U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder says the man charged with attempting to set off a car bomb in New York City's Times Square has admitted involvement in the plot and is cooperating with law enforcement officials. Faisal Shahzad faces charges of terrorism and trying to commit mass destruction. He was arrested late Monday onboard a flight that was about to leave New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport bound for Dubai.
Prosecutors charged Faisal Shahzad with attempting to kill and maim Americans using a weapon of mass destruction. They also say Shahzad has admitted that he received bomb-making training in Pakistan.
Federal and New York City law enforcement officials briefed reporters at a news conference in Washington on Tuesday about the case.
"This plot was a very serious attempt. If successful, it could have resulted in a lethal terrorist attack causing death and destruction in the heart of New York City," said U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.
Holder said the investigation continues in what he called "a clear terrorist plot" aimed at murdering Americans. The attorney general said quick investigative work by federal, state and local officials led to Shahzad's arrest.
Shahzad was captured onboard a jetliner that was about to take off from New York to Dubai late Monday.
Deputy FBI Director John Pistole said Shahzad has been cooperating with investigators - before and after he was read his legal rights, known in the United States as Miranda rights. "Suffice it to say that he provided valuable information and intelligence and evidence during that time and then, as the attorney general noted, he was Mirandized [read him his legal rights] later and continued to cooperate and provide valuable information," he said.
Shahzad was arrested after investigators were able to link him with the vehicle that was rigged to explode in Times Square.
New York City Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said someone removed the vehicle identification number, or VIN, from the sport utility vehicle, or SUV, but that did not stop investigators.
"The VIN number on the dashboard had been removed. The break in this case took place when a New York City detective was able to go under the vehicle and get the hidden VIN number. This identified the owner of record who in turn, as we know, sold it to the suspect," he said.
The bomb plot was foiled when bystanders in Times Square noticed smoke coming from the SUV. A bomb squad then dismantled the explosive device.
Law enforcement officials say the bomb would have caused injuries and damage had it gone off. But FBI official Pistole said the bomb's assembly did not appear very advanced. "It does not appear from our opinion to be the most sophisticated device. There were a number of opportunities for the device to fail," he said.
That view is shared by James Cavanaugh, who recently retired after 33 years with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
"It would have killed people who were in proximity to the car. It could have killed people who were maybe in the car next to it. But it wasn't going to destroy a city block or bring down the fronts of the building. It wasn't that large of a device. And it was very ill-conceived. The firing and fusing system was a mess. It's almost as if they read about it on the Web [the Internet], or someone schooled them verbally in this is what you should do," he said.
After investigators traced the vehicle to Shahzad, they placed his name on the federal do not fly list of people suspected of terrorist links. Shahzad's plane nearly took off before it was called back to the gate and he was arrested.
U.S. officials are looking into how Shahzad got on the plane, even though his name was on the do not fly list.
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said U.S. officials would have recalled the plane, even if it had taken off.
Attorney General Holder said he never doubted that Shahzad would be apprehended. "I was here all yesterday and through much of last night, and was aware of the tracking that was going on. And I was never in any fear that we were in danger of losing him," he said.
Shahzad is 30-years-old and is a naturalized U.S. citizen from Pakistan.
U.S. officials say Shahzad recently returned from a five month trip to Pakistan.
Pakistan intelligence officials say at least one person with ties to the bomb plot has been arrested in the southern Pakistani city of Karachi. At Tuesday's news conference, Attorney General Holder declined to comment on the reported Pakistan arrests.