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A 'suspicious package' that raises no suspicion

It's become usual for portions of Washington to get shut down because of a “suspicious package.” Generally it turns out (thankfully) to be nothing; some hapless tourist forgot a backpack or some such. We put up with the inconveniences because we understand the need for our officials to be ever vigilant. So, it was more than a little unsettling to read this morning how a suspicious car abandoned less than a mile from the White House could escape any official notice for more than a week.

Indeed, if not for the vigilance of Post reporter Mary Pat Flaherty, the silver Mercury Grand Marquis probably would still be sitting in the traffic lane of 15th Street NW. As Flaherty tells the story on The Crime Scene, she had passed the car for several days on her way to the Post offices and wondered why nothing was done, particularly considering that it -- facing southbound in lanes that run northbound during rush hour -- gummed up the evening commute. Her casual inspection revealed this: Texas tags; a parking pass for Fort Lee, Va. issued to Mohammad AlRomayan, identified as “International Student/Military Orders;” and, on the passenger-side back seat, a sheaf of papers and a diagram for what was titled “Petroleum Terminal Tank Farm Complex.”

As Flaherty wrote, “Nothing damning but enough to pique interest.” Apparently, though, the only interest D.C. officials had in the vehicle ended after slapping on a succession of parking tickets. It took Flaherty one phone call to find the car's owner, a member of Saudi Arabia's National Guard studying at Fort Lee, and learn that the car had been reported stolen. He said the fuel tank diagram was something they were studying in class. Flaherty's call telling him the car was in the middle of a downtown street dumfounded AlRomayan: “I do not know your processes but would not someone call if that is so?”

Seems to me that's a good question not just for the folks in charge of D.C. traffic flow but also for those entrusted with homeland security.

By Jo-Ann Armao  | February 25, 2010; 12:30 PM ET
Categories:  Armao  | Tags:  Jo-Ann Armao  
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Comments

Don't feel like DC is special in this regard.

A couple months back, it took the NYPD several days to take notice the suspicious van parked in Times Square with a placard from a nonexistent law enforcement agency displayed on the dashboard.

Posted by: Itzajob | February 25, 2010 4:43 PM | Report abuse

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