Daubert Challenge
Bin Laden's Terrorist Tried It

After his April 6, 2001 conviction, Ahmed Ressam was known to most of us as just another criminal who failed in his bid to exclude incriminating fingerprint evidence. As Paul Harvey would say, we now know the rest of the story...

Ahmed Ressam was intercepted at the Canadian border in December 1999 with bomb materials and a map targeting Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). His defense team claimed fingerprints on incriminating evidence were not admissible because the science of fingerprints had never been proven reliable. Defense's claim was partially based on sworn testimony in other cases, including testimony by Professor James Starrs, David Stoney, Ph.D., and Simon Cole, Ph.D.

Justice prevailed when Judge Coughenour discounted claims made by Starrs, Stoney and Cole during their testimony at the US v. Mitchell Daubert Hearing in 1999. Ahmed Ressam was not just another robber or rapist grasping at novel defense strategies to escape conviction. With his incriminating fingerprints ruled admissible, Ressam entered a plea of guilty to his role in a plot to blow-up Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). He also admitted that he owed his allegiance to Haydar Abu Doha, a London resident close to Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. 

September 11th, 2001 proved how deadly serious the LAX Millennium bomb plot was. Here is what US Customs Agents found in the spare tire well of Ressam's car trunk in December 1999:

  • 118 pounds of a fine white powder, identified as urea, contained in 10 plastic bags; 

  • Two jars of a yellowish liquid identified as nitroglycerine;

  •  Two plastic bags filled with a crystalline sulfate powder;

  •  Four black boxes, each containing a circuit board connected to a Casio brand watch and a 9-volt battery connector.
Nitroglycerine and urea nitrate were used in the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center in New York City. Bombs made from urea have 92 percent of the explosive power of TNT. A bomb made from 118 pounds of urea would destroy a car 81 feet away and knock a 12-inch-thick brick wall off its foundation from 76 feet away. For detonation, the four black boxes contained TPUs, or timing power units. TPUs are sophisticated detonators seen in terrorist attacks around the world but rarely in the United States. 

Daubert Links

Latent Print Examination Home