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CNN BREAKING NEWS
Authorities Arrest U.S. Citizen at JFK Airport in Connection with Times Square Bomb Plot
Aired May 4, 2010 - 03:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News
DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone.
Don Lemon here live at CNN in New York City. And we are following breaking news. The man who is believed responsible for that foiled car bomb plot in New York City late Saturday night -- on Saturday night, has been arrested at JFK Airport at around midnight tonight, we were told by investigators just a short time ago.
The attorney general of the United States came out and -- and made an announcement and said that this -- this man had been arrested.
We're going to get to more about this man, the specifics about this man.
Joining me to help us -- to help me throughout this coverage is our Special Investigative Correspondent, Drew Griffin; and, also, Jeanne Meserve, who is our Homeland Security Correspondent.
Drew Griffin (AUDIO GAP) me.
And Drew has been covering this story, really, since moments after this arrest happened.
Before I get to Jeanne, Drew I want to get to you first.
Tell me about this man -- 30 years old. He is originally from Pakistan, but has lived here in the United States here for a while.
DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SPECIAL INVESTIGATIONS UNIT CORRESPONDENT: Lived in the United States for a while and only recently became a naturalized citizen. In fact, not until April, I believe, of last year did he become a naturalized cit -- citizen -- and then left the country, Don, for an extended period of time, only to come back in February.
We don't know much about him further than that. We have not been able to confirm yet if he is married, if he has children, what kind of job this man has. What we do know is he is a 30-year-old man who bought this car a couple of weeks ago on Craigslist and is the person who did buy that car. That has been confirmed. And he was arrested now on this flight leaving JFK tonight. LEMON: And our Jeanne Meserve, our Homeland Security correspondent, has been on top of this and really breaking lots of news when it comes to this -- Jeanne, you've been reporting information. You reported the information about this man having left the country not long ago. He left the country back in 2009, stayed out of the country for about nine months. It was believed that he was in Dubai.
What might we garner from this information?
JEANNE MESERVE, HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, we don't actually know if he was in Dubai. We know he flew out to Dubai. He came back from Dubai. But whether or not that was his final destination for those months that he was away, we simply don't know.
The other intriguing fact is that he became a U.S. citizen so recently just in -- let me catch my date here, I believe it was in April of 2009. So quite recently that he became a -- a U.S. citizen.
But I do have some new information from a law enforcement source. He tells me that Shahzad did make international calls in recent weeks. He wouldn't give me specifics on where he made those calls to, how many there were, but he did, in fact, make some international calls in recent weeks.
He had been watched, but we believe -- he was under surveillance. We don't know for how long. We don't know exactly when it began. But the individual who I talked to -- the law enforcement official says that he was not -- there was no derogatory information about this individual in any of the databases before the event of Saturday night. That means he never was on anybody's radar screen. He hadn't come to anybody's attention. So we draw from that that any surveillance of him was done just in recent days.
So that's some of the new information. And, by the way, I heard Drew say we didn't know if he was married. Sources tell me that, in fact, he is married, but we don't know -- or he has claimed to be married but we don't know where his wife might reside and what country she may have citizenship in -- Don
LEMON: But we know that he did live in Connecticut, correct?
And that was really the link in all of this, not only, I believe, it was a scrap yard or a car junkyard in Connecticut and also Craigslist, Jeanne Meserve, where he apparently bought this car. I believe he bought this car just a couple of weeks ago -- three weeks ago, $1,500...
MESERVE: Three weeks ago.
LEMON: -- from a 19-year-old girl?
MESERVE: I hadn't heard the 19-year-old girl part. But we do know that, from Deb Feyerick that, yes, there was a transaction on Craigslist. That's where the car was listed. This individual showed up and took possession of the car in the parking lot of a shopping mall. There was cash given. No paperwork was given at all. And this individual drove away.
Now, it just so happens that because he had become a U.S. citizen so recently, Immigration and Customs Enforcement had a photograph of him on file. So when his name came up in this investigation, they were able to take that photograph, show it to this seller. The seller identified that same individual as being the buyer. So that was one of the lynchpins in -- in connecting this particular person to these particular events in Times Square.
LEMON: And, Jeanne, stand by, because you and Drew Griffin are going to help get our viewers through this, since we have continuing coverage of this breaking news here.
Drew Griffin is standing by -- Drew, I think you have a question for Jeanne?
GRIFFIN: Jeanne, we've been talking about how long that they were wise to this guy -- how long they knew that this was the guy connected to the car. And the information that you're reporting about the photograph, the -- the Immigration & Customs photograph, if we put the pieces together, Jeanne, that came very early, that they would be able to tell us that -- that a transaction took place and that the person who was registered to the car was not involved.
That seems to indicate that they have been watching this fellow for perhaps within hours of the event and actually may have had a photograph of him in hand.
MESERVE: That may well be. We don't -- I don't know, Drew. You may have the specifics of the information on how long it took them to figure out that this car had been sold on Craigslist and that they got to that individual who was selling it.
I don't have any sense of that timing. Perhaps you do.
LEMON: Hey, Jeanne and Drew, stand by, because someone may be able to answer our questions for us.
Let's listen in now to a -- let's talk to Lou Palumbo, who is a security expert and a retired police officer. He's been doing this for quite a long time.
