FBI arrest man over alleged Amazon centre bomb plot

US authorities have arrested a man who allegedly plotted to bomb an Amazon data centre, which he believed would “kill off about 70% of the internet”. 

Seth Aaron Pendley, 28, was arrested after receiving a dud explosive device from an undercover FBI agent, and was charged with a malicious attempt to destroy a building with an explosive,

He came to the FBI’s attention after somebody reported his online posts. 

If convicted, Mr Pendley could face up to 20 years in prison.

According to investigators, Mr Pendley’s main goal was to damage Amazon’s web server network. 

He believed that there were 24 buildings that “run 70% of the internet”, including services used by the CIA and FBI, according to a conversation detailed in the criminal complaint against him.

Damaging them would frustrate the “oligarchy” – or small group of elites – in power in the United States, he believed.

Amazon Web Services (AWS) does play a hugely important role in the modern internet, hosting and processing the information behind many popular online services and websites. 

Outages caused by a problem at one centre tend to knock services offline for several hours at most, and often for a limited number of people or for specific sites.

For example, in 2017, a major fault at one US AWS centre knocked sites such as Quora and Trello offline for several hours. And even the total loss by fire of a European data centre earlier this year – which disrupted an estimated 3.6 million websites including government portals across Europe – went unnoticed by many internet users.

From Capitol Riot to C-4

Mr Pendley attended the Capitol Riots of 6 January, investigators found, having driven from Texas to Washington DC. Investigators said he told friends he had brought an assault rifle with him, but left it in his car – and also that although he reached the windows of the Capitol building, he did not enter it.

Two days after that event, a “concerned citizen” reported Mr Pendley’s posts on a militia website – where he went by the name of Dionysus, the Greek god of wine – to the FBI.

“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 US attorney Prerak Shah said in a statement.h

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The posts from “Dionysus” that sparked concern spoke of his desire to “conduct a little experiment,” which he said would be dangerous and “draw a lot of heat” and could be “dangerous”. Asked by another user what the result would be, he responded, “death”, according to the court documents.

The FBI managed to uncover Dionysus’s email address, and link that to his Facebook account and real-world identity.

In late January, Mr Pendley began using the encrypted messaging app Signal to detail his plans to bomb an AWS facility – but the recipient of those messages was a confidential FBI informant, investigators said. 

Over the course of February, Mr Pendley shared his plans, including the type of explosive he sought, potential targets, and maps. 

On 31 March, the confidant introduced Pendley to a supposed explosives supplier – who was actually an undercover member of the FBI. His plan at this point, according to a recorded conversation, was to attack three Amazon buildings clustered close together.

On 8 April, at the handover of the supposed explosives, the undercover FBI employee showed Mr Pendley boxes he claimed were C-4 weapons-grade explosives, and showed him how to arm and detonate them. After Mr Pendley took the devices and placed them in his car, he was arrested by the FBI.

Mr Pendley made an initial court appearance on Friday, and remains in custody.

Source: BBC

Man holding Confederate flag in Capitol arrested: FBI arrests so far

How many arrests so far?

FBI wanted poster seen in DC

The suspects in the Capitol riot are a varied group: they include a West Virginia lawmaker, a Florida firefighter and a left-wing activist from Utah.

It’s been over a week since the Capitol Hill riot – how much progress has law enforcement made bringing the perpetrators to justice?

More than 200 case files have been opened. According to the FBI, more than 100 arrests have been made in connection with the Capitol siege.

Michael Sherwin, US Attorney for the District of Columbia, said officials are looking at “significant felony cases” tied to sedition and conspiracy.

A man allegedly seen in viral photos carrying a Confederate flag in the Capitol during the riots was charged on Thursday.

Authorities named him as Kevin Seefried and he appeared with his son, Hunter, in a Wilmington, Delaware court.

They jointly face charges including entering a restricted building, violent entry and disorderly conduct.

Man seen carrying a Confederate flag in the US Capitol

According to court documents cited by the Delaware News Journal, the duo got into the Capitol building through a window that Hunter helped break, before they “verbally confronted” US Capitol Police officers and the son took a selfie.

Mr Seefried Sr told investigators he normally flies the battle flag outside his home in Laurel, Delaware.

