You’ve probably seen or read news reports on the alleged terrorist plot that took shape around the anniversary of Sept. 11, including details suggesting a link between the attack’s funding and credit cards. But it also appears that aside from being aided by credit cards, the alleged terrorists may have also been undone by plastic.
In its investigation of the alleged plot, law enforcement is focusing its attention on an Afghan national named Najibullah Zazi. According to the New York Daily News (hat tip: the Jawa Report), Zazi, just like many other credit cardholders, apparently lost control of his plastic over recent years. “Between 2005 and 2008, he opened credit card accounts with Bank of America, Chase, Capital One, Discover and Citibank and ran up a debt of more than $50,000,” the Daily News reports. His debt got so bad that in March, Zazi filed for bankruptcy, court records indicate.
But documents indicate that Zazi, unlike most cardholders, had been trained in explosives at an al-Qaida camp, NPR reports.
On Sept. 10, just one day before the eighth anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center, Zazi arrived in New York from Denver following a solo cross-country drive.
So what did Zazi’s credit card charges include? While it isn’t clear that his sizable debt included money spent on bomb-making materials, NPR does report that officials searching some Queens, N.Y., apartments found credit card receipts showing purchases of chemicals and other items from home improvement stores in the Denver area. That’s where Zazi was working as a shuttle bus driver. “One of the chemicals is used to clean concrete and masonry — and is a common ingredient in homemade bombs,” NPR reports.
Although credit cards may have helped Zazi’s funding, plastic appears to have tripped up some of his fellow possible terrorist plotters. Around the date Zazi arrived in New York, a group of his Afghan friends living in Queens apparently made a failed attempt to rent a U-Haul truck.
Anyone who has tried to rent a car without a credit card knows it isn’t easy, as Zazi’s friends apparently found out. “Some of the men went to a U-Haul rental place in Jamaica, Queens, and asked to rent their biggest truck, according to authorities. They didn’t have a valid credit card, but said they wanted to pay cash. When U-Haul representatives requested personal identification, the men apparently balked,” NPR reports. (According to sources that spoke with the Daily News, the size of that 26-foot-long truck suggested they planned to pack it with explosives.)
That raised law enforcement’s eyebrows. According to the Daily News, FBI agents later spent 10 hours examining the Queens truck rental business. At least three Afghan men — including a Queens imam identified by a U-Haul employee as one of the attempted truck renters — were questioned by FBI and Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents, sources told the News.
If the terror allegations are correct, that bungled rental may have saved countless lives.
U-Haul manager Robert Larson apparently spoke for everyone when he told the Daily News, “We all feel very lucky right now.”
See related: Tracking terrorists’ credit cards when ‘funding is the mainstay of jihad,’ The credit card-terrorism connection, Study: Terrorists pay with credit cards, Most rental car companies accept debit cards, survey finds