Trail of a Terrorist

Press reaction
the millenium plot
canada: safe haven?
fake passports

New York Daily News - Eric Mink

"...Ressam's story and its unsettling implications--such as his ease in fooling the immigration authorities in Canada, how simple it was to get money and bomb-making materials, how efficiently terrorist conspiracies can operate--are the focus of tonight's Frontline...

...[I]t's both useful and startling to see this much information about the web of international terrorism in one concentrated hour of television. The production gets hokey in spots--visual effects and dramatic music--but not overbearingly so.

Perhaps the most chilling comment in the hour comes from one of Canada's former security officials: 'In terms of Islamic extremists in Canada,' says David Harris, 'they regard the proximity of Canada to the U.S. as making Canada kind of an Islamic-extremist aircraft carrier for the launching of major assaults against the U.S. mainland.'"

The New York Times - Caryn James

"...[A] fascinating, chilling, though often poorly produced installment of Frontine. The documentary includes a few tacky re-creations and presents Mr. Ressam's testimony clumsily, with actors reading bits of the transcript while we see an artist's drawing of the courtroom.

But the contents of this swiftly told report make it thoroughly absorbing, as it follows Mr. Ressam's path from Algeria to France and Canada, then to the bin Laden camp and back to Montreal through the Los Angeles airport. Produced by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, the program has a decidedly Canadian point of view, which turns out to be an advantage. Freeing viewers from the familiar United States perspective, the documentary creates a powerful sense of terrorism's global reach..."

New York Newsday - Diane Werts

"...Remember the so-called millennium bombing plot? At least part of it was imminent, and that trail is traced in alarming detail tonight by the Frontline folks, in cooperation with the Canadian Broadcast Corp. It's an ironic partnership, really, considering how it reflects the two countries' twisted ties in the conspiracy the program's investigation inventories so chillingly.

The key thread is disaffected Algerian 'refugee' Ahmed Ressam, who was apprehended Dec. 14, 1999, off a Victoria-to-Washington state ferry transporting a trunkful of high-powered explosives he planned to detonate at Los Angeles International Airport...

.Frontline seems to show us every scrap of paper or the electronic equivalent that ever touched Ressam's life: stolen baptismal certificate, apartment lease, immigration forms, passport, ATM surveillance photos, motel check-in, rental car receipt, phone calls, even precisely what he bought with his credit card (lozenges and Tylenol to soothe chemical-induced irritation).

Nearly all this fascinating information is, however, acquired in hindsight. Tracing these movements backward is a lot less encouraging than being able to project them forward to stave off whatever calamity they're aimed at orchestrating. As Canadian immigration minister Elinor Caplan notes early on, 'We look at the case and say, "What did we learn from it and what can we do better in the future?"' Let's hope something, since a 'Canadian connection' enabled both Ressam's thwarted plot and the all-too-successful attack of Sept. 11. Canadian Security and Intelligence Service strategic (planner David Harris warns that terrorists are using Canada as 'kind of an Islamic extremist aircraft carrier for the launching of major assaults against the U.S. mainland...'"

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