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Man Charged in Model Airplane Plot To Bomb Pentagon 515

garymortimer writes "A 26-year-old Massachusetts man with a physics degree was arrested and charged Wednesday with plotting an attack on the Pentagon and the U.S. Capitol with remote-controlled model aircraft, authorities said. Rezwan Ferdaus, a U.S. citizen from Ashland, Massachusetts, planned to use model aircraft filled with C-4 plastic explosives. As a result of an undercover FBI investigation, Ferdaus, who has a physics degree from Northeastern University in Boston, was charged with attempting to provide material support and resources to al Qaeda for attacks on U.S. soldiers overseas. His federal public defender couldn't be reached immediately for comment."
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Man Charged in Model Airplane Plot To Bomb Pentagon

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  • God dammit (Score:5, Funny)

    by Dyinobal ( 1427207 ) on Wednesday September 28, 2011 @08:19PM (#37547866)
    Well shit does this mean I have to get groped before using my RC airplanes? I hope they are willing to at least give me a happy ending if so. I'm tired of them being teases.
    • by Weezul ( 52464 ) on Wednesday September 28, 2011 @09:20PM (#37548418)

      As I understand it, all Islamic terrorists arrested inside the U.S. were put up to it by the FBI [].

      You see, the FBI prefers to train it's own terrorists because doing so is far easier than catching the real deal, who might be dangerous, or hard to find, or worse not exist at all. Don't you feel safer with the FBI making sure there are terrorists to catch?

    • Well shit does this mean I have to get groped before using my RC airplanes?

      No, it means they are not safe for you to use... you know... like many modern firearms...
      Feel free to enjoy the rubber band powered balsa wood planes instead.

      • Re:God dammit (Score:4, Insightful)

        by sg_oneill ( 159032 ) on Wednesday September 28, 2011 @10:13PM (#37548748)

        Am I the only one who reads this and is reminded of the scene in 4 lions with the terrorist who wants to strap dynamite to pigeons to blow up , uh, jews or something.

        Pretty sure if a 757 can't destroy the pentagon, sure as hell a toy airplane with a stick of dynamite taped to it sure as hell wouldn't.

        At some point we're going to realise that most western terrorists are not Bin laden's but angry clowns.

    • No. It means they will now be banned along with model rockets. With technology and material so damn cheap, I whole wholeheartedly expect the federal gov to drop the ban-hammer all sorts of potential equipment used for this kind of warfare. At the very least, there will be official purchase registries combined with fuzzy logic used to tip off the FBI.

  • by MrDoh! ( 71235 )

    Didn't he get the memo about how SUICIDE bombers work?
    And a remote control plane? Great, now the TSA's going to be doing strip searches in toy stores. (always figured groping kids was their main plan all along, this just helps them achieve it faster).

    • Re:eh? (Score:5, Funny)

      by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Wednesday September 28, 2011 @09:10PM (#37548334) Journal
      A clear triumph for America's powers of cultural assimilation! While our barbaric foreign enemies carry out suicide attacks, our beneficent influence induces the local ones to attempt a weaponized UAV program! Heck, one more generation and they'll probably be saving the bombs for use against Planned Parenthood, and exercising their second amendment rights against other targets, just like the good, god-fearing folks at home who are sensible enough to fear the right god...
  • by TWX ( 665546 ) on Wednesday September 28, 2011 @08:22PM (#37547892)

    I have to wonder the nature of the situation when the charges are for, "attempting to provide material support", as in, was he in contact with anyone who was actually planning to bomb anything, or was everyone he interacted with affiliated with law enforcement, and they took a disgruntled man and groomed him into the position they're not charging him for.

    We'll probably never really know, which is why I really dislike conspiracy type charges when there aren't several people charged.

    • by Flyskippy1 ( 625890 ) on Wednesday September 28, 2011 @09:20PM (#37548420) Homepage

      Yep, another case of the FBI finding a 'terrorist' by finding a mildly disgruntled guy, giving him fake weapons and explosives, suggesting a terrorist plot to him, and then 'catching' him when he did exactly what they wanted him to do.

