Faisal Shahzad was not trained anywhere

The sad bomber went to Pakistan, but the FBI doubts anyone taught him to make a bomb

By Alex Pareene

Published May 7, 2010 7:45PM (EDT)

Would-be Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad probably did not receive "training" in terrorism from the Pakistani Taliban, or anyone else. Based on how poorly he planned and carried out his slapstick attack on Times Square, that seems obvious -- if this is how the Pakistani Taliban trains a bomber, they might want to consider purchasing a high school chemistry textbook -- but it contradicts a week of hysterical reporting on statements by unnamed officials.

According to the criminal complaint, Shahzad "admitted" to receiving training in Waziristan. But McClatchy quotes an FBI spokesman:

"Did somebody encourage him to try to do this? That's possible, given where he was and for how long and his financial circumstances," a third U.S. official said. "But did anybody show him how to do it? Nothing we know points in that direction, and I don't know why some people are talking as if we had something solid. Inspired, maybe. Trained? Not in any serious sense of the word."

("Some people" includes the New York Times.)

Today's New York Post has video of Shahzad buying the fireworks he attached to capped propane tanks, the wrong kind of fertilizer, and two alarm clocks. (Had he failed to find any of those materials he presumably would've purchased big red sticks of dynamite and attached them to a digital timer that went "beep beep beep.")

The story also features the best official statement of the day:

"We are very disappointed this coward would use Phantom Fireworks product intending to cause harm to Americans," the company said in a press release. "That is the opposite of what fireworks mean to the people of the United States."

Meanwhile, Shahzad may have failed to blow anything up, but he did succeed in making people passing through midtown panicky. Times Square was evacuated today because of a cooler filled with books and water bottles. Shortly afterward, a "suspicious truck" led the NYPD to rope off a block on the west side.

General David Petraeus, echoing the FBI, tells the AP that Shahzad was "inspired" by militants in Pakistan, but probably didn't work with them.

Alex Pareene

Alex Pareene writes about politics for Salon and is the author of "The Rude Guide to Mitt." Email him at apareene@salon.com and follow him on Twitter @pareene

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Faisal Shahzad Terrorism Times Square Bomb Attempt War Room