What did you make of this information that Jeanne Meserve just reported, Lou, saying they had been surveilling him for a period of time, this 30-year-old man?
You and I walked around Times Square today and we looked at the cameras and we looked at the security precautions. And when you looked at all of those cameras there, you said there's no way they don't know who this guy is.
LOU PALUMBO, SECURITY EXPERT: Yes, hi, Don.
Absolutely right. I mean after you and I just took this or made this assessment of -- of the area where this took place, there wasn't any way that they didn't know immediately who this individual was. And what's really amazing is the amount of information they were able to cultivate in such a short window of time.
You know, our FBI -- you know, I'm so proud of these men and even -- and even the New York Police Department, the gentlemen and the ladies who participate in JTTF. They can just accumulate information in such a rapid pace that it's startling.
You know, they're not going to be involved in conversation with -- with us regarding what's going on as far as this investigation.
You know, in -- someone mentioned before, who or what prompted the apprehension. That was -- that comes down from the attorney general's office, who's kept abroad -- appraised on a daily basis by the FBI. I'm sure that the White House was involved, as they were briefed moment by moment on this thing.
And, you know, I -- I said to you earlier -- and I think a number of other people did -- this guy was being caught and that's all there was to it.
The reason he wasn't on a watch list -- and Jeanne Meserve spoke to this -- was probably because he was flying in and out of Pakistan as opposed to corresponding with them, perhaps, on the Internet here or by cell phone. It's just -- you know, an incredible -- I want to just say incredible police work in such an expeditious fashion.
LEMON: And we -- we understand, we can hear that you're at home and that you're a family man...
PALUMBO: Oh, yes.
LEMON: -- and that you have -- you may need to get to your children. Listen, we all have lives, so we certainly do understand that.
If you can keep talking, if we can hold you just for a...
LEMON: -- just for a short time longer here, Lou.
You said that you believe, as you said, they knew who he was when they saw this videotape, at least the pictures from Times Square -- or they very quickly figured out who he was. They were watching him, trying to see who he was in contact with, to see what information they could garner from him, not only here in the United States, but also abroad.
PALUMBO: Yes, this investigation is -- it's like -- almost like it has tentacles. It's going in different directions simultaneously, Don. And it's ongoing, as I said to you earlier. I mean this gentleman did not act alone. Someone had knowledge of what he was doing here. I believe someone aided him here.
And the next part of this equation is going to be whether or not someone abroad aided him.
Was he -- was he funded?
Was he coached?
Was he instructed?
And I've got to tell you, you know, I said this to you earlier and -- and it's difficult to think that anybody from an organized terrorist group was complicit in this thing because of how, you know, amateur or unsophisticated he was in constructing this incendiary device.
But I'll tell you the interesting thing, Don. Even if that device...
PALUMBO: -- had that...
PALUMBO: -- had detonated...
PALUMBO: -- in Times Square Saturday night, you know, they still would have caught him. You just -- you just can't -- you know, you can't evade our -- our authority.
LEMON: And -- and, Lou, I think we have all the information we need to get. We understand you need to get back to your family.
LEMON: You've got a crying baby there.
Take care of your business.
If you can, call us back...
LEMON: -- then do call us back.
But thank you so much.
We appreciate you joining us. It's 3:00 a.m. And we hope you didn't wake up your -- your kid. We -- we hope that we weren't the reason for that.
Thank you very much.
Lou Palumbo is a security expert and a retired police officer.
Let's bring back in Jeanne Meserve and also Drew Griffin. You heard what this security expert said, Drew. And you and I have been sitting here talking about this, as well -- why was he, why was he allowed to go to the airport. And I -- he was becoming a flight risk and that is why he was arrested.
It appears, if you're listening to these folks, they knew who he was, they knew who he was and they were watching him to see what -- what happens next.
GRIFFIN: Right. And as long as they can contain him and as long as they can guarantee that there's -- nobody's safety is going to be in danger and as long as they know that they know they have him at any time, then they're going -- they're going to tail him. They're going to see what he does. They're going to see what contacts he makes. They're going to see if this guy slips up.
You know, the amateur bomb shows you that this guy was not a professional. So any kind of slip-up along the way -- a phone call, he stops by somebody's house, he drops somewhere else to pick up some cash -- could potentially lead to another suspect. And, you know, the one question -- it was a stunningly brief statement from Eric Holder, the attorney general, tonight. And the one finale that we were all hoping for did not come.
As Tom Puentes, our FBI consultant, said, he didn't say, hey, we got our guy, have a nice day. He said we've made an arrest and the investigation continues. So there is still a potential that they need to round up more people or at least find out if there are more people to round up.
LEMON: Jeanne Meserve -- Jeanne Meserve is still with us. Are you there, Jeanne?
MESERVE: I sure am.
LEMON: Let's -- Jeanne, we're hearing that they are questioning him now and there are people who are saying that they believe that he will prosecuted here in -- in Manhattan and maybe...
LEMON: Go ahead...
MESERVE: Yes. He's...
LEMON: It may be too early to tell.
MESERVE: -- he's going to make a -- I'm messing up on my dates here. I've been up for too long, I think. May 4, is that -- is that tomorrow?
