Airport Worker Intended to Use his Access to Secure Areas to Commit Terrorist Attack

WASHINGTON – A Wichita, Kansas, man working as an avionic technician for an aeronautics company and possessing restricted access to secure airport areas, was sentenced to 20 years in federal prison today for attempting to explode a car bomb at the airport in Wichita, U.S. Attorney Barry R. Grissom and Assistant Attorney General for National Security John P. Carlin announced.

Terry Lee Loewen, 60, pleaded guilty on June 8 to one count of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction.  Loewen was arrested in December 2013 when he tried to enter the grounds of the Wichita Mid-Continent Airport for the purpose of exploding a bomb.  (The airport was recently renamed the Wichita Dwight D. Eisenhower National Airport).

“Here in the heartland, terrorism will never shake our faith in the things this country stands for – freedom, fairness and opportunity,” said U.S. Attorney Grissom.  “We won’t give way to those who would inflict violence on their fellow citizens.”

“Terry Loewen abused his privileged airport access to attempt to perpetrate a terrorist attack in Wichita,” said Assistant Attorney General Carlin.  “The National Security Division’s highest priority is protecting the United States against terrorist threats – both international and domestic.  We will continue to pursue justice against those who seek to carry out violent attacks against Americans, whether at home or abroad.”

In his plea, Loewen admitted he came to the attention of the FBI late in May 2013 when he became a Facebook friend of a person who was posting comments advocating violent jihad.  The FBI began communicating with Loewen through an undercover employee.  After Loewen expressed his desire to engage in violent jihad, the undercover employee offered to introduce him to someone who could help him do it.

Loewen told the undercover employee he was waiting for what he called “the green light” from Allah to carry out a violent attack on a civilian target.  He said that he did not expect to live through any of the attacks he had in mind.  Loewen also said that he was inspired by the teachings of Osama bin Laden and Anwar Al Awlaki, and that he had downloaded thousands of pages of information on jihad.

In September 2013, Loewen sent photos of airplanes on the tarmac at the Wichita airport.  He commented that he could have “walked over there, shot both pilots … slapped some C4 on both fuel trucks and set them off before anyone even called TSA.”

In October 2013, Loewen met with a second undercover FBI employee who Loewen believed was a “brother” and would help him blow up a plane.  Loewen said that he had scouted the airport to determine a time and place for an attack that would be sure to kill as many people as possible.

Loewen assisted the second FBI employee in the final assembly of an improvised explosive device.  He was not aware that the explosive materials used in the device were inert.  In the early hours of Dec. 13, 2013, the second FBI employee picked up Loewen at a Wichita hotel.  They drove to where the bomb was stored and finished wiring the device.  When they reached the airport, Loewen used his badge twice at a card reader to attempt to get onto the tarmac before he was arrested.

Loewen was sentenced by Senior U.S. District Judge Monti L. Belot of the District of Kansas.

Assistant Attorney General Carlin and U.S. Attorney Grissom commended the Wichita FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force, which includes members from the FBI, the Sedgwick County, Kansas, Sheriff’s Office and Kansas Highway Patrol.  Assisting with the investigation were the FBI Kansas City, Missouri, Division, the Transportation Security Administration, the Wichita Airport Authority and the Wichita Police Department.  Assistant Attorney General Carlin and U.S. Attorney Grissom also commended the prosecutors on the case, Assistant U.S. Attorneys David Smith and Tony Mattivi of the District of Kansas and Trial Attorney Erin Creegan of the National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section.