Times Square Bomber-to-Be Pleads Guilty

Faisal Shahzad, a U.S. citizen, born in Pakistan, pleaded guilty today for attempting to carry out a car bombing in New York City’s Times Square on May 1, 2010.

Shahzad failed to ignite a gasoline and propane bomb near a Broadway Theater that day. He captured two days later at JFK International Airport attempting to board a flight headed for Dubai, with his ultimate destination being Islamabad, Pakistan.

Shahzad made the plea and an accompanying statement as U.S. District Judge Miriam Goldman Cedarbaum began asking him a lengthy series of questions to ensure he understood his rights. She did not immediately accept the plea.

At one point, she asked him if he was sure he wanted to plead guilty.

He said he wanted ‘to plead guilty and 100 times more’ to let the U.S. know that if it did not get out of Iraq and Afghanistan, halt drone attacks and stop meddling in Muslim lands, ‘we will be attacking U.S. (Tom Hayes, AP)

Perhaps most interesting about Shahzad, age 30, is the fact that he openly gave details to U.S. authorities which ultimately led to over a dozen arrests in his native country of Pakistan. Even more surprising than the information leading to the arrests of his fellow Pakistanis, is his ready admission of guilt in the courtroom today. Typically, suspects involved these hearings, especially suspects accused of terrorism, typically take a different approach, but Shahzad is not your typical terrorism suspect.

Shahzad was living the good life as a Financial Analyst at Elizabet Arden Cosmetics, obtaining legal residency in the U.S. and living in an upscale home in Shelton, Connecticut — about 40 miles north of New York City. But this good life wouldn’t last long, as he and his wife, Alisheba, would become victims of the mortgage meltdown when they lost their home to foreclosure last year. These and other incidents would further radicalize Shahzad to the point that he felt a duty to his beliefs and his fellow Muslims to attempt a grand act of terrorism on his adopted country’s soil.

Shahzad’s roots in Pakistan display a very liberal and moneyed upbringing as his domineering father was high atop Pakistan’s military food chain. Shahzad came of age during Pakistan’s jihad against India in the Kashmir Region.

It is unclear how formative these events were for Mr. Shahzad, who continued to lead a somewhat sheltered existence, living with his family in a neighborhood of stately homes fringed by palm trees and bougainvillea. His school, located on a military base, taught the same rigid curriculum ā€” with an anti-Western slant and a strict form of Islamic studies ā€” imposed nationally by General Zia.

After graduating, Mr. Shahzad enrolled in Greenwich University, a business school in Karachi known for drawing affluent underachievers with fancy cars. Mr. Shahzad proved a mediocre student. (In high school, he had gotten Dā€™s in English composition and microeconomics, according to a transcript.) But what he lacked in academic prowess he made up for in ambition, friends recalled; he was determined to finish his degree in the United States. Taking advantage of a partnership between his college and the University of Bridgeport, in Connecticut, Mr. Shahzad applied for a student visa.

On Jan. 16, 1999, at the age of 19, Mr. Shahzad left Pakistan for a new life in America. (New York Times)

Shahzad’s new life in America eventually led him to where he stood today: pleading guilty to an attempted bombing against the country and the fellow citizens who took him in. By all appearances, Shahzad was a typical upwardly mobile American, well on his way to living the hackneyed Western mythological American Dream. Somewhere along the way, be it through the American occupation of Iraq, the war in Afghanistan or the drone attacks on his native Pakistan, Faisal Shahzad acquired a hatred of all things westernized and developed a radical Islamic fervor and made the ultimate attempt at blind hatred, destruction and murder. Rather than living a mundane suburban existence in the New York City parking lot known as Connecticut, Mr. Shahzad is nothing more than a terrorist; and a failed one at that.

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