I Am at War with Your Country

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"I Am at War with Your Country"

Shoe Bomber Attempts Suicide Bombing of American Airlines Paris-to-Miami Flight

Court transcript

By: Richard Reid and Judge William Young

Date: January 30, 2003

Source: Court hearing transcript, January 30, 2003; excerpts published January 31, 2003. Available from CNN.com/Law Center at <http://www.cnn.com/2003/LAW/01/31/reid.transcript/> (accessed July 8, 2005).

About the Author: Richard Reid, widely known as the shoe bomber, was born August 12, 1973, in England. After his conviction in 2003, he began serving a life sentence in prison in Florence, Colorado. William Young, the chief justice of the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts, imposed the sentence.


On December 22, 2001, American Airlines Flight 63, a Boeing 767, was en route from Paris to Miami, Florida, with 185 passengers and twelve crew members aboard. At about 11:00 a.m. EST, when the plane was about ninety minutes away from Boston, a flight attendant noticed the smell of sulfur in the cabin. She approached an unkempt passenger who had lit a match and appeared to be attempting to set fire to wires protruding from the tongue of his shoe. She leapt at the passenger and wrestled with him while crying out, "Oh, my God! Somebody help me!"

A brief struggle followed. The man pushed the flight attendant to the floor. When another flight attendant tried to restrain him, he wrestled with her and bit her thumb. By this time, surrounding passengers had joined the struggle. After the man was subdued, he was secured with belts provided by other passengers, and two doctors on board administered a sedative from the aircraft's medical kit. The pilot, concerned that the man had accomplices on board, alerted the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), which dispatched two F-14 fighter jets to accompany the aircraft to Boston's Logan Airport. The plane landed at 12:50 and was secured on a remote section of the runway.

The passenger, Richard Reid, was traveling without luggage on a false British passport issued in Belgium three weeks earlier. Just the day before, he had paid for a ticket for a Paris-to-Miami flight with cash and carried no baggage, prompting airport security personnel to question him for so long that he missed the flight.

In Boston, he was taken into custody, and when the FBI examined his high-top basketball sneakers, they discovered a foreign substance in the lining, as well as wires. The substance turned out to be C-4, a powerful explosive used not only by military forces but also by terrorists; C-4, for example, was the explosive that severely damaged the U.S.S. Cole in Yemen in October 2000. The wires led to a detonator made of triacetone triperoxide. An air disaster had been diverted.

On January 16, 2002, a federal grand jury indicted Richard Reid on nine counts, including attempted murder and use of a weapon of mass destruction. Reid pled not guilty. After trial, he was found guilty in January 2003. At his sentencing hearing on January 30, he had the following exchange with presiding judge William Young.


Richard Reid: I start by praising Allah because life today is no good. I bear witness to this and he alone is right to be worshiped. And I bear witness that Muhammad Sa'laat Alayhi as-Salaam is his last prophet and messenger who is sent to all of mankind for guidance, with the sound guidance for everyone.

Judge William Young: I didn't hear the last. I admit my actions and then what did you say?

Reid: I further admit my allegiance to Osama bin Laden, to Islam, and to the religion of Allah. With regards to what you said about killing innocent people, I will say one thing. Your government has killed 2 million children in Iraq. If you want to think about something, against 2 million, I don't see no (sic) comparison.

Your government has sponsored the rape and torture of Muslims in the prisons of Egypt and Turkey and Syria and Jordan with their money and with their weapons. I don't know, see what I done (sic) as being equal to rape and to torture, or to the deaths of the two million children in Iraq.

So, for this reason, I think I ought not apologize for my actions. I am at war with your country. I'm at war with them not for personal reasons, but because they have murdered more than, so many children and they have oppressed my religion and they have oppressed people for no reason except that they say we believe in Allah.

This is the only reason that America sponsors Egypt. It's the only reason they sponsor Turkey. It's the only reason they back Israel.

As far as the sentence is concerned, it's in your hand. Only really, it is not even in your hand. It's in Allah's hand. I put my trust in Allah totally and I know that he will give victory to his religion. And he will give victory to those who believe and he will destroy those who wish to oppress the people because they believe in Allah.

So you can judge and I leave you to judge. And I don't mind. This is all I have to say. And I bear witness to Muhammad this is Allah's message.

Young: Mr. Richard C. Reid, hearken now to the sentence the Court imposes upon you.

On counts 1, 5 and 6 the Court sentences you to life in prison in the custody of the United States Attorney General. On counts 2, 3, 4 and 7, the Court sentences you to 20 years in prison on each count, the sentence on each count to run consecutive one with the other. That's 80 years.

On Count 8 the Court sentences you to the mandatory 30 years consecutive to the 80 years just imposed. The Court imposes upon you on each of the eight counts a fine of $250,000 for the aggregate fine of $2 million.

The Court accepts the government's recommendation with respect to restitution and orders restitution in the amount of $298.17 to Andre Bousquet and $5,784 to American Airlines.

The Court imposes upon you the $800 special assessment.

The Court imposes upon you five years supervised release simply because the law requires it. But the life sentences are real life sentences so I need not go any further.

This is the sentence that is provided for by our statutes. It is a fair and a just sentence. It is a righteous sentence. Let me explain this to you.

