Mohamed and Megahed Update. This story echoes the recent case in the Netherlands in which a suspect who was ultimately convicted had earlier been acquitted because his plans were too “clumsy and primitive” to be a threat.
“Experts Say Explosives In Car Trunk Were Unlikely To Harm Naval Station,” by Elaine Silvestrini for the Tampa Tribune:
TAMPA – When two Egyptian students at the University of South Florida were charged with having explosives in their trunk, a South Carolina sheriff said the men may have targeted a nearby naval weapons station.
Determining what exactly Ahmed Mohamed and Youssef Megahed planned to do with the devices illustrates “the fundamental problem we have across the board when we try to
deal with terrorism,” said explosives expert, Michael Hopmeier, president of Unconventional Concepts, an engineering and consulting firm.
Discerning whether the two students posed a threat is complicated by the fact that Hopmeier and other experts contacted by The Tampa Tribune question whether the devices
described by a federal prosecutor could have done much damage.
“Anything can be a terrorist device,” Hopmeier said. “You can kill somebody with a ballpoint pen or a rolled-up newspaper or a book of matches. The question is not the technology but the intent. “¦ Whether they caught them with anything or nothing in the back of their car doesn’t speak to whether they are terrorists or would-be terrorists.”
But I’m sure you’ll agree there’s just something, well, special about explosives.
A lack of direct evidence about the students’ intent was central to a federal magistrate’s decision that one of the men should be released on bail under restrictive conditions. That ruling is under appeal, and both men remain behind bars. The students are scheduled to be arraigned Oct. 3.
When a federal prosecutor struggled during the bail hearing to convince the judge that one of the students is too dangerous to be released, he didn’t mention the military installation. The prosecutor told the judge about “jihadi” images found on a laptop computer and about the men’s travels and ties abroad but said he had no direct information on what the students intended to do with the devices.
A defense attorney says the idea that the men could threaten the heavily fortified military facility is far-fetched.