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New York, NY - Times Square Bomb Suspect Slipped Away from Surveillance to JFK

Published on: May 4, 2010 08:24 PM
By: AP
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From left, U.S. Attorney for the District of Connecticut Nora R. Dennehy, Assistant Attorney General for National Security David Kris, Deputy FBI Director John S. Pistole, Attorney General Eric Holder, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, New York Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly, and U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara, during a news conference to update the attempted bombing in Times Square, Tuesday, May 4, 2010, at the Justice Department in Washington. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)New York, NY - The no-fly list failed to keep the Times Square suspect off the plane.

Faisal Shahzad boarded a jetliner bound for the United Arab Emirates Monday night before federal authorities pulled him back. Although under surveillance since midafternoon, he had managed to elude investigators and head to the airport.

The night’s events, gradually coming to light, underscored the flaws in the nation’s aviation security system, which despite its technologies, lists and information sharing, often comes down to someone making a right call.

As federal agents closed in, Faisal Shahzad was aboard Emirates Flight 202. He reserved a ticket on the way to John F. Kennedy International Airport, paid cash on arrival and walked through security without being stopped.

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By the time Customs and Border Protection officials spotted Shahzad’s name on the passenger list and recognized him as the bombing suspect they were looking for, he was in his seat and the plane was preparing to leave the gate. They knew to look for him because of updates to the no-fly list made earlier in the day.

At the last minute, the pilot was notified, the jetliner’s door was opened and Shahzad was taken into custody.

After authorities pulled Shahzad off the plane, he admitted he was behind the crude Times Square car bomb, officials said. He also claimed to have been trained at a terror camp in Pakistan’s lawless tribal region of Waziristan, according to court documents. That raised increased concern that the bombing was an international terror plot.

Shahzad, a Pakistani-born U.S. citizen, was charged Tuesday with terrorism and attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction in Saturday evening’s failed Times Square bombing. According to a federal complaint, he confessed to buying an SUV, rigging it with a homemade bomb and driving it into the busy area where he tried to detonate it.

Shahzad had been under constant watch at his Bridgeport, Conn., home since 3 p.m. Monday and federal authorities had planned to arrest him there that evening, two people familiar with the investigation told The Associated Press. Authorities believe he decided to flee after being spooked by news reports that investigators were seeking a Pakistani suspect in Connecticut, one of the people said.

Shahzad somehow lost the investigators who were trailing him, the two people said. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the incident.

The FBI and the NYPD declined to comment.

The Obama administration played down the fact that Shahzad, a U.S. citizen born in Pakistan, made it aboard the plane. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano wouldn’t talk about it, other than to say Customs officials prevented the plane from taking off. White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said the security system has fallback procedures in place for times like this, and they worked.

And Attorney General Eric Holder said he “was never in any fear that we were in danger of losing him.”

But it seemed clear the airline either never saw or ignored key information that would kept Shahzad off the plane, a fact that dampened what was otherwise hailed as a fast, successful law enforcement operation.

The no-fly list is supposed to mean just that. And Shahzad’s name was added to the list early Monday afternoon as a result of breaking developments in the investigation, according to a law enforcement official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing investigation.

But when Emirates sold the ticket, it was working off an outdated list. Airline officials would have had to check a Web forum where updates are sent if it were to flag him. Because they didn’t, law enforcement officials were not aware of his travel plans until they received the passenger list 30 minutes before takeoff, the official said.

By that time, passengers are usually on board.

Gibbs blamed the airline but emphasized a more positive bottom line: U.S. authorities did get Shahzad on the no-fly list and he never took off.

“There’s a series of built-in redundancies, this being one of them,” Gibbs said. “If there’s a mistake by a carrier, it can be double-checked.”

The list is only as good as the nation’s intelligence and the experts who analyze it. If a lead is not shared, or if an analyst is unable to connect one piece of information to another, a terrorist could slip onto an airplane because his name is not on the watch list.

Officials allege that’s just what took place ahead of the attempted Christmas Day attack on a Detroit-bound jet. In the case of the Times Square suspect, the intelligence process worked: Shahzad’s name was on the list, but the airlines didn’t check it when he bought his ticket.

Shahzad went through normal airport security before he boarded the plane. He was unarmed and had no explosive material on him when he was arrested.

Emirates did not return repeated calls for comments. Earlier in the day, the company issued a general statement saying it was cooperating with investigators and takes every precaution to ensure its passengers’ safety.

The reliance on airlines to check government lists has been a known problem for years. The government has long planned to take over the responsibility for matching passengers to watch lists, but the transition has taken longer than expected. The new program is still in the test phase for domestic airlines and is still months away from beginning with international carriers.



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Read Comments (16)  —  Post Yours »

1

 May 04, 2010 at 09:29 PM Anonymous Says:

Now what can we expect from "Emirates" Airline?!?! He was headed to good old Dubai after all where all terrorists are welcome in the name of "business" and Emirates Airlines was just doing business as well.

2

 May 04, 2010 at 09:59 PM Anonymous Says:

Notwithstanding this incredibly good performance by the security authorities, someone seems intent to find some flaw and criticize the outcome. The Obama haters will find a problem no matter how successful the anti-terroism efforts are shown to be. Reminder that all the airline boarding and no-fly clearence procedures in use today were designed and implemented in the Bush Adminisration and Obama is working dillegently to fix their structural problems.

