U.S. Federal Building Attacks & Scares

Title: 2010 Austin Suicide Attack
February 18, 2010

Abstract: The 2010 Austin suicide attack occurred on 18 February 2010, when Andrew Joseph Stack III, flying his Piper Dakota, crashed into Building I of the Echelon office complex in Austin, Texas, United States,[4] killing himself and Internal Revenue Service manager Vernon Hunter.[5] Thirteen others were injured, two seriously. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) field office was located in a four-story[6][7] office building along with other state and federal government agencies.[8] Prior to the crash, Stack had posted a suicide note dated 18 February 2010 to his business website.

Approximately an hour before the crash, Stack allegedly set fire to his $230,000[9] house located on Dapplegrey Lane in North Austin.[10][11] He then drove to a hangar he rented at Georgetown Municipal Airport, approximately 20 miles to the north.[12] He boarded his single-engine Piper Dakota airplane and was cleared to take off around 9:45 a.m. Central Standard Time.[8][13][14][15] He indicated to the control tower his flight would be "going southbound, sir."[16] After taking off his final words were "thanks for your help, have a great day."[17]

About ten minutes later his plane descended and collided at full speed into Echelon I, a building containing offices for 190 IRS employees, resulting in a large fireball and explosion.[8][18][19] The building is located near the intersection of Research Boulevard (U.S. Route 183) and Mopac Expressway (Loop 1).


The plane was piloted by Andrew Joseph Stack III of the Scofield Farms neighborhood in North Austin, who worked as an embedded software consultant.[10][20][21] He grew up in Pennsylvania and had two brothers and two sisters, was orphaned at age four, and spent some time at a Catholic orphanage.[16] He graduated from the Milton Hershey School in 1974 and studied engineering at Harrisburg Area Community College from 1975 to 1977 but did not graduate.[22][23] His first marriage to Ginger Stack, which ended in divorce, produced a daughter, Samantha Bell.[16][24] In 2007 Stack had remarried to Sheryl Housh who had a daughter from a previous marriage.[16]

In 1985, Stack, along with his first wife, incorporated Prowess Engineering. In 1994, he failed to file a state tax return. In 1998, the Stacks divorced and a year later his wife filed Chapter 11 Bankruptcy, citing IRS liabilities totaling nearly $126,000. In 1995, Stack started Software Systems Service Corp, which was suspended in 2004 for non-payment of state taxes.[16] It was revealed in CNN and ABC news broadcasts by another software consultant who testified that the IRS had taken away a tax status for software consultants, which might have set off the incident with Stack.[25][26]

Stack obtained a pilot's license in 1994 and owned a Velocity Elite XL-RG plane, in addition to the Piper Dakota (aircraft registration N2889D) he flew into the Echelon building.[16] He had been using the Georgetown Municipal Airport for four and a half years and paid $236.25 a month to rent a hangar.[1] There has been speculation that Stack replaced seats on his aircraft with extra drums of fuel prior to the collision.[9]

Stack's accountant confirmed that he was being audited by the IRS for failure to report income at the time of the incident.[27]

Suicide Note
On the morning of the crash, Stack posted a suicide note on his website, embeddedart.com. The HTML source code of the web page shows the letter was composed using Microsoft Word starting two days prior, February 16, at 19:24Z (1:24 p.m. CST).[32] The document also shows that it was saved 27 times with the last being February 18 at 06:42Z (12:42 a.m. CST).[32]

In the suicide note, he begins by expressing displeasure with the government, the bailout of financial institutions, politicians, the conglomerate companies of General Motors, Enron and Arthur Andersen, unions, drug and health care insurance companies, and the Catholic Church.[31] He then describes his life as an engineer; including his meeting with a poor widow who never got the pension benefits she was promised, the effect of the Section 1706 of Tax Reform Act of 1986 on independent contractor engineers, the September 11 attacks airline bailouts that only benefited the airlines but not the suffering engineers and how a CPA he hired seemed to side with the government to take extra tax money from him. His suicide note included criticism of the Federal Aviation Administration, the George W. Bush administration, and a call for violent revolt.

