FBI: Texas Man Planned to Blow Up Ashburn Data Center

A Wichita Falls, TX, man who allegedly plotted to blow up an Ashburn data center has been charged with a malicious attempt to destroy a building with an explosive.

According to U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Texas, Seth Aaron Pendley, 28, was arrested on Thursday after allegedly attempting to obtain an explosive device from an undercover FBI employee in Fort Worth.

According to the complaint, the investigation began after a citizen contacted the FBI on Jan. 8 about alarming statements posted on MyMilitia.com, a forum dedicated to organizing militia groups. A user who went by the screenname “Dionysus” stated he was planning to “conduct a little experiment,” that he said would “draw a lot of heat” and could be “dangerous.” When another user asked what outcome Dionysus desired, he responded, “death.”

A confidential source provided the FBI with the user’s email address, which was registered to Pendley. A subsequent search of the defendant’s Facebook account showed that he had boasted about being at the U.S. Capitol during the Jan. 6 riot.In private messages, he allegedly told friends that although he did not actually enter the Capitol building, he did reach the “platform,” where he swiped a piece of glass from a broken window and interacted with police. He said he brought a sawed-off AR rifle to D.C., but left the weapon in his car during his movement to the Capitol.

In late January, Pendley began using Signal, an encrypted messaging app, to communicate with another confidential source. The source told the FBI that Pendley stated he planned to use C-4 plastic explosives to attack Amazon Web Services data centersin an attempt to “kill of about 70% of the internet.”

On March 31, the confidential source introduced Pendley to an undercover FBI employee posing as an explosives supplier.

In recorded conversations, Pendley allegedly told the undercover he planned to attack web servers that he believed provided services to the FBI, CIA, and other federal agencies. He said he hoped to bring down “the oligarchy” currently in power in the United States.

On April 8, Pendley again met with the undercover FBI employee to pick up what he believed to be explosive devices, but actually were inert devices. After the agent showed Pendley how to arm and detonate the devices, the defendant loaded them into his car. He was then arrested by FBI agents.

If convicted, he faces up to 20 years in federal prison.

“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,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Prerak Shah. “We are also incredibly proud of our FBI partners, who ensured that the defendant was apprehended with an inert explosive devicebeforehe could inflict real harm. The Justice Department is determined to apprehend domestic extremists who intend to commit violence, no matter what political sentiment drives them to do so.”

8 thoughts on “FBI: Texas Man Planned to Blow Up Ashburn Data Center

  • 2021-04-10 at 11:48 am

    Ever since the clueless Loudoun County Economic Development people were “bragging” about all the data centers locating in the county, I have said, “this is not a good idea!” It puts a target on our backs because we keep hearing that 70% of the world’s internet traffic passes through LoCo. That was never a good idea because terrorists also know this fact. And now, sadly, it has come to fruition! This won’t be the first or last time this happens! All the county econ folks see is green dollars and now we are the ones looking over our shoulders! There is no way to protect all these data centers that are moving closer and closer to residential neighborhoods. Foolish plan to attract more data centers, what are you trying to accomplish, a 9/11 in our backyard?

    • 2021-04-12 at 3:34 am

      I’m not sure the 70% number was ever a fact. Maybe very early on when Ashburn was one of the first interconnection points, but definitely not anymore.

      Redundancy is now baked in and data is replicated in many different places. Nowadays, very few companies are shortsighted enough to keep all their eggs in the same basket. AWS offers cross region replication to automatically duplicate data all over the map.

      Blowing up a data center wouldn’t even make a blip on the internet. An OVH data center burned to the ground in France less than a month ago and that made no difference.

      • 2021-04-12 at 8:34 pm

        Agreed. Most businesses have their business continuity and data integrity plans all set up so that an outage from one data center won’t harm their network/business. There are small businesses who would suffer if a data center was taken out, but those businesses are aware of the risks of running a single threaded network. There were some businesses who were greatly affected by the OVH fire in France, but companies (like mine) rallied to nail up new circuits to get them back up very quickly.

  • 2021-04-11 at 12:43 pm

    Shouldn’t he be sent to the prison at Guantanamo Bay without a trial and held for as long as needed (ie life)?

  • 2021-04-12 at 11:34 am

    On the bright side, the prosecution of this terrorist won’t be handled by our local CA.

  • 2021-04-12 at 11:58 am

    “Data is the new oil.” Data centers make Loudoun a high-value target. I’m certain adversarial countries (Russia, China) now have Loudoun in their crosshairs when previously they did not. I don’t think a 1-off domestic terrorist can do any damage (did the guy ever see how big a data center is? how did he think he could blow one up?) but, in a hot war, we would get toasted.

    • 2021-04-12 at 2:49 pm

      The entire story is an exercise in dumb. This guy was so dumb, he thought he could make an impact. As described so accurately above, it doesn’t work that way.
      In any event, we’ve been toast for a long time Mr. D. Between the spectacular runways of Dulles and our Mt. Weather, the commies have had us laid on for special love for years.

  • 2021-04-13 at 1:31 pm

    Oh yeah, I forgot about Mt. Weather sticking out the top of the mountain. Even as a target, a superpower with decent aim wouldn’t effect too many other people around it, since there aren’t many people along the ridge. To take out Loudoun’s data and fiber centers though, you’d have to wipe out eastern Loudoun and there would be a lot of collateral damage.

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