Court documents obtained by VICE News show that in late July, the FBI executed a warrant on a young man whom law enforcement officials believed had a history of online neo-Nazism and whom they said threatened to firebomb the Israeli embassy in Washington, D.C.
The warrant on the young man, who is in his early 20s and lives in Washington State, was executed on July 31. In a series of text messages to VICE News, the young man said the warrant was a case of memes gone too far and that he regrets his actions. Regardless of the how sincere the threat was, it shows just how seriously authorities are taking online threats from the far right in the wake of the Capitol Hill mob attacks in January.
The court documents show the young man allegedly issued the threat, which was chilling in its specificity, in a chatroom under the alias "MyriadSloths."
"On July 20th, I am going to firebomb the Embassy of Israel to the United States located at 3541 International Drive NW, Washington, D.C. 20008,” the court documents quote him as posting. “This is not a joke or meme. I and my two hired accomplices will systematically place firebombs inside the building to cause maximum damage and set them off at 2:00 PM sharp to ensure the maximum amount of burning Jew.”
VICE News isn't publishing the young man's name because he has not been charged with a crime. He said that the posts were “all memes” on a gaming group.
“Obviously I took it a step beyond what's considered shitposting which I regret,” he told VICE News in a text exchange. According to him, the authorities told him there was a possibility he could be charged, but he doesn’t believe any charges are forthcoming. He said he’s not proud of the joke and its fallout.
“I guess the absurdity of the idea that the FBI would pay attention to random Discord posts was the funny part to me,” he said. “Clearly that was wrong.”
After one of the members of the Discord chat saw the post and was concerned enough about it to tip off the FBI, the young man found himself in the crosshairs of a special agent who investigates domestic terrorism. The tipster, according to the court filing, told authorities the young man had a history of “writing anti-Semitic messages, using Nazi and anti-Semitic symbolism and language, and espousing violence towards Jews.” Furthermore, he allegedly had several aliases online, including “The Black Sun”—a reference to the "sonnenrad," a symbol important in the modern-day neo-Nazi movement and popularized by the Third Reich.
The young man told VICE News he likes shock humor, although he enjoys it “less now” and that he took “a series of edgy shitposts with some friends too far.”
The authorities linked the young man to the MyriadSloths account via various IP addresses and email addresses, then connected MyriadSloths to other online accounts. VICE World News independently confirmed the name is connected to an account for the massive multiplayer game Dota, which shows that same player using aliases such as “kill women” and “I hate women.”
The threat which prompted FBI action.
With all this information, the federal authorities decided to move in.
On July 31 the FBI executed the warrant. The young man told VICE News the feds sent numerous armed agents to his parents' home “in full gear with armors and rifles to make sure the place was clear” and seized his electronics. The young man wasn’t home at the time, but the FBI had his father text him so he could come back and be interviewed.
“It started off kinda tense but I think they realized pretty fast that I wasn’t a neo-Nazi or terrorist so they just made sure they had all the information they needed,” he said. Court documents show the authorities seized his computer, an external hard drive, a Kindle device, and “miscellaneous technology."
Regardless of the sincerity of the posts, it’s easy to see why the authorities were so on edge. For many burgeoning neo-Nazis, Discord and other similar chat platforms work as an entry point into the movement and as a recruitment pool for those already deeply affiliated with extremist groups. Members of neo-Nazi terror groups Atomwaffen Division and The Base, both under federal crackdowns that have already sent several of their members to prison on terrorism related charges, frequented Discord, a popular platform among gamers.
The FBI special agent who wrote the warrant made a point of highlighting that “domestic terrorism threats” have a “nexus in the state of Washington” where the young man resides. Historically it was a location frequented by 1980s neo-Nazi terror group The Order, and in recent years The Base purchased acres of land in a remote part of the state to site what were hoped to be future paramilitary training camps.
As for the young man, he was clear that he regrets the posts that attracted the attention of the FBI.
“It was just like a competition with my friends to see who could be the edgiest and most shocking,” he said. “I never thought anonymous internet memes would affect me IRL but in retrospect I should have been more careful and it wasn't particularly funny.”