      Like these guys: []

      And these guys: []

    • by kylemonger ( 686302 ) on Wednesday September 28, 2011 @09:23PM (#37548446)
      When the FBI is involved, it always turns out to be some disgruntled sad sack or sad sacks who they talk into some terrorist act. There is an endless supply of such broken-down, weak-willed people, which gives the FBI a steady stream of good PR to keep their budget fat. I'll hold my applause until they catch someone smarter than I am.
  • by Peter Simpson ( 112887 ) on Wednesday September 28, 2011 @08:24PM (#37547904)
    The Pentagon is *really* big. So is the Capitol. Unless the remote controlled airplane was a full size Cessna, you couldn't carry enough C4 to do any real damage to either of them. The FBI spokesperson called him an aspiring terrorist. With the emphasis on ASS, I'd say.
    • by Dunbal ( 464142 ) *
      Apart from the damage to moral of having an explosive device go off within a secure perimeter, and the economic/logistical damage of having an area sealed off for a time for the ensuing investigation and repairs, you mean? You really don't get asymmetric warfare, do you? It's not all about the body-count.
      • by Dunbal ( 464142 ) *
        * morale, sheesh.
      • I don't think it really counts as asymmetric warfare when it's just one guy. That's just somebody being dumb. It's not really a war when there's not even a way to define one of the sides as winning, is it?

      • by hoggoth ( 414195 )

        Yes, C4 going off near the Pentagon would cause a frenzy of authoritarian crackdowns, civil rights removals and economic damage. It would be quite successful in its goals.

        • I'm surprised the plan didn't succeed then. I guess the FBI did its job a little too well, since there's doubtless other parts of the government that would love to have an excuse to have authoritarian crackdowns and civil rights removals.

        • Yes, C4 going off near the Pentagon would cause a frenzy of authoritarian crackdowns, civil rights removals and economic damage. It would be quite successful in its goals.

          And most importantly: I-395 would turn into a parking lot. I'd never get home from work.

          • No worries, they'll just build the next road over the top of you. Just think of all the cement mixing jobs you'll help create!
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        These things frequently end up being about hypothetical explosives that the FBI contact is telling the suspect they can obtain.

    • by LWATCDR ( 28044 ) on Wednesday September 28, 2011 @09:09PM (#37548322) Homepage Journal

      Well some remote controlled airplanes are actually pretty big. Here is one with a 12' wing span. It could lift say 7 kg with no real problem. [] Maybe cut that to 4kg and use electric power and if you covered it in light grey you no one would see it until impact. but 4 or 7 kg would kill anyone outside near the impact point. You would aim it at an entrance time the impact for say 5:50 pm in the winter so that it is dark, Sure it wouldn't blow up the entire building but it would still suck to die or have your arm or leg blown off.

    • by rtb61 ( 674572 ) on Wednesday September 28, 2011 @09:18PM (#37548404) Homepage

      Clearly a mentally disturbed individual, targeted, groomed and his mental delusions preyed upon to create a opportunity for public terrorism promotion and of course prop the ego and future careers of a couple of agents.

      Real indicators of delusion, using a $6,500 dollar model aircraft, grandiose plots with little action (the agents did pretty much everything) and, no indication of employment whilst living with parents.

      The really disturbing things about the way it is being presented are, ohh look he had a physics degree (smells of targeting all university students in science areas as potential threats) and, he took photos of buildings (why he didn't just use street view remains or the thousands of available photos on line are further indicators of deranged thinking). Also they were careful to exclude from the press releases any indication of mental disturbance in the individual, even though it seems pretty obvious.

      • I think it's you who is overreacting. Using model airplanes is one of the first thing that comes to mind in a hypothetical what if i did it scenario. Unemployed grad and living with his parents? Welcome to recession. I see no obvious signs of mental illness. Now. I see no reason why if had not been caught he would have ended up like that doctor who set an SUV on fire in Times Square, or like a pair of British doctors a few years back.
    • by bsDaemon ( 87307 ) on Wednesday September 28, 2011 @10:17PM (#37548770)

      Well, I just watched the video on CNN. The "models" were 1/10 scale replicas of an F4 Phantom and an F86 Sabre. The plan was to use them as drones, and the explosions were mostly just a decoy. He and his helpers would then use the assault rifles to fire on people while they left the buildings, since you can bet your butt the pentagon and, especially, the Capitol building have evacuation procedures and that people would be coming out.

      Besides, the goals of "terrorism," ever since the Anglo-Irish War, has always been to cause the enemy to grossly over-react, thus causing domestic support for your oppressors to erode. Example: in 1922, the IRA assassinated 6 British special police within the span of about an hour. The auxiliary police and army then shot up a gaelic football match, killing civilians. There was then backlash in England and a loss of support for continued occupation of Ireland.

