February 22, 2010 - Earlier this afternoon, Najibullah Zazi, a citizen of Afghanistan and permanent legal resident of the United States, pleaded guilty in New York to three criminal charges. He admitted to conspiring to use weapons of mass destruction against persons or property in the United States, conspiring to commit murder in a foreign country, and providing material support to Al Qaeda.
Zazi has admitted that he brought TATP explosives to New York on Sept. 10th, 2009, and that he and others intended to detonate them on board the New York subway system. This was one of the most serious terrorist threats to our nation since September 11th, 2001, and were it not for the combined efforts of the law enforcement and intelligence communities, it could have been devastating. This attempted attack on our homeland was real, it was in motion, and it would have been deadly. We were able to thwart this plot because of careful analysis by our intelligence agents and prompt actions by law enforcement. They deserve our thanks and praise.
Zazi traveled to Pakistan in August 2008 with plans to join the Taliban in fighting against the United States and our allied forces in Afghanistan. Shortly after arriving, however, he was recruited by members of Al Qaeda who transported him to the Waziristan region of Pakistan and urged him to launch a suicide attack in the United States, which he agreed to do.
While still in Pakistan, Zazi plotted extensively with members of Al Qaeda in planning this attack. Al Qaeda operatives trained him in how to construct the explosives he would use, and they discussed potential targets, including the New York subway system. Zazi took detailed notes during his training, and even emailed himself a summary of those notes so he could access them when he returned to the United States.
Zazi returned to the United States in January 2009 and moved to Denver, Colorado. In June, he began reviewing the notes from his training and researching where to buy the chemicals needed for the explosives. He then traveled to New York to meet with others, discuss the timing of the attack and where to make the explosives.
Zazi then returned to Denver and began constructing the explosives. In July and August, he purchased large quantities of components necessary to produce TATP and twice checked into a hotel room near Denver, where bomb making residue was later found.
On September 8th, he set the final stages of the plan into motion, renting a car and driving from Denver to New York with the explosives and materials necessary to build the bombs. He arrived in New York on Thursday, September 10th with plans to use the weekend to obtain the final components necessary, assemble the bombs, and then launch an attack on the Manhattan subway lines on September 14th, 15th, or 16th.
Zazi was under surveillance throughout his trip. Once he learned of the investigation, he and others disposed of the explosives and other bomb making materials and he returned to Denver, where he was arrested on September 19th.
In this case, the combined efforts of the law enforcement and intelligence communities disrupted a major plot, and there is no doubt that they saved American lives. This investigation is ongoing, and we will continue to work around the clock both to bring others involved to justice and to obtain intelligence that we can use to disrupt further plots. With today’s guilty plea, we have brought swift justice to one of the individuals involved in this plot, but we will not rest until everyone responsible is held accountable.
This plot is further evidence that Al Qaeda continues to plan attacks against the United States. We are at war against a dangerous, intelligent and adaptable enemy, and we must use every weapon available to win that war. In this case, as it has in so many other cases, the criminal justice system has proved to be an invaluable weapon for disrupting plots and incapacitating terrorists, one that works in concert with the intelligence community and our military. We will continue to use it to protect the American people from terrorism.
As I have stated on other occasions, the criminal justice system also contains powerful incentives to induce pleas that yield long sentences and gain intelligence that can be used in the fight against Al Qaeda. We will use all available tools whenever possible against suspected terrorists.
Finally, I would like to thank the members of the law enforcement and intelligence communities whose hard work disrupted this plot and continues to keep terrorists on the run both here and abroad, as well as the prosecutors and intelligence lawyers who have worked on this case. We all owe them a debt of gratitude for their service to this country.