In November 2019, the FBI was alerted to a video on Facebook, a tutorial on how to produce an “acid gun” that would spray sulfuric acid at a target and disfigure or seriously injure them. The video’s narrator, James Morgan, was already on the feds’ radar when a family member told agents earlier that year they were concerned he was “extremely racist” and had “extreme contempt” for law enforcement. In the video, Morgan told viewers that “governments should be afraid of their people… So here’s how you make a device that spews sulfuric acid.”
That’s according to a search warrant and charging documents filed by the Justice Department last month. Since that 2019 tip, the FBI found that Morgan, a Wisconsin resident, posted similar videos on Facebook and YouTube about a variety of weapons, from other types of “acid throwers” to flamethrowers, the government alleged.
The FBI also obtained conversations on Gab.com — a social network associated with the far right — in which Morgan discussed using chlorine gas to any government agents who visited his home, investigators alleged. “If the gun mint comes … We will defeat them without firing a shot,” he wrote, according to the warrant.
The Morgan case should be viewed in the context of an increase in violent domestic terrorist threats, said Austin Doctor, head of counterterrorism research initiatives at the National Counterterrorism Innovation, Technology and Education (NCITE), a Department of Homeland Security Center of Excellence. “We are seeing an explosion of bomb threats linked to political and extremist ideologies,” he said Forbes. “IED [improvised explosive devices] they target a wide range of terrorists. This is not just Al Qaeda. It’s not just the Islamic State. They are also US-based anarchists and white supremacists.” Wisconsin has seen a series of racist incidents in recent months, with References This week the giant red swastika is displayed on the exterior wall of a campus dormitory at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, where Morgan was a student.
The FBI took particular interest in his plans to share his weapons-making skills with the public. For example, on Gab, Morgan announced plans for a company that would build a “cannon-type weapon,” agents said. In that announcement, Morgan wrote: “I am starting a company whose mission is to make artillery accessible to the common man,” the government claimed. On Facebook, meanwhile, he had announced plans to create a militia called the “New American Minutemen,” the warrant detailed, adding that “it looks like we need to dust off our guns and do it again, my fellow Americans.” .
FBI agents interviewed Morgan in December at a McDonald’s where he worked and where he was eating with his girlfriend. According to the government account, Morgan told the FBI that he was no longer an anarchist or a racist, although he “felt that slaves from Africa were brought to America against their will and felt that they still belonged in Africa.” When the government searched Morgan’s trailer, they found improvised grenades, according to the Justice Department’s report on the raid. He was subsequently charged with possession of a destructive device without a license. After his arrest, Morgan’s girlfriend tried to charge and kick the FBI agents, investigators said.
It is unclear why the government chose to arrest Morgan last month, four years after learning of his online activity. The Justice Department did not respond to a request for comment. Morgan has yet to file an appeal. His lawyer declined to comment.
“Our policy is to host all content that is legal in the United States and to remove content that is illegal. What we don’t do is reflexively ban accounts when journalists come in.”
In the months leading up to his arrest, Morgan posted numerous racist posts to a Gab group named after former President Donald Trump, the FBI wrote in its warrant. In one, from May 2023, he used a racist term while describing the killing of a black man, and in another, Morgan wrote that there should be no punishment for killing an illegal immigrant, investigators wrote. Morgan’s account remains live on the site. His Facebook and Instagram profiles, meanwhile, are no longer active, and all YouTube videos listed in the search warrant are no longer visible.
said Gab founder Andrew Torba Forbes that Morgan’s posts cited by the FBI would not be removed. “Our policy is to host all content that is legal in the United States and to remove content that is illegal. What we don’t do is reflexively ban accounts when journalists come in, as journalists have already manufactured all kinds of slanderous lies about the company, so now we’re rather desensitized to them.
“Here, the defendant’s public posts are evidence of an illegal scheme, but the public posts themselves are not actually illegal. We may at a later date choose to investigate this account, but law enforcement appears to have the matter well under control.”
Google said some of Morgan’s YouTube videos had been banned for violating its harmful or dangerous content policies. Meta did not respond to requests for comment.
Morgan’s lawyer recently asked that he be allowed to be released on bail, noting that despite his online activity, he had not committed any acts of violence in the real world. “In the end, Morgan’s views on minorities and the government are egregious, but they do not turn an otherwise released defendant into someone who should be detained,” wrote federal defender Jonathan Greenberg.
The judge disagreed, saying Morgan was dangerous, writing: “Morgan communicates with others through social media and texts about how to make such devices [explosives], and has expressed unfiltered opinions about who should be deployed and why. The fact that Morgan has not yet done so does not outweigh the risk that he might do so now that he has been arrested and while this case is pending.”