Federal investigating authorities are looking into how Faisal Shahzad, the Times Square bomb suspect, managed to board a Dubai-bound plane at the JFK airport before he was nabbed minutes before it took off, the White House has said.
“That’s part of the investigation we’re looking at,” White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters in response to questions as to how Shahzad was able to go so far despite that he was put on the no-fly list.
Shahzad, a Pakistan-born US citizen, was taken into custody at John F Kennedy International Airport on May 3, after he was identified by Department of Homeland Security’s US Customs and Border Protection while attempting to flee the country.
The 30-year-old was charged with attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction, acts of terrorism transcending national boundaries and other federal crimes for allegedly driving a car bomb into Times Square.
“I think it’s important to understand that the system is built with necessary and built-in redundancy, so that if a name is added and a carrier misses the added name, that Customs and Border Police (CBP), once a manifest is locked, runs those names through a center and can identify anything that a carrier may have missed,” Gibbs said while explaining the issue to reporters.
“CBP caught and apprehended that individual before the plane left and even would have. We had the authority to either have the plane land or turn around.”
“The system is built with duplicative mechanisms in order to ensure that if a carrier isn’t picking up a change in the no-fly list, that that change can be caught when Customs and Border Police go through the manifest again prior to the flight leaving,” he said.
The CBP identified Shahzad after checking through a locked-in manifest for the Dubai-bound flight, Gibbs said, adding it then apprehended the suspect.
Earlier in the day at a different press conference, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said Shahzad was placed on the no-fly list as authorities closed in; but was unable to explain how he was able to board the flight with a last-minute ticket.
“I was never in any fear that we were in danger of losing him,” US Attorney General Eric Holder said.
“I don’t want to get into details of timing and no-fly, but the way he was apprehended was that since Christmas, CBP has been instituting a number of rules that enable us to further check against new data or information that is provided, even very recent information, against passenger manifests on planes,” Napolitano said.
“And they have been working, as you might imagine, round the clock on this one. And so as new data was supplied over the course of the investigation, yesterday they were able to match it once the plane manifest was complete, go on the plane and arrest him,” she added.