Neo-Nazi couple plots attack on Baltimore energy substations
Brandon Russell, leader of Atomwaffen Division, and Sarah Clendaniel charged in plot
FBI believes threat is real, warns of white supremacists targeting critical infrastructure.
A neo-Nazi couple has been arrested for allegedly plotting to attack five energy substations in the Baltimore area with the intention of completely destroying the city. Brandon Clint Russell, a founding member and leader of the Atomwaffen Division terror group, and Sarah Beth Clendaniel, were both released from prison on probation. The pair then conspired to attack critical infrastructure, according to the Department of Justice (DOJ). The five substations they sought to target were Norrisville, Reisterstown, and Perry Hall, which would cause a "cascading failure" if attacked simultaneously.
Federal authorities obtained a Google document that they believe to be a manifesto written by Clendaniel, which references the Unabomber Ted Kaczynski, Hitler, and neo-Nazi Norwegian terrorist Anders Breivik. The document begins with the statement, “If this is being posted online, I can only hope that some of my plans were at least partially successful."
This arrest is especially concerning as it comes amid heightened concerns about the vulnerabilities of the power grid, which were highlighted in December when two electrical substations were shot in North Carolina. The FBI has warned for years that white supremacist extremists were targeting critical infrastructure, particularly accelerationists who hope to speed up the collapse of society through acts of terror.
Russell communicated with an FBI source throughout much of 2022, discussing potential attacks on substations, and directed the source to white supremacist reading material with instructions for attacking substations. The goal was to trigger a "cascading failure costing billions of dollars." Russell introduced the FBI source to Clendaniel in December and described her as "serious and can be trusted." Clendaniel told the source that she had a terminal illness and wanted to "accomplish something worthwhile" before she died.
Investigators obtained text messages between Russell and Clendaniel, in which they talked about engaging in "warfare" and doing "illegal things." The FBI believes that their relationship continued after their prison sentences, as they were communicating with each other as far back as 2018.
This incident is a frightening reminder of the dangers of fake news and its ability to radicalize individuals to commit crimes. The ideology of white supremacy is being spread through fake news and propaganda, leading to dangerous and violent acts like the one this neo-Nazi couple allegedly planned.