LEMON: Later today.
MESERVE: That's today?
LEMON: No, that's today... MESERVE: Today. Sorry...
LEMON: Yes, it is tomorrow.
MESERVE: The chemistry is all messed up.
LEMON: That's ok.
MESERVE: Yes, we've heard form the -- the U.S. attorney in New York. But, yes, he will be making an appearance in court tomorrow in Manhattan. We presume, at that time, charges are going to be filed against this individual.
But in the meantime, there is questioning going on by the Joint Terrorism Task Force. My understanding is that the FBI and the New York Police Department would have the lead in that interrogation.
LEMON: What have...
MESERVE: Obviously, they're asking him who were you working with, what were you doing, is any more planned?
We have known cases where people have cooperated at that stage. You'll remember Najibullah Zazi.
MESERVE: He was talking. You remember Abdulmutallab, the -- the guy who sewed explosive into his underwear. He was talking to authorities too. So it's possible they're getting some useful information there.
There may be some questions to ask tomorrow -- questions I can't get the answer to tonight about whether he was Mirandized and so forth, questions that became very key during the -- the Abdulmutallab investigation. We'll see what we get tomorrow.
LEMON: Yes, that's going to be interesting, because we know so much was made of that, Jeanne Meserve, about Abdul -- Abdulmutallab, his Miranda rights being read and what have you here. It was very politicized.
Hey, Jeanne, let's talk about the attorney general and what he said. He made a very brief statement but he had some very strong words. He said that he was taken into custody. He says the plot was uncovered by the FBI. He talked about who arrested this man. He said that this might -- they may garner some useful intelligence information from this. And he said they will work their darndest to bring whoever is responsible for this, the person or persons responsible for this, to justice.
Someone -- having done this for a while here, you're a pro at this, what do you make from the attorney general's comments? MESERVE: Oh, I -- I draw some of the same conclusions that I think Drew probably would, which is that the attorney general is -- is leaving this book very much open. This investigation is still very much ongoing.
He talked about the inve -- in fact, he said that, the investigation is ongoing, we continue to pursue a number of leads. He said we will gather until -- intelligence about terrorist organizations overseas.
So, clearly, the net is being spread very wide as they try and follow every possible lead.
I mean, that's what happens here. OK, you have one individual, but you want to find the whole network of people that he may have been in contact with. So they're looking at anything they can glean about who he met with. They're looking at his phone records. They're looking at his computer. They are talking to people who knew him and might have observed him doing things. They are talking to foreign governments, I'm sure, and getting the international community to work on their behalf.
There's a lot to follow up here, a lot to follow down. And since these events only happened Saturday night, they haven't had a lot of time to do all of that.
LEMON: This is just one more thing -- and I don't know if you can call this one more thing -- something else that the administration has to deal with when they already have their plate full.
Jeanne Meserve, Drew Griffin, stand by, because I want to tell our viewers, it's just about at 1:30 -- just after 1:30 Eastern time, the attorney general, Eric Holder, held a press conference to talk about the arrest of this man. We're going to play that for you. And then Drew Griffin and I and Jeanne Meserve, we will talk to you about it on the other side. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ERIC HOLDER, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: Earlier this evening, Faisal Shahzad was arrested in connection with the attempted car bombing in New York on Saturday. Mr. Shahzad, an American citizen, was taken into custody at JFK Airport in New York, as he attempted to board a flight to Dubai.
Since the plot was first uncovered on Saturday night, the FBI, prosecutors, intelligence lawyers in the National Security Division of the Justice Department, which Mr. Chris heads, and the And the United States attorney's offices in Manhattan and Connecticut, along with the New York Police Department, have worked night and day to find out who was responsible for what would have been a deadly attack had it been successful.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: That was the attorney general of the United States, Eric Holder, holding a press conference just a short time ago, announcing the arrest of a 30-year-old man, Faisal Shahzad, suspected in that botched car bombing in New York City in Times Square on Saturday night.
You see our homeland security correspondent, Jeanne Meserve, joining me; as well as our Special Investigations Unit correspondent, Drew Griffin -- Drew, my question to you.
The attorney general's comment -- brief, but very strong words.
GRIFFIN: Yes, very strong words, of course. But brief for us reporters. Certainly he didn't answer any of the questions that we really wanted to find out. And I think Jeanne will agree with me on this.
But it -- it tells me that they are still playing this very, very tightly and that they're being very, very cautious, as they should be.
But, again, this is -- this is -- almost feels like it's only the beginning of this, not the end.
LEMON: Jeanne Meserve, stand by.
Drew Griffin, stand by.
Viewers, stand by, because we have a lot more to report here. The information is coming in. There's still -- still new information about the flight on which this man was boarding -- either boarding or was on. Whether or not he was on board the plane, we're trying to work that out to find out.
But, again, apparently, investigators, it is believed, knew about this man for quite some time now, maybe even hours, after this botched attempt. And they were surveilling him and watching him and trying to gain new information.
We have more information on the arrest of the person believed responsible for this car bomb in New York City's Times Square on Saturday night.
Breaking news coverage here on CNN.
I'm Don Lemon.
We're back in a moment.
LEMON: I'm Don Lemon live here on CNN.
