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Shoe Bomber Attempts Airliner Explosion

Shoe Bomber Attempts Airliner Explosion

District of Massachusetts, United States of America against Richard Colvin Reid

Indictment

By: United States District Court

Date: January 16, 2002

Source: Indictment, United States District Court, District of Massachusetts, United States of America against Richard Colvin Reid.

About the Author: The United States District Courts hear federal, civil, and criminal cases. There are ninety-four judicial districts in the United States District Court system, with courts in all fifty states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and three United States territories.

INTRODUCTION

British-born Richard Colvin Reid (1973–), more widely known as the "Shoe Bomber," first gained notoriety on December 22, 2001, for attempting to bomb American Airlines Flight 63 as it flew over the Atlantic Ocean from Charles De Gaulle International Airport in Paris to Miami International Airport. Reid was noticed by other passengers acting suspicious when he attempted to light a match to his high-top basketball sneakers. Eventually, he was restrained with the help of flight attendants and several passengers. No damage occurred to the airplane and two flight attendants were slightly injured. Under escort by U.S. Air Force F-15 fighter jets, the airplane was diverted to Boston's Logan Airport.

Reid was indicted on January 16, 2002, on nine criminal counts including attempted murder, the use of a weapon of mass destruction, and attempted destruction of an airliner.

After pleading guilty, Reid was convicted at a Boston federal court on January 30, 2003. During his sentencing hearing, Reid publicly declared himself to be an Islamic fundamentalist and an enemy of the United States. In other public statements, Reid confirmed he was a member of al Qaeda and a supporter of Osama Bin Laden. Later at the hearing, he was sentenced to life in prison.

Reid was sent to the Administrative Maximum (ADX) Security Florence prison in Florence, Colorado. The prison, operated by the U.S. federal government, holds some of the country's most dangerous prisoners.

PRIMARY SOURCE

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
V
RICHARD COLVIN REID

Count One:

(18 U.S.C. §2332a(a)(1)—Attempted Use of Weapon of Mass Destruction)

The Grand Jury charges that:

1. At all times relevant to th[ese] count[s] brought under Title 18, United States Code, Chapter 113B—Terrorism, Al-Qaeda was a designated foreign terrorist organization pursuant to 8 U.S.C. §1189.

2. At various times relevant to this count, Richard Colvin Reid received training from Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan.

3. On or about December 22, 2001, at Paris, France, and on board American Airlines Flight 63 en-route from Paris, France to Miami, Florida, but landing at East Boston, Massachusetts, in the District of Massachusetts,
RICHARD COLVIN REID,
a/k/a ABDUL-RAHEEM,
a/k/a ABDUL RAHEEM, ABU IBRAHIM,
defendant herein, did, without lawful authority, attempt to use a weapon of mass destruction, to wit: a destructive device, consisting of an explosive bomb placed in each of his shoes, against one and more than one national of the United States while such nationals were outside of the United States.

All in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 2332a(a)(1).

Count Two:

(18 U.S.C. §2332—Attempted Homicide)

The Grand Jury further charges that:

RICHARD COLVIN REID,
defendant herein, did, outside the United States, attempt to kill and to commit a killing that is a murder of one and more than one national of the United States, while such nationals were outside the United States.

All in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 2332(b)(1).

Count Three:

(49 U.S.C. §§46505(b)(3) and (c)—Placing Explosive Device on Aircraft)

The Grand Jury further charges that:

RICHARD COLVIN REID,
defendant herein, did knowingly have on and about his person when on American Airlines Flight 63, an aircraft in and intended for operation in air transportation, and did place on that aircraft, explosive devices contained in the footwear he was then wearing; and did so willfully and without regard for the safety of human life, and with reckless disregard for the safety of human life.

All in violation of Title 49, United States Code, Sections 46505(b)(3) and (c).

Count Four:

(49 U.S.C. §§46506(1) and 18 U.S.C. §1113—Attempted Murder)

The Grand Jury further charges that:

RICHARD COLVIN REID,
defendant herein, did, on an aircraft in the special aircraft jurisdiction of the United States, attempt to commit murder of one and more than one of the 183 other passengers and 14 crew members on board American Airlines Flight 63.