The suicide note also mentions, several times, Stack's having issues with taxes, debt, and the IRS and his having a long-running feud with the organization.[33] While the IRS also has a larger regional office in Austin, the field office located in Echelon I performed tax audits, seizures, investigations and collections.[33]

The suicide note ended with:

I saw it written once that the definition of insanity is repeating the same process over and over and expecting the outcome to suddenly be different. I am finally ready to stop this insanity. Well, Mr. Big Brother IRS man, let’s try something different; take my pound of flesh and sleep well.

The communist creed: From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.

The capitalist creed: From each according to his gullibility, to each according to his greed.

Joe Stack (1956-2010)


Killed in the incident along with Stack was Vernon Hunter, a 68-year-old Revenue Officer Group Manager for the IRS.[5][34] Thirteen people[35] were reported as injured, two of them critically. Debris from the crash reportedly struck a car being driven on the southbound access road of Route 183 in front of the building, shattering the windshield.[3] Another driver on the southbound access road of Route 183 had his windows and sunroof shattered during the impact, and had debris fall inside his car, yet escaped uninjured.[5][36] Robin Dehaven, a glass worker and former combat engineer for the United States Army, saw the collision while commuting to his job, and used the ladder on his truck to rescue five people from the building.[37] By coincidence, the Travis County Hazardous Materials Team — an inter-agency group of firefighters from outside the City of Austin — had just assembled for training across the freeway from the targeted building, observed the low and fast flight of Stack's plane, and heard the blast impact.[38] They immediately responded, attacking the fire and initiating search-and-rescue.[38] Several City of Austin fire engines for the area of the Echelon building were already deployed at the fire at Stack's home at the time of the impact.[38]

Stack's North Austin home was mostly destroyed by fire.[5][39]

Georgetown Municipal Airport was temporarily evacuated while a bomb disposal team searched Stack's abandoned vehicle.[40]

An inspection into the Echelon building's structural integrity was concluded six days after the incident and a preliminary decision was made to repair the building rather than demolish it.[41] Those repairs were substantially complete by December 2011.

Economic Costs to IRS
The IRS spent more than $38.6 million because of the 2010 Austin suicide attack.[42][43]

For the immediate response, document recovery, and to resume operations at the center, the IRS spent USD $6,421,942.[42] Of this amount, USD $3,258,213 was spent on document recovery.[42]

Also, the IRS spent a total of USD $32.3 million to improve IRS building security across the United States, with USD $30.5 million for more security guards.[42] The IRS said, because of the 2010 Austin suicide attack and the emergency plans in place, there was no direct budgetary impact on the IRS’s ability to provide taxpayer services or enforce tax laws.[42]

An additional $1,236,634 was spent on a security risk assessment to be performed by the private Georgia based logistical and engineering services firm Unified Consultants Group, Inc. A July 25, 2012 audit, released shortly after the indicent cost analysis, performed by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration determined that the contract was mismanaged by the IRS [44][45] The security review process was determined to have had multiple problems and many of the sites were not inspected by the contractor. The audit placed the blame on the IRS agency's individuals responsible for defining, negotiating, and administering the contract with potentially 100% of funds being used inefficiently and security improvements of IRS sites may not have been ineffective.[45]

The United States Department of Homeland Security issued a statement saying that the incident did not appear to be linked to organized international terrorist groups.[8] White House spokesman Robert Gibbs reaffirmed what Homeland Security said, and that President Barack Obama was briefed on the incident.[46] The President expressed his concern and commended the courageous actions of the first responders.[46] The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) launched two F-16 fighter aircraft from Ellington Airport in Houston, Texas, to conduct an air patrol in response to the crash. That action was reported as standard operating procedure in this situation.[28]

