ABC’s Brian Ross says that “if Faisal Shahzad is a terrorist, he’s a clumsy one” in this report. If that’s true, then perhaps the effort to arrest him was only slightly less clumsy. Despite knowing his identity and conducting a manhunt for Shahzad, no one flagged him for travel — and Shahzad almost got away:
Accused Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad admitted his involvement in the terror plot to FBI agents who arrested him late Monday at New York’s JFK airport, federal officials tell ABCNews.com.
Shahzad, who had been the subject of a huge manhunt, almost made it out of the country on a Emirates flight to Dubai, with a planned connection onward to Pakistan, according to the officials.
“He appeared real close to getting away,” one federal official said. “The plane was buttoned up. Backed away from the jetway.”
Authorities said that despite the manhunt, his passport had not been flagged and he was able to buy a ticket with cash and clear airport security. …
The flight had begun to taxi for takeoff when FBI agents ordered it to return to the gate where Shahzad and two others were taken into custody. The other two were later released, authorities said.
No one thought to update the no-fly list? Wouldn’t that have been the most obvious way to ensure that a terrorist suspect didn’t flee the country? Had they not realized their error, the plane could have returned to the US in midflight (up to a certain point in time, of course), but that would run the risk that Shahzad could have disrupted the flight to avoid capture and put the other passengers in peril.
Meanwhile, Connecticut TV station WTNH discovers that Faisal Shahzad, the man arrested overnight for his alleged involvement in the Times Square bombing attempt, used to live in Shelton — until the bank foreclosed on his home. Before that, though, Shahzad and his wife and children lived for years in this house, rarely socializing with neighbors. One neighbor interviewed by WTNH notes that the family began disappearing after the foreclosure — first Faisal and then the rest of them, rather mysteriously. The house has sat empty since July, and hadn’t attracted any attention until undercover investigators began a stakeout over the last couple of days:
She thought Faisal Shahzad worked in New York City, maybe on Wall Street. But then, about a year ago, they lost their house. The bank foreclosed and they started selling their belongings on Craigslist.
Thurman said Faisal Shahzad left a month or two earlier than the rest of the family, and nobody has lived here since July of last year.
There are a couple of potential explanations for this, assuming the FBI got the right man. He could have emigrated to the US with his family with the honest intent of making good, but lost his job and wound up getting radicalized here in the US while his finances collapsed. Alternatively, he could have been a sleeper agent all along, and stopped making payments when his network activated him. If the latter was the case, though, why bother selling their goods on Craigslist? That makes it sound as though the family truly had no means of support, and one would presume that the Taliban and/or AQ would keep non-traceable cash flowing to their agents.
If it’s the former, then Shahzad was radicalized in Connecticut, and that may mean that a significant part of the plot took place here in the US.
Update: Ian Schwartz at RCP has a clip of a CNN anchor explaining Shahzad’s state of mind: “It can confirmed that his house has been foreclosed in recent years. I mean, one would have to imagine that brought a lot of pressure and a lot of heartache on that family.”
Update II: The New York Times reports that Shahzad has implicated himself in initial questioning by the FBI … and only himself:
A Connecticut man pulled off a plane bound for Dubai and arrested in Saturday’s night’s failed bid to set off a car bomb in Times Square has made statements implicating himself, and has told the authorities that he acted alone, a law enforcement official said on Tuesday morning.
The man, Faisal Shahzad, 30, a naturalized United States citizen from Pakistan, was taken into custody just before midnight Monday at Kennedy Airport aboard an Emirates flight that had just pulled away from the gate, officials said. Two other men were also interviewed by authorities but were released, according to another law enforcement official. Mr. Shahzad had apparently driven to the airport in a white Isuzu Trooper that was found in a parking lot with a loaded handgun inside, the official said. …
While Mr. Shahzad said he had acted alone, law enforcement officials have said the investigation is, in the words of one, “very much ongoing,” and the F.B.I. agents and police detectives from the Joint Terrorism Task Force who arrested him have not developed evidence to either prove or disprove his claims. Charges against Mr. Shahzad were not announced, but he is expected to be charged Tuesday in federal court.
Unless his sudden influx of cash can be explained, I don’t think many people will buy the lone-wolf confession.