Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Investigation Continues Into Faisal Shahzad's Background; Security Lapses Noted

While Faisal Shahzad claims to have acted alone, investigators are looking at potential links overseas, particularly in Pakistan. Authorities in Pakistan had arrested several of his relatives in connection with his arrest at JFK airport as he was trying to leave the country via Dubai.
Shahzad told authorities he acted alone, but officials said he had spent five months in Pakistan of late and Kelly said Shahzad had a wife and two children living in Peshawar.

The United States and Pakistan will try to trace Shahzad's path to Times Square, determine how he ended up in a militant training camp in Pakistan and which group influenced him, in hopes of preventing future attacks.

Shahzad, a former financial analyst who worked in the U.S. state of Connecticut, is the son of a retired vice air marshal, affording him a special status in Pakistan, where the military is the most powerful and influential institution.

Security officials said Shahzad's parents resided in Peshawar, the city hit hardest by Pakistani Taliban suicide bombings. They said Shahzad also has a residency identification card from commercial hub Karachi.

Pakistani Interior Minister Rehman Malik said Shahzad's family "are on our radar."

"He is not from a radical or illiterate family. He is from an educated family. We are looking into how he got radicalized," he told Reuters.

JPMorgan Chase's mortgage unit sued Shahzad in September last year to foreclose on his three bedroom home in Shelton, Connecticut, court documents and county records show.

The bomb was in a sports utility vehicle that prosecutors said Shahzad bought three weeks ago in Connecticut for $1,300.
There were issues with getting timely no-fly instructions out to law enforcement at the airport, but once the airport was notified, there was no way he was going to evade capture.
Workers at Emirates evidently did not check the list, because at 6:30 p.m., Mr. Shahzad called the airline and booked a flight to Pakistan via Dubai, officials said. At 7:35 p.m., he arrived at the airport, paid cash for his ticket and was given a boarding pass.

Airlines are not required to report cash purchases, a Homeland Security official said. Emirates actually did report Mr. Shahzad’s purchase to the Transportation Security Administration — but only hours later, when he was already in custody, the official said.

Mr. Shahzad had evaded the surveillance effort and bought his ticket seven hours after his name went on the no-fly list. But the system gives security officials one more chance to stop a dangerous passenger.

As is routine, when boarding was completed for the flight, Emirates Flight EK202, the final passenger manifest was sent to the National Targeting Center, operated in Virginia by Customs and Border Protection. There, at about 11 p.m., analysts discovered that Mr. Shahzad was on the no-fly list and had just boarded a plane.

They sounded the alarm, and minutes later, with the jet still at the gate, its door was opened and agents came aboard and took Mr. Shahzad into custody, officials said. The airliner then pulled away from the gate but was called back.

“Actually I have a message for you to go back to the gate immediately,” an air traffic controller told the pilot, according to a recording posted to the Web by, which tracks air communications. “I don’t know exactly why, but you can call your company for the reason,” the controller added.

After the plane was called back, the authorities removed two more passengers. They were questioned and cleared. They and all the rest of the passengers were rescreened, as was the baggage, and the flight took off about seven hours late.
There were multiple layers of security involved here, and while several layers didn't manage to prevent him from boarding the flight, he was still captured before the flight took off. Investigators and political leaders need to look at how and why the system was not more efficient and how the notification system could be better improved - whether it is providing clearer and more urgent notifications, better voice communication with those at the gate, or a combination of factors.

Clearly, the law enforcement job of tracking down the terrorist responsible for the attack did a great job of tracing leads that pointed to Shahzad and did so with remarkable speed, but that was due in part to the failure of the bomb to explode - leaving a veritable smorgasbord of evidence that detailed the history of the Nissan Pathfinder, its origin, and ultimately Shahzad's identification as the prime suspect.

The charges in the criminal complaint are as follows:

Criminal complaint against Faisal Shahzad

Now, there are questions as to why he carried out the attack in the first place. Some are speculating that it may have been because of ongoing UAV airstrikes against the Taliban in Pakistan that have targeted Taliban and al Qaeda along the frontier provinces. He also admits to training with Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, which is one of the major extremist Islamic groups in his native Pakistan. The criminal complaint states that he trained in Waziristan, and Bill Roggio notes that it was likely North Waziristan, which is littered with more than 150 Taliban and al Qaeda camps. In fact, it appears that Tehrik-i-Taliban is the latest cover name for Mehsud's Taliban faction.

One change to the no-fly notification list following the Shahzad arrest is a good idea: airlines will now be required to check every 2 hours, instead of 24 as previously required.

I think it should be even more frequent, and the technology is present to make this pretty much instantaneous, but this is a step in the right direction.

Via legalbgl, did a US Army spy plane snoop on Shahzad's calls?
Investigators were able to track wannabe terrorist Faisal Shahzad through his anonymous, pre-paid cell phone — exactly how, they won’t say. But there was a tantalizing explanation posted — and then quickly yanked — from the website of WCBS TV. “In the end, it was secret Army intelligence planes that did him in. Armed with his cell phone number, they circled the skies over the New York area, intercepting a call to Emirates Airlines reservations, before scrambling to catch him at John F. Kennedy International Airport.”

Jeremy Scahill, relying on a source in U.S. Special Operations, says those planes were likely RC-12s, equipped with a Guardrail Signals Intelligence (SIGINT) system. The planes are designed to pluck all kinds of communications from the air. But from the ground, they could easily be mistaken for an executive aircraft. The RC-12 is based on the Hawker-Beechcraft King Air B200 suit-carrier. And while earlier versions of the aircraft were covered in odd-looking antennas, the latest aircraft are far less conspicuous.

Variants of the planes are at the center of “Project Liberty,” a crash project by the Air Force to send more airborne spies to Afghanistan. The first of an estimated 37 aircraft began flying there last December.

“It sucks up everything. We’ve got these things in Jalalabad [Afghanistan]. We routinely fly these things over Khandahar. When I say everything, I mean BlueTooth would be effected, even the wave length that PlayStation controllers are on. They suck up everything. That’s the point,” Scahill’s source tells him.
Officials still can't confirm whether Shahzad has links to international terror groups or whether he trained at terror camps in Pakistan. However, we are learning that he did purchase M-88 fireworks in Pennsylvania.

Also, the video that was released the day after the failed attack showing a man taking off a dark colored shirt in Shubert Alley around the block from the SUV may have reassured Shahzad that the authorities weren't on to him at that point giving him a false sense of confidence.
Meanwhile, an official with knowledge of the investigation told The Associated Press that the video police released right after the botched bombing of a man shedding his shirt near the SUV had the effect of falsely reassuring the real suspect he wasn't a target.

The unidentified man -- whom Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly referred to in his first briefing after the failed bombing as someone police sought to interview -- is now not believed to be involved with the attack, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the case. Police have not interviewed the man.
We have a money quote, and it's about the vast sums of money that caught the attention of law enforcement since 1999.
Sources tell CBS News that would-be Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad appeared on a Department of Homeland Security travel lookout list - Traveler Enforcement Compliance System (TECS) - between 1999 and 2008 because he brought approximately $80,000 cash or cash instruments into the United States.

TECS is a major law enforcement computer system that allows its approximately 120,000 users from 20 federal agencies to share information. The database is designed to identify individuals suspected of or involved in violation of federal law.
So, we now have an idea of why the JTTF was interested in Shahzad in 2004 but what happened that he wasn't on the lookout list in 2010? Was his name dropped, but only added in conjunction with the investigation and if so, why was his name dropped?

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