We're following breaking news, the breaking news, the arrest of a 30-year-old Pakistani national believed to be responsible for the botched car bomb -- bombing in New York City's Times Square on Saturday evening.
Our homeland security correspondent is helping us out here. Our Special Investigations Unit Correspondent is helping us out here, as well as other experts from around the world.
Why don't we get to Will Geddes, who is in London?
He is a terrorism expert.
What do you make of this and possible ties to Pakistan, Mr. Geddes?
WILL GEDDES, TERRORISM ANALYST: Well, I think, firstly, I think all -- all praise can be given to the FBI for moving so quickly on this particular case. I mean when we look at, from the moment of the discovery of the vehicle right through to the supposed identification of the terrorist themselves or -- or the suspect himself, certainly it was remarkably quick. And they -- they must have thrown a lot of resource at this.
Certainly, one of the things which -- which will undoubtedly have been going on would have been some very extensive chatter, not only cross-department and agency over there in the United States, but certainly with our own security services, both our domestic MI5 and also our international MI6 and, again, with the Pakistani intelligence agency.
So, you know, there would have been a lot of chatter going on between all these groups over the weekend.
LEMON: What about the possibility of a cell or a much bigger cell with this, because the speculation now -- and people don't know what it is. They don't know, because he is a national. If he acted alone, then it's domestic terrorism. But if he was talking to people in Pakistan, if he was funded by those or if they contributed in some way, talk to us about the possibility of a larger cell here.
GEDDES: Well, again, yes, you're absolutely right. And it is pure speculation at this stage. Until, obviously, such things as the Internet records and the telephone records can be truly interrogated to determine how many individuals that the -- the suspect was actually communicating with, it's very difficult to say whether it was a very small, very sort of a precise unit or cell, which were trying operate on beyond detection, or whether it was a larger, much more sort of orchestrated attempt by almost a command and control position over in Pakistan, as we have seen in the past.
Certainly, I think one of the things which will be interesting will be to see whether this unit was working in a small cell structure -- because this is what we're recognizing and seeing more and more, certainly with our own domestic problems here in the United Kingdom -- to try and evade detection by the intelligence agencies and by law enforcement.
You know, these groups are trying to keep as small as they possibly can.
(AUDIO GAP) LEMON: All right, apparently, we have lost Mr. Geddes, who is a terrorism expert joining us from London.
We'll try to get him back.
Let's go now to Pakistan. We're talking about the connection here and what investigators believe was his possible connection was to Pakistan.
Reza Sayah is joining us now from Islamabad -- Reza, you're working your sources there.
What is the reaction on your end?
LEMON: OK. We're going to work on that. Apparently we're not hearing Reza.
I'm going to bring our Drew Griffin back in.
Drew is with our Special Investigations Unit -- Drew, you were listening. You heard what Mr. Geddes said, that right now, it's speculation, but the possibility of a cell is -- is a definite possibility, I should say. But he said -- he said and you heard him earlier saying there are smaller cells now that they have been looking into, especially when you consider active terrorism recently in other parts of the world. GRIFFIN: It's interesting in -- and when you're looking for this cell, you know, I'm trying to talk to these various experts that -- that we deal with and -- and trying to figure out if you can decide if this was a cell or not.
It has the aspect of a -- a do-it-yourself cell, whether it's one person or two people or five people. It just has an amateur quality about it. And I say that because a terrorist like those involved in Al-Qaeda, you know, they -- they enjoy the planning of it too, Don. And these plans go on and on and on. And there's intricate details to be worked out.
This particular incident, at least to me and to those I have talked to who study these things, say this whole thing seems rushed. Right up until the very end it is rushed.
GRIFFIN: And so it -- it does not have that, quote, unquote, international organized terrorist intrigue about it.
What's going to be interesting is the motivation for this person -- who or what or how was he told to do this?
How was he inspired?
Where did that hatred come from.
And was that, indeed, directed to him or was that something that he had kind of ginned up on his own sitting in front of a computer, perhaps reading some Web sites?
LEMON: Hey, Drew, stand by.
We have Will Geddes back, who's a terrorism expert.
He's joining us form London.
Drew and I were just picking up on the conversation that you were talking about.
You were talking about the smaller cells now and that -- that appears to be the modus operandi when -- when you're talking about terrorism lately.
GEDDES: Yes, certainly I think what -- what Drew was saying, though, is absolutely right. And certainly some of the smaller -- some of the smaller detail that's coming out about how the -- the improvised explosive device was created, you know, what the component parts were certainly gives the evidence that this was -- this was not a -- a sophisticated group, by any means. And they could very well have cobbled this plan together through very basic means. And it -- it wasn't what I would call a very sophisticated plot, albeit it didn't have to be to have a very drastic effect and impact.
LEMON: Hey, listen, Mr. Geddes, as we talk to experts here in the United States, we have been hearing that they believe that shortly after this, most likely, investigators knew who this man was because of the presence of security cameras and because of other clues and details that he left behind. And that they were trailing him, so to speak, or -- or surveilling him to try to figure out who he came in contact with and if, indeed, this was an act of either domestic or international terrorism. And they were sort of just letting him go on and on to see what might happen. And once he became a flight risk, it was time to move in.
