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Army soldier charged with leaking intel to help facilitate fatal attack against his own unit

The individual leaked information to a neo-Nazi group for the purpose of plotting an attack

Department of Justice logo in 2019
Department of Justice logo in 2019
Updated: June 22, 2020 - 8:38pm

The Justice Department on Monday announced the unsealing of an indictment that charges a 22-year-old American service member with allegedly leaking intelligence to help plot an attack against his own Army unit.

Army Pvt. Ethan Melzer allegedly fed information about his Army unit – including the number of soldiers and possible deployment date – to members of the "Order of the Nine Angles (O9A), an occult-based neo-Nazi and white supremacist group," the department said. 

In the department's criminal complaint, federal prosecutors state that people related to the organization expressed multitude of radical views and committed murder and other violent acts.

"Members and associates of O9A have espoused violent, neo-Nazi, anti-Semitic, and Satanic beliefs, and have expressed admiration for both Nazis, such as Adolf Hitler, and Islamic jihadists, such as Osama Bin Laden, the now-deceased former leader of al Qaeda. Members and associates of O9A have also participated in acts of violence, including murders," the department said.

A federal prosecutor said Melzer attempted to leak the information with the intention that it be conveyed to jihadist terrorists.

As recently as April, Melzer allegedly learned of his unit's expected "further foreign deployment," according to the department. He subsequently provided information about that deployment to members and people affiliated with the extremist group as well as a related group called the "RapeWaffen Division."

He leaked information such as "locations, movements, and security" pertaining to his unit's expected deployment, the department said. 

On or around May 17, Melzer exchanged electronic communications about passing information to a purported member of al Qaeda regarding the anticipated deployment.

Then about seven or eight days later, he sent additional electronic messages with specific information about his unit’s anticipated deployment, including the number of soldiers who would be traveling, the location of the facility to which Melzer expected the unit would be deployed, and information about the facility’s surveillance and defensive capabilities, according to the department.

"Melzer promised to leak more information once he arrived at the location of the new deployment in order to try to maximize the likelihood of a successful attack on his unit," federal prosecutors said. 

Melzer has openly discussed his involvement in the scheme during an interview with the FBI and military investigators.

He indicated that he wanted to maximize the death toll on American service members. He has also self-identified as a traitor to the U.S. 

Melzer now faces charges including conspiring to murder and attempting to murder U.S. nationals and U.S. service members, according to the indictment.

“As alleged, Ethan Melzer, a private in the U.S. Army, was the enemy within. 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,” acting U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss, for the Southern District of New York, said in statement accompanying the indictment announcement.

“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. Thanks to the efforts of the agents and detectives of the JTTF, our partners in the Departments of Defense and State, and the career prosecutors of this office, a hate-fueled terrorist attack against American soldiers has been thwarted,” Strauss said.