The Evidence Against Zazi

As I reported earlier, during the hearing on the reauthorization of the PATRIOT Act today, DiFi said that the investigation against Najibullah Zazi is the biggest investigation since 9/11. She connected changes she had made in the proposed bill’s language about Section 215 Orders (which allow investigators to get any tangible thing from a third party, but which is generally used for business records) with that investigation. I will review the language she’s advocating tomorrow–it is actually worse than the existing language (here’s a good post on DiFi’s changes that’ll give you an idea of where I’m going). But the main point is she’s insisting that investigators be able to use Section 215 even to get information on people with no known tie to terrorism.

In an effort to understand what authorities the FBI is using for this investigation–particularly how it is using Section 215–I thought I’d list all the evidence included in Zazi’s detention motion, along with any comments made about how that evidence was collected. As you can see from the list below, a lot of this investigation relied on information that could be collected via a Section 215 order–particularly the purchase information on Triacetone Triperoxide (TATP) ingredients, but also the hotel records. Perhaps most interesting is the discussion of the three people "associated with Zazi" who bought TATP ingredients bolded in the list below; the source of this evidence is not disclosed.

Details on a August 28, 2008 flight from Newark Airport to Peshawar, Pakistan on Qatar Airlines, evidence collected from Custom and Border Protection

Email account 1, Email account 2, Email account 3

A jpeg of 9 pages of handwritten notes containing instructions on making explosives, including TATP, mailed in December 2008, collected via a "consent search"

Details on a January 15, 2009 flight from Peshawar to JFK on Qatar Airlines

Evidence Zazi transferred and/or accessed the notes on the instructions to make TATP on his laptop in June and July 2009, collected via a "lawfully-authorized search" of the laptop (apparently conducted in September in NY)

Evidence of internet searches for hydrochloric acid in summer 2009 and bookmarks (in two browsers) for a site on "Lab Safety for Hydrochloric Acid," collected via that "lawfully-authorized search" of the laptop 

Evidence Zazi searched "a beauty salon website" for hydrocide and peroxide (the source of this is not specified but it appears in the same paragraph as the discussion of the "lawfully authorized search")

Surveillance videos and receipts showing Zazi purchase six bottles of "Liquid Developer Clairoxide" and 12 32-oz bottles of "Ms. K Liquid 40 volume" from a beauty supply store in Aurora, CO

Records showing Zazi checked into a suite with a stove in a near-by hotel on August 28, 2009

Evidence that "individuals associated with Zazi purchased unusual quantities of hydrogen and acetone products in July, August, and September 2009 from three different beauty supply stores in and around Aurora;" these purchases include:

  • Person one: a one-gallon container of a product containing 20% hydrogen peroxide and an 8-oz bottle of acetone
  • Person two: an acetone product
  • Person three: 32-oz bottles of Ion Sensitive Scalp Developer three different times

(The source of this evidence is not disclosed.)

Surveillance video of Zazi checking into the same Aurora hotel on August 6

Acetone residue collected from the vent above the stove in the suite Zazi occupied

Records of communication (type not specified) with "another individual" seeking advice on the mix of the explosive

Evidence Zazi searched the internet for a home improvement store in Flushing, Queens, collected via lawfully-authorized search of his laptop

Evidence Zazi searched that home improvement store for muriatic acid, collected via lawfully-authorized search of his laptop

Auto rental contract showing pickup in Denver September 9 and return in New York on September 14, 2009

Cell phone contacts showing Zazi became aware of law enforcement suspicion, collected via lawfully-authorized intercepts

Airline ticket returning to Denver on September 12 (no details given)

An electronic scale bearing Zazi’s fingerprints, found during warranted search of residence in Queens at which Zazi stayed in NY on September 10

The removal of the hard drive from Zazi’s laptop, discovered during warranted search in Aurora after Zazi returned from NY

67 replies
  1. Hmmm says:

    A jpeg of 9 pages of handwritten notes containing instructions on making explosives, including TATP, mailed in December 2008, collected via a “consent search”

    Details on a January 15, 2009 flight from Peshawar to JFK on Qatar Airlines

    Reverse the order of these two lines and it sounds like maybe one of those at-the-border laptop “consent” searches (that EFF has warned us all about) kicked off the whole thing.

    I wonder whether Customs installs spyware when they inspect the laptops, allowing them to snoop the computer remotely later, wherever it is…

    • emptywheel says:

      Is that what a “consent” search is?

      That said, I assume they got the second flight info from the same place they got the first: CBP. But I could be wrong.

  2. KenMuldrew says:

    Whoa! This guy is dangerous. May I suggest that Americans voluntarily reject the Bill of Rights and submit themselves to the care of their benevolent legislators and executors for as long as it takes to rid your country of these scary individuals.

  3. Hmmm says:

    Also in re your bolded sections, as Zazi’s atty noted, there have not yet been any other indictments. So it will interesting to discover whether Persons one through three inclusive are suspects (i.e. who turned)… vs. informants or officers.

    • emptywheel says:

      My suspicion is that they were identified using a fairly broad data mining search under Section 215. That is, these potentially unknown people might be the reasons why DiFi says we can’t tie 215 to known connections. You find the data–the acetone–and from that you find the person.

      I especially suspect that this was 215 because of the “persons associated with,” which is what you’d want to use to fit this 215 under the current terms of the law. But under DiFi’s new terms they could search for acetone and hydrogen peroxide much more widely, without finding any ties to someone like Zazi.

      • Hmmm says:

        So the question arises: If they found the three from data-mining Section 215 business records, which I buy, how were they able to connect the three to Zazi? More data-mining, this time in an ‘known associates’ or behavioral or geolocation type database?

    • Hmmm says:

      Sure, makes sense they’d have all flight info from CPB. I was trying to get from the fact of the flights to how they were able to look at what was on the computer. Laptop search at the border seems the Occam’s Razor means, in fact it’s something privacy advocates have been sounding the alarm on for quite a while now. They claim that while you’re outside US territory, the Fourth Amendment does not apply — and you’re not inside the border ’til the border police say you are. Usually this happens when re-entering the US, which is why I flag the Jan 09 inbound flight.