GEDDES: Yes, that -- that is not untypical. That is a very standard modus operandi, you know, and this is worldwide, by various intelligence agencies.
It's very important that you try and spread the net as far as you possibly can. Again, you may have one person within one of these terror cells who may not be operating or in a -- in a professional capacity, if you like, I mean, in terms of the sophistication, in terms of their communications protocols with each other, with how they are resourcing equipment that they might be using in their -- their planned attack.
And therefore, you know, once you have identified one particular element or one particular individual, you're going to want to let it run and run and run for as long as you possibly can, until, obviously, you don't have a greater risk being presented by allowing them that liberty.
But certainly you want to see whether they're reaching out to other groups, whether they're reaching out to some command and control position and trying to capture and evaluate, again, how sophisticated the group might be, even if that one individual might not be.
LEMON: And, Drew and Mr. Geddes, let's talk about this, when you -- about exactly what was found in that car. I think, you know, we haven't said this -- this lately, found in the car, fireworks, propane, a black metal rifle cabinet type box, fertilizer didn't -- it turned out not to be ammonium nitrate. But that's usually the intention for a fertilizer is to use it as an explosive and on and on. There were wires, as well.
Stand by, Mr. Geddes.
I want to talk to Drew about that -- Drew, this was a lot of explosive material. And had this gone off -- and so this person, you know, now it's going to be Mirandized -- or this person is going to be at least questioned about a possible act or a failed act, it could have been -- he could have been questioned now -- being questioned now about the death of a number of people.
GRIFFIN: Oh, absolutely. This -- this had the ability to -- to just, I mean, kill people. I mean you take five gallons of gas and just throw it around in Times Square, you could start people on fire, Don. I mean there's no doubt about it. This was dangerous. If those propane tanks could have blown, that would have added a new element to it. If the fertilizer was, indeed, the type of fertilizer that would explode and was packed properly, then that could have created an even bigger explosion due to the nature of -- of the -- the case, the metal case that it was contained in.
But the fact is that, you know, Jim Cavanaugh, a retired ATF bomb expert, said this had like a -- a Rube Goldberg-esque quality to it. You know, the gas was supposed to light the propane tanks, which was, perhaps, supposed to light the -- the gun case with fertilizer in it.
None of it really worked. The -- the two time clocks that were in there were some kind of a timing detonation device. That really didn't work. And it kind of started, he believes, as this guy was parking a car and was getting out of hands before he could even get that car pulled over.
So, you know, it -- it -- it is dangerous, on the one hand, but amateurish in design. And thank goodness for that.
LEMON: Hey, well, I want to get your take on that.
But before -- before I do that, I want to tell our viewers some new information here. This information is coming in from the mayor of New York City, Michael Bloomberg, releasing a statement just a short time ago.
And here's what he is saying. Again, I'm just reading this: "I want to thank the men and women of the NYPD, the FBI, the U.S. Attorney's Southern District of New York, Customs and Border Protection and the many other agencies in New York, Washington and Connecticut whose focused and swift efforts led to the arrest after only 48 hours of around-the-clock investigation. I hope their impressive work serves as a lesson to anyone who would do us harm." Again, that's coming in just a short time ago -- just moments ago -- from the mayor of New York City Michael Bloomberg.
Hey, Will Geddes, right after this happened on Saturday night, early Sunday morning, the mayor held a press conference and he said, "those who resent the freedoms that we have here will try to take them away, and New York City, especially, is always a focus, always a target, and always will be."
Even with the efforts of the New York City Police Department, there's probably still much work to do, much more improvement, and they may even be able to better the protection of New York City depending on what they find out from this case.
GEDDES: Well certainly. I mean, I've been a guest of your beautiful city on a number of occasions, and I've met with certainly many of my counterparts over there.
And you know, the shame is that New York-Manhattan is a very iconic symbol, certainly that any sort of extremist group is going to see as the jewel in the crown, if you like.
And we have the same thing obviously over here with London in the United Kingdom. In terms of the battle against terrorism, well, I hope Drew would agree with me on this. I think one of the most important component parts beyond all the technology, all the fantastic expertise that there are in various law enforcement and intelligence agencies, fundamentally boils down to members of the general public.
And you know, it was this T-shirt vendor in Times Square that was that critical advanced warning in this whole incident. And it is members of the general public being vigilant, and turning around and reporting suspicious activities or sightings, and not holding back and saying, 'well, maybe I'm being silly or overreacting.'
You know, it's those things which are going to help the rest of us to try and intervene and diffuse these types of situations happening.
LEMON: Drew Griffin?
DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SPECIAL INVESTIGATIONS CORRESPONDENT: Will, you're spot on in terms of that first line of defense being the people and the observers, whether it be a T-shirt vendor or a cop on horseback. What is very interesting about this case though, Will, is that we didn't know about this guy in advance.
And that's where the real -- the public really needs to get involved -- and I'm speaking particularly to various members of various communities who know their communities and hear the buzz.
I can't tell you how many times that terrorist activity has been snuffed out even before it could begin because people are giving tips and providing tips about what is going on. They see something suspicious, perhaps somebody saw this guy buying propane tanks and a gun case and putting it in his car two weeks ago. That's the kind of tip that you really need to protect the public so you don't get to this end. And that may be part of this investigation in terms of how many people know about this guy, Will, because there was no chatter about this guy.
