Atomwaffen Founder And Girlfriend Arrested In Plot To 'Destroy' Baltimore

Brandon Russell and Sarah Beth Clendaniel

The Department of Justice has charged neo-Nazi power couple Brandon Clint Russell and Sarah Beth Clendaniel with conspiracy to damage energy facilities in Baltimore, according to federal court documents.

The report states that Russell and Clendaniel plotted with an FBI Confidential Human Source (CHS) to shoot out electrical substations surrounding the Baltimore area in hopes of causing a "cascading failure" that would cost the city and outlying areas billions of dollars to recover from. This, they believed, would do "something" in furtherance of their goals as neo-Nazis, though it is not clear what.

Russell, a 28-year-old Florida resident, founded Atomwaffen Division in 2013, and it's largely considered one of the most dangerous neo-Nazi organizations in the world. The group is best known for promoting an accelerationist ideology, murdering people and wearing skull bandanas over their faces — which they call Siege masks in reference to neo-Nazi James Mason's book Siege.

Russell previously served 60 months in prison when police found his cache of weapons and explosives while searching his home after his roommate Devon Arthurs killed their two other roommates, whom he claimed had bullied him for converting to Islam. He had, at that time, reportedly planned to destroy the power grids near where he lived in Florida. Police also found his framed picture of Timothy McVeigh.

It was while he was in prison that he first started talking to Clendaniel, who was also incarcerated for a series of "machete-wielding" burglaries she committed with another man.

Once out of prison, the two continued their long-distance love affair and Russell started to help Clendaniel plan an attack on the Maryland power grid online. Russell, using the codename Homunculus, was the one initially in contact with the CHS, and started to talk to them separately about conducting the attack in June 2022. Eventually he introduced the CHS to Clendaniel, who went by the codenames Nythra and Kali depending on the server she was using, so that they could work on the plan together and so the CHS could help her get a rifle. Clendaniel had trouble getting one, what with her being a felon who committed several robberies with a machete and all.

Sarah Beth Clendaniel in her Atomwaffen get-up

The report states that Clendaniel told the CHS about which substations she planned to target, explaining that if they hit several of them on one day they “would completely destroy this whole city."

“It would probably permanently completely lay this city to waste if we could do that successfully,” she told the CHS during a recorded voice conversation.

As part of their investigation into the couple, the FBI received records from Google providing more insight on Clendaniel's criminal activities and her motivations.

"The Google records also contained screenshots of a document that states that it is not a manifesto; however, the FBI assesses that it contains many aspects that would be included in a manifesto," the report said. "The document starts: 'If this is being posted online, I can only hope that some of my plans were at least partially successful.'"

"The document references [Ted]Kaczynski, [Anders] Brevic, [Adolph] Hitler and others while stating that 'I would sacrifice **everything** for my people to just have a chance for our cause to succeed.' The document later states: 'Unfortunately, I have very little experience with firearms. But once I get my license, I hope to get at least a couple hours of practice in . . . What a shame I don’t have a rifle yet. This storm would be the perfect time to hit some substations and knock out power.'"

Maryland has some of the strictest gun control laws in the country. In order to obtain a gun, one is required to have a permit to purchase, undergo a background check, and register the firearm. Private dealers are required to process purchases or transfers of ownership through a licensed dealer or designated law enforcement agency that can then conduct a background check. I suppose the city of Baltimore should be pretty grateful for those laws right about now. Because if the FBI hadn't been listening in on their conversations and Clendaniel had been able to get her hands on a gun, they could be in some pretty serious shit now.

Extremism researchers and law enforcement have warned that accelerationist neo-Nazis have been conducting and plotting attacks on power grids for several years now, believing that a successful attack would for some reason take down the US government and kick off a race war. Federal prosecutors who prosecuted five neo-Nazis who'd plotted such attacks in 2020 and 2021 reported that their goal was “to attack the power grid both for the purpose of creating general chaos and to provide cover and ease of escape in those areas in which they planned to undertake assassinations and other desired operations to further their goal of creating a white ethno-state.”

Russell and Clendaniel have their first appearance before the court this afternoon and each face a maximum of 20 years in prison.

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Robyn Pennacchia

Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse


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