      This plan really wasn't that bad, all things considered -- especially when you realize that any semblance of a successful attack on those two targets would bring down a crack-down on civil liberties so fast we'd all start reminiscing about when we had all those freedoms left under the PATRIOT ACT.

  • by HangingChad ( 677530 ) on Wednesday September 28, 2011 @08:31PM (#37547976) Homepage

    A real, full-size airliner barely put a dent in the Pentagon. A remote controlled plane the size of a Cessna full of C4 would break a few windows.

    This guy was a physics major and can't calculate how much C4 it would take to punch a hole in a solid concrete building?

    • by RightSaidFred99 ( 874576 ) on Wednesday September 28, 2011 @08:44PM (#37548090)
      He was going to have 6 well armed people outside the doors shooting people as they escaped. And even a small explosion would probably drive people out of the building.
      • by NeutronCowboy ( 896098 ) on Wednesday September 28, 2011 @08:52PM (#37548184)

        That was his plan? He might have as well tried to set up an ambush outside the White House, or Congress. This plan is so badly thought out, so badly implemented and relied so heavily on the FBI providing him with bad materials that they might as well charge him with being terminally stupid. This plan wasn't going to go anywhere, and wasn't going to do any damage. If he would have been lucky, he might have been able to shoot one or two guards on the way to "the door".

        • by ebonum ( 830686 )

          I'm sure prosecutors will say that he could have caused massive destruction and killed scores of people.

          I wonder how he would get the plastic explosive to go off at precisely the right moment. Assume this thing is going 100mpg, if you are a millisecond too early, it explodes harmlessly in the air. If you are a millisecond too late, the plastic explosive will go splat and detonator will go flying into pieces. Let's not even get into making a proper shaped charge.

          Remember the NYC firecracker bomber who put

          • by ShooterNeo ( 555040 ) on Wednesday September 28, 2011 @11:36PM (#37549358)

            With the Times Square bomber, he also had a half-assed ANFO bomb in the car as well. Why half-assed? Because he didn't follow even the most basic and logical testing routine. If you want to make homemade explosives that you are not sure will go off, you need to

                1. Make SURE you have the right ingredients (he had the wrong kind of Fertilizer because apparently he can't read labels)
              2. TEST your concoction, with a large enough sample to be sure it works.

            Oh, and multiple detonators are probably also a good idea. Don't just rely on a single fuse that might go out.

            The various 'terrorists attempts' over the last 10 years have been so pathetic they make me angry. (because we are spending trillions of dollars to fight enemies who are so incompetent they couldn't shoot someone in the back without blowing off their own foot)

      • That would work almost as well as the guy trying to bring down the bridge in New York with a cutting torch. There are a lot of people with guns in the Pentagon. They would shoot back.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        This may come as a shock, but there is not exactly a lack of well-trained, well-armed individuals at the Pentagon. Six idiots with guns walking up to the place is not an excellent plan.

    • by artor3 ( 1344997 ) on Wednesday September 28, 2011 @08:48PM (#37548146)

      All terrorists are nutcases. No sane person decides that cold-blooded mass murder (often of people only tangentially related to the source of their anger) is the best way to accomplish their goals.

      Given my druthers, I'd prefer smart terrorists. Guys like this making RC plane bombs, or that guy who tried to make a dirty bomb to set off at Obama's inauguration. They tend to be easier to catch, because they outsmart themselves. Someone less "clever" might just buy a gun and shoot some people -- see Scott Roeder, Byron Williams, Nidal Hassan, and Jared Loughner.

      All different motives (anti-abortion, Glenn Beck told me to, anti-military, straight-up crazy), and all of them not-all-there. Three of the four successful, and the fourth (Williams) only failed because society was lucky enough for him to get a traffic ticket on the way to the shooting. I'll take a dent in the Pentagon's walls any day of the week.

      • by unitron ( 5733 )

        ...No sane person decides that cold-blooded mass murder (often of people only tangentially related to the source of their anger) is the best way to accomplish their goals...

        Wouldn't that depend on exactly what their goals are?

      • You, er, missed pretty much everything written by game theorists during the cold war, along with fun concepts like "saturation bombing" I take it?
      • by Tsingi ( 870990 )

        All terrorists are nutcases. No sane person decides that cold-blooded mass murder (often of people only tangentially related to the source of their anger) is the best way to accomplish their goals.

        No one said that Bush and Cheney were sane.