3

 May 04, 2010 at 10:12 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #2  
Anonymous Says:

Notwithstanding this incredibly good performance by the security authorities, someone seems intent to find some flaw and criticize the outcome. The Obama haters will find a problem no matter how successful the anti-terroism efforts are shown to be. Reminder that all the airline boarding and no-fly clearence procedures in use today were designed and implemented in the Bush Adminisration and Obama is working dillegently to fix their structural problems.

Bla bla. "Fixing the structural problems" Do you think this board is for 5 year olds? Obama is making sure that noone is g-d forbid profiled. That's what he's fixing!!

4

 May 04, 2010 at 10:29 PM Anonymous Says:

Luckily this happened. Imagine if they wouldn't allow him on the plane he would flee the terminal and try to blow up something else. If you read the full story in the Times he had in his real car a gun with a couple of ammunition.

5

 May 04, 2010 at 10:33 PM hmm Says:

maybe Emirates was in on it

6

 May 04, 2010 at 10:36 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #2  
Anonymous Says:

Notwithstanding this incredibly good performance by the security authorities, someone seems intent to find some flaw and criticize the outcome. The Obama haters will find a problem no matter how successful the anti-terroism efforts are shown to be. Reminder that all the airline boarding and no-fly clearence procedures in use today were designed and implemented in the Bush Adminisration and Obama is working dillegently to fix their structural problems.

You really consider the outcome a success?? You feel safe under this administration??
The only success here was that this Faisal was an idiot!! And he didn't know how to make this bomb work..
Personally I think that they didn't even want this bomb to explode.. They just wanted to show the world that they can reach us in the most secure areas!
And with that "they" were successful. Not "our" stupid government..

7

 May 04, 2010 at 10:48 PM i know Says:

Reply to #2  
Anonymous Says:

Notwithstanding this incredibly good performance by the security authorities, someone seems intent to find some flaw and criticize the outcome. The Obama haters will find a problem no matter how successful the anti-terroism efforts are shown to be. Reminder that all the airline boarding and no-fly clearence procedures in use today were designed and implemented in the Bush Adminisration and Obama is working dillegently to fix their structural problems.

This whole thing has nothing to do with the obama regime now they want all the credit. It was all the NYPD (FBI) they did a great job keep it up NY Cops. Obama had nothing to do with the investigation.

8

 May 04, 2010 at 10:50 PM Anonymous Says:

isn't it convenient that Emirates airlines is running on a outdated list?
he was able to lose the investigators that were trailing him, seems almost as if the guy knew how to get around the security system.

9

 May 04, 2010 at 11:43 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #6  
Anonymous Says:

You really consider the outcome a success?? You feel safe under this administration??
The only success here was that this Faisal was an idiot!! And he didn't know how to make this bomb work..
Personally I think that they didn't even want this bomb to explode.. They just wanted to show the world that they can reach us in the most secure areas!
And with that "they" were successful. Not "our" stupid government..

Really? why didn't they want the bomb to explode? Really, why? They feel bad killing innocent life?

10

 May 04, 2010 at 11:58 PM Anonymous Says:

Didn’t you think That if he would successfully escaped to Dubai the intelligent agencies would Even use forge passports to enter Dubai to capture him and bring him to justice Rather than trusting the Dubai police chief Tamim with the arrest ?

11

 May 05, 2010 at 12:27 AM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #7  
i know Says:

This whole thing has nothing to do with the obama regime now they want all the credit. It was all the NYPD (FBI) they did a great job keep it up NY Cops. Obama had nothing to do with the investigation.

Or maybe the vendor on the street that alerted the cops...

12

 May 05, 2010 at 12:56 AM Anonymous Says:

#2 youre naive. this has nothing to do with obama. I always wondered who actually listens to gibbs when he just brushed aside any serious question by telling how great the administration is. but anyway how the neck did this guy leave his house if he was under surveillance?

13

 May 05, 2010 at 03:04 AM To # 6 Says:

you forgot to say that you are quoting Michael Savage

14

 May 05, 2010 at 06:17 AM Shlomo Says:

Reply to #7  
i know Says:

This whole thing has nothing to do with the obama regime now they want all the credit. It was all the NYPD (FBI) they did a great job keep it up NY Cops. Obama had nothing to do with the investigation.

Just NY cops? Sure it was NYPD, but the FBI, ICE, ATF, DoD, TSA, and NSA are all federal agencies. Give credit where credit is due. A lot of agencies, at all levels of gov't, worked hard and fast and ultimately got the guy.

15

 May 05, 2010 at 06:25 AM Anonymous Says:

I don't understand. What's to stop a terrorist from flying on a name other than his own. If they are professional with blowing people up, they probally have the resources of forged passports too. So what is the big deal about this no fly list?

16

 May 05, 2010 at 07:25 AM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #7  
i know Says:

This whole thing has nothing to do with the obama regime now they want all the credit. It was all the NYPD (FBI) they did a great job keep it up NY Cops. Obama had nothing to do with the investigation.

They did nothing they got a lucky break I guess the bomber was not an A student and failed .next time we won't be so lucky they learn from they're mistakes like the first world trade cntr bombing ,failed once passed with flying colors the second time. United States hasto come up with a new tactic to rid this world of these crazed fenatics. Until then I'm staying away from heavy populated areas

17

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