The Attempted Terrorist Bombing of an Airport Last Week You Didn’t Even Hear About

A decade after 9/11 the federal government concluded that terrorist threat groups inside the United States were simply not plotting attacks against planes. They classified that conclusion and continued to beat the drum for bigger security budgets, more equipment. The security state benefits a federal employee union, it benefits equipment manufacturers, and it benefits politicians.

On Friday an attempted terrorist attack occurred at a U.S. airport and you probably didn’t hear anything about it because it doesn’t fit the narrative, in fact it may upend everything we’ve been told to believe about security threats to aviation. (HT: Paul H.)

The man authorities say left an explosive device at Asheville Regional Airport on Friday morning that contained ammonium nitrate and fuel oil said he was preparing to “fight a war on U.S. soil,” according to a criminal complaint filed in federal court.

…After being taken into custody at the Asheville Police Department, Estes waived his rights and agreed to answer questions, the complaint states. Estes “admitted that he placed the explosive device at the Asheville Airport,” the complaint states. “He also explained that he bought the precursor materials at Walmart and Lowe’s” in Arden.

The man was found to be indigent and assigned a public defender. He offered details on how he created the device (“using ammonium nitrate and the Sterno as a fuel source and then rigged the alarm clock to strike the matches and cause the flame necessary to trigger the device”). He put nails in the device so that it would cause more damage.

The man came onto the airport grounds at 12:39 a.m. The clock was set for 6:00 a.m. He told investigators that he had staged in the woods near the Asheville airport two days before actually placing the device inside the airport.

The full criminal complaint is available here.

None of this matches what we’ve been taught to expect. He’s white. He isn’t an immigrant. He isn’t Muslim. And he doesn’t appear to have any connection to terrorist organizations abroad. Yet the ‘plot’ was easily foiled.

Maybe we’re doing it wrong.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Gary, you are such a good writer when you stick to your area of expertise. Unfortunately, it appears that your ego will not permit you to stick within those bounds. That being the case, you should at least strive to produce articles which lead to a logical conclusion on its face (nevermind holding up under scrutiny).

    In this article, your conclusion seems to be that the government/anti-terror complex is deliberately blowing money to fatten up its buddies. Fair enough, but in support of this conclusion, you inexplicably offer up an example of a foiled terror attack at an airport. Then you ice the cake with the perpetrator’s race and religion being other than what society has come to expect. You fail to describe how the captured suspect’s race and religion supports your conclusion that the feds are willfully wasting taxpayer dollars. How does a foiled terror plot from a perpetrator that, according to you, isn’t among the usual suspects, prove that “we’re doing it wrong”? This article makes no sense.

    If the SJW in you was “triggered” by the perpetrator’s race, and you feel distraught over the perceived lack of media coverage, just come out and say it (if writing about miles/points simply isn’t an option). But, for the sake of your readership, don’t churn out nonsensical articles for the sake of personal catharsis.

  2. Wes,

    Your criticism misses the entire point. A guy left a bomb in an airport and the story received basically zero coverage. What is your explanation for that?

  3. @Wes – going after Middle Easterners misses the mark, defending against what have largely been nonexistent plots is a waste. Had there been a link to an international terror group we’d be hearing about this non-stop from the government as a reason to be afraid and spend more resources. The silence about this event is deafening.

  4. I don’t think Gary is responsible if you fail to put 2 and 2 together. Maybe it’s your own confirmation bias that’s the problem because it’s very clear to me what his point is and what the supporting evidence is. Someone who uses the term “SJW” non-ironically is likely to have a lot of bias after all.

  5. Gary, it’s no surprise that a twarted plot, such as this, at a regional airport is not going to garner the media attention that you’re assuming would occur if the suspect was a muslim terrorist. There are unsuccessful attack attempts every day that we never hear about. Remember, at that point the national media was (and still is) in high gear searching for truth in the aftermath of the biggest massacre on US soil. Which, by the way, was committed by a non-muslim white American… so your theory is unsubstantiated and highly biased. Stick to your articles on travel and don’t feel the need to shove your conspiracy theories and liberal views down your readers’ throats.

  6. Chad- what about the shoe bomber and the failed Times Square bomber. Neither detonated. Both were worldwide news with wall-to-wall coverage.

  7. I’m actually surprised the media hasn’t been bombarding us with constant coverage since this ISN’T a Muslim. They love to hate white folks these days.

  8. Well written factual article that is totally relevant to frequent fliers. My sister lives less than a half hour from the airport and even she was surprised that she heard about it on Facebook, not locally (until days later). The silence is definitely deafening.

  9. I too missed the point and I’m still not sure even after reading the comments of others who claim to “get it”. That there was a random attack that doesn’t fit the profile doesn’t necessarily invalidate the profile.

  10. I’ll agree largely with Gary, and to this extent: the terror “crisis” is created and used by government and its cronies (i.e., government Union employees and equipment suppliers) to create an excuse for needlessly depriving Americans of their freedom, privacy, and tax dollars. None of the TSA theatrics perpetrated against us at airports is necessary or in any way effective, and the public can be adequately protected using much less invasive and inexpensive methods and without a new, massive, and unaccountable Federal police force.

    You will notice that despite the fact that the terror threat has decreased (at least on planes and airports), the “security” at airports only tightens and has become even more invasive. I had a post Nude-a-scope body search at JFK last week complete with repeated groping of my genitals searching for something in my inside-out pants pockets, the likes of which I have never experienced before in any country over years of constant travel.

  11. Gary:

    Please stick to upgrades and travel tips, ie what you know and stop venturing into matters of security and law enforcement, which you don’t know.

    The item left was NOT a bomb. At least, not a complete bomb. It was a collection of materials that could be used in a bomb but was incapable of being detonated. And, he was charged both with possessing them and with using the materials, which were the only possible charges. What more does anyone want?

    Information has been located indicating that he might actually be American Indian (or Native American, as you prefer).

    The reason that the item was not a bomb? There was no initiator, which is a necessary item for something to be considered to be a bomb. The explosive, ammonium nitrate and fuel oil (ANFO or AN/FO) was home made. It does NOT detonate by exposure to flame, but requires a high explosive initiator (typically a blasting cap with power source) which was not present.

    This has every appearance of NOT being a terrorist act as defined by law, but a whacko who watched too many movies.

    The appropriate charges have been recommended by FBI. There’s nothing left to see. Not everything is a conspiracy.

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