      • emptywheel says:

        Well, the motion makes it clear (or maybe it’s not as clear as I think) that the laptop was searched in NY during his September trip, when it still had its hard drive. Then it was searched again after Zazi got back home.

        Of course, a lot of the laptop stuff could have been found by two means, first via MegaFISA data mining, and then via physical search.

        • Hmmm says:

          Could well be; alternatively, maybe something like this:

          Jan 15 – CBP insert spyware at the border, as per routine
          Jan – Aug or so – Routine remote snooping (as an intel/FISA search)
          Aug or so – Eventually turns up bomb info on HD –> Zazi identified as suspect (still under FISA)
          Aug or so – Sept – Develop conventional evidence in prep for conventional Law Enforcement search
          Sept – Search HD physically with conventional LE warrant

          (None of which goes to whether this was a sting vs. an actual thwarted operation.)

    • Leen says:

      You would think her families alleged profiting off the illegal and immoral war in Iraq would be enough profit

      Was there even an investigation into her family profits in the Iraq war and conflict of interest issues?

      Somehow this would seem like it would matter

  4. orionATL says:

    can we get a chemist to comment?

    any peroxide, i assume in my ignorance, can be used to encourage a fire to ignite.

    but, if one were intent on starting a FIRE in an airplane, would that be catastrophic for the plane?

    is it just fire?

    or could these chemicals be used, instead, to cause an explosion?

    an explosion large enough to down an in-flight plane?

    the tsa’s argument for the 3 ozs limit seems to be that more could cause bombs to be made on board?

    is that the case?

    skepticism about whether the gov’s claims are accurate is mandatory.

    it is essential to separate the political hocus pocus possibilities of govt “security” claims – invade iraq, limit liquids to 3 ozs, et al., from real danger.

    oh, and a morbid thought,

    could this be a white house inspired effort to divert media attention away from the health care debacle shaping up?

    along with the polanski matter?

    would any white house attempt to create news in order to distract media (and public) attention away from issues that detract from a prez’s popularity?

    • prostratedragon says:

      Per the detention order, TATP is the stuff Richard Reid’s hi-energy sneakers were fitted with, so the putative explosive was presumably meant to be prepared in advance and used to blow up the target, not mixed in place and used as an incendiary.

      • bmaz says:

        And remember, the reason Reid’s “bomb” was considered all that threatening was because it could blow out the side of the plane.

        • prostratedragon says:

          At the time I read a chemist somewhere noting that one of the two compounds in Reid’s shoes (it actually had some kind of booster or accelerant with the TATP) was so sensitive to physical shock that Reid’s little drama with the matches might have been unnecessary.

          “The fairy godmother said, ‘Just click your heels, Dorothy, and say —’

          “Well, she never did get to say, actually …”

          from Gnarled Fairy Tales

  5. bmaz says:

    Well, this may be the biggest investigation evah (actually hard to buy that, but let’s roll with that for a minute), but it still seems to me they have rolled up a pretty mediocre outfit and plot. Best as I can discern what they were building could take out a group of people in a confined area – in a bus, train or subway, subway, maybe a bar or restaurant etc. At best, assuming multiple attacks were coordinated, analogous to the London transit bombings. But heck, you could do that with a few guns and a lot of easily constructed explosives at multiple locations too; just ask the Israelis. Not to say these suspects should not be investigated and stopped, but they did not threaten armageddon or anything. Hyping this as a huge terrorist plot involving WMP is fraudulent.

  6. Rayne says:

    There’s a matrix of data here, probably using some kind of profiling process and that could be the 215. IMO, Zazi set the whole thing off by virtual of ethnicity and travel to key or targeted locations. On a cursory pass over this post and the last one (have not been following the Zazi case closely), it looks to me as if the 215 search process is a rough equivalent of that behind a direct mail operation.

    The likelihood you are of a certain political ideology can be determined by the kinds of purchases you make, while residing at a particular address and using particular kinds of vehicles, for instance; a direct mail firm will buy this data from credit card and other firms, consolidate and sort it by a unique identifier (for political purposes, it’s your name and mail address) and then target you with specific promotions. You purchase Guns & Ammo magazine, you buy high protein dog food, you buy Carhartt jackets — presto, you’re going to get mail from the NRA and the next Republican candidate for office. [edit: should spell this out more clearly — by the same token, you live in a rental, you buy only middle eastern food products, you’re a man and you buy an awful lot of peroxide and nail polish remover. Presto, we have to go to FISA about you.]

    The excessive amount of credit card debt is problematic, IMO; somebody actively let this guy run up this much debt for a reason. They gave him enough credit to obtain enough purchasing data, even if it meant breaking credit card rules. Entrapment pops into my head here.

    And the UIGEA, too, wherein banks could turn in any unusual activity; what actually triggered the first move to track this guy? Banking/credit activity?

    Little spyware necessary — just have to locate this guy by purchasing, identify his ISP, hack into his machine for anything which can’t be obtained through purchasing history. You know, like credit/debit card transactions and your neighborhood grocery store’s affinity card used for discounts?

    • bmaz says:

      An entrapment defense requires establishing that the suspect had no predisposition whatsoever to commit the subject crime but for the compulsion by law enforcement. Zazi may be half lame, I don’t think we really know enough yet to truly say, but it looks so far like he at least had some predisposition, therefore entrapment is very unlikely to be available as a defense.

    • Hmmm says:

      Sneak ‘n’ peeks too, don’t forget them.

      On a previous thread I noted it seems like a goodly part of the FBI and/or fusion centers seem, perhaps, to have been devoted to chasing down auto-generated leads from FISA data mining and Section 215 databases. If you treat the whole thing as the Zazi investigation then it seems like that’s kinda cheating.

