Holder and other officials celebrate catching Times Square bomb suspect

Three more people are in custody after raids related to the failed bombing May 1 in Times Square. Their arrests follow that of Faisal Shahzad, who is suspected of carrying out the attempt.
By Dana Milbank
Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Attorney General Eric Holder is one of those rare birds that crow before the sun rises.

Evan Perez, a reporter for the Wall Street Journal, was sitting in his underwear in his Capitol Hill home at 1:09 a.m. Tuesday when an e-mail from the Justice Department popped up on his BlackBerry. It said Holder would be making a statement to the media -- live from the Justice Department -- at the ungodly hour of 1:30 a.m.

After scrambling into some torn jeans and a polo shirt, Perez raced to 10th and Constitution, parked his car illegally and hurried into the briefing room. He was one of only two reporters who made it there in time to witness Holder's announcement that a suspect had been arrested in the botched Times Square car bombing.

The attorney general could have left the middle-of-the-night announcement to one of his 130,000 subordinates at the department, but he was not about to pass up a chance to attach himself -- and the Obama administration -- to a bit of good news in the counterterrorism fight.

"We will not rest until we have brought everyone responsible to justice," said Holder, who, indeed, was not resting.

Exactly 12 hours later, Holder was back in the same room to do it all over again, this time with six law enforcement types joining him in an exercise in mutual kudos.

"Exemplary investigative efforts," Holder said.

"A great team effort," contributed Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano. "Truly exemplary."

"An outstanding job," offered John Pistole, the felicitously named FBI man on the stage.

The fourth speaker, New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, had a tough job in matching the congratulations of the previous three. But he was equal to the task. The FBI agents and NYPD detectives had "investigative muscle," he said, the bomb squad "suited up in very oppressive gear," and the customs officials were "eagle-eyed."

From there, it was off to the movies. Kelly described the car bomb using a term popularized by an Oscar-winning film. "That lethal assembly really made a very big hurt locker," he said, shifting from there to the television drama "24." "By my calculation, from the time Faisal Shahzad drove into and across Broadway and parked that vehicle until when he was apprehended last evening at JFK airport, it was 53 hours and 20 minutes. Now, we know that Jack Bauer can do it in 24 [hours]. But in the real world, 53 is a pretty good number."

Yes, but 11 isn't. That's the number of times the people onstage thanked one another and everybody else, from the street vendors in New York who spotted the smoking SUV to the reporters in the room. Add in the various other forms of commendation and attaboys/attagirls, and a whole lot of celebrating was going on in the halls of Justice on Tuesday.

CONTINUED     1        >

© 2010 The Washington Post Company