Suspect Cites Radical Imam's Writings

Shahzad Says He Was Influenced by Anti-West Exhortations of Cleric Who Communicated With Alleged Fort Hood Shooter

Times Square bombing suspect Faisal Shahzad has told investigators that he drew inspiration from the teachings of the fugitive imam who communicated with the sole suspect in last year's deadly rampage at Fort Hood, according to people familiar with the matter.

Getty Images

Attorney General Eric Holder, second from right, at a news conference on the attempted bombing on Thursday in Washington. Mr. Holder was joined by, from left, Connecticut U.S. Attorney Nora R. Dannehy, Assistant Attorney General David Kris and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano

TERROR1
TERROR1

U.S. officials said that Mr. Shahzad didn't appear to have communicated with Anwar al-Awlaki, the radical U.S.-born cleric who exchanged dozens of emails with suspected Fort Hood shooter Maj. Nidal Hasan in the run-up to the November assault that left 13 soldiers dead.

But the officials said Mr. Shahzad told his interrogators that he read Mr. Awlaki's English-language writings calling for holy war against Western targets and was moved to action, at least in part, by the cleric's exhortations.

Mr. Awlaki, who is believed to be in Yemen, is thought to be the only U.S. citizen approved for capture or killing under a secret presidential decree.

Mr. Shahzad is being held in an undisclosed location, and federal prosecutors haven't said when he might be presented before a federal magistrate judge on terrorism-related charges. People familiar with the case said Mr. Shahzad had waived his right to be presented in court so he could continue to cooperate with authorities.

The disclosure of Mr. Shahzad's exposure to Mr. Awlaki's teachings comes as authorities in the U.S. and Pakistan ratchet up their effort to determine what led Mr. Shahzad, a 30-year-old married father of two, to attempt to detonate a car bomb in New York's Times Square last weekend.

The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the failed attack, and Mr. Shahzad has since told investigators that he learned bomb-making techniques from the group during a recent five-month trip through Pakistan's tribal areas.

Despite those links, federal investigators have arrived at a "working model" of the case that suggests Mr. Shahzad was the sole plotter inside the U.S. and received no operational assistance or funding from other militants, U.S. officials say.

During three days of questioning by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Mr. Shahzad has consistently maintained that he acted alone. The lack of outside support is thought to explain the relative crudeness of the bomb, which was cobbled together with propane tanks, firecrackers and two alarm clocks. Also supporting that theory is the trip he made into New York the day before the attempted bombing to leave behind a getaway vehicle, officials said.

[TERROR2] Associated Press

Radical cleric Imam Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen in 2008

Gen. David Petraeus, who oversees U.S. operations in Afghanistan and Pakistan, said in an interview Thursday that Mr. Shahzad appeared to operate as a "lone wolf" who drew inspiration from militants in Pakistan and Yemen but "didn't necessarily have any direct contact."

The U.S. intelligence community typically picks up a spike in terrorist chatter before an attack as militants make final preparations or alert their followers that they are responsible for what is coming, Gen. Petraeus said.

But he said there didn't appear to be any such communications in the run-up to the Times Square incident, suggesting that outside militants were unaware of Mr. Shahzad's planned attack and hadn't communicated with him beforehand.

"I didn't see in the intelligence the kind of normal noise you'd see in the threat system," Gen. Petraeus said. "There was not a threat stream."

Attorney General Eric Holder told a Senate budget hearing Thursday that federal investigators were looking into what, if any, information the government had on Mr. Shahzad that could have served as an early warning.

Mr. Shahzad gained U.S. citizenship in April 2009 and U.S. officials have said nothing "derogatory" showed up in his background check then.

Gen. Petraeus noted that in the aftermath of the failed Christmas Day airline bombing U.S. counterterrorism officials admitted that they had failed to connect the dots on various bits of intelligence pointing to a pending attack.

"It may not be specific, it may not have precision, and it may be fuzzy, but there will be something," he said in the interview. "In this case, to my knowledge at least, there was not something."

The intensifying probe into Mr. Shahzad is raising new concerns throughout the government about the ability of militants in countries like Pakistan to use the Internet to recruit followers inside the U.S. and other Western countries.

U.S. officials say the Pakistani Taliban, for example, don't have the resources or logistical expertise necessary to dispatch militants out of their strongholds in Pakistan's tribal areas and into the U.S. to mount attacks. But the Internet enables the militants to make contact with young Muslims who already live in the U.S. and other Western countries and share at least some of their radical beliefs.

"In the age of the Internet, virtually anyone has the reach, because virtually anyone can reach out through cyberspace…and influence these individuals in ways that just were not possible in the past," Gen. Petraeus said.

Mr. Shahzad appears to have been planning the attack in earnest beginning in March, New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly has said. He had just returned from Pakistan, and at about that time purchased a 9 mm rifle at a Connecticut store.

The initial investigation has found that Mr. Shahzad hand carried into the U.S. and declared cash totaling $82,500 in increments of about $20,000 between Jan. 16, 1999 and April 24, 2008, a U.S. official familiar with the matter said. The cash may be explained by the fact Mr. Shahzad came to the U.S. to study.

Investigators are trying to determine whether Mr. Shahzad continued to carry cash but didn't declare it after 2008, the U.S. official said. If so, that might suggest he was stockpiling cash to use in an attack.

It remains unclear why Mr. Shahzad first reached out to the militants. But it may have grown out of his sense of nationalism over Kashmir, the disputed territory between India and Pakistan, said a senior Pakistani government official.

In 2000, Mr. Shahzad applied for a Pakistani passport in the U.S. listing his nationality as Kashmiri first, followed by Pakistani in parentheses, the official said. Pakistan has cracked down on Kashmiri-focused militant groups, stopping them fighting in Kashmir, and this has pushed outfits like Jaish-e-Muhammad to tie up with other groups in the tribal areas, including the Pakistan Taliban. Mr. Shahzad's own personal motivation may have followed a similar path

"Many of the groups are expanding their horizons," the official said. The case of Mr. Shahzad "might show a merger of motives."

—Keith Johnson and Tom Wright contributed to this article.

Write to Yochi J. Dreazen at yochi.dreazen@wsj.com and Evan Perez at evan.perez@wsj.com

Copyright 2009 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved

This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. Distribution and use of this material are governed by our Subscriber Agreement and by copyright law. For non-personal use or to order multiple copies, please contact Dow Jones Reprints at 1-800-843-0008 or visit

www.djreprints.com

More In Politics

Most Liked on Facebook