        • Rayne says:

          Not that I’m aware of; as of last year there were only six. Don’t know how far they got in creating more before the end of the Bush admin.

        • Hmmm says:

          Sorry, I meant in the sense that no area of the country is not in the territory of one FC or another.

        • Rayne says:

          As I understand it, the fusion centers originally focused on strong cooperation between local and federal agencies. Which makes the likelihood that cooperation was strong in the case of Zazi in CO, versus cooperation in another western state and the fusion center in CO.

          I still haven’t forgotten the weird circumstances behind US Atty-CO Troy Eid; goodness knows what Easter eggs were left behind as he exited that office this past January. (BTW, it looks like he’s at Greenberg-Traurig. Small world.)

        • Hmmm says:

          CO is also where that lame-ish plot to attack candidate Obama at or near the convention was thwarted, IIRC.

        • Rayne says:

          Did the fusion center catch it in advance, or was it caught by “regular” law enforcement activities? I can’t recall (seems like I was ridiculously busy that week last year, ugh, now a big blank).

        • bmaz says:

          I don’t think it was ever entirely clear. They said it was the result of a fortuitous traffic stop but I remember thinking that looked flaky as hell; the facts on how the initial recognition of the plot was discovered were always murky I thought.

    • robspierre says:

      This is exactly how targeted marketing is done–which was the idea underlying data mining. The problem is that the basic presumptions underlying the method are complete junk science–I’d say voodoo if that weren’t unfair to the latter’s practitioners.

      According the data-miners and their national databases, I am both a Democrat and a Republican (I get membership cards from both). I live in Colorado and Texas at the same time. I am a corporate CFO who lives in a small house in a quiet lower middle-class neighborhood. I am a proud gay man who has been maried to the same woman for 35 years. Etc.

      Using these so-called techniques for law enforcement is scarey–for everyone except the criminals and the politicians who profit from the current reign of terror.

  7. qweryous says:

    o.t. Have not seen this mentioned; wapo reporting agreement in principle in
    the horn case. Will figure how to link next time.

    • qweryous says:

      Sorry, that was in a post yesterday; I forgot about reading it with all the rest of the recent posts.

  8. radiofreewill says:

    At first glance, the Zazi case appears to have all the elements of a FISA/Law Enforcement Mash-up – as a Test Case.

    If the process ‘catches’ Zazi before he carries out his alleged plan, without ‘compromising’ the Rights of Citizens – it could represent the ‘prototype’ for the System, in general.


    – I detect/become aware that ’suspicious’ activity is underway. Zazi is traveling to/communicating with people, possibly terrorists, in Pakistan

    – I crank-up FISA and begin ‘watching’ and ‘analyzing’ the suspicious behavior, and construct a ‘web of relationships’ resulting in an ‘entity relationship’ diagram

    – Once ‘probable cause’ is established, I bring in Law Enforcement to evaluate and ‘make the case.’

    It’s hard to imagine Not Having a System like this – but it’s equally easy to imagine Mis-Use in the hands of un-principled ‘actors’ without proper Congressional Oversight and Judicial Review.

    My guess is that the Zazi Case will ‘test’ the best current thinking on balancing National Security Interests and Citizen’s Rights to Privacy and Protection from Un-Lawful Searches and Seizures.

      • BoxTurtle says:

        Because he knows better. Anything that get’s allowed against scary brown moslems will be allowed against US citizens.

        And it ain’t right to do it to ANYBODY.

        Boxturtle (Get a warrant. Use the FISA court if it needs to be secret. Simple.)

      • radiofreewill says:

        skdadl – I’m going to guess that Feingold’s issue, or maybe one of his issues, is that ‘the Program’ was initially set-up by Bush without conferring with the Senate or the House in an open, honest way – if at all.

        I’d have trouble, too, ‘trusting’ that kind of a start-up, where the issues involve the most basic, fundamental Rights We have – getting established without Judicial Review and Legislative Oversight – juxtaposed against a Boogeyman National Security Threat – all according to Bush.

        Let’s face it, Bush might have been the Worst Leader for US, and the free world, to have in a Crisis. Looking back, he failed to handle any Crisis situation with anything resembling calm, confident and inspiring Leadership throughout his Presidency.

        Imvho, Bush has the weak character of an insecure blowhard, who was given Immense Power – there just isn’t any reason to think that he did the Right Thing in this one – very critical – instance, out of All the Rest of the fucking-up he did.

        So, if I were Feingold, I’d be wondering how much is there in the Start-up and Establishment of ‘the Program’ that We still don’t know about?

        If We couldn’t Trust Bush, why should we Trust his Program?

        • BoxTurtle says:

          If We couldn’t Trust Bush, why should we Trust his Program?

          Because now it’s ObamaCo that wants it. And if you try to stop it, YOU will be responsable for the Next Major Terror Attack.

          Boxturtle (And if you’re against it, Rahm visits you and swears at you)

        • emptywheel says:

          I think Feingold and Feinstein are addressing the same question from different, but understandable, positions.

          DiFi: We know there are terrorists trying to make TATP for hits in our country. What’s teh easiest way of finding them? Answer: find out who has been buying the precursors and then find out who of them is suspicious.

          Russ: We know there are terrorists trying to make TATP in this country. How do you find them? Answer: build out the network of associates from Zazi.

          Now the problem is Feingold’s approach would only get those with demonstrable ties to Zazi. Feinstein’s would mean a lot of beauticians get a great deal of scrutiny and–most problematic for me–their records remain in FBI databases for teh forseeable future.

          The other problem, though, is leaving this out there. Once teh FBI feels like it can get a list of everyone who has bought nail polish remover in teh country, then what’s to stop it from getting a list of everyone who has rented suites in their resident cities, suites with stoves? The latter would pick up a bunch of extramarital affairs, for example, in the name of terrorism.

