WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Federal prosecutors on Monday charged a 22-year-old U.S. Army private with plotting to attack his own military unit abroad by sending sensitive details about the unit to a neo-Nazi group.
The Justice Department said Ethan Melzer of Louisville, Kentucky, had sent details about his unit’s location, planned movements and security to members of the Order of Nine Angles (O9A), which the department described an “an occult-based neo-Nazi and white supremacist group.”
Melzer is charged with conspiring and attempting to murder Americans and U.S. military service members, providing and attempting to provide material support to terrorists and conspiring to murder and maim in an undisclosed foreign country.
One of Melzer’s federal public defenders, Jonathan Marvinny, did not immediately respond to Reuters request for comment.
According to the indictment unsealed in Manhattan federal court, the FBI and the U.S. Army thwarted Melzer’s plot in late May, and the FBI arrested Melzer on June 10.
It described Melzer as “the enemy within,” who allegedly attempted “to orchestrate a murderous ambush on his own unit,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss for the Southern District of New York.
After learning about the overseas assignment of his unit, investigators say Melzer used an encrypted app to send messages containing information about his unit to members and associates of O9A and a related group known as the “RapeWaffen Division”.
Melzer and his co-conspirators planned what they referred to as a “jihadi attack” during the deployment, with the objective of causing a “mass casualty” event victimizing his fellow service members, prosecutors alleged.
In a voluntary interview with investigators, Melzer said that he wanted the planned attack to result in the deaths of as many of his fellow service members as possible, prosecutors said. Melzer also described his conduct as tantamount to treason, they said.
Reporting by Mark Hosenball; Editing by Bill Tarrant and Christopher Cushing