The Confederate flag is widely seen as a racist symbol as it was the banner of the slaveholding southern states that lost the US Civil War (1861-65).

Meanwhile, a left-wing activist has been arrested after tweeting video of himself inside the US Capitol as protesters breached security.

John Sullivan, 26, was charged with entering a restricted building and violent entry or disorderly conduct. He claimed in media interviews that he was just “documenting” the rampage, though the affidavit notes he has no press credentials.

John Sullivan
image captionJohn Sullivan said he was at the Capitol to “document” events

The court document says Mr Sullivan can be heard saying in a video he filmed of the Capitol riot: “Let’s burn this shit down.” He has identified himself in media interviews as a Black Lives Matter supporter, but rejects any association with antifa, a loosely affiliated group of far-left protesters.

Following the death of George Floyd last year, Mr Sullivan founded an activist group called Insurgence USA that advocates for racial justice. He was charged in July 2020 with felony riot and criminal mischief over civil unrest in Provo, Utah.

On Sunday, the Department of Justice announced the arrests of two men who were allegedly pictured bringing plastic restraints into the Capitol.

Man carrying plastic restraints in US senate

Authorities say Eric Gavelek Munchel is the individual seen carrying a number of plastic zip ties inside the Senate chamber. He was detained in Tennessee. Larry Rendell Brock, who is accused of entering the Capitol with a white flex cuff – a restraining device used by law enforcement – was arrested in Texas.

His ex-wife turned him in. “When I saw this was happening, I was afraid he would be there,” she told investigators, describing how she felt when she heard about the riots. Then she saw the images, and she recognised her former husband: “It is such a good picture of him.”

So far, neither has been accused of plotting to use the restraints, but face disorderly conduct and violent entry charges.

The FBI is still seeking dozens more individuals and has asked the public to help identify and locate them.

Officials have named the dangling rioter above as Josiah Colt of Idaho
image captionOfficials have named the dangling rioter above as Josiah Colt of Idaho

What are law enforcement saying about progress?

Steven D’Antuono, the head of the FBI’s Washington field office, told reporters this week that they have been inundated with information and tips from the public.

As of Thursday, the Justice Department has received about 140,000 videos and photos.

Officials said they are considering filing serious charges of seditious activity against some individuals who were involved in the siege on the Capitol.

According to federal criminal code, seditious conspiracy means an effort to conspire to overthrow the US government. The punishment is severe: up to 20 years in prison.

Some of the rioters were planning for a harrowing end to their attack on the Capitol: they intended “to capture and assassinate elected officials”, according to federal prosecutors.

Prosecutors provided this brief to a judge on Thursday in order to underscore the danger that the individuals posed to others and argue for their detention.

US Attorneys in Ohio, Minnesota, Kentucky and other states have also pledged to prosecute anyone who travelled from their regions to take part in the riot.

New details about how some of the rioters, or organisers of the assault, may have financed their operations have also been revealed by a cryptocurrency data firm, Chainalysis. According to the firm, a number of far-right activists received hundreds of thousands of dollars in payments in Bitcoin before the assault on the Capitol.

Who are the key people charged so far?

Analysis by BBC Monitoring and BBC Reality Check

Robert Keith Packer

One of the most striking images from that day showed a man wearing a hoodie with the words: “Camp Auschwitz”. Auschwitz was a Nazi extermination camp where more than a million people, mostly Jews, were murdered during World War Two by Germany.

For many, the slogan showed some of the dark forces behind the protests.

Mr Packer was arrested in Virginia and has been charged with trespassing in a federal building and “violent entry and disorderly conduct” on Capitol grounds.

Mr Packer wore an outfit that appeared to pay homage to the Holocaust
image captionMr Packer wore an outfit that appeared to pay homage to the Holocaust

Jake Angeli – ‘Q Shaman’

Jacob Anthony Chansley, known as Jake Angeli or as he describes himself the “Q Shaman”, is a well-known follower of the unfounded QAnon conspiracy theory who lives in Glendale, Arizona.

QAnon supporters believe President Trump and a secret military intelligence team are battling a deep state cabal of Satan-worshipping paedophiles in the Democratic Party, media, business and Hollywood.