          So I’m skeptical. But I think the answer is to treat TATP precursors like you treat Meth precursors: keep them behind a counter and ask people to register for them. I think the bigger answer is to have a real debate abotu what the American people want. I suspect we’d lose, but maybe not, maybe not once Joe Sixpack realized teh govt was tracking what he was buying at Home Depot, too.

        • bmaz says:

          And since it seems appropriate here too, I am going to pull this from a comment i left on an earlier thread:

          Thing is, it is not just beauty parlors that could be innocuous consumers of these materials, it could be anybody. I usually have a couple of gallons of muriatic acid and acetone around. The muriatic acid I use in the pool and as a concrete cleaner; the acetone as a cleaner and paint thinner. Although I don’t have any currently, I have had a gallon or more of hydrogen peroxide before, it is a fantastic oxidizing agent. H2O2 can and is used for all kinds of stuff from mold removal to concrete whitening to a bleach substitute. It is a bleaching agent. And the H2O2 they sell at beauty supply houses would not be all that strong either; certainly not lab grade or anything, keep in mind the intended use there is on bleaching hair on a human head.

          None of these “precursor” elements are all that uncommon in their use. Auto paint shops, furniture restoration shops, doctors and medical providers offices, cleaning services, mold removal businesses, and even homeowners that know a few tricks of the auto paint trade like me purchase all this stuff in bulk (by Zazi standards anyway) all the time. So, if I am repainting a car in my garage over the next month and in the process buy a few gallons of acetone (depending on the type of paint being used, could easily use this much), have an algae and resulting chem imbalance in my pool at the same time and need muriatic acid and use a quantity of H2O2 to clean my garage floor and walls, shop rags etc afterwards I am now a terrorism suspect. Will I be put on the no-fly list? Will I be surveilled or watched by state and local police because of a fusion center? Will I be data mined and screened electronically? Will they do sneak and peek searches at my house when I and my family are away? Will they bug my coffee table and monitor me electronically?

        • robspierre says:

          OMG! Are you telling me that having her hair and nails done proves that Madame is renting a hotel room with Another Man?

          I have to admit, when you put the beauty parlor evidence in the context of the Patriot Act, it is compelling, conclusive, and devastating.

          You’ll have to excuse me. I have a crime passionel to commit.

  9. WilliamOckham says:

    [I’m recovering from H1N1 at the moment, so everything I say may be influenced by the low-grade fever. Btw, although it offends me no end that I’m enriching Donald Rumsfeld, taking TamiFlu at the first sign of flu symptoms really does help. Of course, you have to be pretty sure you have the flu. In my case, my physician wife got “productively coughed on” by an H1N1 infected patient, then got very ill. So we had TamiFlu in the house when my first symptom showed…]

    Is it just me, or does it seem really creepy that the government says that some evidence came from a “lawfully authorized search”. Does that imply they also conducted unlawful searchs?

  10. orionATL says:

    below is info copied from a wikipedia article of TATP/TCAP.

    i found it very informative, perhaps others of you will also.

    “Simply mixing sulfuric acid, hydrogen peroxide, and acetone can create the substance. The mixture starts as a liquid that quickly crystallizes into a powder. However when mixed it immediately detonates.”

    – hydrogen peroxide – bleach and disinfectant.

    – acetone – nail polish remover

    – plus some sort of inorganic acid

    and you have an unstable explosive.

    note: the paragraphs cited below are scattered throughout the article

    Acetone peroxide
    From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Acetone peroxide (triacetone triperoxide, peroxyacetone, TATP, TCAP) is an organic peroxide and a primary high explosive. It takes the form of a white crystalline powder with a distinctive acrid odor.

    It is highly susceptible to heat, friction, and shock. However the instability is greatly altered by impurities. It is normally stable when pure, but it dissolves quickly. It is one of the few explosives which remain explosive when wet or kept underwater.

    Acetone peroxide” most commonly refers to the cyclic trimer TCAP (tri-cyclic acetone peroxide, or tri-cyclo, C9H18O6) obtained by a reaction between hydrogen peroxide and acetone in an acid-catalyzed nucleophilic addition.[3]

    Acetone peroxide is notable as a high explosive not containing nitrogen.

    This is one reason why it has become popular with terrorists,[6] as it can pass through scanners designed to detect nitrogenous explosives.[7]

    Acetone peroxide is notable as a high explosive not containing nitrogen. This is one reason why it has become popular with terrorists,[6] as it can pass through scanners designed to detect nitrogenous explosives.[7]

    TCAP generally burns when ignited, unconfined, in quantities less than about 2 grams. More than 2 grams will usually detonate when ignited; smaller quantities might detonate when even slightly confined. Completely dry TCAP is much more prone to detonation than the fresh product still wetted with water or acetone.

    Due to the cost and ease with which the precursors can be obtained, acetone peroxide can be manufactured by those without the resources needed
    to manufacture or buy more sophisticated explosives.[citation needed] When the reaction is carried out without proper equipment the risk of an accident is significant. Simply mixing sulfuric acid, hydrogen peroxide, and acetone can create the substance. The mixture starts as a liquid that quickly crystallizes into a powder. However when mixed it immediately detonates.

    • robspierre says:

      Saying that “simply mixing the ingredients” is all there is to it is like saying that all their is to building a car is making and assembling the parts. The devil is in the details. I remember enough from chemistry to remember a few of the many things can go wrong. For instance:

      Which do you pour first? The acid? the peroxide? the acetone? It probably makes a difference, one that the experimenter will notice as sudden blindness and horrific burning pain, followed by mutilating injuries.

      Acid and peroxide mixtures are, as it happens, known to organic chemists and circuit-board makers as “piranha baths”. They used for eliminating every trace of organic material from a substrate that has to be truly clean. Skin and muscle are organic compounds. Hence the nickname.

      What kind of container do you use? Pyrex? Ordinary glass? an aluminum pan? Cover on or cover off? If you chose anything but pyrex and cover off, see the bit about blindness and pain above.

