The anniversary of 9/11 the other day got me to thinking about other terrorist attacks that were foiled rather than successfully accomplished. I remembered there had been a previous plan to bomb LAX, timed to coincide with the millenium, and that the would-be perpetrator had been caught trying to bring explosives across the Canadian border by an alert border guard who found his behavior suspicious enough to order a more intense search of his car.
Good luck for us—because Ahmed Ressam’s plans were pretty nasty, and might well have been successful but for that guard. However, if you read Ressam’s story, you may end up wondering (as I did) why it took so long to catch this guy. Take a look at how he managed to evade capture despite multiple offenses and crimes and despite not being a citizen, how many people were around to help him, and how he received welfare payments along the way.
Nessam, a native Algerian, started out by being banned from France because he had entered on a fake passport. While awaiting a hearing, he managed to fly to Montreal on another fake passport in a different name. He was arrested at the Montreal airport but pleaded (falsely) that he’d been abused in his native land and applied to become a legal refugee. Ultimately he was refused and a warrant issued for his arrest, but the ploy had bought him enough time to get still another fake identity and papers and be on his way to terrorist training camp in Afghanistan.
Here’s one of my favorite parts of Nessam’s picaresque saga:
He supported himself by theft (stealing tourists’ suitcases at hotels, pickpocketing, and shoplifting), and through welfare benefits of C$500 per month. He was arrested four times, but never jailed. By 1999, Ressam had a Canadian criminal history for theft under C$5,000, an outstanding Canada-wide immigration arrest warrant, and a British Columbia-wide arrest warrant for theft under C$5,000.
It really can’t be summarized; it must be read in its entirety.
Security procedures have changed since the 90s, when Nessam was operating. But somehow I think he would fare almost as well today.
Here’s a photo of the guy. He’s got the same dead-looking eyes as Mohammad Atta, doesn’t he?