Stephen Powers, a 30-year-old man from Gloucester, Virginia, was arrested on Friday and charged after allegedly detonating an improvised explosive device (IED) near Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia.
No one was killed or injured in the blast, and Powers has already been charged with possessing and using an explosive device and committing an act of terrorism according to Williamsburg Police.
Federal and local investigators, including the FBI, ATF, and other local agencies, determined that an IED had been detonated in a parking lot, but that no significant damage or injuries occurred. Williamsburg police said that the explosion coincided with peak traffic time.
An FBI spokeswoman said that they would provide consultation when needed, but that the Williamsburg Police Department would be handling the investigation.
Powers has already been charged with terrorism, which implies a political motivation for his actions. According to Section 2331(5) of the federal penal code, the concept of domestic terrorism includes: “activities that (A) involve acts dangerous to human life that are in violation of the criminal laws of the United States or of any State; (B) appear to be intended (i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population; . . . and (C) occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States.”
But domestic terrorism is not a federal crime, which is mainly reserved for international terrorism, or those which transcend national borders. This is due to the inherent political motivations which differentiate any random act of violence with terrorism. Keeping the federal government strictly associated with international terrorism is intended to prevent government overreach and violations of constitutionally protected freedoms, such as speech, press, and assembly.
So, when a violent crime is committed, the jurisdiction for the investigation will remain with the states, absent a national interest, such as an Al Qaeda or ISIS plot.
The concept of “domestic terrorism” was codified with the Patriot Act, and was intended to streamline the application of federal resources from the FBI or similar agencies towards domestic terror investigations when they occur.
But many states, like Virginia where Powers was arrested, have added domestic terrorism to their penal codes, and in Virginia, it is a capital offense.
IED attacks in the United States are nothing new, despite the sexy application of the “IED” acronym to what is essentially just a homemade bomb. Political bombings have been a regular occurrence in the United States for well over a hundred years. Anarchists in the early 20th century, white supremacist bombings in the 1960s, radical leftist bombings in the 1970s, and right-wing domestic terror in the 1990s.
No word yet as to what indicated Powers’ political motivations for his alleged attack.
Image courtesy of the Williamsburg Police Department
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