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Posted at 5:25 PM ET, 05/ 3/2010

Detectives look for Times Square bomb 'signature'

By Jeff Stein

"Every bombmaker has his signature,” says the former FBI agent who headed the bureau’s 1988 PanAm 103 bombing investigation, and that could provide quick clues into who was responsible for the near-explosion of an SUV parked in Times Square Saturday night.

“The best leads are in that vehicle,” said Richard Marquise, who headed the FBI task force on the 1988 airliner bombing and later wrote a book about it.

“I imagine all the important parts are still there,” he said, because it didn’t fully explode.

A tiny timer fragment from the PanAm 103 bombing, recovered on the ground in Lockerbie, Scotland, led investigators to its manufacturer in Switzerland, who in turn led them to Libya.

Likewise, when a former Chilean official, Orlando Letelier, was assassinated by a car bomb in Washington, D.C., in 1976, FBI agents recovered a ¼-inch brass piece from a transceiver in the wreckage that confirmed the identity of the bombmaker.

“That cracked the case wide open,” said retired Supervisory Special Agent Carter Cornick, who headed the Letelier investigation.

“You’re looking for the fusing, the timing mechanism, how it was wired up,” said FBI counterterrorism agent Larry Wack, who made key breakthroughs on the Letelier case.

“It’s going to give you insight into the maker of the device,” Wack said. “But that’s not necessarily the guy who triggers it.”

Wack and the other veteran agents said there may be far more immediate leads for detectives in the Nissan Pathfinder than bomb parts.

“Fingerprints from a sandwich wrapper,” said Chris Ronay, a former head of the FBI crime lab’s explosives unit, “could yield fingerprints, which lead to an apartment address, to an individual’s computer.”

“It’s not just bomb parts,” Ronay added. “You could find a SIM card in the glove box” identifying the driver of the vehicle, if not the bomber.

Wack agreed, saying detectives might find “a receipt for the alarm clocks,” or “cigar rings on the floor unique to the user.”

“They might find dirt in the tire treads indicating where the vehicle has been….”

“There’s a whole encyclopedia of stuff to get from the car,” he said. “Finding out where he bought the alarm clocks alone could break the case wide open.”

Administration officials said Monday there were indications of a foreign link to the Times Square bombing attempt, but Ronay said such links would not necessarily come from the device, whose parts could be bought domestically.

“I don’t think investigators are going to go by a Made-in-China label,” he said.

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By Jeff Stein  | May 3, 2010; 5:25 PM ET
Categories:  Intelligence, Justice/FBI  
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Umm the guy was using fireworks and gasoline. I really doubt you are going to find a signature other than one stamped dumb ass on his forehead when you find him.

Posted by: scon101 | May 3, 2010 6:35 PM | Report abuse

scon 101: Very well spoken and right to the point. The idiot even left the motor running and the emergency lights flashing! Somehow I don't believe this is the work of Al-Qaida nor of any other group familiar with explosive devices. None of the several "components" of the "device" had anything to do with any kind of "signature" other than "dumbass"....whoever he was he must have gone to the same remedial bombing school as that dangerous duo the "Underpants" bomber and the doofus "shoe" bomber...Oh yeah, as if the motor running and the flashing lights weren't enough to befuddle the authorities, he also lit a smoke bomb inside!

Posted by: Watcher1 | May 3, 2010 8:02 PM | Report abuse

You are looking for a monkey. Look in the trees. "Xylotomy." World of Forensic Science. Ed. K. Lee Lerner and Brenda Wilmoth Lerner. Gale Cengage, 2006. 2006. 3 May, 2010

Posted by: tossnokia | May 3, 2010 8:08 PM | Report abuse

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