A U.S. Army soldier has been charged with plotting an attack on his own unit in coordination with the Order of Nine Angles (O9A), a somewhat obscure white supremacist and Satanist group.
According to indictment documents filed with the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York and available on the Department of Justice’s website, Army private Ethan Phelan Melzer confessed to attempting to betray his unit by giving away information he believed would lay the way for a terrorist attack.
Melzer was detailed to an Army facility in Europe in October 2019, but in April 2020, he learned his unit was to be redeployed to Turkey. Melzer later transmitted details of the troop movement via an encrypted messaging program to O9A and members of the ultra-misogynistic “RapeWaffen” Telegram channel for the purposes of “facilitating an attack on the unit” at its new location, according to the indictment. He also allegedly got in contact with “a purported member of Al-Qaeda” who he believed would pass on the information to “jihadists” who could carry out the attack on the Turkish base.
The indictment states that Melzer had told recipients he was risking his “literal free life” by disclosing the information and that he was “expecting results.” In other messages, Mezler allegedly wrote his “life would be absolutely meaningless” compared to the prospect of starting “another 10 year war in the Middle East”. The indictment also says he provided additional information on his unit’s movements, including the new base’s surveillance capabilities and what defenses it had in place.
According to an accompanying criminal complaint, Melzer acknowledged in posts that he would be at risk during the potential attack but didn’t care. He also allegedly divulged the unit’s lack of armored support or small arms beyond M4 rifles, which he believed would make it vulnerable to an assault, and suggested that the attackers target nearby gas tanks to disable artillery on base.
At least one of the persons Melzer was actually talking to was a confidential informant working with investigators from the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force and the Army. It doesn’t seem that Melzer ever came close to pulling off a real attack, let alone communicate with a genuine Al-Qaeda contact. The indictment states that Melzer admitted to investigators on May 30 that he “intended for the planned attack to result in the deaths of as many of his fellow service members as possible, and declared himself to be a traitor against the United States whose conduct was tantamount to treason.”
“One need not worry that the Order of Nine Angles represents some type of terroristic occultic uprising looking to harness military information toward some design of world conquest,” Lucien Greaves, a spokesperson for the Satanic Temple (a peaceful movement which has nothing to do with this situation), told Patheos. “ONA is actually an old, dippy mystical collection of low-quality minds who never evolved past the juvenile thrill of the pursuit of evil, appropriating whatever best seemed to fit that image.”
Greaves added that it was fortunate “military secrets weren’t leaked to anybody who is at least capable of tying their own shoes.”
“As alleged, Ethan Melzer, a private in the U.S. Army, was the enemy within,” Acting U.S. Attorney for the SDNY Audrey Strauss said in a DOJ press release. “Melzer allegedly attempted to orchestrate a murderous ambush on his own unit by unlawfully revealing its location, strength, and armaments to a neo-Nazi, anarchist, white supremacist group. Melzer allegedly provided this potentially deadly information intending that it be conveyed to jihadist terrorists. As alleged, Melzer was motivated by racism and hatred as he attempted to carry out this ultimate act of betrayal.”
Melzer is facing numerous charges, including conspiracy to murder and attempted murder of U.S. nationals, conspiracy to murder and attempted murder of U.S. service members, provision and attempted provision of material support to terrorists, and conspiracy to murder and maim in a foreign country. If convicted of all charges, he could face life in prison.
News of the forthcoming indictment first broke via NBC News.
Notably, Strauss claimed O9A to be a “neo-Nazi, anarchist, white supremacist group.” But the group isn’t really anarchist, despite the Trump administration’s attempts to paint anarchist and anti-fascist groups as the major terrorism threat to the country.
The O9A originated in Britain, based in part on the teachings of extremist David Myatt, and preaches a form of white supremacist occultism of the Left-Hand Path variety (one of its stated goals is purging society of undesirables via mass human sacrifice). As one might reasonably suspect, its actual scope is hazy at best; estimates of how many O9a devotees actually exist range from a few dozen to 2,000 at most. One of its key aims is to infiltrate other far-right extremist organizations and push them further towards accelerationism, a philosophy that calls for the destruction of global society through terrorism to usher in a new order.
According to UK advocacy group Hope Not Hate’s 2020 report, it has enjoyed a limited resurgence in recent years with younger neo-Nazis and members of neo-Nazi groups Atomwaffen and Sonnenkrieg Division, as well as UK far-right group National Action. While those individuals may only be “dabbling” in O9A ideology, Hope Not Hate wrote, O9A writing has played a role in “excusing, or even fostering, a culture of violent sexual sadism and the promotion of weaponised rape” in the far-right movement. John Cameron Denton, a leader of Atomwaffen arrested earlier this year for allegedly planning a swatting conspiracy and who went by the handle “Rape,” reportedly set off major turmoil within the group in recent years with a pivot to Satanic teachings.
Earlier this year, Hope Not Hate and British lawmakers called for O9A to be proscribed as a terrorist organization in the UK after the separate arrests of four teenagers “linked to the ideology,” according to the BBC. One of them was an unidentified 16-year-old who allegedly sought to identify synagogues throughout the UK, compiled explosives materials and potential targets, and tried to secure some form of dangerous chemical from a U.S. counterpart.