Michael Curtis Reynolds, 47, has not officially been charged with terrorism, but a prosecutor at a hearing said that Reynolds tried to "provide material aid to al Qaeda" and that the case "involves a federal offense of terrorism," The Philadelphia Inquirer reported in its Sunday editions.
CBS News correspondent Randall Pinkston reports that a tip from Shannen Rossmiller - a judge from Conrad, Montana who in 2004 helped snare a Washington state national guardsman who was considering defecting to al Qaeda – was what pointed the FBI to Reynolds.
"Rossmiller was scanning terrorist websites when she noticed a post from Reynolds seeking $40,000 dollars to by fuel trucks to blow up refineries in New Jersey and Wyoming and a section of the Alaska oil pipeline," said Pinkston.
Posing as an al Qaeda banker, Rossmiller promised the money, set up a date and time for the rendeszvous near Pocatello, Idaho, and notified the FBI. They set up a sting.
At Reynolds's Pennsylvania home, federal authorities seized his computer and files that, according to a court document, spelled out his bomb plans.
Reynolds has been held without bail in a county jail since Dec. 5 on an unrelated weapons charge.
"He was doing it as a plan to disrupt governmental function, to change the government's actions in foreign countries, and to impact on the national debate about the war," Assistant U.S. Attorney John C. Gurganus Jr. said at the December hearing.
The Inquirer obtained a copy of a federal transcript alleging that Reynolds plotted to detonate propane-filled trucks along sections of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline and the Transcontinental Pipeline, a natural-gas pipeline that runs from the Gulf Coast, through Pennsylvania, to New Jersey and New York City.
The FBI also alleges that Reynolds targeted Standard Oil Co. in Perth Amboy, New Jersey, as well as the Williams Refinery in Opal, Wyoming. He was arrested not far from there.
Philip Gelso, Reynolds' attorney, declined to comment. U.S. Attorney's Office spokeswoman Heidi Havens said her office does not comment on active investigations.
Reynolds was returned to Pennsylvania on one charge: possession of a grenade. The FBI then obtained search warrants for his computers and his e-mail accounts. Agents in Idaho, Montana, Utah and Pennsylvania since December have been piecing together Reynolds' background.
Government agents said that Reynolds denied trying to conspire with al Qaeda and said he was a patriot seeking to expose an al Qaeda cell inside the United States.
However, Gurganus said in court that Reynolds' e-mails tell a different story. Reynolds states in e-mails that he needed to leave the country after the planned attacks, and that he realized he could be sentenced to death as a traitor, Gurganus said.
Reynolds lived in a modest two-story house in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, from July 2004 until last spring, when neighbors said he disappeared and left his elderly mother alone. His sister, who neighbors said came to the home to care for her mother and described her brother as a "mercenary," called police after discovering a grenade inside the house, police records show.
The grenade charge carries a penalty of three to seven years in federal prison.
Reynolds has a history of run-ins with the law. He was convicted in 1978 of attempted arson and menacing, officials said. He also has unrelated convictions for disorderly conduct, resisting arrest, and breach of the peace.