- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 28, 2003

BOSTON, Jan. 28 (UPI) — A federal judge Tuesday denied a media request to release letters written by admitted shoebomber Richard C. Reid.

Prosecutors had argued the letters could contain coded messages to other terrorists and jeopardize national security.

Reid, 29, a British national, faces 60 years to life when sentenced Thursday for attempting to blow up American Airlines Flight 63 from Paris to Miami on Dec. 22, 2001, with explosives hidden in his shoes.

The plane, with nearly 200 people on board, was diverted to Boston after crewmembers and passengers subdued the confessed al Qaida member and follower of Osama bin Laden.

U.S. District Judge William G. Young, who earlier had signaled the letters would be released at noon Tuesday, said in a brief statement just before release time that he decided to keep them under seal after reviewing an affidavit from Thomas Powers, the special agent and terrorist specialist who now heads the Boston office of the FBI.

Young had asked Powers to prove arguments the letters could contain dangerous code or signals to other al Qaida cells. Powers, opposing a request from the Boston Globe and Boston Herald, had argued Monday that the correspondence could threaten national security.

Young said the letters, written to and from members of Reid's family, would remain sealed until further notice.

Reid pleaded guilty last October, saying he intended to blow up the plane over the Atlantic, killing the 197 people on board as an "act of war" against the United States.

The Los Angeles Times disclosed last week that government documents, including FBI interviews with Reid, revealed that the Muslim convert "claimed to have devised this plan himself" after noticing during his travels that Israeli security officials never checked the inside of his shoes.

Reid reportedly paid up to $2,000 for the explosive device he had wired into his sneakers, and said he learned how to make bombs from a "right-wing" book and by surfing the Internet in cafes in Europe.

Reid also claimed that when he boarded Flight 63 in Paris, screeners had him remove his shoes but did not find the explosive devices he had wired into the soles.

During the flight, Reid removed his right shoe and tried unsuccessfully to light the fuse. Members of the crew discovered the attempt and with the help of passengers restrained Reid until the plane landed in Boston.

The government said that if Reid had been successful, the explosion would have blown a hole in the fuselage and sent the jetliner plunging 32,000 feet into the sea.

In the government's sentencing memorandum, prosecutors said Reid was so dangerous he should be sentenced to life in prison without chance of parole.

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