Top US law enforcement officials offered no explanation today for how the suspect in the failed Times Square bombing was allowed to board an international flight despite being hunted by the FBI and being placed on the US no-fly list.
At a news conference, Attorney General Eric Holder said the suspect, Faisal Shahzad, had admitted trying to set off a car bomb in crowded Times Square on Saturday. He will face terrorism and weapons of mass destruction charges, Holder said.
"Based on what we know so far, it is clear that this was a terrorist plot aimed at murdering Americans in one of the busiest places in our country," Holder said.
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said Shahzad, a Pakistani-born US citizen, was placed on the no-fly list as authorities closed in. She credited Customs officials for recognizing Shahzad's name on a passenger manifest and stopping the flight.
But she had little explanation for how Shahzad was able to board the flight with a last-minute ticket. Passengers on the no-fly list should not be allowed to board a plane.
"I was never in any fear that we were in danger of losing him," Holder said.
But he, too, would not say how a terrorist suspect whose name was being widely circulated by federal law enforcement was allowed to board an airliner two days after a nearly catastrophic bombing.
Shahzad's flight had left the gate. It was called back so authorities could arrest him.
Shahzad is being questioned and has provided useful information, Holder said. The FBI read Shahzad his U.S. constitutional rights to remain silent after he provided information, and he continued to cooperate, FBI Deputy Director John Pistole said.
The break in the case came when investigators matched the car's vehicle identification number to a Nissan Pathfinder that had recently been sold for cash in the state of Connecticut. The dashboard registration number had been scratched off, but there are other numbers elsewhere on the car.
President Barack Obama said Tuesday the FBI was investigating possible ties between Shahzad and terrorist groups. Officials would not say whether they believe Shahzad acted alone or as part of a conspiracy.
Shahzad became a US citizen in April 2009 after passing the required criminal and national security background checks. Law enforcement officials familiar with the inquiry say investigators would go through Shahzad's citizenship application line by line to see if he lied about anything.
Associated Press writers Matt Apuzzo and Eileen Sullivan contributed to this report