Times Square Bomb Plotter Arrested: Covering the Coverage


Hiroko Masuike for The New York Times A Connecticut woman said she sold the S.U.V. used in the failed bombing to a man she described as Middle Eastern or Hispanic.

As you’re all likely aware by now, the man believed to have driven the vehicle in the botched Times Square bomb plot was arrested last night.   Thus far, three things interest me:  emerging evidence that this was part of an organized, international, terrorist conspiracy; the sheer ineptitude of the plot; and the media coverage.  This posting will cover the last of those; I’ll try to get to the others later.

Here’s a roundup of some of the more prominent English-language sources:

NYT: Arrest Made in Times Square Bomb Case

Federal agents and police detectives arrested a Connecticut man, a naturalized United States citizen from Pakistan, shortly before midnight Monday for driving a car bomb into Times Square on Saturday evening in what turned out to be an unsuccessful attack, Justice Department officials announced.

The man, Faisal Shahzad, 30, was taken into custody at Kennedy Airport on board an Emirates flight to Dubai, according to the airline and an early-morning statement Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. delivered at the Justice Department in Washington.

Two other passengers were removed from the plane, Emirates said, but it was unclear whether they were connected with the bombing attempt.

Mr. Shahzad was believed to have recently bought the 1993 Nissan Pathfinder that was found loaded with gasoline, propane, fireworks and fertilizer in the heart of Times Square, a person briefed on the investigation said.

WaPo: U.S. citizen from Pakistan arrested in Times Square bomb case

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. announced early Tuesday that an arrest had been made in the failed Times Square car bombing, saying that Faisal Shahzad, a 30-year-old American, was taken into custody at John F. Kennedy International Airport as he tried to fly to Dubai on Monday night.

Authorities said Shahzad, who is of Pakistani origin and lived in Connecticut, had paid cash for a Nissan Pathfinder that was found packed with explosives Saturday night on a tourist-crowded block in midtown Manhattan. The vehicle was set ablaze but failed to detonate.

Officials located Shahzad after a sweeping two-day investigation that yielded what senior Obama administration officials described as a flood of international and domestic clues suggesting a plot involving more than one person.

“It was clear that the intent behind this terrorist act was to kill Americans,” Holder said at a rare middle-of-the-night news conference at the Justice Department, nearly three hours after the suspect was pulled from an international flight that had already left the departure gate.

Shahzad has family links to the southern port city of Karachi, according to Dawn television, an English-language station in Pakistan. Shahzad flew to Karachi in July 2009 on Emirates, the Dubai-based international airline of the United Arab Emirates, and returned to the U.S. via the same airline on August 5, the station said, citing unnamed sources.

AP: Pakistani arrested in Times Square bomb attack

A Pakistan-born U.S. citizen accused of driving a bomb-laden SUV into Times Square and parking it on a street lined with restaurants and Broadway theaters was to appear in court Tuesday to face charges that he tried to set off a massive fireball and kill Americans, federal authorities said.

The suspect, Faisal Shahzad, was taken into custody late Monday by FBI agents and New York Police Department detectives at Kennedy Airport while trying to board a flight to Dubai, according to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and other officials. He was identified by customs agents and stopped before boarding, Holder said early Tuesday in Washington.

[Unconfirmed reports said Shahzad already was onboard the flight to Dubai, and that the plane was recalled to the gate, where he was arrested. “They just caught him at the last second,” a federal law enforcement source reportedly told one cable news outlet.]

Shahzad is a naturalized U.S. citizen and had recently returned from a five-month trip to Pakistan, where he had a wife, according to law enforcement officials who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the investigation into the failed car bombing.

FT: Man arrested over Times Square plot

A Pakistan-born US citizen had been arrested in connection with the weekend’s failed bomb attack on Times Square while attempting to flee the country, the US attorney-general announced early Tuesday morning.

Eric Holder told a press conference at 1:30am that Faisal Shahzad had been taken into custody at JFK Airport in New York as he was trying to board a flight to Dubai. A joint statement by US authorities described Mr Shahzad as a naturalised citizen born in Pakistan and said that he had been arrested at 11:45pm on Monday “for allegedly driving a car bomb into Times Square”.

The attorney-general’s announcement came hours after US media reported that the authorities were seeking a man of Pakistani origin who had bought the car later discovered in Times Square loaded with fireworks, petrol, propane and fertiliser.

Times: Pakistani man arrested for New York bomb

US police have arrested a US citizen of Pakistani origins in connection with the failed car bomb plot in New York’s Times Square, amid increasing concerns that the failed attack was connected to international terrorism.

The man, identified as Faisal Shahzad, a naturalised American who had immigrated from Pakistan, was arrested at John F. Kennedy airport as he was trying to board a flight to Dubai, according US Attorney General Eric Holder.  “It’s clear that the intent behind this terrorist act was to kill Americans,” said Mr Holder.

