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Terrorist plots uncovered in the US since 9/11

At least 21 plots to launch attacks on American soil have been thwarted. Here's a chronology.

By Monitor staff, Compiled by Leigh Montgomery & Elizabeth Ryan / September 26, 2009

[Story updated on Feb. 24, 2011 at 3:30 pm EST.]

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The three terrorism plots uncovered in the past week join a long list of thwarted attacks on US soil – of varying degrees of sophistication – since the terrible events of 9/11. Some plots were being hatched abroad, but most were being conceived by people living in the United States.

The following list encapsulates these cases and their outcomes, in chronological order.

Richard Reid, 'shoe bomber' case – December 2001

Reid, a British citizen of Anglo-Jamaican heritage who converted to Islam in prison, hid explosives inside the soles of his shoes before boarding American Airlines Flight 63 from Paris to Miami. He was apprehended on board by flight attendants and passengers after trying to light the fuse with a match. In 2003, Reid was found guilty on terrorism charges and sentenced to life in prison.

Jose Padilla, 'dirty bomb' case – May 2002

The FBI apprehended Padilla at O'Hare Airport in Chicago as he stepped off a plane from the Middle East, acting on information from detained senior Al Qaeda operative Abu Zubaydah that he had directed a Hispanic man to carry out an attack using a radiological, or "dirty," bomb. Padilla, who had been on a watch list, was arrested on a material witness warrant that allows terrorist suspects to be detained. President Bush designated Padilla, a US citizen, "an enemy combatant."

Held by the US military without charge, Padilla eventually sued the US government for violating his habeas corpus rights (the right of an individual to petition against unlawful imprisonment). The US Supreme Court dismissed his case on a technicality. Padilla refiled his suit. Rather than allow the case to proceed before the high court, the Bush administration transferred Padilla from military custody into the criminal-justice system. In 2005, he was indicted for conspiring with Islamic terrorist groups but not for building a "dirty bomb." Padilla was found guilty in August 2007 after a three-month trial and was sentenced to 17 years, four months in prison.

Lackawanna Six – September 2002