    • by Grishnakh ( 216268 ) on Wednesday September 28, 2011 @09:15PM (#37548386)

      Actually, IIRC, the Pentagon is more than just "solid concrete", and has a lot of extra reinforcements and materials in its walls to withstand bomb blasts better than normal buildings.

      An R/C plane (or even a Cessna) full of C4 wouldn't have done much besides break a few windows, as you say.

      I'm going to go ahead and give the terrorists the secret here about how to destroy the US. I hope I don't get prosecuted for terrorism or treason or whatever. It's pretty simple, really: just pour a lot of money into the campaigns for far right-wing Republican candidates like Bachmann, and maybe find other ways to con the voters into electing these wackos, not just in the Presidential race but in Congressional races too. After they get elected, just sit back and watch the country implode. You can also do the same by getting more Democrats elected, but it won't be quite as fast as with the Republicans (this is probably debatable though). Of course, there's lots of corporations already pouring money into these peoples' campaigns, so maybe they should be prosecuted for terrorism... Or, you can just do nothing at all and wait; we don't need terrorists to destroy this country, we're doing a great job of it all by ourselves.

      • by Plugh ( 27537 )
        All I can say to your post... is that you should check my .sig
        • The problem with the FSP is that the Federal government would never allow a state to secede like that. Remember, a whole bunch of states tried that back in 1861 and it didn't turn out well. The only way any state can successfully secede is if the Federal government is too weak to enforce the union, and the whole thing is already crumbling. Of course, with the way things are going now, it might not be too long before we reach that state and some states do decide to secede unilaterally, but if/when that co

      • by AK Marc ( 707885 ) on Wednesday September 28, 2011 @10:30PM (#37548904)
        The full sized airplane had trouble breaking windows. A well kept secret is that the Pentagon windows were stronger than the building itself. The idea being that a sniper trying to shoot someone would prefer the window (stopping nearly everything, including most sniper rifles), while the walls wouldn't. No need to armor the walls when nobody would try to shoot through them. They collected most of the windows undamaged from the rubble.
        • by cusco ( 717999 ) <> on Thursday September 29, 2011 @01:12AM (#37549928)
          The walls of the Pentagram are three feet of solid ferro-concrete, they were designed to take a direct hit from a Nazi 500-pound bomb (really). The roof was later reinforced to withstand a very near miss from a Soviet nuke. I've never understood why the felt the need to cover the entire thing with kevlar, which had just been completed on the wing that was hit by the airliner. That wing had been emptied during the remodel process, almost everyone killed in the attack was in the process of moving back in.

          I know far too much trivia.
    • by rusl ( 1255318 ) on Wednesday September 28, 2011 @09:19PM (#37548414)

      We're down to supplying nutcases with the fake tools that make them think they are playing a "terrorist" video game. Then we charge them for their unfulfilled intention to use the tools that they though were real that we gave them.

  • I predict (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Dunbal ( 464142 ) * on Wednesday September 28, 2011 @08:37PM (#37548030)

    It's too bad that a fun hobby like RC aircraft was co-opted by the military for use in target drones and later surveillance aircraft and now weapons platforms. Of course one understands the reasons - they are cheap, well no now they are $100 million each but they used to be cheap, they are quiet, and you don't need to put a pilot in danger or have the whole logistical set up of a full airbase to support one. At some point the airbase itself becomes a target that needs to be defended. A drone can be launched or recovered from almost anywhere - depending on the drone.

    It was an idea that made sense. But ideas grow, just like the concept of lighting gunpowder behind a ball of lead inside a tube. The basic properties of drones remain - almost anyone can fly one. They are cheap. They are quiet. And you can't put a hellfire missile on one but you certainly could put a couple pounds of explosives, and fly it absolutely anywhere. And I mean anywhere. If the military can do it, so can you. Because of this innate problem, my prediction is that RC aircraft - owning one, manufacturing one, or flying one, is about to be grabbed by the government and handed to the military. Just like today guns are under strict control, RC aircraft will soon be under strict control. And that's sad because the vast, vast majority of RC aircraft are flown by hobbyists for fun.

    • by Ellis D. Tripp ( 755736 ) on Wednesday September 28, 2011 @08:52PM (#37548192) Homepage

      The government is starting a new process to restrict shipment and sales of model rocket engines, after getting their asses handed to them in a big court case against rocket hobbyists a couple years ago.

      Next hobby on the chopping block-- Punkin Chunkers? BattleBots? , DIY anything?

      That's right citizen...just sit on your couch and watch the tube...actually building things helps the terrorists!

