Score one for the FBI in the pursuit against domestic terrorists, and mark down yet another weird and obscure conspiracy theory about government. The Department of Justice announced the arrest of Jerry Varnell in Oklahoma after he conspired to blow up the Federal Reserve building, attempting to follow in Timothy McVeigh’s footsteps but perhaps with a lower death toll. In the indictment, the DoJ alleges that Varnell wanted to take a page from Fight Club as well by targeting the financial infrastructure of the US — to the extent Varnell was coherent at all:
The FBI has arrested an Oklahoma man on charges that he tried to detonate what he thought was a 1,000-pound bomb outside a bank, acting out of a hatred for the U.S. government and an admiration for Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, according to court papers.
Jerry Drake Varnell was arrested shortly after a Friday night attempt to detonate a fake bomb packed into what he believed was a stolen cargo van outside the bank in Oklahoma City, according to a criminal complaint filed in federal court. …
In one conversation he said he believed in the “Three Percenter” ideology — a form of anti-government activism that pledges resistance against the United States government on the belief it has infringed on the Constitution, according to court papers. Those who subscribe to the ideology incorrectly believe that only 3 percent of the colonial population participated in the American Revolution, and they see themselves as their heirs.
Just how serious was this plot? Serious enough that Varnell attempted to detonate what turned out to be a fake bomb in front of BancFirst in Oklahoma City early on Saturday morning. Varnell’s first choice of targets was the Federal Reserve, or perhaps Facebook’s server farm. He got surprised by the response to his trigger mechanism:
At approximately 12:40 am, VARNELL entered the alley/loading dock adjacent to the BancFirst building located at 101 N. Broadway and parked the vehicle. While in route, VARNELL had armed the device’s time and power unit (TPU) by inserting the TPU key. Once stopped, VARNELL ensured the attached cell phone was powered on, and ensured the power wires to the TPU were securely fastened. VARNELL then exited the vehicle, and left the area on foot. VARNELL walked to where FBI UCE [“undercover employee” — Ed] was parked and got into the vehicle. FBI UCE drove several miles away so VARNELL could remotely detonate the VBIED via cell phone. VARNELL did not want to use his own cellular telephone to detonate the device for fear that it would be traced back to him. VARNELL was aware that FBI UCE had a “burner phone” and stated that he was willing to dial the number from the “burner phone.” VARNELL then dialed the cell phone number, which he believed would detonate the VBIED parked near his selected target. The phone number VARNELL dialed rang to a phone in possession of law enforcement. When VARNELL did not witness a detonation of the VBIED, he dialed the number at least two more times. VARNELL was placed under arrest at approximately 12:54 am by agents of the FBI, Joint Terrorism Task Force, and other assisting law enforcement officers.
That’s three attempts at an overt act of terrorism, if true. That makes it difficult for the alleged terrorist’s attorney to claim, as others have on behalf of their clients, that Varnell would have been a harmless yokel had it not been for the FBI.
What exactly did Varnell hope to accomplish? Becoming a real-life Tyler Durden:
On June I , 2017, CHS- I introduced UCE, aka ” Professor,” to VARNELL. This meeting took place at a restaurant in Elk City, Oklahoma, and was audio/video recorded. During this meeting VARNELL admitted to holding “III% ideology” and wanting to start the next revolution. VARNELL said he wanted to be a part of something, and was of the same mind with people who wanted to use explosives and make a statement. VARNELL stated , “something needs to be done,” but killing a bunch of people was never a good idea . VARNELL referenced the movie Fight Club when he discussed wanting to take down a government facility or other structures. VARNELL stated , “That ‘s the kind of shit I want to fucking do, it’s time to do that kind of fucking shit”, although CHS-I believed VARNELL had not selected a specific target yet.
So what exactly is the “III% ideology”? The affadavit refers to Wikipedia for its definition, but Judy Thomas of the Kansas City Star reported on it in November 2016 as an “insurgent militia movement”:
“We’re for the people, we’re with the people, we stand behind the people and the government,” he said. “We’re a group of like-minded, law-abiding citizens that all believe the same thing. And that is, our government is turning to (expletive).”
The arrests come as the militia movement is in a growth spurt. The most growth, experts say, is in the Three Percent movement _ the Kansas Flatlanders are a part of it _ which gets its name from the percentage of colonists said to have taken up arms against the British in the Revolutionary War. Supporters vow to use force if necessary to resist gun control laws.
“Given the huge growth of the Three Percenters in recent years, I would say that the militia movement has more than 50,000 adherents and an additional number of people who sympathize to varying degrees,” said Mark Pitcavage, a senior research fellow with the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism.
Social media have played a huge role in the explosive growth among Three Percenters, he said. Another reason, he said, is that it’s become “fashionable” to be a Three Percenter.
“The Three Percenters are almost as much a marketing phenomenon as a movement, with literally thousands of Three Percent-related products _ from babies’ onesies to gun accessories _ being marketed and sold,” he said.
The FBI and the Department of Homeland Security in May warned that white supremacist groups had already carried out more attacks than any other domestic extremist group over the past 16 years and were likely to carry out more attacks over the next year, according to an intelligence bulletin obtained by Foreign Policy.
Even as President Donald Trump continues to resist calling out white supremacists for violence, federal law enforcement has made clear that it sees these types of domestic extremists as a severe threat. The report, dated May 10, says the FBI and DHS believe that members of the white supremacist movement “likely will continue to pose a threat of lethal violence over the next year.”
The report was dated May 10th. The FBI had been on Varnell’s trail since December 2016, thanks to a confidential informant. The probe went hot in April, shortly before the warning, when their informant reported a series of communications from Varnell about moving forward with the plot. In fact, on the same day that the report was issued, Varnell was meeting with the informant to put together plans for building the bomb … and bragging about a “dope binge”:
On May 10, 2017, CHS- I met with VARNELL at VARNELL ‘s residence in Sayre, OK. VARNELL was accompanied by a female friend, and claimed they had been on a two-day ” dope binge” with weed and meth. VARNELL said it was cool because they got a bunch of stuff accomplished. This meeting was audio recorded. During this meeting, CHS-I told VARNELL that he/she (CHS- I) had access to anhydrous ammonia and ammonium nitrate through a friend. VARNELL told CHS-I that he (VARNELL) was only interested in ammonium nitrate due to its nitrogen content, which was more reactive and could be used to make a nitrogen bomb.
Varnell might be fortunate that the FBI provided him with only non-functioning materials. Otherwise, he might have blown himself up first. Whether he appreciates that is another matter, of course.