Thursday, May 06, 2010

Evidence Mounting In Taliban Connection To Times Square Bombing

I'm not particularly surprised that Faisal Shahzad apparently has connections with Taliban terrorists in Pakistan despite Shahzad's claims that he acted alone, although the Washington Post reports that such links are not yet confirmed. From the New York Times:
Officials said that after two days of intense questioning of the bombing suspect, Faisal Shahzad, evidence was mounting that the group, the Pakistani Taliban, had helped inspire and train Mr. Shahzad in the months before he is alleged to have parked an explosives-filled sport utility vehicle in a busy Manhattan intersection on Saturday night. Officials said Mr. Shahzad had discussed his contacts with the group, and investigators had accumulated other evidence that they would not disclose.

On Wednesday, Mr. Shahzad, the 30-year-old son of a retired senior Pakistani Air Force officer, waived his right to a speedy arraignment, a possible sign of his continuing cooperation with investigators.

As his interrogation continued, Department of Homeland Security officials directed airlines to speed up their checks of new names added to the no-fly list, a requirement that might have prevented Mr. Shahzad from boarding a flight to Dubai on Monday night before his arrest at Kennedy International Airport.

The failed attack has produced a flurry of other proposals to tighten security procedures, including calls by members of Congress to more closely scrutinize passengers who buy tickets with cash, as Mr. Shahzad did. Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, independent of Connecticut, and Senator Scott Brown, Republican of Massachusetts, proposed stripping terrorism suspects of American citizenship, and Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg asked Congress to block the sale of firearms and explosives to those on terrorist watch lists.
The whole notion of stripping terrorism suspects of American citizenship is nonsense. There is a wholly appropriate crime that takes such actions into account, and that is treason. The US Constitution sets forth explicitly the crime of treason:
Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court.

The Congress shall have Power to declare the Punishment of Treason, but no Attainder of Treason shall work Corruption of Blood, or Forfeiture except during the Life of the Person attainted.
By taking up arms against the United States and working with the Taliban and received terror training at one of their terror camps in Pakistan's frontier provinces, Shahzad committed treason. He admitted to the actions of carrying out the bombing, which is an open admission (and if he allocutes in court, then the conditions for a treason conviction are met). People like Sen. John McCain and Joe Lieberman are stoking out space for campaign slogans and trying to show that they're tough on terrorists, but they could have also been tough by simply calling for the imposition of the appropriate criminal sanctions - treason.

So, why did Shahzad decide to join the jihad? Well, the Daily News reports that he was slowly radicalized because of the war on terror and personal failures. After downplaying the links, the US is now focusing on Shahzad's travels to Pakistan and his contacts there. Someone was providing him with the financial support upon his return to the US, and that has to be fully investigated.

It's also come to light that Shahzad made a dry run the day before, and even then botched things. He left the keys to his getaway car in the Pathfinder.
The source, who did not explain how Shahzad had attempted to set off the bomb, said he then took a number of turns and wound up entering Times Square by driving south down Seventh Avenue. The source said Shahzad told investigators he turned right onto 45th Street toward Eighth Avenue because he saw a place to pull over.

It's unclear why Shahzad left the Pathfinder's engine running and hazard lights blinking.

But because of an incredible goof, Shahzad couldn't use his escape car. He had accidentally left the keys to that vehicle in the Pathfinder that he thought was about to blow up, the source said.

He apparently went to a train station, where he boarded a Metro North train back to Connecticut.
That fortuitous goof on his part gave investigators still another piece of evidence to tie the attack to Shahzad.

Emirates Airlines has pushed back against claims by the Obama Administration that it didn't check the no-fly lists more frequently, claiming that it complied with then existing rules for a check once every 24 hours. More pertinent is that the FBI apparently told the TSA not to warn airlines:
But officials could have called all the airlines themselves in such a critical situation — they've done it before.

This would have put Shahzad on the radar of the carriers, and it could have prevented him from being able to board the Emirates plane headed for Dubai.

The FBI asked the TSA not to make the calls, according to an administration official who spoke on condition of anonymity in order to discuss the ongoing investigation. The FBI did let the TSA call a few domestic air carriers, which did not include Emirates.
It's possible that the FBI didn't want to compromise their investigation and hoped to perhaps catch any potential coconspirators and that alerting the airline might have tipped off Shahzad and others to the investigation. Still, there wasn't much more that the airline could do under the circumstances since it was the TSA responsibility to clear the flight's manifest.

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