NEW YORK (CNN) — Two New York state men have been charged in a bizarre plan to develop a mobile X-ray system that would be used from afar to silently kill people that they deemed “undesirable,” federal officials said.
Glendon Scott Crawford, 49, and Eric J. Feight, 54, were arrested Tuesday after an undercover operation by the Albany FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force. They were charged with conspiracy to provide material support for use of a weapon of mass destruction, according to the criminal complaint.
Crawford and Feight were developing a device “intended to be mobile … designed to turn on remotely from some distance away” that would emit “some dangerous levels of X-ray radiation,” according to John Duncan, executive assistant U.S. attorney for the Northern District of New York.
Individuals who might have been “subject to this X-ray radiation, would not immediately know that they had been harmed until some days later when they would either be injured, or it could result in their death,” he said.
The suspects intended to use the device to harm and kill “enemies of Israel,” a Department of Justice news release said.
Undercover agents allegedly heard Crawford, a self-described member of the Ku Klux Klan, state that he “harbors animosity towards individuals and groups that he perceives as hostile to the interests of the United States” and refers to them as “medical waste.” He specifically identified Muslims as belonging to this group, according to the criminal complaint.
Crawford and Feight appeared in court Wednesday. If convicted, each faces up to 15 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and five years of supervised release.
Feight appeared with a lawyer, while the judge appointed one for Crawford. CNN attempted to contact the attorneys late Wednesday but was unsuccessful.
Though the device had extraordinary potential for harm, the public was not in danger because of the early involvement of authorities, Duncan said.
Andrew St. John, a friend of Feight’s for 30 years, called Feight a “pacifist” and a “smart guy.”
Crawford, a manufacturing employee at a GE plant in Schenectady, New York, worked with Feight, an employee at a nearby automotive company often contracted by GE, according to the investigation report. The automotive company did not comment.
Since the arrest, Crawford has been suspended from the company, which is fully cooperating with authorities, according to GE spokesman Shaun Wiggins.
“We have no reason to believe the act took place on GE property, nor is there any information indicating that our employees’ safety was ever compromised,” Wiggins said.
According to the criminal complaint, Crawford repeatedly used another GE employee as a proxy “to covertly obtain the parts list for the remote initiation system” among other things, at times meeting in GE’s parking lot.
Wiggins told CNN on Wednesday that he could not speak to those allegations.
Crawford contacted two Jewish organizations in April 2012 for funding assistance of an “off the shelf” technology that could be used by Israel to defeat its enemies by killing them while the slept, according to the criminal complaint.
A lengthy federal investigation then began. Agents met with Crawford and Feight, posing as both potential middle men and customers for this “radiation emitting device,” according to the criminal complaint.
Crawford said the lethal machine would be capable of emitting 8 to 10 grays — a unit of radiation dose — toward the target Muslim community, according to the criminal complaint. The radiation-emitting device would be “Hiroshima on a light switch,” Crawford said, and that “everything with respiration would be dead by the morning.”
Feight was recruited by Crawford to develop a “remote initiation device” powered “by a plug-in cigarette lighter electrical source,” according to an affidavit by FBI Special Agent Geoffrey Kent. The system would have three parts — the X-ray, a power source and a remote initiation device — and it would fit into a truck, the complaint said.
In October, Crawford traveled to North Carolina to meet with a high-ranking KKK official and two businessmen affiliates, all working with the FBI, to discuss his scheme and raise money, according to the complaint.
Feight was introduced to undercover FBI agents in November and called the design of the lethal machine “incredibly smart” because it gives “a lot more isolation from the … issue,” according to a recorded dialogue in the criminal complaint.
Feight seemingly explains his rationale for involvement in the same meeting. “When I started seeing how things, the direction things were going … after the elections,” Feight said, “You know, the only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.”
Crawford was apparently concerned about not surviving a surgical procedure he underwent during the development of the machine.
According to the criminal complaint, Crawford made arrangements with colleagues to contact his wife to retrieve his computer and phone, containing important data, so they could move on with the operation. In an e-mail to an unidentified person, Crawford said: “if something happens I don’t want this to go away, it can serve our people well.”
CNN’s Susan Candiotti, Dana Garrett and Allison Malloy contributed to this report.