Known for appearing with a painted face, fur hat and horns while carrying a “Q sent me” banner in public, Mr Chansley, 33, has been charged with violent entry and disorderly conduct after appearing in multiple images inside the halls of Congress and the Senate chamber.

According to a local ABC news station, a judge has agreed that Mr Chansley should be “provided food in line with a shaman’s strict organic diet” after he refused to eat the meals provided at the jailhouse.

Through his attorney, the defendant has requested a pardon from Mr Trump, citing “the peaceful and compliant fashion in which Mr Chansley comported himself” during the riot.

A man in horns and a fur hat, alleged to be Jake Angeli, pictured inside the Senate chamber
image captionJacob Anthony Chansley is alleged to be the man seen wearing horns and a fur hat in photographs, including this from inside the Senate chamber

In videos posted to his social media accounts, he shouts about child-trafficking in front of government buildings or inside shopping malls, and attends pro-Trump or QAnon-linked “save our children” rallies.

Like many of his fellow QAnon followers, Mr Chansley says he believes Covid-19 is a hoax.

President Trump – viewed as a hero by the movement – has stopped short of endorsing the conspiracy theory but has described QAnon activists as “people who love our country.”

Officer Eugene Goodman confronts a pro-Trump rioter
image captionOfficer Eugene Goodman confronts Doug Jensen

Doug Jensen – QAnon 

Doug Jensen, 41, from Des Moines, Iowa, appeared in one of the most widely shared videos of the riots showing a lone African American officer holding back the mob.

Mr Jensen has been arrested and faces five federal charges, including violent entry and disorderly conduct and obstructing a law enforcement officer during a civil disorder.

In it, he can be seen chasing a police officer up a flight of stairs inside the Capitol wearing a shirt with the QAnon slogan “trust the plan”.

Mr Jensen later identified himself on his Twitter account, tweeting: “You like my shirt?” and “Me…” under images of him inside the Capitol shared by fellow QAnon supporters.

On his Twitter, Mr Jensen regularly expresses support for President Trump, engages with well-known QAnon accounts, and tweets QAnon phrases such as WWG1WGA – short for “where we go one we go all” – a rallying cry for the conspiracy’s adherents.

Nick Ochs – Proud boys

Nick Ochs was arrested at an airport in Honolulu, Hawaii, by the FBI, as he returned home from Washington DC.

He’s accused of unlawful entry of restricted buildings or grounds, after he posted a picture smoking a cigarette inside the Capitol building, tweeting: “Hello from the Capital lol”.

Mr Ochs describes himself as a “Proud Boy Elder from Hawaii”. The Proud Boys is an anti-immigrant and all male far-right group founded in 2016.

President Trump addressed this group specifically in the first presidential debate. In response to a question about white supremacists and militias he said: “Proud Boys, stand back and stand by.”

Richard Barnett

Richard Barnett is the man pictured with his feet on a desk in Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office. He was also pictured outside the Capitol with a personalised envelope he took from her office.

He’s been arrested for unlawful entry, disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds, and theft of public money, property, or records.

Richard Barnett, sits with one boot disrespectfully on a desk that is at the very centre of power in Congress.

Mr Barnett is 60 years old and from Arkansas.

Local media reports say Mr Barnett is involved in a group that supports gun rights, and that he was interviewed at a “Stop the Steal” rally following the presidential election – the movement that supports President Trump’s unsubstantiated claims of election fraud.

Derrick Evans

Less than a month after he was sworn in as a Republican delegate in the West Virginia state legislature, Mr Evans filmed himself pushing through the crowd as he stormed the Capitol wearing what appears to be a motorcycle helmet.

“We’re going in,” he said in the now-deleted Facebook live stream. “We did it! Derrick Evans is in the Capitol!” he yelled, adding, “patriots inside, baby!”

His participation in the riot led lawmakers in his home state to consider cutting off his access to the West Virginia statehouse.

But within a week of the riot, he had resigned. He is facing federal charges of trespassing and disorderly conduct.

