Zazi Accused Of Using Web To Find Bomb Supplies

A federal grand jury in New York unsealed an indictment against 24-year-old airport shuttle driver Najibullah Zazi Thursday, providing a frightening chronology of a possible terrorist plot against targets in the U.S. Zazi is said to have attended an al-Qaida training camp in Pakistan, received training in explosives and started buying and preparing the chemicals he needed to build a bomb.

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A N: chemicals picked up in beauty supply shops. All this was revealed in an indictment against a Denver area shuttle bus driver yesterday. A New York grand jury charged him with conspiring to bomb targets in the United States. NPR's Dina Temple-Raston has been covering this story.

Dina, good morning.

DINA TEMPLE: Good morning.

: I think people have been taking this news rather calmly so far, simply because so many of these alleged terrorism plots have turned out to be a lot less than advertised. And in this case this man, Najibullah Zazi, has said it's all a mistake, he's not a terrorist. So how convincing does the evidence look so far?

TEMPLE: Well, this case is different. I mean FBI officials told us that the difference is that this case looks operational instead of just aspirational. You know, these other plots or foiled attacks that you talked about - for example, the plot to blow up the Sears Tower in Chicago or the planned attack on Fort Dix - it was really more about lofty ideas. And the people or the suspects in those particular plots never really got very far.

This case is different because Zazi allegedly had the expertise he needed and he allegedly bought materials to make the bombs. You know, I talked to Karen Greenberg at NYU's law and security center about why this case seems more serious than others. Here's what she said.

KAREN GREENBERG: Training is one thing. Improvised explosive devices is another particularly dangerous flag for American officials. I think the largest sentence ever given in terrorism trials was for being involved with the manufacture of an improvised explosive device.

TEMPLE: Now, the case she's talking about happened back in 2005. It involved a man who wanted to blow up a federal courthouse with ammonium nitrate bombs. And he actually bought the chemicals before they arrested him. And he was sentenced to 160 years. So that gives you an idea of how seriously authorities take this kind of crime.

: So that was a case where somebody actually bought the chemicals. And this too is a case where a man bought some chemicals as well, right?

TEMPLE: That's right. Investigators say that Najibullah Zazi actually had a recipe for a bomb. They have surveillance tape from, believe it or not, beauty supply stores, where he allegedly bought ingredients he needed to make the same kind of explosive that was used in the 2005 London train bombings.

Now, the main ingredients of that are hydrogen peroxide, acetone, and a strong acid, which in other words are thing you can buy pretty easily. And apparently Zazi bought unusually large quantities of hydrogen peroxide and acetone products. That may sound a little strange to buy that from beauty supply stores, but if you think about it...

: They've got it.

TEMPLE: ...acetone is what you find in nail polish remover. And peroxide is in a lot of these hair products.

: Okay. Now, according to the indictment now - and we don't have a conviction yet, obviously - but do officials say that he actually took the next step and actually built a bomb?

TEMPLE: Well, the Justice Department says that on September 6th Zazi checked into a hotel in Aurora, Colorado. And they tested his hotel room afterwards and found acetone residue in the vent above the stove. The reason why that's important is because you need to boil down these chemicals to make them more concentrated.

And he also apparently was trying to get in contact with someone to get advice about concentration of the chemicals. Presumably the FBI got that from a wiretap. Then three days after that, Zazi rented a car and was driving across country to New York.

: Dina, thanks very much.

TEMPLE: You're welcome.

: That's NPR's Dina Temple Raston reporting this morning from New York.

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