THE ERRORIST: A Bad Man Is Not Hard To Find

terrorist_orkut.jpgNEW YORKER: Last week, before the Times Square incident, I was talking with a former U.S. intelligence officer who worked extensively on jihadi cases during several overseas tours. He said that when a singleton of Shahzad’s profile—especially a U.S. citizen—turns up in a place like Peshawar, local jihadi groups are much more likely to assess him as a probable U.S. spy than as a genuine volunteer. At best, the jihadi groups might conclude that a particular U.S.-originated individual’s case is uncertain. They might then encourage the person to go home and carry out an attack—without giving him any training or access to higher-up specialists that might compromise their local operations. They would see such a U.S.-based volunteer as a “freebie,” the former officer said—if he returns home to attack, great, but if he merely goes off to report back to his C.I.A. case officer, no harm done. Whatever the narrative behind Shahzad’s case turns out to be, we can take solace that we will hear it in a court of law. Amidst the country’s often self-defeating search for a justice system to address terrorism, his is not a particularly hard case—a U.S. citizen arrested on U.S. soil for a crime against Americans carried out in New York. MORE

NEW YORK TIMES: The young woman in Bridgeport who last month sold Mr. Shahzad the rusting terrorist_orkut.thumbnail.jpg1993 Nissan Pathfinder prosecutors say he used in the failed attack did not remember his name. But she had his telephone number. That number was traced back to a prepaid cellular phone purchased by Mr. Shahzad, one that received four calls from Pakistan in the hours before he bought the S.U.V. It was 53 hours and 20 minutes from the moment the authorities say Mr. Shahzad, undetected, left his failed car bomb in the heart of Manhattan until the moment he was taken off a plane at Kennedy Airport and charged with trying to kill untold numbers of the city’s residents and tourists.In the most basic calculus, the success of the investigation of the attempted car bombing in Times Square is measured by the authorities only one way: a suspect was caught and charged, and now faces life in prison if convicted. But based on interviews and court records, those 53 hours included good breaks, dead ends, real scares, plain detective work and high-tech sophistication. There were moments of keen insight, and perhaps fearsome oversight.  MORE

terrorist_orkut.thumbnail.jpgCBS NEWS: Yet, the Times Square bombing suspect managed to board Emirates flight 202 to Dubai on Monday night. Shahzad was arrested by U.S. Customs Border Protection (CBP) officials before it left the gate, but after the plane plane was fully boarded and the door closed. MORE

NEW YORK DAILY NEWS: Faisal Shahzad was permitted to board a plane more than 10 hours after the feds put him on a no-fly list because the airline hadn’t updated its files, officials said. The events Monday night exposed a gap in the nation’s aviation security system that nearly allowed Shahzad to flee Kennedy Airport on a flight to Dubai. White House officials confirmed the only thing that foiled Shahzad’s getaway was a final check of the flight manifest by a U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer, who caught the suspect’s name. MORE

REUTERS: After the failed bombing of a passenger jet on Christmas Day, U.S. intelligence officials told the White House what kept them awake terrorist_orkut.thumbnail.jpgat night was the risk that militants could launch waves of small scale attacks on hard-to-protect targets on U.S. soil. The “nightmare” of nuclear terrorism was the theme of President Barack Obama’s security summit last month, but many in the U.S. intelligence community believe the chances that al Qaeda will obtain atomic weapons are at the low end of the probability scale and they have more immediate fears. More likely, they say, al Qaeda and other groups could shift focus to less-sophisticated violent attacks on “soft targets” that have the potential over time to do as much economic damage as another massive Sept. 11-style event. One official said Saturday’s botched car bombing in New York’s Times Square, and other recent plots, could be a sign that militant groups, hard-hit by U.S. drone strikes targeting their leaders, were starting to “figure this out.” “They do have the strategic goal of doing something catastrophic to this country,” an official said on condition of anonymity. “But we think it’s more likely that we’ll see a series of smaller-scale attacks — the subway, the shopping mall — vulnerable targets that you can’t harden.” MORE

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