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Faisal Shahzad calls Times Square bomb plot 'war,' pleads guilty

Faisal Shahzad, the Pakistani-born US citizen accused of attempting to detonate a car bomb in New York's Times Square May 1, defiantly told a New York court he considered himself a 'Muslim soldier.'

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The information garnered from Shahzad has resulted in arrests in Pakistan and the US.

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According to the Department of Justice, in December 2009, Shahzad received explosives training in Pakistan. Then, in February, he received $5,000 in cash in Massachusetts, sent from a co-conspirator in Pakistan. Six weeks later, he received an additional $7,000 in cash. Some of that money went to buying a used Pathfinder.

Also according to the Justice Department, Shahzad in March bought a semiautomatic 9 mm Kel-Tec rifle, which was later found loaded and in his car at John F. Kennedy International Airport on the day of his arrest. One of the counts against him includes possession of a firearm during or in relation to a conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction.

After his arrest, Shahzad waived his Miranda rights – the right to have an attorney present during questioning. Instead, he spent weeks talking to federal investigators before getting a lawyer.

“Well, it’s obvious by not having a lawyer, he could not precondition his cooperation,” says Stan Twardy, a former US attorney for Connecticut and now a partner at Day Pitney LLP, a Boston-based law firm.

Although federal guidelines indicate a life sentence for Shahzad, that might depend on what prosecutors told him to get him to cooperate, Mr. Twardy says. “The devil is in the details,” says the former prosecutor. “But no matter what, he will get a significant sentence. You don’t want to send the message that if you tried to kill hundreds, if not more, but got caught and cooperated, you don’t get so much jail time.”

Sentencing is set for Oct. 5, but that can always be delayed if Shahzad continues to cooperate, says Twardy. However, Mastro is not sure that the prospect of years behind bars will deter future terrorists as much as it may deter criminals.

“What motivates terrorists is not personal gain and hope of getting away but a misguided commitment to a cause that causes them to act in grotesque ways that endanger and often cost human lives,” says Mastro.

What the capture of terrorists such as Shahzad does accomplish, he says, is that it “helps us to understand how they come about, how they are trained, and with related prosecutions makes it harder for them to be successful.”