The company hosting embeddedart.com, T35 hosting, took Stack's website offline "due to the sensitive nature of the events that transpired in Texas this morning and in compliance with a request from the FBI."[47][48] Several groups supporting Stack on the social networking website Facebook appeared following the incident and the news of the accompanying manifesto. These were immediately shut down by Facebook staff.[49][50][51]

Austin police chief Art Acevedo stated that the incident was not the action of a major terrorist organization. He also cited "some heroic actions on the part of federal employees" that "will be told at the appropriate time."[52]

The Federal Bureau of Investigation stated that it was investigating the incident "as a criminal matter of an assault on a federal officer" and that it was not being considered terrorism at this time.[53]

However, two members of the United States House of Representatives, both of whose districts include the Austin area, made statements to the contrary. Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas) stated, "Like the larger-scale tragedy in Oklahoma City, this was a cowardly act of domestic terrorism." Mike McCaul (R-Texas), told a reporter that, "it sounds like it [was a terrorist attack] to me." Nihad Awad, the Executive Director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), also asked the federal government to classify this as an act of terrorism. In a statement on February 19, he said, "Whenever an individual or group attacks civilians in order to make a political statement, that is an act of terror. Terrorism is terrorism, regardless of the faith, race or ethnicity of the perpetrator or the victims. If a Muslim had carried out the IRS attack, it would have surely been labeled an act of terrorism."[54] Georgetown University Professor Bruce Hoffman stated that for this to be considered an act of terrorism, "there has to be some political motive and it has to send a broader message that seeks some policy change. From what I've heard, that doesn't appear to be the case. It appears he was very mad at the [IRS] and this was a cathartic outburst of violence. His motivation was the key."[55] A USA Today headline used the term "a chilling echo of terrorism."[19]

Citing the copy of Joseph Stack's suicide note posted online,[31] liberal blogger Joan McCarter observed on the Daily Kos website that, "Obviously Stack was not a mentally healthy person, and he was embittered at capitalism, including crony capitalism, and health insurance companies and the government." She also stated that Stack could not be connected with the popular Tea Party movement, but argued that the incident "should inject a bit of caution into the anti-government flame-throwers on the right."[56] The website Ace of Spades HQ disputed any connection to the movement and additionally stated Stack was not "right wing", citing Stack's criticism of politicians for not doing anything about health care reform.[57]

In an interview with ABC's Good Morning America, Joe Stack's adult daughter, Samantha Bell, who now lives in Norway, stated that she considered her father to be a hero, because she felt that now people might listen. While she does not agree with his specific actions involving the plane crash, she does agree with his actions about speaking out against "injustice" and "the government."[24] Bell subsequently retracted aspects of her statement, saying her father was "not a hero" and adding, "We are mourning for Vernon Hunter."[58]

Five days after her husband Vernon Hunter's death, Valerie Hunter filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Sheryl Mann Stack, Andrew Joseph Stack's widow in District Court. The lawsuit alleges that Sheryl had a duty to "avoid a foreseeable risk of injury to others," including her late husband and failed to do so by not warning others about her late husband. The lawsuit also mentions that Stack was required by law to fly his plane at an altitude 1,000 feet above the highest obstacle.[59] At a March 8, 2010 benefit event, Stack's widow Sheryl publicly offered condolences for the victims of the attack.[60]

Iowa congressman Steve King (R-Iowa) has made several statements regarding Stack including "I think if we’d abolished the IRS back when I first advocated it, he wouldn’t have a target for his airplane. And I’m still for abolishing the IRS, I’ve been for it for thirty years and I’m for a national sales tax (in its place)."[61][62]

Noted libertarian socialist American intellectual Noam Chomsky cited Joe Stack's suicide letter as indicative of some of the public sentiment in the U.S., stated that several of Stack's assertions are accurate or based on real grievances, and urged people to "help" the Joseph Stacks of the world get involved in constructive popular movements instead of letting the Joseph Stacks "destroy themselves, and maybe the world," in order to prevent a process similar to how legitimate and valid popular grievances of the German people in the 1920s and 1930s were manipulated by the Nazis towards violence and away from constructive ends.[63][64]

The Internal Revenue Service formally designates certain individuals as potentially dangerous taxpayers (PDTs). In response to an inquiry after the attack, an IRS spokesperson declined to state whether Stack had been designated as a PDT (Wikipedia, 2012).

