A suspected white supremacist threatened to attack the power grid unless two men with far-right ties were released from custody, documents obtained by the Daily Dot show.
In a bulletin shared on April 6 by the South Dakota Fusion Center (SDFC), which disseminates intelligence to law enforcement on suspected criminal and terrorist activities, screenshots from Telegram show an unidentified individual demanding the release of two men arrested by the FBI in late 2022.
The individual shared “four diagrams of electrical grid transformer equipment” before stating that failure to release the men would “result in more attacks on infrastructure.”
In the first eight months of 2022, the power grid was attacked, primarily by gunfire, 107 times. Many attacks have been linked to far-right groups looking to sow chaos and advance their cause.
The bulletin, acquired by the Daily Dot through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), notes that the Telegram post named “Doc Grimson and Luke Kenna” as the two men in custody. A June 23 press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of New York states that Kenna and Grimson, real name Michael Brown, Jr., are accused of planning a bank robbery.
The 41-year-old Brown, a native of Pennsylvania, pled guilty to conspiring to commit bank robbery in June and is set to be sentenced on Sept 3. Kenna, a 43-year-old from New York, is scheduled to appear before a judge on Aug 17.
The plot was uncovered after Kenna was pulled over by police in New York during a routine traffic stop on Nov 26. Kenna was reportedly wearing all-black clothing, black gloves, a ballistic vest, and was in possession of a diary that laid out plans for the bank robbery. Kenna was also found to be in possession of an untraceable “ghost gun” and a large knife.
Investigators later discovered a chat group on the encrypted messaging app Threema titled “SS Screenwriters Guild,” a reference to the Nazi paramilitary organization, that laid out in intricate detail the planning and preparation by Kenna, Brown, and a third individual, later identified as 29-year-old from Virginia.
A December report from the Daily Beast, based on an unsealed criminal complaint, details Kenna’s links to the neo-pagan hate group known as the Wolves of Vinland. Kenna’s Facebook profile was also found to contain imagery “consistent with white supremacist ideology,” including the Nazi sonnenrad as well as “pagan symbols/runes.”
Brown, who sold knives through his now-defunct company Black Market Tactical, is known to have run a neo-Nazi Telegram channel, although it is unclear whether the recent threats were made on that same channel.
The Telegram post listed two specific demands before threatening to attack the grid if they weren’t met: “1. Release our men 2. Leave them alone there after.” The individual also captioned the four diagrams, with a notice coyly stating that they were “for educational purposes only of course” before adding an upside down smile face emoji. According to the bulletin, the post and images were obtained by the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Office of Intelligence and Analysis, indicating it was monitoring the threat.
The Daily Dot is declining to publish the uncensored diagrams.
Neither the FBI or DHS responded to requests for comment from the Daily Dot regarding the threat. The attorney for Kenna, Matthew E. Trainor, did not respond either.
Last year saw a significant uptick in attacks against the power grid, including high profile incidents in North Carolina, South Carolina, Washington, Oregon, and Florida. It still remains unclear the motive behind all the attacks. Far-right groups on Telegram have implied that many of the incidents are linked and were carried out by “combatants,” although no evidence has been presented.
As exclusively reported by the Daily Dot this month, documents also revealed law enforcement’s concern over some extremists’ interest in the Flipper Zero hacking tool in relation to the power grid. Experts, however, say that such concerns are unfounded and greatly exaggerate the actual capabilities of the tool.
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*First Published: Aug 9, 2023, 8:21 am CDT
Mikael Thalen is a tech and security reporter covering social media, data breaches, hackers, and more.