Other arrests include:

  • Nicholas Rodean – The Maryland man was fired from his job after he was seen wearing his work ID badge to the riot
  • Aaron Mostofsky – The 34-year-old son of a Brooklyn judge was freed after posting a $100,000 bail. Pictures from the riot showed him wearing furs and a police tactical vest that he is accused of stealing
  • William Pepe – The New York City transit worker was suspended without pay after officials said he called out sick from work to travel to Washington and participate in the riot
  • Andrew Williams – The Florida firefighter was arrested after a picture online showed him wearing a Trump hat and pointing to a placard bearing the name of Democrat Nancy Pelosi
  • Josiah Colt – The Idaho man was pictured dangling from a Senate balcony after rioters stormed the chamber and is facing charges of disorderly conduct and trespassing
  • Adam Johnson, 36 of Florida, was photographed holding up the House speaker’s lectern and smiling during the Capitol siege. He has been charged with theft of government property and the lectern has since been returned
  • Jenny Cudd, the owner of a flower shop once ran for mayor in Midland, Texas. According to officials, she posted a video where she said: “We did break down Nancy Pelosi’s office door”
  • Klete Keller, a two-time Olympic gold medallist swimmer, has been charged after online sleuths spotted that he wore his Olympic jacket to the Capitol
  • Robert Sandford, a recently retired firefighter from a Philadelphia suburb, is accused of assaulting officers by throwing a fire extinguisher at them
  • Jacob Fracker and Thomas Robertson, off-duty police officers from Rocky Mount, Virginia, are accused of trespassing and violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds

FBI found Ghislaine Maxwell using mobile-phone data

Jeffrey Epstein associate Ghislaine Maxwell was tracked down by the FBI using data from her mobile phone, a court document reveals.

Ms Maxwell was arrested on 2 July during a raid on her secluded mansion in New Hampshire.

She was located using global-positioning-system (GPS) data from a phone that had made calls to her lawyer, sister and husband.

Ms Maxwell has pleaded not guilty to charges of trafficking minors.

Epstein died in a prison cell, in August 2019, awaiting trial on sex-trafficking charges, more than a decade after he was convicted for soliciting prostitution from a minor. Ghislaine Maxwell “helped exploit girls as young as 14 years old”

The document, first reported by the Daily Beast, forms part of a search-warrant application, to find and arrest Ms Maxwell, who had a relationship with Epstein in the 1990s.

It reveals how US authorities obtained a warrant to grant access to GPS and historic location data on the phone, registered under the name “G Max”.

The FBI then obtained a further warrant to use a “stingray” device to send and receive signals from nearby phones.

The size of a briefcase, the technology helps to give a more accurate location of a phone and identifying information.

But the method is controversial as it can also gather information about the phones of bystanders nearby.

“The obvious concern is that the phones of those not intended to be targeted could be located,” Prof Alan Woodward, from the University of Surrey, said. “What happens to that data is unclear. However, presumably as you need to take a few measurements in order to locate a phone, you shouldn’t need to retain data on a phone that is not being targeted.”

How often these devices are used by law enforcement is also unclear, he added.

Aerial view of the property where Ghislaine Maxwell was arrested by the FBI is seen in Bradford
image captionFBI agents used mobile-phone data to trace Ghislaine Maxwell to her mansion in Bradford, New Hampshire

Ms Maxwell has twice been denied bail on charges of procuring under-age girls for Epstein between 1994 and 1997.

Her trial is due to begin in July.

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Epstein sex-trafficking case: Timeline

2005: One of Jeffrey Epstein’s alleged victims, aged 14, reports him to the police in Palm Beach

2006: Epstein is charged with unlawful sex acts with a minor

2007: A plea deal is struck – instead of facing federal sex-trafficking charges, Epstein pleads guilty to two charges of soliciting prostitution, including with a minor

2008: Epstein gets an 18-month sentence following the plea deal

November 2018: The Miami Herald publishes an explosive investigation into Epstein, the plea deal, and the dozens of women alleging abuse

July 2019: Epstein is arrested again, accused of sex trafficking of under-age girls over a number of years

August 2019: Epstein is found dead in his prison cell while awaiting trial

2 July 2020: Ghislaine Maxwell is arrested by the FBI at her New Hampshire home

14 July 2020: Ms Maxwell pleads not guilty to charges of trafficking minors for Epstein and is denied bail