      Piranha baths will eat almost anything, and organics like plastic may explode or burn. The bath can spatter, foam, or explode if mixed incorrectly (acid into peroxide) or placed in a closed container. A guy I knew in highschool burned his face when he poured a piranha solution into a test tube. His safety goggles melted into his face, but saved his eyes. Happily, he was using only a tiny amount of the stuff, so the skin injuries were superficial.

      What do you stir it with? Glass rod? Plastic spoon? Metal whisk? Since the piranha bath is a powerful oxidizer, I’m guessing that anything but the glass rod is going to hurt. And the rod has to be really, really clean. If it isn’t, significant quantities of organic residue will oxidize fiercely in piranha bath.

      As you add the acetone, is it best to heat the mixture or cool it or work at room temperature? I’ve read that you need to use lots of ice-preferably dry ice–to keep the reaction from running away. The reaction is very exothermic. Letting the mix get hot would blow you up or spray you with the piranha bath and burning acetone.

      If all goes well, you then wash the product with excess acetone to remove the acid catalyst and stop the reaction. Then you let the extra acetone evaporate. As the acetone evaportes, the TATP gets more and more dangerous–more sensitive to heat, friction, pressure, and shock. Bumping the table could set it off. TATP is so sensitive, in fact, that it has no military uses. It is too dangerous to make, transport, or store and needs refrigeration.

      In short, you need to be caqreful and lucky to pull this off, even if you are a trained organic chemist with adequate supplies and equipment. I’m not. I think I’d rather play Russian roulette.

  11. orionATL says:

    this on would-be airline bomber richard reid from wikipedia.

    [ aside:
    given conversations on torture here i found this sentence interesting:

    “… Jabarah was a known colleague of Khalid Sheikh Mohamed, and stated that both Reid and Jdey had been enlisted by the al-Qaeda chief to participate in identical plots.[8][9] However, the NTSB report of October 26, 2004 stated that the cause of the AA 587 crash was the overuse of the rudder to counter wake turbulence.[10]” ]

    Richard Reid (shoe bomber)
    From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Richard Colvin Reid (born 12 August 1973[1], also known as Abdul Raheem and as Tariq Raja, and often referred to in the media as the shoe bomber) was convicted on charges of terrorism and is currently serving a life sentence in the United States for attempting to destroy a commercial aircraft in-flight by detonating explosives hidden in his shoes. According to al-Qaeda operative Mohammed Mansour Jabarah (who was captured and interrogated in Oman in 2002), Reid was a member of al-Qaeda and had been sent on the bombing mission by Khaled Shaikh Mohammed, a senior member of the organization.[2]

    Bombing attempt on American Airlines 63
    Reid, according to the FBI using the aliases Tariq Raja (طارق راجا) and Abdel Rahim (عبدالرحیم), was arrested on 22 December 2001 for attempting to destroy a Boeing 767 on American Airlines Flight 63, a flight from Paris, Charles De Gaulle International Airport to Miami International Airport, USA, by igniting explosives hidden in his shoes.

    Passengers on flight 63 complained of a smoke smell in the cabin shortly after a meal service. One flight attendant, Hermis Moutardier, walked the aisles of the plane, trying to assess the source. She found Reid, who was sitting alone near a window and attempting to light a match. Moutardier warned him that smoking was not allowed on the airplane; Reid promised to stop. A few minutes later, Moutardier found Reid leaned over in his seat; her attempts to get his attention failed. After asking “What are you doing?” Reid grabbed at her, revealing one shoe in his lap, a fuse which led into the shoe, and a lit match. She tried grabbing Reid twice, but he pushed her to the floor each time, and she screamed for help. When another flight attendant, Cristina Jones, arrived to try to subdue him, he fought her and bit her thumb. The 6 foot 4 inch (193 cm) Reid was eventually subdued by other passengers on the airliner, using plastic handcuffs, seatbelt extensions, and headphone cords. A doctor administered valium found in the flight kit of the aircraft.[7] The flight was diverted to Boston’s Logan International Airport. Authorities later found PETN with a triacetone triperoxide (TATP) detonator hidden in the lining of his shoes.

    [edit] Trial and verdict
    Six months after the crash of American Airlines Flight 587 in Queens, New York, Mohammed Mansour Jabarah agreed to cooperate with American authorities in exchange for a reduced sentence. He stated that fellow Canadian Abderraouf Jdey had been responsible for that flight’s destruction, using a shoe bomb similar to that found on Reid several months earlier. Jabarah was a known colleague of Khalid Sheikh Mohamed, and stated that both Reid and Jdey had been enlisted by the al-Qaeda chief to participate in identical plots.[8][9] However, the NTSB report of October 26, 2004 stated that the cause of the AA 587 crash was the overuse of the rudder to counter wake turbulence.[10]


    widipedia on PETN:

    “The most obvious use of PETN is as an explosive. It is more sensitive to shock or friction than TNT or tetryl, and it is never used alone as a booster. It is primarily used in booster and bursting charges of small caliber ammunition, in upper charges of detonators in some land mines and shells, and as the explosive core of detonation cord.[2] Apart from this, PETN is used as a vasodilator, similar to nitroglycerin. A medicine for heart disease, Lentonitrat, is nearly pure PETN.[3]”

  12. Mary says:

    I’m going to assume that they really have a group of guys who are bad guys and who were going to do something legitimately bad. Even with that, though, here’s the problem with what DiFi is proposing and why she is setting us up, once again, for a “hard facts make bad law” situation.

    Presumably the Zazi case is actually going to go to trial and the evidence is actually going to be subjected to a typcial court review. I think that the founders were absolutely aware that, if you let gov do ots of warrantless searches and seizures, they would eventually find, for some people, incriminating info. But that’s not the process that was authorized. Instead, the authorized process was to go to a judge and convince the judge that there was “probable cause” to believe someone might be involved in a crime and have the judge issue a warrant.

