Upsetting
Friday, December 19, 2003
 
A couple of weeks before the end of 1999 -- Dec. 14, 1999, to be exact -- an interesting series of events happened at a border crossing in the small hamlet of Port Angeles, Washington. That day, the last car off the ferry from Victoria, B.C., was a rented green Chrysler sedan driven by an Algerian man named Ahmed Ressam, a globe-trotting Islamist who recently had traveled from France to Montreal to Afghanistan and Pakistan to South Korea and Los Angeles and back to Canada before boarding the ferry bound for the United States of America.

A Customs official at the border crossing was a woman named Diana Dean. She questioned Ressam after his itinerary showed that he had come from Vancouver and was going to Seattle, a trip that would not, under normal circumstances, involve a ferry or Port Angeles.

Inspector Dean later said, "After working on this job awhile, you get a knack for knowing when something isn't right."

As he was questioned and agents searched his car, Ressam panicked, and he had good reason to: In the trunk of the car was 134 pounds of heavy-duty chemicals that Ressam planned to use in an explosive act of terrorism at Los Angeles International Airport. When the chemicals were discovered, Ressam tried to run.

"One second I have a hold of him," said Senior Customs Inspector Mark Johnson. "The next, I'm standing there with an empty coat."

Ressam was caught, arrested and later found guilty of nine counts of terrorism in a Los Angeles court. Said then-President of the United States Bill Clinton shortly after Ressam's arrest:

"Today and for the foreseeable tomorrows we ... will face a fateful struggle between forces of integration and harmony and the forces of disintegration and chaos."

Ressam, who became known as the Millennium Bomber or some variation, did not get to carry out his stated mission. That was before the real beginning of the new millennium in the United States of America.

Before.
 
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