Supposedly, a far-right extremist intends to blow up Amazon data centers
In days after the January 6 riots on Capitol Hill, a man gave a disturbing note on the MyMilitia.com message board. “I’m not a suicidal suicide bomber,” Dionysus posted under the handle. But “a young man who would die happy, knowing that I did not accept the evils of this world, would continue to treat my American friends in an unjust manner.” In the following months, prosecutors said the man, whose real name was Seth Pendley, channeled his anger to Amazon, creating a plot to destroy the Amazon Web Services data center in North Virginia with C-4 plastic explosives.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation arrested 28-year-old Pendley on Thursday; court documents say he confessed to correcting the plan at the time of his arrest. The case provides another troubling revelation as to how the far-right rhetoric has turned increasingly harsh into real-world threats. How did Dionysus want to end his “little experiment,” asked another member of MyMilitia.com? “Death.”
Pendley’s messages came from a time when there was intense scrutiny from the Amazon far right. The company announced on Jan. 9 that it would cut ties Speak, a “free expression” social network that became a haven for harassment and extremism and took a large number of participants in the January 6 attack. “It looks like war,” a member of Parler wrote in a message has seen Buzzfeed News editor John Paczkowski. “It would be a shame for someone with explosives training to visit some AWS data centers – the locations of which have public knowledge.”
Two days later, Insider reported that an AWS executive sent a note to employees asking for custody as a result of the Parler ban. “If you see something, say something; it’s not a situation or concern that is too small or insignificant,” wrote Chris Vonderhaar, AWS VP Infrastructure.
In public and private messages online, court documents say Pendley said he was at the Capitol on Jan. 6 but did not enter the building. He appeared disappointed because his protesters were not more aggressive. “I feel like we all came in with the intention of doing very little,” Dioniso wrote on MyMilitia.com. “How much did you expect us to do when we all inadvertently go unarmed.”
The posts on MyMilitia.com were enough to make someone resign from the FBI; investigators gained access to Pendley’s Facebook messages through a search warrant, and began physical surveillance of his home in Wichita Falls, Texas. “We are indebted to the concerned citizen who came to denounce the defendant’s disturbing online rhetoric,” U.S. prosecutor Shah Prera said in a statement. “Maybe putting the FBI on his charges may have saved the lives of some tech people.”
In late January, he allegedly began communicating with the Pendley Association about his intentions to attack AWS through the encrypted Signal Messaging app. “If I had cancer or something, I would put a bomb in those servers, hehe,” Pendley wrote on Feb. 19, according to the criminal complaint. In the end, he expected to “kill about 70 percent of the Internet.” (AWS has more than 30 percent of the global cloud market share.) What Pendley didn’t realize was that the person who was sending him the messages was an FBI informant.
The plot continued from there, according to court documents. On Feb. 22, Pendley said he ordered a topographic map of Virginia, which includes several AWS data centers. The following month, FBI agents saw Pendley paint a black silver Pontiac as part of a strategy to hide his identity in the attack.
On March 31, Pendley met face-to-face with an associate and an undercover FBI agent as a supplier of explosives. There, Pendley explained his plan to bomb the AWS data center in North Virginia, which he believed provided services to the CIA, FBI and other federal government agencies. The prosecution says it intended to manufacture special boxes that would channel the force of the explosions.