Detectives look for Times Square bomb 'signature'
"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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