The U.S. Justice Department said Wednesday that three men pleaded guilty to crimes linked to plans to attack power grids in the U.S. to promote white supremacist ideology.
“These three defendants admitted to engaging in a disturbing plot, in furtherance of white supremacist ideology, to attack energy facilities in order to damage the economy and stoke division in our country,” Assistant Attorney General for National Security Matthew G. Olsen said in a statement.
“The Justice Department is committed to investigating and disrupting such terrorist plots and holding perpetrators accountable for their crimes,” Olsen added.
The statement said 20-year-old Christopher Brenner Cook of Columbus, Ohio; Jonathan Allen Frost, 24, of West Lafayette, Indiana, and Katy, Texas; and 22-year-old Jackson Matthew Sawall of Oshkosh, Wisconsin, each pleaded guilty to “one count of conspiring to provide material support to terrorists.”
The agency said the terrorists were preparing to “carry out the federal offense of destroying energy facilities.”
A recent report from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis concluded that domestic extremists “have developed credible, specific plans to attack electricity infrastructure since at least 2020.”
The report warns that extremists “adhering to a range of ideologies will likely continue to plot and encourage physical attacks against electrical infrastructure,” which includes more than 6,400 power plants and 450,000 miles of high-voltage transmission lines that span the country.
The report also says that without inside help, it is unlikely the three could have caused a multistate outage, but they could have caused injuries and damage.
The three defendants each face a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison.
Some information for this report came from The Associated Press.