    • The same is true for guns.
    • Re:I predict (Score:5, Informative)

      by C0L0PH0N ( 613595 ) on Wednesday September 28, 2011 @09:01PM (#37548274)
      I fly RC planes and am a member of the AMA (Academy of Model Aeronautics). Congress is working to implement new legislation to control "UAV's" (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles), which WILL legally control RC hobby airplanes. The AMA has been working with Congress and the FAA to help insure the viability and robustness of our wonderful sport, which prepares young folks for careers in avionics and space, as well as being a darned fun (and expensive :)) hobby. Here is a link to the AMA's government relations site: []. This is an issue that is hot and current. Here is the current situation, which is coming to a head in the next few months, per the AMA's website: "Information received at the recent AUVSI conference indicates the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) for FAA’s proposed regulation for small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (sUAS) is on track for release in mid December 2011. It’s anticipated the new rule will address model aircraft operations and will provide a provision for community based organizations such as the AMA to submit their own set of standards. If adopted, these standards will provide the modeling community an alternative means of complying with the sUAS rule. At this point AMA is hard at work in developing a set of standards aimed at allowing the aeromodeling enthusiasts to continue enjoying the hobby in much the same way as they do today. ". Actions like this crazy physicist certainly don't help, but they point out the wisdom of a rational approach to a hobby that can be militarized. We'll see what happens.
      • This is an issue that is hot and current. Here is the current situation, which is coming to a head in the next few months.

        How incredibly fortunate that this uber-terrorist's plot should come to light at such a timely and opportune moment.
        It really makes it clear just how important it is to regulate this enormously dangerous hobby.
        I sure am glad that those FBI agents didn't arrest the man when he made cell-phones into bomb triggers and tried to ship them to Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan.
        It really was important that they kept grooming him until his arrest could really have an impact on the american political process.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        This is disturbing to me. I use puffer kites filled with helium and V shaped balsa structures with those stick-up lights (as seen on TV) to make realistic looking UFO hoaxes. Your depth perception really doesn't work well at night and you honestly can't tell how big something is in the sky. Makes for really good stock news footage for the shaky cam folks -- hay, maybe they can even get a buck for it. I'll never tell......good for the economy right?

        One of my dreams was to have one I didn't have to tow be

    • At some point the airbase itself becomes a target that needs to be defended. A drone can be launched or recovered from almost anywhere - depending on the drone.

      Right... because a "drone control center" - and you KNOW they will centralize it - wouldn't be just as juicy a target as an airfield? It may be easier to hide now, but eventually techniques for backtracking the control signals or whatever will make it possible to locate them. Didn't you watch SG:U or the Star Wars prequel movies? They *always* go after the drone command!

    • they are cheap, well no now they are $100 million each but they used to be cheap

      Holy shit, are you exaggerating? You can buy an F-22 air superiority fighter jet for that price. These drones are comparatively stone-age: piston engines (IIRC), slow, poor maneuverability (compared to a fighter), etc. Those defense contractors must really be raking in the profits.

  • by airfoobar ( 1853132 ) on Wednesday September 28, 2011 @08:47PM (#37548140)

    A 26-year-old Massachusetts man with a physics degree

    So, what was his Slashdot handle?

  • by KJE ( 640748 )
    Wait wait wait, I wonder what kind of degree this guy had?
  • At the local RC airport here in Van Nuys (probably the busiest RC airport in the world) they have a couple of days of LA JETS each year. The variety and sophistication of the equipment is amazing. Each of those planes probably is a multi-thousand dollar investment.

    But what's also amazing is how well the community polices itself. There are safety interlocks on each plane, and very strict rules about speed, altitude, and range; and everybody watches everybody else extremely closely. They all know that the

  • For once.
    Which is, like, good. Real C4 could still have killed some people (either in the park or at this location by being dumb or while exploding even if it doesnt really arm the building itself, could crash nearby and injure people.

    In short, echelon seems to work just fine ;-)

  • by Rexdude ( 747457 ) on Thursday September 29, 2011 @04:32AM (#37551152)

    This guy was defeated by the groundwork done by the FBI in tracking him, contacting him and then catching him red handed while he was planning the operation. Note that this wasn't done while he was driving to the Pentagon or setting up his drone. Terrorist plots need to be defeated at the planning stage, and that requires good old investigation and espionage. Not by groping people at the airport check-in queue.

"Say yur prayers, yuh flea-pickin' varmint!" -- Yosemite Sam