Monday, May 03, 2010

More Details Emerging on Failed Times Square Bombing

Investigators are poring over video footage and forensic data from the Nissan Pathfinder that was loaded with propane gas canisters, gasoline tanks, M88 firecrackers, timers, and nonexplosive fertilizer bags. The New York Times has a great graphic showing where the vehicle was located when alert street vendors saw the vehicle and thought something was strange and contacted police.

Here's a street view:

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With its location near the Marriott Marquis and the headquarters for Viacom, the potential for mass casualties was quite high. The Marriott has a covered area for loading and unloading passengers and theater patrons are always walking up and down the block there to reach any number of theaters on 45th Street or the dozens of restaurants beyond. Car traffic frequently backs up because of trying to enter the parking garages both at the Marriott and across the street, so it is a target rich environment, but the Marriott does check vehicle trunks for suspicious cargo. Expect to see more of that in coming weeks.

1515 Broadway, which is the headquarters for Viacom (which owns Comedy Central and may have been targeted by the terrorist for allowing South Park to depict Mohammed in one of its cartoons), also houses the Chancellor's office for the Department of Education.

Investigators are talking to the registered owner of the Nissan Pathfinder involved in the terror incident. They're also looking at hundreds of hours worth of video taken from surveillance cameras in the area and tracing back the vehicle's path through Manhattan.

The Daily News and other outlets wonder whether the person in this image was involved. The footage is grainy, but appears to match the description given of a man in his 30s or 40s. It was reported that he ended up walking into Schubert Alley, which is located behind 1515 Broadway, and switched out of a dark colored shirt into a different shirt.
Meanwhile, the police probe was in high gear, aided by clues that would have vanished if the car had exploded.

The stolen license plate came back to a different car that was being repaired at Kramer's Used Auto Parts in Stratford, Conn.

The SUV's vehicle identification number was defaced, but detectives were able to find it stamped on the engine block and identified its owner, who had not yet been interviewed, Kelly said.

The SUV had not been reported stolen, he said. Cops were also able to lift some fingerprints from the vehicle.

Cops also scoured videos from bridges and tunnels to try to track the would-be bombers' movements.

Surveillance videos caught the SUV heading west from Sixth Ave. on crowded W. 45th St. at 6:28 p.m.

It took only a New York minute for bystanders and cops to go on full alert: Rhatigan made his first radio call at 6:34 p.m.

Rhatigan and some rookies patrolling the area began pushing thousands of people away from the scene. Times Square from 43rd to 47th Sts., between Sixth and Eighth Aves., was shut down, and the south tower of the Marriott Marquis hotel was evacuated.
Fixed the google map that was showing an incorrect location. It was one block off.

Despite no evidence linking the Taliban to the failed attack, the Taliban is threatening more attacks in the US. While an authentic video showed a Taliban leader taking credit for the failed attack, law enforcement has found no links.

Here's video footage showing the man taking off his shirt in Shubert Alley. It's grainy and not entirely clear, but it appears to be a male about 6 foot tall and balding. The video was apparently taken from the Junior's Restaurant on Shubert Alley.

Investigators are looking into the vehicle, and traced back the license plates to a junkyard in Connecticut, and the owner claims that the plates were stolen. Yet, he didn't report the theft and that raises some interesting questions. They also obtained the VIN number, and have traced back its sale to its origin, but don't know the in-between steps.
The Connecticut license plates on the SUV matched a Ford; according to WFSB, "The investigation led agents to a scrapyard in Stratford and a shoreline car dealership. Police said the Pathfinder could have been sold from Thomas Anthony Auto in Bridgeport at some point. The SUV's vehicle identification number led officials to the dealership... Police were also at Kramer's scrapyard in Stratford in a search to hunt down the license plates, which they said came off a pickup truck."
More updates - video reaction from NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly and from Rep. Peter King (R-NY):

The Washington Post reports that there are tentative links with a foreign terrorist group, quite likely in relation to a pair of videos released by the Pakistani Taliban taking responsibility/credit for the failed attack and warning of more to come.
Another U.S. official, recounting a conversation with intelligence officials, said, "Don't be surprised if you find a foreign nexus. . . . They're looking at some tell-tale signs and they're saying it's pointing in that direction."

Officials cautioned that even if the investigation points toward an international link, rather than domestic or anti-government groups, that does not mean al-Qaeda or another terrorist organization is necessarily involved.

The emerging picture came as police and federal investigators searched for a man in his 40s whom surveillance cameras caught changing his shirt in an alley and looking over his shoulder near where the car was parked about 6:30 p.m., and another person seen running north on Broadway from the area. New York City Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly also said detectives had spoken with the registered owner of the car but revealed no details other than that the man was not a suspect.
It's way too easy to shrug this off as a failed attack by a novice to let our guard down, and as always we have to stay vigilant against threats.

Here, the US has increased scrutiny on passenger screening on flights in and out of several East Coast cities, but did they do the same for AMTRAK?

The SUV at the heart of this failed terror attack was apparently sold in a cash deal with no paperwork involved.

The person of interest involved in the case appears to be a naturalized American but had recently visited Pakistan. ABC News says that he was from Pakistan.
There is growing evidence the bomber did not act alone and had ties to radical elements overseas, with one senior official telling ABC News there are several individuals believed to be connected with the bombing and that at least one of them is a Pakistani-American.

Attorney General Eric Holder said today the investigators had made "substantial progress" in tracking the man who drove a Nissan Pathfinder into New York's Times Square with a crude bomb that failed to detonate.

Officials declined to provide the specifics that led them to believe there were overseas links to a larger plot.

Authorities said another clue in the investigation is a video posted online early Sunday morning by persons in Connecticut, who may have been involved in the bomb attempt and are being sought by law enforcement. The video, posted on a site registered one day before the attack, has the Taliban in Pakistan claiming responsibility for the attempted bombing.
It was only a matter of time before video surfaced showing the vehicle just after the bomb failed to detonate as its makers' intended. Anyone who's walked or driven through Times Square knows how many people are carrying around cameras or video. Well, video has surfaced showing the vehicle smoking just after the bomb failed to detonate.

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