The FBI arrested a Texas man who allegedly plotted to blow up an Amazon data center in an attempt to “kill… about 70% of the internet” and bring down “the oligarchy” in power in the U.S.
Seth Aaron Pendley, of Wichita Falls, Texas, was apprehended Thursday after allegedly attempting to obtain an explosive device from an undercover FBI agent in Fort Worth — with the intent to destroy an Amazon Web Services facility in Virginia, according to the Justice Department. According to DOJ officials, Pendley allegedly boasted of participating in the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol attack and wanted to bomb the AWS center because he believed it provided services to the FBI, CIA and other federal agencies.
Pendley, 28, was charged with a malicious attempt to destroy a building with an explosive. If convicted, he faces up to 20 years in federal prison, according to federal officials.
According to the DOJ complaint, the investigation was initiated after a “concerned citizen” contacted the FBI on Jan. 8 about statements posted in online militia-group forum MyMilitia.com by someone (whom federal investigators said they identified as Pendley) about plans to “conduct a little experiment” that result in “death.”
An FBI search of Pendley’s Facebook account revealed that he claimed to have been at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. In private messages, he allegedly told friends that while he did not actually enter the Capitol building, he did reach the “platform,” where he had grabbed a piece of glass from a broken window and interacted with police. He claimed he brought a sawed-off AR rifle to Washington, D.C., but left the weapon in his car during his movement to the Capitol, federal authorities alleged.
In late January, Pendley began using encrypted messaging app Signal to communicate with another confidential FBI source, according to the DOJ. The source told FBI investigators that Pendley allegedly said he planned to use C-4 plastic explosives to blow up AWS’s Virginia facility. The FBI’s confidential source on March 31 connected Pendley to an individual who he claimed to be an explosives supplier (but was in fact an undercover FBI agent). On April 8, Pendley was arrested after receiving what he thought were explosives from the agent but were actually inert devices.
“We are indebted to the concerned citizen who came forward to report the defendant’s alarming online rhetoric. In flagging his posts to the FBI, this individual may have saved the lives of a number of tech workers,” Acting U.S. Attorney Prerak Shah for Northern District of Texas said in a statement. “The Justice Department is determined to apprehend domestic extremists who intend to commit violence, no matter what political sentiment drives them to do so.”
In a statement, Amazon Web Services thanked the FBI for its work in the investigation. “We take the safety and security of our staff and customer data incredibly seriously, and constantly review various vectors for any potential threats,” a spokesperson said. “We will continue to retain this vigilance about our employees and customers.”