Title: 1 Dead, 1 Hurt In Calif. Federal Building Shooting
February 17, 2012
CBS News

A federal immigration agent shot and wounded a colleague at their office, before the gunman was killed by a third agent, the FBI says.

Several shots were fired about 5:30 p.m. Thursday in the Immigration Customs Enforcement office, leaving one man wounded, said Steven Martinez, assistant director in charge of the FBI's Los Angeles office.

"Another agent, working nearby, intervened and fired his weapon to prevent additional rounds being fired at the victim," he said.

The gunman died at the scene and the wounded man was taken to a hospital, where he was in stable condition.

Authorities released no details about what led to the initial shooting other than to say it was a case of workplace violence involving two federal agents.

But the Los Angeles Times, citing multiple law enforcement sources, said the initial shots were fired by an agent at his supervisor during an unspecified dispute.

The names of the dead gunman, the victim and the agent who fired the final rounds were not released.

There were conflicting early reports about the number of people shot, with local authorities saying two were dead and one wounded, while ICE said one was dead and one wounded.

The shooting happened on the seventh floor of the Glenn M. Anderson Federal Building in downtown Long Beach that houses ICE, the Internal Revenue Service and the U.S. Probation and Parole Office.

The wounded agent was hospitalized in stable condition, said ICE Special Agent in Charge Claude Arnold.

St. Mary's Medical Center Trauma Director James Murray told KCAL-TV that the injured agent sustained wounds to multiple parts of his body, but did not further specify. He said the victim's vital signs were "good for now," and that he had ongoing bleeding but that it wasn't a cause for concern.

"At times like this words honestly seem inadequate. When something like this happens in our offices, it's incomprehensible, Arnold said.

Along with the FBI, the shooting was being investigated by ICE's Office of Professional Responsibility and Long Beach police
(CBS News, 2012).

Title: Survey Equipment Causes Radiation Scare At Federal Building
Date: May 17, 2011

Abstract: A piece of antiquated survey equipment that was stored on the first floor of the Tip O'Neill Federal Building leaked radiation this afternoon, triggering a massive emergency response in the heart of Boston shortly before tonight's Boston Bruins playoff game.

Two Federal Protective Service police officers were in the area when the radiation dosimeter tags they were wearing began to sound an alarm. Firefighters were summoned to the scene at 4:11 p.m., said Steve MacDonald, a spokesman for the Boston Fire Department.

The police officers were isolated and a Level 3 hazardous materials incident was declared. A day care center in the building was evacuated. Firefighters swept the area using radiation detection equipment and found there was no danger from the leak, MacDonald said. No one was injured and decontamination was not necessary.

The device, a decades-old piece of surveying equipment that was only a little bigger than a shoebox, was isolated and packaged, and the fire department was awaiting the arrival of officials from the Nuclear Regulatory Agency. The federal agency was expected to call in a contractor to remove the device, MacDonald said.

MacDonald stressed that there was no public health hazard and most emergency personnel had cleared the scene by 6 p.m. He did not know the type of chemical or radiation that was released. The building is home to a multitude of different federal agencies. Officials did not immediately know who owned the surveying equipment (Boston.com, 2011).

Title: Bomb Threat Reported At Government Building In Kansas City
Date: September 14, 2012
Fox News

Abstract: A suspicious vehicle is being investigated in downtown Kansas City after police said a man walked into a government building and said he was a terrorist.

Kansas City police sent a robot to investigate the man's car Friday after a bomb-sniffing dog detected some sort of explosive in the vehicle.

The vehicle was parked on a street between the Richard Bolling Federal Building and the Fletcher Daniels State Office Building. It wasn't immediately clear which building the man had entered around noon Friday (Fox News, 2012).

