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Man planned to set off 200-pound bomb on Mall in Washington, FBI says

An aerial view of the National Mall in Washington, D.C., showing the Lincoln Memorial at the bottom, the Washington Monument at center, and the U.S. Capitol at the top. Image from Wikimedia Commons. U.S. Navy photograph 051128-N-2383B-006 (direct image URL [1]). Chief Photographer's Mate Johnny Bivera; cropped by Beyond My Ken.

Federal authorities have arrested and charged a New York state man who they say planned to build a 200-pound bomb and detonate it on Election Day on the Mall in Washington, D.C.

Paul M. Rosenfeld, 56, of Tappan, New York, was charged Wednesday in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York with unlawfully manufacturing a destructive device and with interstate transportation and receipt of an explosive, according to the FBI.

Officials said he planned to use the bomb to kill himself and gain attention for a political belief called sortition, in which politicians are chosen at random for office instead of by elections.

It was not clear whether Rosenfeld had a lawyer.

Rosenfeld "concocted a twisted plan to draw attention to his political ideology by killing himself on the National Mall," said U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman in a statement.

In August and September, Rosenfeld sent text messages and letters to someone in Pennsylvania, telling of his plans to detonate a bomb on the Mall, authorities said.

On Tuesday, the FBI raided his home in Rockland County, New York, and found a workable bomb in his basement. It was taken to a "safe location" in Rockland County, officials said. Federal agents also found empty black powder canisters and a fusing system that could trigger an explosive.

FBI Assistant Director in Charge William Sweeney said, "Rosenfeld's alleged plot could have claimed the lives of innocent bystanders and caused untold destruction." He said a concerned citizen had tipped off investigators.

Agents said they think Rosenfeld was acting alone in the alleged plot.

 This article was written by Dana Hedgpeth, a reporter for The Washington Post.