All in violation of Title 49, United States Code, Section 46506(1) and Title 18, United States Code, Section 1113.

Count Five:

(49 U.S.C. §46504—Interference with Flight Crew and Attendants)

The Grand Jury further charges that:

RICHARD COLVIN REID,
defendant herein, did, on an aircraft in the special aircraft jurisdiction of the United States, by assaulting and intimidating Hermis Moutardier, a flight attendant of the aircraft, interfere with the performance of the duties of said flight attendant, and did lessen the ability of said flight attendant to perform those duties; and did use a dangerous weapon in assaulting and intimidating said flight attendant.

All in violation of Title 49, United States Code, Section 46504.

Count Six:

(49 U.S.C. §46504—Interference with Flight Crew and Attendants)

The Grand Jury further charges that:

RICHARD COLVIN REID,
defendant herein, did, on an aircraft in the special aircraft jurisdiction of the United States, by assaulting and intimidating Cristina Jones, a flight attendant of the aircraft, interfere with the performance of the duties of said flight attendant, and did lessen the ability of said flight attendant to perform those duties; and did use a dangerous weapon in assaulting and intimidating said flight attendant.

All in violation of Title 49, United States Code, Section 46504.

Count Seven:

(18 U.S.C. §§32(a)(1) and (7)—Attempted Destruction of Aircraft)

The Grand Jury further charges that:

RICHARD COLVIN REID,
defendant herein, did willfully attempt to set fire to, damage, destroy, disable, and wreck American Airlines Flight 63, an aircraft in the special aircraft jurisdiction of the United States and a civil aircraft used, operated, and employed in interstate, overseas and foreign air commerce.

All in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Sections 32(a)(1) and (7).

Count Eight:

(18 U.S.C. §924(c)—Using a Destructive Device During and in Relation to a Crime of Violence)

The Grand Jury further charges that:

RICHARD COLVIN REID,
defendant herein, during and in relation to a crime of violence for which he could be prosecuted in a court of the United States, to wit: (1) attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction against a national of the United States while such national is outside of the United States, as charged in Count One of this Indictment; (2) attempted homicide of a national of the United States outside the United States, as charged in Count Two of this Indictment; (3) attempted murder on an aircraft in the special aircraft jurisdiction of the United States, as charged in Count Four of this Indictment; (4) interference with flight crew and attendants, as charged in Counts Five and Six of the Indictment; (5) attempted destruction of an aircraft in the special aircraft jurisdiction of the United States, the aircraft also being a civil aircraft used, operated, and employed in interstate, overseas, and foreign air commerce, as charged in Count Seven of this Indictment; and (6) attempted wrecking of a mass transportation vehicle, as charged in Count Nine of the Indictment; did use and carry a firearm, to wit, two destructive devices each consisting of an explosive bomb, and did, in furtherance of such charged crimes, possess those same destructive devices.

All in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 924(c).

Count Nine:

(18 U.S.C. §§1993(a)(1) and (8)—Attempted Wrecking of a Mass Transportation Vehicle)

The Grand Jury further charges that:

RICHARD COLVIN REID,
defendant herein, did willfully attempt to wreck, set fire to, and disable a mass transportation vehicle, American Airlines Flight 63, a Boeing 767–300 International airliner operated by American Airlines, a mass transportation provider engaged in and affecting interstate and foreign commerce, at a time when American Airlines Flight 63 was carrying passengers.

All in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1993(a)(1) and (8).

SIGNIFICANCE

About three months after the September 11, 2001 attacks in New York City, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania, Reid attempted to blow up the commercial airplane. Although law enforcement authorities initially found no connection between Reid and terrorist groups, this opinion dramatically changed. After investigations by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the Justice Department, various foreign governments, and many other investigative organizations, it was later confirmed that Reid, along with British-born Saajid Badat, were part of a second terrorism wave planned against the United States by al-Qaeda. (Badat, who would have blown up his airplane at about the same time as Reid, backed down from his suicide mission.)

