New York, NY – A U.S. Army soldier who believed the undercover federal agent he was speaking with online was really a terrorist has pleaded guilty to attempting to provide terrorists with information to help them kill U.S. military members in the Middle East.
U.S. Army Private First Class Cole Bridges, who also goes by the alias of Cole Gonzales, appeared before U.S. District Court Judge Lewis Liman on June 14 and pleaded guilty to attempting to murder U.S. military service members and attempting to provide material support to the State of Iraq and Al-Sham (ISIS), U.S. District Attorney for the Southern District of New York Damian Williams said in a press release later that day.
According to court documents, the 22-year-old soldier joined the U.S. army in September of 2019 and was assigned to the Third Infantry Division in Fort Stewart, Georgia, as a calvary scout.
That same year – if not before – Bridges “began researching and consuming online propaganda promoting jihadists and their violent ideology,” Williams said.
Bridges also took to social media to tout his support for jihad and ISIS.
Investigators said Bridges began communicating online with someone he believed was an ISIS supporter who was in contact with ISIS fighters in the Middle East.
The person he was speaking with was actually a Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) online covert employee.
Bridges shared that he was frustrated with the U.S. military and that he wanted to “aid ISIS,” so he started giving guidance and training to the purported ISIS fighters he believed were planning attacks, according to the press release.
He also recommended potential targets in New York City, to include the 9/11 Memorial, and provided the undercover employee with details about military combat tactics and portions of a U.S. Army training manual so ISIS could study them.
Bridges started giving the undercover employee advice on how to best “attack U.S. forces in the Middle East,” to pass onto the purported ISIS fighters in December of 2020, according to the press release.
He drew diagrams of different military maneuvers for the enemy in an attempt to help ISIS to “maximize the lethality of attacks on U.S. troops,” investigators said.
Bridges gave advice on how to best fortify ISIS encampments “to repel an attack by U.S. Special Forces, including by wiring certain buildings with explosives to kill the U.S. troops,” according to the press release.
In January of 2021, the Army soldier made two videos and passed them on to the undercover FBI employee.
One showed him standing in front of an ISIS flag dressed in body armor while “making a gesture symbolic of support for ISIS,” while the other involved him narrating a “propaganda speech” supporting the ambush attack on U.S. troops he believed ISIS was about to carry out, according to investigators.
Bridges used a “voice manipulator” during the propaganda video, according to investigators.
He spoke about the allegations before Liman on Wednesday, according to the Associated Press.
“The support I provided included tactical advice, hand-drawn diagrams of potential troop maneuvers, pages from the Army Field Manual regarding troop movements and combat tactics, and a propaganda video,” he confessed.
“In providing such training and advice, I also knowingly attempted to assist the efforts of ISIS to repel and kill American soldiers engaged in official duties in the Middle East,” Bridges continued. “I knew at that time that ISIS was a terrorist organization and had engaged in terrorist activity. I also knew that my conduct was wrong,”
Williams denounced Bridges’ traitorous acts and praised the investigators who put the case together.
“As he admitted in court today, Cole Bridges attempted to orchestrate a murderous ambush on his fellow soldiers in service of ISIS and its violent ideology,” Williams said. “Bridges’s traitorous conduct was a betrayal of his comrades and his country. Thanks to the incredible work of the prosecutors of this Office and our partners at the FBI and the U.S. Army, Bridges’s malign intent was revealed, and he now awaits sentencing for his crimes.”
Bridges faces up to 20 years on each count.
His sentencing is scheduled to take place on Nov. 2.