    So what happened with that whole concept? Well, in part, originally, FISA happened. For all the questions raised by the Yoo Hoos on whether or not FISA is constitutional restriction on the President’s authority, the bigger question is whether or not FISA allowed unconstitutional searches of US citizens on US soil, even under its own & old rules and language. There is a reason that the old language used the references to “foreign powers” and “agents of foreign powers” language. It comes from a Sup Ct case – a case where the court was dealing with a warrantless search/wiretap that was unconstitutional and where the court said in dicta that it wasn’t reaching the issue of whether something other than a showing of probable cause to believe a criminal activity was involved would support the warrantless search/wiretap by the executive of a foreign power or an agent of a foreign power (and not touching on the issue of the “agent” being a US citizen).

    So when FISA was generated, to codify the power in the Executive, it went back to what the court had said in dicta and pulled that language to use. It set up a process where basically the FISA court was there to deal with the minimization of impact on US citizens and really the court doesn’t issue orders for surveillance where you have solely non-US foreign powers/agents involved, in part acknowledging that dicta in the Sup Ct decision that it’s an Exec function, not a court function, to decide whether or not the Exec is going to wiretap, say, the Russian embassy calls to the Kremlin – without regard to crime.

    Makes sense.

    But then you had the fact that the Exec was going to be using all kinds of technology and tactics that involved accessing information that wasn’t “just” foreign power to foreign power agent and that involved US persons. And the murky issue of what about US citizens who are in “contact” with foreign powers, where the contact may or may not be with respect to a criminal purpose. So voila – the FISA court – to issue minimization procedures for the US persons caught up in this and to issue orders allowing for the surveillance of US persons where there was “probable cause” to believe that those US persons were in contact with foreign powers/agents of foreign powers. But this FISA surveillance process was fore the SOLE purpose of security information gathering and could not be used for criminal purposes. Bc you were using a process that was unconstitutional for criminal purposes, but under the concept that sometimes “national security” (and let’s face it – how many contacts with foreign powers that are actually tied in to threats to national security wouldn’t also involve crimes?) required that kind of surveillance, for purposes other than criminal prosecutions.

    Since FISA was originally passed, though, they’ve done a lot of things. They have “defined” a foreign power and agent of a foreign power more and more broadly – to make some kind of amorphous “terrorist” designation also become a foreign power, without regard to the lack of foreign aspect to ideology. And then there’s what Kris raised, way back when, with Yoo. What about if the sole purpose or even the primary purpose isn’t for national security, but rather to try to go on fishing expeditions to gather evidence of a crime, where you have no probable cause. And yes, the Congress has codified a degenerated (in every sense of the word) standard to now allow huge, sweeping powers where there is no criminal probable cause to support a warrant, to allow for searches and seizures if anyone can “make up” some kind of a tangential reason to claim that there might be a contact with a foreign power somewhere in all of what they are sifting through.

    And now DiFi wants to go the other way as well, and say that even the concept of a tie to terrorists and terrorism – which had been defined to be a “foreign power’ contact and which was the underlying bootstrap to allow for sweeping searches where there was no criminal probable cause – to now say that isn’t even a necessary element of the searches, no “foreign power” contact needs to even be at issue.

    It’s pretty unbelievable and of course, as long as nothing is ever going to go to a criminal court, it “works” bc there is never judicial review and Congress is worse than worthless. But then you get a case like Zazi’s and now what? Now Congress, because it won’t do its job, puts the courts once more in a position where they have bad facts (not one of the thousands and thousands of cases were people were violated with searches that found nothing – but instead some bad buys) and clearly unconstitutional behaviour. Let’s face it – it would have been completely “legal” for Congress to require that sales of hydrogen peroxide products in certain quantities has to be recorded and reported – we do that for other things. Instead, they authorize FBI et al to run amok with searching for anything it wants, anywhere it wants, on any pretext. All handled by guys and gals who are sometimes good people, and more and more often not such good people. Bc an entity that spies on and violates its own citizens for political and prurient purposes as well as the random “real” reasons of crime prevention – that kind of entity only attracts certain kinds of people.

    • bmaz says:

      Right, but you left out the next step in the evolution, the intermixing of the national security side with the traditional law enforcement on things that do not involve terrorism even in the broadest definition. The two sides of surveillance are being merged through the much despised fusion centers and other underreported cooperation among federal security and intelligence apparatuses and state and local authorities such as combined task forces and border control efforts. The merger of the two is well underway, and that is a wholesale repudiation of a major part of the framework of the Constitution

      • fatster says:

        BIngo! This is the biggie. They began arming local law enforcement after 9/11 (when else?), tossing big bucks to get them all armed up to defeat the terrists. You kidding me? Fewer than two dozen guys, most from Saudi Arabia, brought us to our knees, however briefly, with the terribly efficient yet simply executed hijacking of planes. Why do the police need to be armed to their teeth to prevent such an occurrence again? How will such weapons prevent smuggling of radioactive materials into the US? These, and other terrist scenarios, take excellent intelligence work (to find the truth, not an excuse to do whatever the executive or fourth branch wishes) and cooperation among many watchful agencies, not sci-fi level brute force.

        My initial reaction was suspicion that those weapons are to be used against us. If I could get highly alarmed about equipping local law enforcement with weapons such as they have now acquired, for the vague purpose of combating terrirsts, where was the concern among our legislators who ok’d use of our tax dollars for acquiring these armaments? I didn’t see or hear any, though I’d welcome someone correcting me. Maybe I missed it since I dived under the bed and stayed there for two or three months trying to make it all make sense.

        The terrible sound machine mounted on the armored vehicle in Pittsburgh, slowly wending its way through the streets, accompanied by pepper gas, cops suited up like space aliens, people dragged-off campus and beaten, and then the one guy who was snatched and dragged off the street by camouflaged agents and stuffed into a vehicle (anybody ever hear what happened to him?), and so on. And now, here’s another toy from hell that they are going to be able to acquire, and for what purpose?

