Pakistani-American Faisal Shahzad, suspect in foiled Times Square bomb plot, arrested at JFK
Authorities late Monday night arrested a suspect in the botched plot to bomb Times Square.
"Mr. Shahzad, an American citizen, was taken into custody at JFK Airport in New York as he attempted to board a flight to Dubai," Attorney General Eric Holder said in an early-morning news conference.
"This investigation is ongoing, as are our attempts to gather useful intelligence, and we continue to pursue a number of leads," the Queens-born Holder said.
"But it's clear that the intent behind this terrorist act was to kill Americans," he told reporters.
The Customs and Border Protection agents at Terminal 4 had Shahzad's name and photo, a source told the Daily News.
"He was looking to get out of the country," a source told The News.
He is believed to have links to international terrorists and was already under surveillance for two days when the feds moved in.
They had hoped he would lead them to other possible suspects but scooped him up at JFK when he looked ready to run.
Shahzad bought the 1993 Nissan Pathfinder that he left in Times Square last Saturday night two weeks ago in a deal without paperwork, sources said.The National Security Agency had also been tracking his cell phone calls, some of which had been made to overseas numbers.
The SUV was packed with enough fuel, fertilizer and explosives to ignite a massive fireball - and kill scores of people.
In Times Square, New Yorkers and tourists alike were thrilled to hear today that Shahzad was now in the hands of the law.
But she's still worried about the future.
"I'm scared now that this might be part of a bigger terrorism threat. I have a daughter, she's only 9 months old," she said. "I don't want her to have to grow up worrying about terrorists in her own city."
Holder assured New York - and the nation - that law enforcement officials are on the case.
"This investigation is ongoing, it is multifaceted, and it is aggressive," he said. "As we move forward, we will focus on not just holding those responsible for it accountable."
Sources told The News early Tuesday that the feds are tracking three associates who may have helped the suspect.
Shahzad tried to cover his tracks when he drove the Pathfinder to Times Square.
The vehicle identification number was defaced, but detectives found it stamped on the engine block and axle to get a lead on the current owner.
NYPD and FBI detectives identified Shahzad after tracking down the previous owner, Peggy Colas of Bridgeport, Conn., sources said. She told investigators she had turned over the keys to the mystery man at a Connecticut mall, sources said.
"Of course I'm scared. If I say something and he comes here, then what?" she said from her home earlier Monday night, before Shahzad was arrested. Authorities whisked her away to shield her from the encamped media.
Colas told cops the buyer paid with $100 bills, and he used a bogus name - though his cell phone number worked.When she found out who bought the car, Colas freaked out, posting on her Facebook page: "OMG! I had a crazy day. ... It's official. I have bad luck. ... I hope they find that bastard."
Her family couldn't believe her luck either.
"He came off like a nice guy, I guess," one of Colas' brothers said. "He told my sister, 'I'm going to New York.' He said he needed a car in the city."
As Shahzad was tracked, investigators have also started looking at a Connecticut-based Web site purporting to represent a faction of the Taliban in Pakistan, sources said. The site went up last week, and within 24 hours of the failed bombing was laying claim to an attack on American soil, law enforcement sources said.
The arrest appears to eliminate as a suspect the still-unidentified white man caught by security cameras stripping off a dark shirt to reveal a red one after the SUV was abandoned in Times Square.
The arrest came after a day of fast-moving developments:
- The White House uttered the T-word for the first time in connection with the failed plot that sent a scare through the city.
"I would say that was intended to terrorize, and I would say that whomever did that would be categorized as a terrorist," White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said.
- Motorized traffic into Manhattan slowed to a crawl as officers checked trucks entering the East River tunnels - and gave New Yorkers a jarring flashback to the tense days after the 9/11 attacks.
- Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) called for federal funding for a midtown surveillance program that would use security cameras and license plate scanners to track every vehicle moving between 34th and 59th Sts.
Inside the Pathfinder, cops found dozens of M-88 firecrackers, three tanks of BBQ-style propane, two red plastic jugs of gasoline and a metal locker densely packed with eight supermarket bags of fertilizer.
The whole shebang was wired to two cheap, yellow, old-fashioned travel alarm clocks set to work in tandem - one to blow up the propane tanks and the other to explode the contents of the locker.
The fertilizer was not explosive-grade and would not have produced the kind of devastation associated with ammonium nitrate bombs - like the one in Oklahoma City in 1995.
But the propane tanks pack an explosive punch that could have shattered windows and done all kinds of damage in Times Square, officials said.
The bombing plot was foiled by two sharp-eyed street vendors who spotted smoke seeping from the SUV just after 6:30 p.m. on Saturday and alerted mounted Officer Wayne Rhatigan. He then sounded the alarm.
With Kevin Deutsch in Stratford, Conn. and Bruce Furman
Judge orders release of 9 Hutaree militia members
BY DAVID ASHENFELTER
A federal judge in Detroit today ordered the release of nine members of a Lenawee County Christian militia group freed on bond over the objections of federal prosecutors.
“The United States is correct that it need not wait until people are killed before it arrests conspirators,” U.S. District Judge Victoria Roberts said in a 36-page decision. “But, the Defendants are also correct: their right to engage in hate-filled, venomous speech, is a right that deserves First Amendment protection.”
She said federal prosecutors failed to persuade her that the defendants must be jailed until trial.
It is unclear whether the U.S. Attorney’s Office will appeal the decision.
"We will be reviewing and weighing all of our options," said spokeswoman Susan Plochinski of the U.S. Attorney's Office.
Roberts said the defendants could be freed under house arrest on electronic tethers. They must surrender their concealed weapons permits, cannot apply for a license to purchase or carry guns and cannot drink alcohol or take drugs.
She said they must continue to work and report to pretrial services on a weekly basis.
Robert said the defendants also must provide a list of names, addresses, and phone numbers for all Hutaree members and members of any other militia groups they associated with.
Roberts put more than two dozen restrictions on the group, altogether.
The defendants are David Stone, 45, Tina Stone, 44, and Joshua Stone, 21, all of Clayton; another son, David Stone Jr., 19, of Adrian; Joshua Clough, 28, of Blissfield; Michael Meeks, 40, of Manchester; Kristopher Sickles, 27, of Sandusky, Ohio, Jacob Ward, 33, of Huron, Ohio; and Thomas Piatek, 46, of Whiting, Ind.
A federal indictment says the defendants, led by the elder David Stone, belonged to the Hutaree, a Christian militia that planned to attack local, state and federal law enforcement officers, among other officials.
All nine are charged with seditious conspiracy, attempting to use weapons of mass destruction and possession of a firearm in relation to a crime of violence. David Stone and David Stone Jr. also are charged with teaching/demonstrating use of explosive materials.
The weapons of mass destruction charge, the most serious, carries a maximum penalty of life in prison.
Absent an appeal and request for a stay from the judge, authorities said the nine would be brought to the U.S. Courthouse in Detroit on Tuesday for release.
"We're excited but I haven't digested the order yet," said William Swor of Detroit, who represents David Stone, the alleged leader of the group. Another defense attorney, Michael Rataj, said defense lawyers are waiting to see if the U.S. Attorney's office decides to appeal Roberts' order and ask her to delay implementing the decision.
But Rataj said Roberts indicated in the decision that she wasn't interested in granting a stay.
Well, OK, there was a delay on their release, but I do not think we will have to worry about Shahzad even being allowed to have this debate anytime soon. And I am certain when it comes time for Mr. Shahzad to go to court, there will be no one from Oath Keepers to foot his anti-government activist legal bill. If only our enemies could all be so Christian.