A Texas man has pleaded guilty to a plot to blow up an Amazon Web Services (AWS) data center in Ashburn, Virginia, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Texas. The 28-year-old man, an apparent supporter of former president Donald Trump, bragged about attending the January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol and wanted to target the computer systems of the FBI, CIA, and other federal agencies.
Seth Aaron Pendley, from Wichita Falls, Texas, was arrested in April and submitted his guilty plea in federal court on Wednesday. Pendley allegedly discussed his terrorist inclinations at MyMilitia.com, where a tipster spotted his rants and alerted the FBI.
“I’m not a dumbass suicide bomber but even if I only have a handful of fellow patriots I will happily die a young man knowing that I didn’t allow the evils in this world to continue unjustly treating my fellow Americans so disrespectfully,” Pendley wrote at MyMilitia.com under the screen name Dionysus.
The FBI established contact with Pendley in late January using an undercover agent who communicated with the Texas man using the encrypted messaging app Signal.
“The main objective is to fuck up the Amazon servers,” Pendley told an undercover agent, according to the DOJ.
Pendley apparently wanted his Amazon bombing to initiate some kind of reaction from authorities that would force moderates to choose a side in what he believed was a “dictatorship.”
“Hopefully, they let the world know in a weird way by acting too fast that they are in a fuckin’ dictatorship, and then hope like hell some of the people that are on the fence jump off the fence,” Pendley said according to the Dallas Observer.
Pendley shot off his mouth online and to the undercover FBI agent, but it’s not clear he would’ve actually had the capabilities to actually carry out a massive terrorist attack against an Amazon data center had the FBI not provided the tools to do it. Or, at least, the fake tools. An undercover FBI agent not only gave Pendley the fake explosives to carry out the attack, but he also showed Pendley how to use them.
As the DOJ explains:
On April 8, Mr. Pendley again met with the undercover FBI employee to pick up what he believed to be explosive devices. (In actuality, however, the undercover gave Mr. Pendley inert devices.) After the agent showed Mr. Pendley how to arm and detonate the devices, the defendant loaded them into his car. He was then arrested.
A subsequent search of his residence in Wichita Falls turned up an AR-15 receiver with a sawed off barrel, a pistol painted to look like a toy gun, masks, wigs, and notes and flashcards related to the planned attack.
It’s also not clear whether Pendley is a fan of the infamous book The Turner Diaries, but his plot is remarkably similar to a terrorist attack in the racist novel.
“Due in large part to the meticulous work of the FBI’s undercover agents, the Justice Department was able to expose Mr. Pendley’s twisted plot and apprehend the defendant before he was able to inflict any real harm,” Acting U.S. Attorney Prerak Shah said in a statement posted online.
“We may never know how many tech workers’ lives were saved through this operation—and we’re grateful we never had to find out. Bringing to justice domestic extremists remains one of the Department’s top priorities.”
Pendley pleaded guilty to a “malicious attempt to destroy a building with an explosive” and will be sentenced on Oct. 1 by U.S. District Judge Reed C. O’Connor. Pendley faces between five and 20 years in prison.