Ahmad Ressam attempted to enter the United States by car ferry at Port Angeles, Washington. Hidden in his rental car's trunk were explosives that he intended to detonate at the Los Angeles International Airport.
After the ferry docked, a customs official questioned Ressam. On the customs declaration form the official instructed Ressam to complete, Ressam identified himself by a false name and falsely referred to himself as a Canadian citizen even though he was Algerian.
Ressam was then directed to a secondary inspection station, where another official performed a search of his car. This search uncovered explosives and related items in the car's spare tire well. Ressam was later convicted of a number of crimes, including the felony of making a false statement to a United States customs official and the offense of carrying an explosive "during the commission of " the just-noted felony, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 844(h)(2). The latter offense was Count 9 in the indictment against Ressam. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit set aside Ressam's conviction on Count 9 because it interpreted the word "during," as used in § 844(h)(2), as including an implicit requirement that the explosive be carried in relation to the underlying felony. The Ninth Circuit concluded that because Ressam's carrying of explosives did not relate to the underlying felony of making a false statement to a customs official, the conviction on Count 9 could not stand. Did the Ninth Circuit correctly interpret the "during the commission of" language in the statute on which Count 9 was based?