Wichita Falls Militia Supporter Pleads Guilty to Plot to Blow Up Amazon Data Center

A Texas-based militia supporter planned to detonate explosives  Amazon data centers in Virginia, court documents say
A Texas-based militia supporter planned to detonate explosives Amazon data centers in Virginia, court documents say Leonard J. DeFrancisci, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Seth Aaron Pendley wanted fellow militia supporters to know how dedicated he was. According to court documents, the 28-year-old Wichita Falls resident took the far-right forum and let them know he had traveled to D.C. on Jan. 6 to take part in the U.S. Capitol riot.

Someone who spotted the posts passed screenshots to the FBI, and it wasn’t long before the feds uncovered a more disturbing plan Pendley hoped to carry out. He intended to purchase C4 explosive, make the journey to Virginia and blow up Amazon data centers.

This week, Pendley entered a guilty plea to attempting to destroy with an explosive a building used in interstate commerce, a charge that could land him behind bars for between five and 20 years. Pendley's attorney couldn't be reached for comment.

The attack, he hoped, would “kill off about 70% of the internet,” Pendley told a confidential federal informant on Signal, an encrypted messaging app. He had sketched maps, researched Amazon data centers and identified a target.

“The main objective is to fuck up the Amazon servers,” he explained, court documents say. Pendley went on to express his hope that “the oligarchy” would react to the bombing so harshly that Americans would rise up against the “dictatorship.”

When the source offered to help the militia supporter get his hands on C4, Pendley replied, “Fuck yeah.”

Under the impression he was meeting a seller prepared to give him C4, Pendley unknowingly met an undercover FBI agent in Fort Worth on April 8. The agent demonstrated how to arm and detonate the explosives, Pendley loaded them into his car and then federal agents swooped in and arrested him.

When authorities searched his home later, they found an AR-15 receiver with a sawed-off barrel, a pistol painted to appear like a toy gun and a trove of items he planned to use in the foiled attack: masks, wigs, notes and flashcards, for instance.

"The main objective is to fuck up the Amazon servers." - Seth Aaron Pendley

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“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 written statement.

“We may never know how many tech workers’ lives were saved through this operation – and we’re grateful we never had to find out,” Shah said. “Bringing to justice domestic extremists remains one of the Department’s top priorities.”

In the statement, Matthew DeSarno, the FBI special agent in charge at the Dallas field office, said Pendley wanted to “cause destruction with an explosive,” a plot federal investigators foiled by devising a “strategy to disrupt the threat” and keep “the public safe from harm.”

Pendley’s sentencing hearing has been set for Oct. 1 before U.S. District Judge Reed C. O’Connor, according to the U.S. Department of Justice’s North Texas office.
In recent months, the FBI, state law enforcement and local police departments around Texas have arrested several people accused of attempting to carry out large-scale attacks.

Last week, the Kerr County Sheriff’s Department arrested Coleman Thomas Blevins, a 28-year-old Kerrville resident who's accused of plotting to carry out a mass shooting at a Walmart. He’s currently being held in the Kerr County Jail on a $250,000 bond.

When police searched his home, they found firearms, neo-Nazi literature, Confederate flags and Islamist propaganda, among other items, the Kerr County Sherriff's Department said in a Facebook post.

Last month, Christian Michael Mackey, a self-described "radical Jew slayer," pleaded guilty to a federal gun charge. Mackey, who was arrested in February, belonged to a now-defunct neo-Nazi group known as Iron Youth. 
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Patrick Strickland is the news editor at the Dallas Observer. He's a former senior reporter at Al Jazeera English and has reported for the New York Review of Books, The Guardian, Politico EU and The New Republic, among others.