United States v. Bridges, Cole James
Cole James Bridges, aka "Cole Gonzales," a Private First Class in the U.S. Army, was arrested on 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 with attempting to provide material support to a designated foreign terrorist organization, and attempting to murder U.S. military service members. 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 and 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, he expressed his frustration with the U.S. military and his desire to aid ISIS. He 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 and 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 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 he used a voice manipulator to narrate a propaganda speech in support of the anticipated ambush by ISIS on U.S. troops.