It has been said that all that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing. Fortunately there has been no shortage of good men and women at times when our nation has faced potential disasters. In the upcoming action thriller Olympus Has Fallen, the President of the United States is kidnapped when the White House (secret service code: "Olympus") is overtaken by a terrorist mastermind. The national security team is forced to rely on the inside knowledge of a former Secret Service agent as they endeavor to rescue the President and prevent an even greater disaster. In honor of the film's debut on March 22, we're taking a look at moments in our nation's history when good conquered evil.
The Sidewalk Shooter
Just how safe is a president that lives a mere 50 yards from a main street? This question was raised with serious consideration when a gunman sprayed the north face of the White House in an attempt to assassinate President Bill Clinton. Clinton had just settled in to enjoy a football game after returning from a trip to the Middle East. Two pedestrians that witnessed the shooting restrained the shooter, Francisco Martin Duran, until Secret Service agents arrived on the scene. Unshaken by the incident, even though he heard the gunfire, Clinton maintained that he never felt as though he was in any real danger, crediting the bulletproof windows of the White House and the act of bravery shown by the pedestrians that sprang into action.
The Shoe Bomber
A career criminal who converted to Islam during one of his stints in prison, Richard Reid trained in Pakistan and Afghanistan before joining al-Qaeda. On December 22, 2001, Reid boarded American Airlines Flight 63, in Paris with the intent of detonating explosives he had stuffed into a pair of hollowed out shoes. After a passenger on the aircraft reported the smell of smoke, flight attendant Hermis Moutardier discovered Reid, seated alone near a window, struggling to light a match to ignite a fuse in his shoe. Reid proved no match for Moutardier who, with the assistance of another flight attendant and several passengers, was able to subdue him—restraining him with headphone cords and seatbelt extensions. A physician on board administered a tranquilizer from a medical kit on the plane. Reid was arrested at the airport immediately after landing in Boston. He plead guilty and is now carrying out a life sentence with no possibility of parole.
The Underwear Bomber
Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab is a Nigerian man with ties to al-Qaeda convicted of attempting to detonate an explosive device sewn into his underwear. On December 25, 2009, Abdulmutallab, posing as a Sudanese refugee, boarded Northwest Airlines Flight 253 in Amsterdam. As the flight approached its destination in Detroit, passengers observed flames around Abdulmutallab’s seat. A Dutch film director sprang into action and restrained Abdulmutallab while flight attendants extinguished the flames. After being treated for burns he sustained during his botched attempt, he was taken into custody. He is now serving four consecutive life sentences, plus 50 years.
The Part-time Fry Cook
American-born Michael C. Finton joined forces with someone he thought was an al-Qaeda operative in an attempt to murder at least one US federal officer and use a weapon of mass destruction on US-owned property. On September 24, 2009 Finton drove a truck to the Paul Findley Federal Building in downtown Springfield, Illinois. He was under the impression that the truck had been packed with a “ton of explosives” when he parked it outside the federal courthouse, adjacent to the office of Congressman Aaron Schock. The getaway car was driven by his accomplice—an undercover FBI agent. Finton is now carrying out a 28 year sentence.
The Times Square Bomber
One year after pledging allegiance as a new citizen of the United States of America, Faisal Shahzad broke his vow when he attempted to detonate a car bomb in Times Square. Shahzad parked a 1993 Nissan Pathfinder in the heart of New York City. Moments later two street vendors noticed smoke coming out of the vehicle, later reporting that they heard firecrackers going off inside of it. The bomb had ignited, and fortunately failed to explode. Specialists were able to disarm it before it could cause any casualties. 53 hours after the attempt, Shahzad was arrested by U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers at the airport. The married father of two young children was sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.
The IRS Shooter
President George W. Bush wasn’t the only person having a bad day at work on February 7, 2001. Two weeks after his Bush’s inauguration, a former Internal Revenue Service employee with a history of mental illness, fired several shots outside of the White House. An officer tried reasoning with the shooter, Robert W. Pickett, while agents worked to protect nearby tourists. Ultimately the perpetrator was shot in the knee by a Secret Service agent, after a 10-minute standoff along the White House fence.
The US Capitol Bomber
In another case of mistaken identity, a would-be terrorist confided in an undercover FBI agent when expressing his desire to carry out a suicide bombing. Amine El Khalifi is a Moroccan man who set his evil sights on the United States Capitol, guided by the ethos that a “war on terrorism” is a “war on Muslims”. Khalifi had no ties to al-Qaeda, and all of the arms provided for the attack were actually provided by the undercover agent. While ready and willing to carry out a suicide mission, he foresaw the need for a remote option should he be apprehended before he could detonate the bomb. What he didn’t anticipate, however, was that the accomplice who dropped him off at the parking lot had provided him with a disarmed vest and was guiding him directly to the authorities. As part of a plea agreement, El Khalifi was sentenced to 30 years in prison.
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