        Fusion centers, detention centers, military and local law enforcement cooperating and both armed to the gills with outrageous weapons–these are going to stop terrists skilled at sneaking around quietly in small groups to do their horrendous work? Colleen Rowleys stop terrists. Not sci-fi caliber weapons.

        And given that local law enforcement operates fairly independent of the rest of local government (that “colorful” sheriff of y’all’s in AZ is an excellent example), who’s to stop them? Particularly if there are no national laws, policies and regulations to govern the purchase and use of these nightmarish toys?

        And why was this development greeted with so much silence?

        Sorry for the rant, and I appreciate your forbearance. I have had nightmares about this since it began post-9/11.

    • Jeff Kaye says:

      …an entity that spies on and violates its own citizens for political and prurient purposes as well as the random “real” reasons of crime prevention – that kind of entity only attracts certain kinds of people.

      Brilliant point, and I’d note, we’re already there. What bmaz said at 39, and emptywheel’s common sense point at 43, and about a dozen other great comments.

      I’m glad to see this site out front on this, as it has been on the FISA issue in general.

      I’m betting the Zazi case will turn out to be a sting. My guess is they know who these “associates” are, and what do you bet one or more will be an FBI informant? I can do my own profiling, too. And the FBI has had a pretty murky history re “associates” to terrorists. Just ask the relatives of Viola Riuzzo.

      Or ask Geronimo Pratt, who spent years in prison due to the testimony of key accuser, Julius Butler, who was later revealed to be an FBI informant, who of course lied, as part of a COINTELPRO government set-up against Pratt (now out, a free man).

      The government has lied so much over these past years, we must assume they are lying now. That is occam’s razor in a murky case like this. And how fortunate, as DiFi and others push for greater and greater government usurption of rights. Zazi may be a bad guy, but they’ve built this case out of very little, and hyped it as large as they could. That’s what makes me so suspicious.

      I look forward to reading more by EW and others, and hopefully the ambiguities of the case will become clearer.

  13. fatster says:

    O/T Two bits of morning news.

    What is wrong with this picture?

    Part 1: House votes against bringing Gitmo detainees to US “The 258-163 vote on a nonbinding recommendation . . . ” More.

    Part 2: Blair in line for EU presidency: report More.

  14. orionATL says:

    very well said, mary.


    “an fbi run amok…” ?


    i read recently that the fbi had issued something like 50,000 national security letters by some later time in the bush years.

    50,000 legally unchallengeable requests -no, demands- for information from government to its citizens. that’s extraordinary unconstitutional government behavior.

    the matter of legislators and presidents looking the other way at fundamental constitutional rules we have set up over 200+ years is very, very dangerous to the american version of democracy.

    we are in an era of creeping authoritarianism in american society;

    an authoritarian tending nation with the world’s most powerful military is a danger to americans and the rest of the world.

  15. earlofhuntingdon says:

    The military for decades has had schools that teach, “Kitchen Explosives”, how to make effective bombs and detonation devices from everyday things. There are lots of ways to do it. Removing the ingredients from open commerce would require shutting down pharmacies, grocery stores, gas stations, and auto, plumbing and garden supply houses. Not to mention farm supply outfits.

    Law enforcement cannot properly use Cheney’s, “I’m afraid of everything” standard. We can’t afford it. We ought not tolerate it. It commands enormous resources out of all proportion to statistically significant risk. It generates voluminous false positives requiring follow-up, and leaves the terrorist needles still firmly implanted inside a mountainous haystack.

    It normalizes government intrusion deeper and deeper into our everyday lives on the false claim that its sole or primary purpose is to keep us safe. As costs soar, more and more of the related activity is outsourced, reducing both government and contractor accountability while escalating cost. The scope for abuse is considerable, the scope for invasive private commercialization of the resulting data is greater.

    It makes us all a “potential” enemy. Posse Comitatus, like the Fourth Amendment and the Geneva Conventions, becomes a quaint antiquity. The pressures of law enforcement and military training and responsibility – and political opportunism – quickly deletes the modifier. We become just enemies to whom no obligation of restraint and process is owed. We become creatures to control, be it with water or sound or heat cannons, tasers, weapons of domestic destruction, or simply with disdain.

    • bmaz says:

      Exactly right and very well said. Criminal defense attorneys have been shouting this to deaf ears for decades – since the early 80s. People mocked us when we talked about the “slippery slope”. Just look now. It will get worse, and is getting worse, even with a Democratic liberal supposed Constitutional and civil rights scholar in the White House.

  16. robspierre says:

    I find the paucity of the evidence truly frightening. I have never been to Pakistan. But:

    * I have been to New York several times recently.

    * I am not a muslim and I do not have a muslim name, but I am on the antiterrorist no-fly list.

    * I have bought quantities of acetone, MEK, and muriatic acid in the past.

    * I have not purchased but have used high-test peroxide and concentrated sulphuric and hydrochloric acids.

    * I definitely have “bomb-making instructions” on my computers–mostly as a result of researching the shoe-bomber case.

    * I probably have “dangerous” political views.

    * I have associated with a number of muslims.

    So isn’t the case against me almost as good as the case against Zazi?

    And what IS the case? No crime was committed! No explosive was manufactured, as near as we know, or fashioned into a viable bomb. No bomb was planted or detonated. So, if I understand it, the government is really charging conspiracy–that Zazi thought about committing a crime and talked with it about others.

    To me, conspiracy can only be a just charge in the context of an actual crime. If, for instance, I hire a guy to kill my wife and he kills her (or shows up at the house with a gun), I’m a conspirator. If a bunch of guys from the mosque rent a van and pack it with ammonimum nitrate and primacord, they are conspirators. But letting the government charge people for thinking, talking, and making legal purchases, all in the name of preventing crime, is wrong.

    • Rayne says:

      Let’s ask what is likely the first criteria: are you of middle eastern descent from a “target” country, i.e. Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Indonesia, Philippines?

