism Arrest May Demonstrate New Climate of Shared Credit with ACI

U.S. Army Private First Class Cole James Bridges was arrested on federal terrorism charges in a joint U.S. Army Counterintelligence (ACI) and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) case on 19 January 2021. According to charging documents, Bridges' is accused of attempting to assist ISIS to attack and kill U.S. soldiers.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice press release:

"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, Bridges began researching and consuming online propaganda promoting jihadists and their violent ideology. Bridges also expressed his support for the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) and jihad on social media. In or about October 2020, Bridges began communicating with an FBI online covert employee (the “OCE”), 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, Bridges diagrammed specific military maneuvers intended to help ISIS fighters maximize the lethality of attacks on U.S. troops. 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, Bridges 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, Bridges 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."

However, unlike previous press release conferences regarding national security cases that ACI led or was a major part of, this one actually included the ACI Coordinating Authority Director, Roy Cochrane. Mr. Cochrane provided a statement along with the FBI and Justice Department, signaling that joint credit for major investigative successes might become a regular event.

“Army Counterintelligence’s top priority is protecting the force so it can remain committed to fighting and winning our nation’s wars. The results of this investigation show the efforts of Army Counterintelligence agents working alongside our partners in the FBI. We are dedicated to protecting our soldiers, civilians, and families from terrorist acts and insider threats.”

In the past, many ACI agents have been disheartened or simply amused by the fact that "Army Counterintelligence" was often kept out of press releases, making it appear as though the FBI did all of the work with little or no assistance. While this may stem from the secretive origins and continued clandestine nature of much of the work ACI does, many believe that a lack of publicly acknowledged accomplishments may have hindered ACI's growth into a premiere law enforcement and intelligence agency (at least in the eyes of some policy makers, particularly within DoD). In any case, recent ACI successes along with the U.S. Justice Department's confirmation of them, may be an indicator that ACI is finally being seen as an agency on par with the FBI and others.



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