A smoking car in the heart of Times Square. A Vietnam-vet vendor who smelled gunpowder. A mystery man, caught on camera, stripping off his shirt on a nearby street. A few other tantalizing, but apparently false, leads. And then a plane, already on the runway heading for Dubai with a prime suspect on board when law enforcement authorities managed to stop it and arrest him.
The case of the would-be New York City car bomber is unfolding like a chapter in that wonderful Frederick Forsyth thriller, “Day of the Jackal,” about an attempted assassination of former French President Charles de Gaulle. Forget, for the moment, the geopolitical and security implications or the ominous warning of future car bombs on American streets. That’s the backdrop that heightens the drama. Right now, it’s the story I can’t get enough of.
I want to know: Why did the bomb fail? How did police, the FBI and other law enforcement authorities find Faisal Shahzad, 30, a Pakistani-born American citizen who was taken into custody, just two days and six hours after the explosive-laden Nissan Pathfinder was found idling in Times Square? Were the man captured on a security camera and beamed across the world, the allusions to a South Park connection, and the fleeting New York Times reference to a roommate also arrested aboard the plane simply false leads or false information (the roommate reference vanished from The Times site almost as fast as it appeared, but it is referenced in this Slate blog)?
Did authorities flush the suspect out of hiding by announcing yesterday evening that they were looking to arrest a then-unnamed Pakistani man? If so, how did he get so close to slipping out of the United States and their grasp? Did he act alone as he claims? What clues will the car yield of a possible network of people who helped him, if he is, indeed, the right suspect? And where will the case go next?
This story takes my breath away. I’m rooting for the good guys, the men in blue, the G-men and other fed law enforcement types to expand the dragnet. Let’s hope this story, like the novel, has a happy ending.