Bombing suspect had getaway car, officials say

The suspect in the Times Square car bombing was videotaped at a Pennsylvania store buying fireworks, but store officials say the devices weren't strong enough to cause a mass detonation.
By Sari Horwitz and Paul Kane
Thursday, May 6, 2010; 5:01 PM

The man suspected in last Saturday's attempted bombing of Times Square drove in the heart of Manhattan one day earlier and left a getaway car near his target, U.S. officials said Thursday.

Faisal Shahzad was apprehended by authorities two days after an SUV rigged with explosives failed to detonate in the crowded Manhattan tourist district. He remains in custody on terrorism and weapons charges, and he is continuing to cooperate extensively with investigators, a senior administration official said Thursday. They now believe that the material he is giving them is largely credible, the official added.

Insight into Shahzad's alleged planning of the attack came as House Minority Leader John A. Boehner delivered a tough critique of the Obama administration's approach to terrorism.

"We have been lucky, but luck is not an effective strategy for fighting terrorism," Boehner said at his weekly press briefing, and he denounced the administration's "bland reassurances."

"Through training, equipping and preparing, you make your own luck," responded Silvestre Reyes, chairman of the House intelligence committee. "We can't sit back and let every situation play out and hope that we're lucky. But we can, as we're doing, create an environment where we control the situation and set ourselves up for success." The committee met Thursday behind closed doors to hear more about the attempted bombing.

Shahzad dropped off a getaway car last Friday in New York, a government official said, but a day later, he locked the keys to it, and to his Connecticut apartment, in an SUV that he drove into Times Square. That forced Shahzad to take the train back to his Bridgeport, Conn., apartment. The Associated Press first reported about the second car.

Officials have said the gray 1993 Nissan Pathfinder, left abandoned in Times Square and loaded with firecrackers, gasoline and propane, could have created a huge fireball and killed nearby tourists and Broadway theatergoers if it had gone off successfully.

Kevin Barry, a retired member of the New York Police Department's bomb squad, told the Associated Press that the design of the bomb -- which included an improvised fireworks-and-powder detonator -- showed Shahzad had sufficient training to understand the basics of rigging an explosive device. But the bomb also included fertilizer that was incapable of exploding.

The alleged plot "was at least the fourth major terrorist incident on U.S. soil in the last eight months," Boehner said -- referring to the failed plot to attack New York's subways, the Fort Hood shootings and the failed Christmas Day bombing attempt of a jet over Detroit.

"Each of these individuals represent new strands of terrorism," Boehner said. "They received varying degrees of support, but all of them are tied to international terrorist organizations and their radical extremism platforms. We are seeing the dangerous results of motivated individuals being able to improve their capability to kill innocent civilians. Yet the Obama administration has spoon-fed the American people with bland reassurances, saying this was a 'one-off' and a 'lone wolf.' This is the rhetoric of an administration that continues to operate without a real, comprehensive plan to confront and defeat the terrorist threat."

Separately, Rep. Peter King, the top Republican on the House homeland security committee, called on Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. to order an investigation of leaks to the media about the Times Square case.

King, who is also a member of the House intelligence committee, wrote in a letter to Holder on Thursday that "leaks from the administration provided details of the ongoing investigation, which, after the attack, turned out to be accurate." He described such disclosures as "a dangerous pattern that could undermine the entire investigation, risk lives of law enforcement officers, and jeopardize the ability to achieve convictions."

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