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A bomb dodged

Marietta Daily Journal Prosecutors say TV crime dramas have given potential jurors an exaggerated notion of the speed, precision and technical capabilities of crime-scene investigations. The breaks in the attempted Times Square car bombing came the old-fashioned way – shoe-leather police work, a pair of helpful citizens and luck. The luckiest break, both for law enforcement and the passers-by who might have been killed, was the ineptitude of the admitted bomber, Faisal Shahzad, 30, a U.S. citizen for all of 13 months with a curious way of thanking the country for adopting him. The bomb, loaded into an aging Nissan Pathfinder, was a sloppy assembly of three propane tanks, two five-gallon containers of gasoline, a 16-ounce can filled with M-88 firecrackers, a case loaded with non-explosive fertilizer and more M-88s and two cheap-looking plastic alarm clocks. Had it exploded, it would have caused serious carnage among the crowds at Times Square. But two street vendors, Duane Jackson and Lance Orton, just as the government asks us, were alert for signs of suspicious activity Saturday night, and the SUV, crookedly parked, keys in it, still idling, smoke seeping out of it, the occasional pop of an M-88, certainly qualified as suspicious. In accord with the axiom “If you see something, say something,” the vendors alerted New York police officers Wayne Rhatigan and Pam Duffy, who summoned the bomb squad and evacuated the area. Given enough time, the Pathfinder would have provided an abundance of forensic evidence, but law enforcement rightly sensed it didn’t have much time. The Pathfinder had been bought anonymously, for cash, in a transaction arranged over the Internet. The license plate had been stolen from a pickup truck parked in a Stratford, Conn., repair shop, a connection the FBI made at 3 a.m. Sunday. The vehicle identification number had been removed from the Nissan, the bomber apparently unaware that it appears elsewhere on the vehicle. By Monday, the agents had narrowed their list of suspects to Shahzad and searched his Bridgeport, Conn., home. Shahzad was intent on fleeing the country, and by that evening he had booked an Emirates Airlines flight to Dubai, paid for in cash. Dubai is a major Mideast transit point, and from there he could have made it to Pakistan and disappeared into the tribal areas where he might have been welcomed as a hero by Islamic terrorist groups, at least one of which had already claimed credit for his bombing attempt. His plane was pulling away from the gate when police and FBI agents intercepted it, the result of hard work and a few breaks.

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