POLITICO (Washington) - The number from a disposable cellphone led FBI agents to the suspect arrested Monday night for allegedly driving a car bomb into Times Square on Saturday evening, according to a senior official.
“They were able to basically get one phone number and by running it through a number of databases, figure out who they thought the guy was,” the official said.
A huge law-enforcement force tracked the suspect through the afternoon and evening. He was arrested at 11:30 p.m. at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City. The vehicle identification number had been removed from the bomb-laden 1993 Nissan Pathfinder left in Times Square.
But investigators were able to lift it from a second location on the vehicle, and used that to track down a Connecticut man who said he had sold the Pathfinder for cash about three weeks ago. The man had offered the vehicle on Craigslist, and FBI agents were able to recover the number from a disposable cellphone that had been used by the buyer.
The suspect didn’t still have the phone. But using a lot of technology and access to database, agents located the suspect. Appearing in person in the Justice Department briefing room at 1:30 a.m., Attorney General Eric Holder said the suspect, a Pakistan-born American named Faisal Shahzad, 30, was arrested at John F. Kennedy International Airport while attempting to board a flight for Dubai. A law-enforcement announcement said:
“The defendant will appear in Manhattan federal court (500 Pearl Street, 5th Floor, New York, N.Y.) on May 4, 2010, at a currently undetermined time to be presented on formal charges. No further details are available at this time.”
President Barack Obama was briefed six times on Monday and was notified of the arrest at 12:05 a.m., all by John Brennan, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, the White House said.
Around 2:30 p.m. Monday, Holder had been pulled out of a meeting to take a call from David S. Kris, Assistant Attorney General for National Security. Kris said the FBI thought it had identified the suspect, and knew his rough location.
“There was a huge fog-of-war element, where you think you have him, but you’re not sure,” the official said.
“Everyone’s telephoning headquarters.”
The attorney general ordered up substantial resources to track and capture the suspect. Holder stayed at Justice until 9:30 p.m., then went home, had dinner and put his kids to bed.
At 11:30 p.m., Holder was called about the arrest. He was rushed back to DOJ, complete with flashing lights.
He didn’t go to his office but straight to the National Security Division’s 7th-floor SCIF (Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility) for real-time updates. Officials worked until 1:10 to nail everything down. Assured it was the guy, DOJ issued a news advisory.
Holder walked in front of the camera at 1:30 a.m.
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