White House: Taliban Behind Times Square Bomb

On May 1, 2010, two alert street vendors saw a Nissan Pathfinder with smoke coming out of it parked near Times Square in Manhattan. They told police, and the bomb squad was able to disarm the explosives-packed car bomb before it did any harm. The FBI built and blew up a mock-up of the device to show that, had it detonated as planned on the crowded road in Times Square, the toll in human lives could have been significant.
Updated at 1:55 p.m. EDT

Citing new evidence, senior White House officials said Sunday that the Pakistani Taliban was behind the failed Times Square bombing.

President Barack Obama's homeland security and counterterrorism adviser said Sunday that authorities think the Pakistani Taliban was behind the attempted car bombing at Times Square.

White House adviser John Brennan told "Face the Nation" anchor Bob Schieffer, "It's clear that Faisel Shahzad was working at the [Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan], a militant terrorist organization within Pakistan that is closely allied with al Qaeda. He was trained by them. He received funding from them. He was basically directed here to the United States to carry out this attack. Investigations [are] ongoing. We have good cooperation from our Pakistani partners and from others. We're learning more about this incident every day. We're hopeful we're going to be able to identify any other individuals that were involved."

Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, or TTP, is believed to be hiding senior al Qaeda leaders, including Osama bin Laden.

Schieffer asked how Brennan could be sure of Shahzad's terrorist ties because that scenario is so much different from the scenario offered by authorities in the immediate aftermath of the failed Times Square bombing. Shazad was originally thought to have acted alone, which Schieffer pointed out is the opposite of what the White House is saying now.

Complete Coverage: Terrorism in the U.S.

"We have Faisel Shahzad in custody," said Brennan. "He has been cooperating. We're finding out information from him. As we learn information we're able to pull the threads and track down these leads. Working with our partners internationally we have a much better understanding now of what was at play here that led him to try to carry out this attack in Times Square."

Shahzad has told investigators that he trained in the lawless tribal areas of Waziristan, where both al Qaeda and the Pakistani Taliban operate. He was arrested aboard an Emirates Airlines jet in New York just minutes before it was scheduled to take off for Dubai.

Brennan said that there are people in Pakistan that Pakistani and American intelligence sources are investigating who may be connected to Shahzad.

"When this incident took place we knew that one individual had driven this vehicle to Times Square," said Brennan. "What we're trying to do is to be transparent with our knowledge but at the same time not provide information that might somehow compromise our ability to follow up these investigative leads. Clearly now our understanding is that the TTP had a major role in this incident."

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That authorities got lucky in apprehending Shahzad has been a criticism of the investigation into the failed bombing. Schieffer asked if authorities caught Shahzad because he was incompetent, not because of good police work.

Brennan wouldn't say that the United States got lucky. "[S]hahzad and other individuals trying to carry out attacks have not been able to receive the type of training that would have allowed them to carry out an attack successfully."

He continued, "What this does underscore is that we need to remain vigilant. We can't be complacent. We need to maintain a high security posture because we're face ago very determined and lethal enemy.

Shahzad, a naturalized American citizen, has traveled back and forth to Pakistan six times in recent years. The last time he was in Pakistan, said Brennan, was from the middle of 2009 to February 2010. It was during this time authorities think Shahzad received training from TTP.

"Should not some sort of a flag have gone up? Somebody going back and forth six times?" asked Schieffer.

"Every day there are thousands upon thousands of individuals who come in and out of the [country]," said Brennan. "Many of them are repeat travelers overseas. What we try to do is to take a look at those patterns of travel, see what other indications might be that individuals are involved in terrorist activities."

Brennan added, "We were able to put his name on the watch list. As soon as we found him, he was able to pulled of that plane before he escaped."

Shahzad bought his plane ticket with cash in the hours leading up to his flight's departure. Schieffer asked why that action - buying a ticket with cash on the same day of a departing international flight - did not itself raise a flag in the system.

"If I just called up and made a reservation an hour or so before a flight and walked in and paid cash, would that not trigger something or other? Wouldn't that raise questions?" asked Schieffer.

"We're looking at all of these different issues," said Brennan. "We were talking about a period of just a couple of hours before he was able to get on that plane."

There have already been tweaks to the system based on the parameters of the Shahzad case, Brennan said.

Pakistani army spokesman Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas, who last week said he doubted the Pakistani Taliban had anything to do with the failed bombing, declined to comment Sunday. He said representatives of the country's civilian government should respond. They were not available for comment.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Pakistan has recently stepped up efforts to root out extremist militants.

"The Pakistanis have been doing so much more than 18 months or two years ago any of us would have expected," Gates told reporters at Fort Leavenworth, Kan. He referred to Pakistani Army offensives, dating to spring 2009, against Taliban extremists in areas near the Afghan border, including in south Waziristan.

Gates said the Obama administration is sticking to its policy of offering to do as much training and other military activity inside Pakistan as the Pakistani government is willing to accept.

"It's their country," Gates said. "They remain in the driver's seat, and they have their foot on the accelerator."

More on the attempted Times Square bombing

Pakistan Taliban: Faisal Shahzad Not One of Us
Pakistani Taliban Part of Bombing Attempt?
Authorities Lost Faisal Shahzad in Traffic
Shahzad: Number Cruncher to Terror Suspect
Bomb Suspect Shahzad Seen Walking Away in Video
How You End Up on the U.S. No-Fly List
Shahzad Bought Weak Fireworks, Store Owner Says
Faisal Shahzad on Homeland Security List Since 1999
Exclusive: New Image of Shahzad in Times Square
How to Catch a Terrorist
Times Square Bomb Timeline
Times Square Terror Connection
The Pakistan Connection