There was no chatter, as far as I know, about any plot to do this in New York City before it happened, and that is somewhat unusual.
GEDDES: Well, no. I'd certainly agree with you, Drew, and I think -- Sorry, when I was referring to the chat, I'm talking about subsequent chatter, obviously once --
GEDDES: -- once identified the individual --
GEDDES: -- over the communications networks. But certainly in my reference to the general public, it is absolutely, as you rightly say, it's not just the hearts and minds of the communities, you know, getting the imams within the extremist communities, for example, on the side to report the individuals that are creating problems or bringing, you know, bad reputation into their communities.
But it is, as you rightly say, it's the people who are working in the hardware stores who are seeing people buying component parts. Now, as you'll know. I mean, I spent time in the Middle East, and certainly down in places like Iraq.
You know, you don't need a lot of very sophisticated component parts to create an effective IAD, and certainly in terms of the scope or scale of damage that one can potentially cause.
It didn't have to be significant to gain this optimum effect, certainly within the international community.
GRIFFIN: That's interesting, Will. And your take on this bomb -- this material that was in place -- just based on your own experience, this could have done significant damage.
LEMON: Hey, Will? Stand by. Hold that thought, Drew. Stand by, hold that thought, and we will pick that up on the other side of the break. And I think it's very interesting the points that you two gentlemen are making, because no one knew about it, and as our Jeanne Meserve reported, no derogatory information about this suspect.
And then all of a sudden, this. What does it all mean? And then we'll answer Drew's question as well. This material could have caused some major harm. Breaking news on the arrest, the man believed to be responsible for the bombing -- the botched bombing plot in Times Square on Saturday night. Breaking news. Back in moments.
LEMON: Back now to our breaking news coverage, the arrest of a 30-year-old Pakistani national, Faisal Shahzad. Arrested in connection with the foiled bomb plot in Times Square on Saturday night.
Just before the break, our investigative correspondent Drew Griffin was asking our expert, Will Geddes, about the potency of the substances, the materials that were found in that SUV.
And also, what does this mean that investigators had no knowledge of this man at all -- Mr. Geddes.
GEDDES: Well, certainly in terms of -- Sorry, I think that was probably more Drew's point there in terms of, obviously the determination of the suspect.
But in terms of, obviously the device in the vehicle -- and Drew was making some very, very good points about how this thing is being cobbled together with a lot of components, some of which would have worked; some of which wouldn't.
It would obviously be irresponsible for me to say obviously what it is over the air here. But in terms of how he had put this device together, certainly there were some components there, which showed that there was a basic knowledge that the individual had, the suspect had.
And again, because of its location, I mean slap-bang in the middle of Times Square, you know, 45th Street, that was going to have a large football around it.
And even though it may not have been what we would term as spectacular in terms of a very large explosion, certainly it could have caused sufficient harm to people that were within close proximity.
And that would have had massive impact, obviously, internationally and within the global community about this terrorist attack.
LEMON: Will Geddes, thank you very much. Drew, I think -- are you done with questions for Mr. Geddes that we can let him move on?
GRIFFIN: Yes, Will. Thanks a lot. Enjoyed it. Thank you, sir.
LEMON: All right. Drew, thank you as well. Okay, Drew's going to stick around with me. Our investigative correspondent, Drew Griffin, has been on this story since the very beginning and has provided really some great information for us and for the viewers at home.
Listen, I want to go now to Pakistan, specifically Islamabad and get to Reza Sayah. Reza, this man being a Pakistani national, I would imagine there's lots of reaction from there.
REZA SAYAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (via satellite): This is news that the Pakistani officials did not want to hear. Obviously Pakistan has been plagued by militancy for years. There's been so many terror plots and terror attacks linked back to Pakistan, and now this one is too, with the man arrested, Faisal Shahzad, a Pakistani American.
Reaction coming in, reaction from the office of President Asif Ali Zardari, the advisor to the president telling CNN, "We condemn all forms of terrorism. If the man arrested is proven to have some involvement in the New York Times Square failed bombing, we are sure that he will get the justice he deserves."
Also, reaction from the spokesperson of President Asif Ali Zardari. Spokesperson telling CNN that "it is unfortunate this man is from Pakistan, but it is also clear he is a U.S. national. It is much too early in the investigation to reach a conclusion, but it's Pakistan's position that we are prepared to help the international community in the fight against militancy and extremism."
When U.S. officials contact Pakistani government officials -- and I think it's just a matter of time -- they're going to do it through the Foreign Office. The spokesperson for the Pakistani President telling CNN, the Foreign Office here in Islamabad is monitoring the situation, but they have yet to be contacted by U.S. investigators.
So Don, in a nutshell, the reaction here in Pakistan is that they're condemning this attempted bombing, but they're offering their support.
LEMON: Hey listen, Reza. Let's have transparency for our viewers. Explain to them what time it is there in Islamabad and what is going on behind you.
SAYAH: It is a little before 12 o'clock, and what you heard behind us is a call to prayer. Five times a day here in Pakistan you're going to hear a call to prayer. And right next to the bureau we have several mosques, which you heard behind us was a call to prayer. Something we hear often here in the federal capital.
