- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 29, 2001

BOSTON An airline passenger accused of trying to ignite explosives in his sneakers was carrying a homemade bomb that could have blown a hole in the plane's fuselage, an FBI agent testified yesterday at a hearing in which the suspect was denied bail.
Richard C. Reid, a 28-year-old British citizen of English and Jamaican descent, appeared at the bail hearing in federal court with his hands shackled, wearing an orange jumpsuit. U.S. Magistrate Judge Judith Dein ordered him held without bail because Mr. Reid's "violent and assaultive behavior toward the flight attendants" showed that he could pose a danger to the public if released.
"The evidence is that the defendant was trying to set off an explosive device on a flight with approximately 183 passengers and 14 crew members on board," Judge Dein wrote. "He acted with callous disregard for the safety of others, and, in fact, appears to have intended to cause them all serious harm, if not death."
She also noted that Mr. Reid has at least 16 prior convictions, mostly for theft, and has lived primarily in Europe at various locations for short periods. He told investigators he was never "officially" employed but was a construction worker and restaurant kitchen aide, Judge Dein said.
Mr. Reid was arrested Dec. 22 after American Airlines attendants saw him try to touch a lighted match to his sneakers during a Paris-to-Miami flight.
Mr. Reid was overpowered by flight attendants and passengers, and the Boeing 767 was diverted to Boston.
FBI Agent Margaret G. Cronin, a specialist in crime aboard aircraft, testified that Mr. Reid was carrying "functioning improvised explosives, or, in layman's terms, a homemade bomb."
She said an explosives expert concluded that if the sneakers had been placed against an outside wall and blown up, they "would have blown a hole in the fuselage." Mr. Reid was occupying a window seat.
Miss Cronin said preliminary tests last weekend on Mr. Reid's sneakers showed the presence of triacetone triperoxide (TATP), a highly volatile plastic explosive. She said she did not know whether the explosive devices in the sneakers could have been detonated with a match, as Mr. Reid had attempted to do.
The sneakers are undergoing further tests.
A global investigation is under way to determine whether Mr. Reid had any ties to terrorist groups. The issue did not come up at the bail hearing.
Mr. Reid was charged with intimidation or assault of a flight crew, which carries a maximum 20-year sentence, but the FBI has indicated that additional counts are likely.
Arguing against bail, Assistant U.S. Attorney Colin Owyang said Mr. Reid presented a flight risk because he had "essentially no verifiable address anywhere in the world."
Mr. Owyang said Mr. Reid had been living in hotels in Paris and has no known friends or relatives in the United States. He had no work visa or immigration papers either.
He added that Mr. Reid had prior criminal convictions, but authorities have no record of him previously being in the United States.
Mr. Reid's court-appointed lawyer, Tamar Birkhead, did not specifically argue that Mr. Reid be released on bail yesterday.
U.S. Attorney Michael J. Sullivan, speaking to reporters afterward, said that besides a valid British passport, Mr. Reid also had a single page from another British passport. It appeared he had no accomplices on the plane, Mr. Sullivan said.
U.S. officials are trying to corroborate claims from low-level al Qaeda prisoners that Mr. Reid trained with them at Osama bin Laden's terrorist camps in Afghanistan.
The officials said the prisoners could be wrong or might be lying to confuse or gain favor with their interrogators.
Officials also have confirmed that Mr. Reid attended the same London mosque as Zacarias Moussaoui, who is charged with conspiracy in the September 11 terrorist attacks.
Nachman Klieman, a spokesman for the Israeli airline El Al, said Mr. Reid flew on the airline in July and raised suspicion during a security check.
Mr. Klieman said Mr. Reid was subjected to "a very rigorous check of all the items he was carrying, as well as a personal search, including the removal of shoes and sending the shoes to be checked."
They let Mr. Reid board after determining he had nothing dangerous.
Miss Birckhead, the defense attorney, has said she's unaware of any evidence tying Mr. Reid to terrorists.
"We urge the press and the public to maintain open minds as the criminal justice system proceeds," she said.
Mr. Reid's mother, Lesley Hughes, of Frome, in southwest England, issued a statement through a law firm Thursday, saying she "has no knowledge of this matter" other than what she had learned from news accounts.

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