The Slatest

FBI Arrests Man Who Built Bomb to Detonate on D.C.’s National Mall on Election Day

Bird's eye view of the National Mall.
The National Mall in Washington, D.C.
SAUL LOEB/Getty Images

The FBI has thwarted a plot by a New York man to set off a bomb on the National Mall in Washington on Election Day, according to the Associated Press.

Paul Rosenfeld, 56, from Tappan, New York, was arrested and charged on Wednesday with manufacturing a bomb and transporting explosives across state lines.

His plan, according to the FBI, was to blow himself up to bring attention to a political system called sortition, which was most famously used in ancient Athens and in which public officials are selected randomly from a pool of eligible voters. “Had he been successful, Rosenfeld’s alleged plot could have claimed the lives of innocent bystanders and caused untold destruction,” according to the assistant director of the FBI’s New York field office.

On Tuesday, federal authorities raided his home, where they found the bomb in his basement. The 200-pound bomb contained eight pounds of black powder inside a heavy plywood box equipped with hardware for moving it, according to court filings. After he was stopped by authorities, Rosenfeld confessed to ordering the powder online and having it delivered to a location in New Jersey before transporting it to New York, where he built smaller versions of the bomb and set off test explosions.

According to NBC News, a reporter who had received messages from Rosenfeld alerted authorities to the danger. Rosenfeld had sent letters and text messages to the reporter in Pennsylvania in August and September warning that he planned to blow himself up somewhere in the heart of D.C.

The FBI believes Rosenfeld acted alone, and he faces up to 20 years in prison.