LEMON: Our Reza Sayah joining us in Pakistan -- Islamabad to be specific, giving us reaction from there. Thank you, Reza. Stand by, because we're going to get back to you as well.
And for our viewers who are just joining you, this happened at about midnight tonight, midnight Eastern time when we got word, and investigators gave word that they had arrested someone in connection with that foiled bombing plot in Times Square, the one that they got word of at 6:30 on Saturday evening; that they had arrested a 30-year- old Pakistani national.
His name is Faisal Shahzad. He is from Shelton, Connecticut. Police or investigators said that they had been looking at him for a while because of the security tape.
At least that's what sources are telling us. I should clarify that. That they had probably been looking at him for awhile, because they saw who he was on that tape, and they were just following him until either he became a flight risk, as he did and that's why he was arrested, or if he had tried some other plot.
He was arrested at JFK Airport trying to get aboard a United Arab Emirates flight, Flight No. 202, headed to Dubai. It was supposed to leave at 11:23. Then again it was rescheduled to leave at 2:30 this morning, and then at 4:30 this morning it was scheduled to leave and is believed that it was delayed because they were checking that flight to see if there were any other people no board who might have some connection with this gentleman.
As we know, this all started to unfold on Saturday night, 6:30 in the evening, about 6:20 in the evening, a very savvy T-shirt vendor in Times Square noticed a smoking -- smoke coming from an SUV. A black, at the time it was reported, it turned out to be a dark green, Nissan Pathfinder.
That is the gentleman right there who alerted a mounted police officer, Officer Ratigan who was on his horse 'Migs' as you've heard the mayor say. And the police officer than alerted other officers. The fire department came out, and then the bomb squad came out, and then they started clearing people from the area.
And you have seen all of the video that was sent in. Some of it sent it to CNN iReports of police officers going in to theaters, going in to restaurants, McDonald's and what have you and telling people to get out.
There you see them moving people off the streets. So that happened. People couldn't even get into their hotel rooms for hours. They either had to go on the street or to go into a shelter that the mayor had set up for them.
The mayor and the police commissioner - Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and then Police Commissioner Ray Kelly gave a press conference in the wee hours of the morning saying that New York City and the people of the United States have really avoided a tragedy, and that we were very luck in that because of the gentleman you just saw.
And also because of the officer, and they were working to try to find out who was responsible for it. At that point, they asked people who may have taken some cell phone video or any sort of camera video, or if they had a surveillance video from a mounted camera in the area to call the New York City Police Department.
But it appears some of that camera video paid off. There are many more details to this that led to this man's arrest today, and our special investigations correspondent Drew Griffin has been following that part of the story for us.
Drew has been on top of this story. Drew, there were lots of clues that led to the arrest of this man, including how and where he paid for and bought this SUV that was supposed to be used, quite frankly, as a bomb.
GRIFFIN: Don, I just got off the phone with law enforcement, a source - somebody very close to this investigation, and we're speaking exactly on where the big tip came in. And this law enforcement source confirms now that the big tip came in when they went underneath the Pathfinder. You know, the VIN number? The vehicle identification number that's up on the dashboard was removed from this vehicle, and it had a license plate taken from another car.
A detective went underneath the vehicle and used the VIN number that was on the engine block, and that apparently was the turning point that led directly to the purchase of the vehicle.
And almost immediately thereafter, to the suspect himself. So they were on to this fellow very quickly according to my law enforcement source.
And I tell you what, Don, honestly, can you give me about two minutes? There's just one more fact I need to check out.
LEMON: Oh, absolutely, Drew.
LEMON: Of course. We're here. We're getting this information in. Again, Drew Griffin doing a great job breaking news on this story. So Drew, we'll get back to him in just a minute.
We want to go now to our Homeland Security Correspondent -- someone else who's been working this story and providing details for us, Jeanne Meserve. Jeanne, what do you have for us?
JEANNE MESERVE, HOMELAND SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, I wanted to mention a couple of things. We've been talking a lot about possible international connections. It's something we've been asking about since these events occurred on Saturday evening.
And I'll tell you, I had a conversation today with a counterterrorism official who said to me after Saturday night, they did not pick up any communications indicating either high fives or that something went wrong.
That's the kind of thing that they sometimes do hear after there's been an attack or an attempted attack; some communication indicating that folks overseas had been monitoring, had been paying attention, and are either happy or just pleased with events.
But in this instance, according to this counterterrorism official, they were not picking up any of those kinds of communications. Just a little something to put into the consideration.
Another point, talking about the bomb and its particular construction, Drew mentioned earlier Jim Cavanaugh. He's a former ATF official. He's someone who I interviewed this afternoon about this bomb.
And he said that it was a very odd construction to him; unlike anything he'd seen before. This was confirmed by another official CNN spoke today who said this did not have the signature of any known terrorist group. Cavanaugh says particularly it did not look like anything produced by Al Qaeda because Al Qaeda tends to be much more professional. It's well-funded. Its people generally know what they're doing.
So it didn't have the structure of an Al Qaeda bomb. It wasn't sophisticated enough, and he noted that Al Qaeda often prefers suicide bombers. Sometimes one operating alone, sometimes pairs so they keep one another's morale up and make sure that the mission goes forward as planned.
