All Things Soldier: A Would-be Traitorous Terrorist

By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

U.S. Army PFC Cole Bridges of Ohio pled guilty this week to planning the murder of U.S. troops as a show of support to the Islamic State. I have to admit, for several years now, I have not been a huge fan of the FBI due to the now documented corruption that has been rampant through the leadership of the agency. However, in this case, a skillful undercover operative most likely saved lives by using social media and successfully documented several months of posts that clearly showed that Bridges had no intention of “protecting and defending the Constitution of the United States from all enemies, foreign and domestic.”

The agent posed as a woman whose brother might be interested in joining Cole in his plans, which included attacking the 9/11 memorial and other sites in New York, as well as blowing up troops in the Middle East. Cole used material taken right out of Army field manuals and encrypted messages through various apps explaining his strategies.

Cole joined the Army in 2019, and in 2020 began to post jihadist-themed content on his social media sites. He went to Germany for a three-month stint and rotated back to the States. He changed his profile picture to a photo of him wearing traditional Arabic garb, including the red and white checkered headscarf known as a keffiyeh. Cole, who also went on social media using his mother’s name of Gonzalez, tried to claim that the Army had no idea of his true beliefs; only his family possibly suspected. No one seems to know how or when he got radicalized. It is possible that it happened while he was in Germany, where there is a substantial presence of a branch of Sunnis known as Salafists. Salafists make no apology for their support for ISIS as well as their intention to commit jihad against men, women, and children who are not Muslim.

Ultimately Cole dug himself deeply into a “holy war hole,” and had no idea that the person on the other end was with the FBI. He posted support of the statements of a Salafist imam who called for “war between Islam and Kufr,” (or infidels) “Cole also allegedly made a video of himself in body armor standing before an ISIS flag expressing support for ISIS. About a week later, he allegedly sent a second video in which he narrated a voice-manipulated propaganda speech in support of an anticipated ambush by ISIS on U.S. troops,” according to the Akron Beacon Journal, the newspaper in Ohio nearest to where Cole had lived.

When the FBI made their move and arrested Cole, they had enough evidence to utterly bury him. I have to wonder if he pled guilty because he was wanting to be martyred, or if he was afraid of it. There was a time not long ago when this kind of treachery would have resulted in the death penalty, and while actual sentencing is not until November, PFC Cole could get up to 40 years in prison. All I can say is, thank God for the FBI agent and the Army counterterrorism people who nailed him. We can all breathe a sigh of relief, at least for today.

By: Ali Elizabeth Turner