Mr Shahzad, 30, is believed to have recently returned from a five month trip to Pakistan, where his wife lives, to his home in Connecticut. US officials believe he bought the Nissan Pathfinder for cash and no paperwork within the last three weeks.

Guardian: Times Square bomb investigators arrest US man of Pakistani descent

A US citizen of Pakistani descent who is believed to have driven the four-wheel drive vehicle used in the failed car bomb attack in Times Square, New York, was arrested overnight as he tried to leave the country.

Faisal Shahzad was identified by customs agents at the city’s JFK airport and was stopped before boarding an Emirates airlines flight to Dubai.

Shahzad had recently returned from a five-month trip to Pakistan. He bought the 1993 Nissan Pathfinder from a Connecticut man about three weeks ago and paid in $100 bills.

Announcing the arrest, the US attorney general, Eric Holder, said: “It’s clear that the intent behind this terrorist act was to kill Americans.”  He suggested the investigation was exploring whether Shahzad had links to international terrorist networks.  “This investigation is ongoing, it is multi-faceted, and it is aggressive. As we move forward, we will focus on not just holding those responsible for it accountable, but also on obtaining any intelligence about terrorist organisations overseas,” he said.

Fox: American Who Recently Visited Pakistan Eyed in Times Square Bomb Plot

Federal authorities have identified a person of interest in Saturday night’s Times Square bomb attempt — a naturalized American citizen who was in Pakistan for several months and returned to the United States recently, investigative sources told Fox News.

The latest developments seem to support investigators’ suspicions that there was a foreign connection behind the failed car bomb attempt in New York City, senior Obama administration officials told Fox News, shedding light on the growing body of evidence.

I highlight the Fox story, which was clearly written before the announcement of the arrest and therefore on less information than the others both because it has been widely cited in the blogosphere and because several of the other stories seem to have been written with the earlier buzz in mind.

The FT and NYT, interestingly, have the most succinct headlines.  Probably, too, the most accurate.  The Times and AP get it wrong, calling Shahzad “a Pakistani,” when he is in fact an American citizen.   The rest are factually correct but put what may turn out to be too much emphasis on Shahzad’s origins.

To be sure, as Arnaud de Borchgrave pointed out in a piece we published at New Atlanticist yesterday, Pakistan is producing thousands of home-grown extremists each year. It’s not only possible but perhaps even likely that Shahzad was one of the products of the jihadist madrassa networks.  But that’s only speculation at this point.

My strong preference in news reportage is for the headlines to stay neutral and for the story to present the known facts and best expert conjecture while leaving the framing for the opinion pages.  The stories all do a nice job of laying out the known facts early.  Of the bunch, I prefer the WaPo write-up and the NYT headline.

I’m also very much amused by the caption on the NYT photo.  Note that Shahzad is neither Middle Eastern nor Hispanic.

FILED UNDER: Media, Terrorism, World Politics, , , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Brian Knapp says:

    My strong preference in news reportage is for the headlines to stay neutral and for the story to present the known facts and best expert conjecture while leaving the framing for the opinion pages.

    You, sir, obviously have no future in newspaper sales.

  2. Idiot says:

    Also interesting to note that Mayor Bloomberg’s assumption that this was a likely a health care protester didn’t quite pan out.

  3. bywhatright says:

    #1 Faisal Shahzad job posting:

    To, The Manager Human Resource Department, MEINHARDT (PAKISTAN) PVT LTD D-91/3, KDA Scheme No. l, Main Tipu Sultan Road, Karachi. Dear Sir, Good Day, I hope you are fine and in good health. Sir, I am trying to be settle down in karachi from Dubai, If you can find any suitable vacancy in your company; according to my Curriculum Vitae please advice me. Please find an attached my curriculum vitae in WORD format with my snap. In case you require any further information, please donot hesitate to contact me. I am travelling to Dubai on wednesday evening 28th January 2009. Awaiting for your quick reply. Warm Regards, Faisal Shahzad. Cell:+92-300-2323267. Cell:+971-50-1592616.

    #2 Faisal Shahzad beats wife:

    Easton man arrested for allegedly beating wife
    By Bevin Theodore
    April 27, 2009, 7:42AM
    A 29-year-old Easton man is behind bars after police said he repeatedly hit his wife during a dispute early this morning at their home.
    Faisal Shahzad of the 400 block of Centre Street hit his wife 15 times shortly after midnight, according to a news release from Easton police.
    He was arraigned before District Judge James Narlesky on charges of simple assault and harassment and committed to Northampton County Prison.

    #3 Faisal Shahzad prperty sale:

    May 17, 2004 – Giardino Jennifer Norwalk Seller Faisal Shahzad Norwalk Property in Norwalk Amount $261000 Filed April 26.2004.