So just a couple of interesting observations from people I've talked with in the course of the day. Of course, at this point, you know, the word Al Qaeda has not been mentioned in connection with this plot.
They are looking for overseas connections, but as we know, Taliban in Pakistan is the one group that responsibility for this purportedly -- in a video, purportedly from them.
So just a few things to consider as we debate this matter of international connections.
LEMON: So Cavanaugh -- this is a quote Jeanne, he called it a "Rube Goldberg contraption that would have been very difficult to have set off."
MESERVE: Yes. He was not impressed at all by this device.
MESERVE: You know, first of all he noted that, of course, they hadn't bought the right kind of fertilizer to make this successful. It was in this metal box. He wasn't sure the way things were configured how that metal box would have been ruptured by the explosion, a number of different things but --
LEMON: Yes, but --
MESERVE: But probably rife with clues. That was the other thing he said.
MESERVE: Because it never exploded, there were a lot of leads for investigators to follow as they try to get to the bottom of this.
LEMON: And that's exactly what our Drew Griffin, as you heard, was reporting just before we spoke to you. But nonetheless, Jeanne, this suspect is being questioned right now in Manhattan where Drew and I are, and Drew, providing some new information just a short time ago about what was the big clue that led investigators to this suspect.
More from our investigative correspondent, Drew Griffin, in just a moment. And also, our Homeland Security correspondent Jeanne Meserve. What led investigators to the suspect? We're back in moments. Breaking news, here on CNN.
LEMON: Hello, everyone. Don Lemon here following breaking news. The arrest of a person believed responsible for that failed car bomb plot in Times Square. We're talking to our Homeland Security Correspondent. We're also talking to Tom Fuentes, who is a former special agent with the FBI -- former Special Agent In Charge with the FBI.
Listen, I want to go to you quickly, Mr. Fuentes, and as you this. Here's the thing that I've been trying to get people to understand, and to get, and answer about.
This man took the time to become a naturalized citizen of the United States, so just to make himself that much more at least unapproachable or unwatchable maybe is a -- or not a target of investigators. He took the time to do this.
And if he took the time to do this, most investigators would say, or terrorism experts would say that would lead you to believe that he was not acting alone.
TOM FUENTES, FORMER SPECIAL AGENT IN CHARGE, FBI: Well that would be an indication of that. But you know, at this point I think it's too early to say for sure with regard to his becoming a citizen and being naturalized a year ago and then spending so much time out of the country after he became a citizen.
So, those are facts that will have to be determined by the investigation finding out where he was, what he was doing, and why he may have done that. And of course, that's the main issue with the investigation now is tying him to the explosive device that was in that car.
So they'll be doing the comparisons of his DNA, his fingerprints, to see if he left any of that material on the explosive LP tanks and the other box that was in the car, which will be very strong evidence.
And of course, the investigation into his use of internet and telephone calls of who has been in contact with, how many times he called them, and then those people will be contacted and interviewed with regard to why - what the nature of their relationship is and why he might have been calling them.
LEMON: Hey, Mr. --
FUENTES: And then of course, they'll be looking at credit card information, what purchases he made, is he the one that bought those LP tanks? Did he got to a home supply store to buy the material that was used in this?
There's just a lot of leads that will need to be covered in the days and months ahead. LEMON: Hey, Tom, stand by. I want to bring in our Jeanne Meserve. Jeanne, what do you make of this? Because you have -- that was part of your reporting, about him becoming a naturalized citizen. When he became a citizen, how long he was out of the country and traveling to Dubai.
We don't have Jeanne. Why don't we go now to our investigative unit correspondent Drew Griffin. Drew, you had some new information, you were working on it before the break? What do you have for us?
GRIFFIN: Yes. Something that may lead to the scope of who they're looking for. One of the big questions, Don, was whether or not this person, the suspect, Faisal Shahzad, was the driver of the vehicle that drove this Nissan Pathfinder in to Times Square?
A law enforcement source has just informed me that they do believe that he is the person who drove this vehicle with all this material inside in to Times Square. That is a significant development in terms of whether or not we're looking for one, two, five or six people.
We now know that the police believe at least -- the joint terrorism task force -- that Faisal Shahzad most likely is the person who drove that Pathfinder into Times Square. So that little piece of information we're just getting this early hour in the morning.
LEMON: Yes, and Drew, you did say that they found, under the VIN number of that SUV, because I think it had -- someone had wiped it or at least tried to erase the VIN number, and so they found it, what -- is it on the engine under the SUV?
GRIFFIN: Yes. It appears in many different parts of the car. A lot of people don't know that. This person who removed the VIN number from the dashboard apparently did not realize that that same VIN number is everybody else on this car, and the particular lifting of the VIN number in this case -- the vehicle identification number -- came from the engine block underneath that Pathfinder.
LEMON: Drew, hold that thought. We have to take a break. More with our special investigation correspondent Drew Griffin as well as other experts on this subject. The arrest of the person they believed is responsible for that botched terrorism bombing plot in Times Square on Saturday evening.
Breaking news on CNN. I'm Don Lemon. I'll see you in moments.