We are not afraid of any of your terrorist co-conspirators, Mr. Reid. We are Americans. We have been through the fire before. There is all too much war talk here. And I say that to everyone with the utmost respect.

Here in this court where we deal with individuals as individuals, and care for individuals as individuals, as human beings we reach out for justice.

You are not an enemy combatant. You are a terrorist. You are not a soldier in any war. You are a terrorist. To give you that reference, to call you a soldier gives you far too much stature. Whether it is the officers of government who do it or your attorney who does it, or that happens to be your view, you are a terrorist.

And we do not negotiate with terrorists. We do not treat with terrorists. We do not sign documents with terrorists. We hunt them down one by one and bring them to justice.

So war talk is way out of line in this court. You're a big fellow. But you're not that big. You're no warrior. I know warriors. You are a terrorist. A species of criminal guilty of multiple attempted murders.

In a very real sense Trooper Santiago had it right when first you were taken off that plane and into custody and you wondered where the press and where the TV crews were and you said you're no big deal. You're no big deal.

What your counsel, what your able counsel and what the equally able United States attorneys have grappled with and what I have as honestly as I know how tried to grapple with, is why you did something so horrific. What was it that led you here to this courtroom today? I have listened respectfully to what you have to say. And I ask you to search your heart and ask yourself what sort of unfathomable hate led you to do what you are guilty of and admit you are guilty of doing.

And I have an answer for you. It may not satisfy you. But as I search this entire record it comes as close to understanding as I know.

It seems to me you hate the one thing that to us is most precious. You hate our freedom. Our individual freedom. Our individual freedom to live as we choose, to come and go as we choose, to believe or not believe as we individually choose.

Here, in this society, the very winds carry freedom. They carry it everywhere from sea to shining sea. It is because we prize individual freedom so much that you are here in this beautiful courtroom. So that everyone can see, truly see that justice is administered fairly, individually, and discretely.

It is for freedom's seek that your lawyers are striving so vigorously on your behalf and have filed appeals, will go on in their, their representation of you before other judges. We care about it. Because we all know that the way we treat you, Mr. Reid, is the measure of our own liberties.

Make no mistake though. It is yet true that we will bear any burden; pay any price, to preserve our freedoms.

Look around this courtroom. Mark it well. The world is not going to long remember what you or I say here. Day after tomorrow it will be forgotten. But this, however, will long endure. Here, in this courtroom, and courtrooms all across America, the American people will gather to see that justice, individual justice, justice, not war, individual justice is in fact being done.

The very President of the United States through his officers will have to come into courtrooms and lay out evidence on which specific matters can be judged, and juries of citizens will gather to sit and judge that evidence democratically, to mold and shape and refine our sense of justice.

See that flag, Mr. Reid? That's the flag of the United States of America. That flag will fly there long after this is all forgotten. That flag still stands for freedom. You know it always will. Custody, Mr. Officer. Stand him down.

Reid: That flag will be brought down on the Day of Judgment and you will see in front of your Lord and my Lord and then we will know. (Whereupon the defendant was removed from the courtroom.)


Initially, authorities considered that Reid was an eccentric, perhaps mentally unbalanced man who was acting alone. The indictment, however, painted an entirely different picture. It alleged that he had received training in al-Qaeda terrorist camps in Afghanistan and that the shoe bomb, which Reid claimed he built himself from a design he had found on the Internet, was too sophisticated to have been his sole work.

Further, investigation of Reid's movements in the days and weeks before his aborted attack showed that he regularly had contact with known terrorists in the Middle East and in Europe, particularly in the Netherlands, where other terrorists networked (among them was Zacarias Moussaoui, who was implicated in the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States). Additionally, the FBI found on the shoe bomb palm prints and a hair from another person, suggesting that Reid had help building it. Later, in April 2005, a British court sentenced Saajid Mohammed Badat, to thirteen years in prison for his part in the conspiracy.

In the early 1990s, Reid was in and out of British jails, where Muslim imams were allowed to distribute Islamist literature, including calls to jihad (holy war). During his last stint in jail in 1994, Reid converted to Islam. Reid turned to extremism under the name Abdel Rahim (also Abdul Raheem) in 1998 and over the next three years, moved freely back and forth between London and Paris, Amsterdam, Brussels, Turkey, Egypt, Pakistan, and Afghanistan, learning the craft of terror.

Largely because of the shoe bomber, airplane passengers must now remove their shoes and have them inspected for explosive residue before boarding.


Web sites

CNN.com. "Timeline: The Shoe Bomber Case." January 7, 2002. <http://archives.cnn.com/2002/US/01/07/reid.timeline/index.html> (accessed July 8, 2005).

Time. Elliott, Michael. "The Shoe Bomber's World." February 16, 2002. <http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,203478,00.html> (accessed July 8, 2005).

United States of American v. Richard Colvin Reid. Indictment, January 16, 2002. <http://news.findlaw.com/hdocs/docs/reid/usreid011602ind.pdf> (accessed July 8, 2005).


Stephen, Andrew. "America's Very Own Muslims: Top Basketball Players, Heroes to Millions, Are Converting to Islam. So Does the U.S. Shelter an Army of Home-Grown Richard Reids?" New Statesman. (January 7, 2002): pp. 12 ff.