Title: Possible Misunderstanding In Kansas City Bomb Scare
Date: September 15, 2012
Fox News

Abstract: A Missouri man who walked into a downtown Kansas City federal building and set off a bomb scare after asking about whether he was on a government terrorist watch list said it was all a misunderstanding and he was simply trying to figure out why his name showed up as flagged during a traffic stop.

Officers closed off several blocks of traffic near the Richard Bolling Federal Building following the incident Friday, and sent a bomb-sniffing dog and robot to search the man's car. The more than four-hour search turned up nothing threatening, according to the FBI.

Law enforcement didn't identify the man, but Wahed Moharam, who lives in the suburb of Grain Valley, told The Associated Press late Friday he was the man and confirmed his car was searched. He said he wasn't in any trouble and was never detained.

"The FBI treated me very well and they even took me home to make sure I am safe," said Moharam, who was a key witness for prosecutors several years ago in the first World Trade Center bombing case. "Whoever said, `I have a bomb and this,' is untrue. I never said, `I have a bomb' or anything whatsoever in that manner."

FBI special agent Michael Kaste said earlier Friday that the large-scale response was based on the "initial limited information" police had from witnesses, adding: "The primary concern was for the public's safety, which made the actions today necessary."

Moharam said he walked into the building and asked to speak to someone with Homeland Security to get more information following the traffic stop a day earlier. He said he'd been pulled over by a Jackson County sheriff's deputy, who told him his name had been flagged, and was later surrounded by five sheriff's vehicles but wasn't cited for anything.

Moharam said he was polite at the federal building, and that the individuals to whom he spoke were polite. He said an officer asked if authorities could search his car, and he answered yes, gave them his car key and offered to take them to the vehicle, but they declined. He said he waited in the building with the officials, and that they bought him a Starbucks coffee.

"I had no clue what was going on outside. I gave them the key. I didn't mean to cause any problem," said Moharam, who said he moved to the U.S. 35 years ago from Egypt. "I have nothing to hide. I have no intention of doing any harm."

FBI officials are prohibited from discussing whether someone is on a national security watch list, but Kaste said the man walked into the building "to clarify whether he was under investigation by a federal agency."

A federal law enforcement source told the AP earlier Friday that the man said something about being on the watch list, but his exact words were not clear. The source said no explosives were found on the man or in his car, but police did find a gun in the vehicle. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly about the investigation.

Moharam said it was a toy gun, "like you buy for $10, like you see at Toys R Us." He also said the search dogs may have picked up the scent of the cleaning supplies in his car, and had told authorities the chemicals were there because he operates a cleaning business in nearby Blue Springs.

The searched car was parked near the Fletcher Daniels State Office building and the towering Bolling building, which houses numerous government agencies including the Social Security Administration and the Army Corps of Engineers. Donna Kerr, a benefits analyzer for SSA, said workers had "absolutely no information from official sources, other than to stay away from the windows." Workers were told to go home early.

Moharam insisted he wasn't trying to make trouble, saying he simply hopes to support his children and grandchildren. He wasn't told why his name had been flagged.

"I love this country. This is my country. Two-thirds of my life I've been here," Moharam said.

He also said he was angry because of the response Thursday by the sheriff's deputies who surrounded his car following the traffic stop, and noted his testimony in the first World Trade Center bombing case, saying: "I should be honored for what I did, not treated like this. It's very unfair."

Before Friday's incident, Moharam may have already been familiar to Kansas City residents as the once-ardent fan dubbed "Helmet Man" for the gear he wore to Kansas City Chiefs football games. The Chiefs revoked his season tickets out of safety concerns in 2003 after the team learned he had been in the federal witness protection program for testifying for government prosecutors in the first World Trade Center bombing.

The Chiefs confirmed it with federal authorities, and believing Moharam could still be a target because of the case, offered to rotate his tickets to different spots in the stadium and asked him to stop dressing in full "Helmet Man" regalia. When he refused, they said, they had no choice but to revoke his tickets (Fox News, 2012).