A large amount of evidence was collected over the next few months that substantiated that Reid did not act alone, and in fact was actively assisted and directed by the al-Qaeda organization.

Some of this collected evidence includes: (1) the bomb used contained palm prints and hair strands that did not belong to Reid, implying that at least one other person handled it; (2) the sophistication of the bomb indicated that Reid did not design nor assemble it; (3) all the active ingredients used within the bomb eventually linked Reid to Islamic fundamentalist groups who were further linked to Osama Bin Laden's al-Qaeda; (4) Wall Street Journal reporters stated they had acquired a used computer that held thousands of files written by al-Qaeda members, with one file detailing a trip made by Abdul Ra'uff, which corresponded to locations traveled by Reid; (5) European investigators directly linked Reid with many well-known terrorist cells operating in Europe; and (6) terrorist training performed by Reid at al-Qaeda camps in Afghanistan.

Contrary to early reports of a crude attempt to detonate explosives in his shoes, subsequent analysis of the boots worn by Reid showed a detonation device deliberately designed to thwart airport security. The soles of each boot contained pentarythritol tetranitrate (PETN), a type of plastic explosive, and each had a detonator made of triacetone triperoxide (TATP). Such explosive devices have been used by other groups and suicide bombers in the Middle East. The lack of metal parts made the bomb virtually undetectable to airport security screening used at the time.

One aspect highlighted by the Shoe Bomber case is that terrorism is not only headquartered in well-known countries such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Indonesia, Yemen, the Philippines, and Somalia, but active cells also exist in some countries of western Europe. Reid and Zacarias Moussaoui, a French citizen accused of participating in the planning of the September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States, both attended the Brixton mosque in London for a period in the late 1990s before traveling to Afghanistan to join and train with al-Qaeda.

Reid's case also highlighted the trend for extremist Islamist sects to attract people who feel oppressed by the society in which they live. Psychologists often assert that religious sects and other "life disciplines" can be attractive to individuals with low self-esteem. Reid was often scorned in England for his Jamaican background. Once drawn into fanatical religious systems—not only those associated with Islam—impressionable converts, such as Reid, can be led into a process of recruitment, indoctrination, and training, and ultimately to a life of terrorism.

Because of Reid's actions, the FAA, on December 11, 2001, announced a civil aviation security warning that terrorists may try to sneak weapons onto aircraft in their shoes. They ordered airlines to add random shoe inspections to the already-random security checks being performed. Shoe inspections are now a routine part of the security process at U.S. airports.

Terrorism security experts and the public are also more cognizant that al-Qaeda operatives and terrorists are not solely of Middle Eastern descent. Because of this, ethnic profiling, which was criticized for targeting particular groups, is no longer a major criterion for identifying terrorists.

The incident also highlighted the continuing vulnerability of civil aviation and public transportation to the potential for terrorist acts, especially at the hands of Osama Bin Laden, and illustrated how well organized the terrorists are at planning and carrying out their violent activities.

FURTHER RESOURCES

Web sites

Clough, Sue. News Telegraph. "British Muslim Planned Second Shoe Bombing." <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2005/03/01/nshoe01.xml> (accessed June 17, 2005).

CNN.com/Law Center. "Reid: 'I Am at War With Your Country'." <http://www.cnn.com/2003/LAW/01/31/reid.transcript/> (accessed June 17, 2005).

FindLaw's Legal Commentary. Kayyem, Juliette. "The Sentencing of 'Shoe Bomber' Richard Reid: Its Larger Significance for Terrorism Cases and The 'War on Terrorism' In General." <http://writ.news.findlaw.com/commentary/20030203_kayyem.html> (accessed June 17, 2005).

McCarthy, Andrew C. National Review Online. "Shoe Bomber 2.0." <http://www.nationalreview.com/mccarthy/mccarthy200410050818.asp> (accessed June 17, 2005).

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