      That’s probably the first piece to the puzzle — and then any one of these is not an on/off dip switch, but a probability which increases with the addition and size/depth/degree of each subsequent data point in the matrix.

      Think Amazon or Google and the algorithms they use to determine the optimum item to present to you based on past searches. It’s far more accurate than the direct mail technology, which tends to look more at aggregated probability rather than individual probability. And then think about applications used by companies to record sales transactions and customer loyalty — the coupons you’re offered at POS after checkout, based on your purchases now and past are just one example of the application on the fly.

      The illegal part is the use of this data, even if bought, for fishing expeditions.

      • robspierre says:

        I’m not convinced that being of Middle Eastern origin necessarilly has much to do with it. How would they know? Chances are, they’d rely on my name popping up in their databases–the same reliable process that concludes that I am both a Democrat and a Republican at the same time.

        Case in point: the supposed namesake that got me on the no-fly list is supposed to be a Trinidadian convert to Islam who once bombed a synagogue in Canada (not that anyone really knows, of course–the reasons for putting a person on the list are secret). The fact that I am native born, much younger, and significantly paler than the namesake makes no difference. The exact spelling of my name is all they go on for a match. In fact, if I use my middle initial to reserve a ticket, I am magically no longer on the list, no longer key the index that pulls up the datamined profile of a terrorist.

        Data-mining, predictive profiling, and the rest are smoke and mirrors masquerading as science. They amplify prejudices and assumptions. They do not add any valid information.

        • Rayne says:

          Look, I understand and agree that certain technologies are pissy. But you’re assuming that’s only a bug.

          It’s a usable feature. Now they can check on you (”Oops, my bad!”) and ensure that a clone by name or some other feature isn’t a problem before they have to check the rest of the cloud of data which follows you everywhere.

          I notice you’re not complaining about the accuracy of Amazon or Google, either, just two things which are much simpler and older tech: name-matching and direct mail. Which do you think they are using?

          You’d be crazy to think they’re not employing all of the above and more which isn’t commercially available, the kind of stuff created for them from DARPA or other programs we don’t know about.

          As for how would they know whether you are of middle-eastern origin: are you or are you not a citizen? if not, that’s the first criteria. Did you apply for a bank account and/or a credit card? there’s another place where you’ll indicate your origin. And then your name, which may be low-tech, but the risk factors continue to roll up depending on how each of these factors stack up.

          And are you male? Did you buy nail polish remover? did you buy more than one bottle? did you buy more than one bottle at multiple RETAIL stores in short time frame? You’re continuing to increase probability — especially if you’re not buying acetone at a hardware store on a one-pop basis AND your employment status doesn’t match the purchases.

          Sorry, it’s all valid info. It’s the same kind of info commercial retailers already use to sell to you. Perhaps you don’t even realize it.

          Like the ads on different websites. You and I will go to the same web sites, but depending on the cookies on our machines and the data compiled in the retailer’s cloud, you and I will be offered different ads and different prices. And you may not even notice because to you the content seems completely suitable to the site you’re at.

          Christ, even Facebook does it. That’s why I get advertising for women’s facial products targeting 40-something plus and not the same ads for makeup my daughter gets.

          Valid. But not legal if acquired and used without probably cause.

  17. orionATL says:

    robespierre @50

    you asked precisely the right follow-up question to my comment on the chemicals involved in the zazi case:

    just how dangerous a would-be terrorist was this guy?

    could he have made these unstable chemicals work in an airplane at 36K feet? could anyone but a truly expert chemist/bomb maker make them work in an airplane toilet? was zazi an expert bomber?

    in the (bush-era) past we have seen multiple examples of the doj/fbi touting as “potent”, terrorists groups which they have “uncovered”, often thru informers and fbi spies within the group,

    which later turn out to have been folks – almost always young males- dreaming in “revenge fantasy land”, or just “fantasy land” period.

    the miami “sons of david” ragtag group come to mind as do the the muslim paint-ball “terrorists” in virginia.

    so the question i have for the fbi in this case is:

    was this guy,

    who went around using the internet and walking into beauty shop supply shops to buy peroxide in strong concentrations,

    a serious threat?

    or was he a fantasizing dufus?

    given all that has been talked over in the media about this for a couple of years, it would take some kind of very foolish person to do these things out in the open.

    a second follow-up question would be this:

    has the zazi case been thoughtfully brought to our attention as a ploy to subvert the senate’s effort to reign in national security letters (or the fbi on national security matters in general)?

    my suspicion is that it has.

    recall, barely a week ago, that attorney general holder suddenly had concessions to make on state secrets arguments just at the time when congress (leighy) was pressing forward on a bill to limit such claims.

    the final follow-up question is:

    why would a “liberal” president EVER protect bush-era authoritarian legal doctrines or policies?

    what could there possibly be to gain from such behavior?

  18. Hmmm says:

    I was just about to comment that “I think there is a real need for a national discussion about where we as a society wish to draw the line vis-a-vis precrime vs. Fourth Amendment,” but then I read what I wrote and instantly became deeply ashamed that I was even capable of framing the situation that way. I apologize, and offer my failing as a counterexample for the education of all and sundry…

    It’s the Constitution, stupid.

    • fatster says:

      Well, we definitely need to have a national discussion about our Constitution and what it means to us. First, though, we have to get people interested in even reading the Constitution, followed, second, by understanding it, and, third, knowing what sacrifices were made in order to get it.

      (I know: dream on.)

  19. orionATL says:

    prostrate dragon @ 18

    it occurred to me this afternoon that i had failed to thank you for your comment, a comment that aroused my curiosity (and made me aware of my ignorance) about the chemicals terrorists like reid might use.


    to correct my indifference to a valuable comment,

    thank you, prostrate dragon,

    for a comment that sent me on a learning expedition.

    and thanks, too, for your many other thoughtful comments here.

Comments are closed.