NYPD Tries to Distance Itself From FBI Surveillance Lapse in Bombing Case

nypd badgeBy Allan Lengel

WASHINGTON — The talk among law enforcement on Wednesday was that the New York police were trying to distance themselves and blame the FBI for losing the surveillance of  car bombing suspect Faisal Shahzad.

The media was also pointing to it as a flaw in what still remains a remarkable case for the short time it took to arrest the suspect.

Still,  some current and former law enforcement members pointed out that it is not uncommon to lose a surveillance target. And they said it was often better to lose someone temporarily than to blow the surveillance and get spotted.

Newsweek reported that Shahzad was at JFK airport on Monday for more than three hours without FBI surveillance, and that agents had apparently lost track of him. Shahzad had gone to the airport to catch a flight to Dubai. He was arrested after he had already boarded the plane, but it had not yet taken off.

One law enforcement source on Wednesday defended the FBI’s work.

“This situation was extremely fast-moving, involving multiple locations. The FBI identified him and within a few hours had already located him and begun surveillance, which, by its nature, involves risk-benefit considerations with respect to potential effects on the course of the investigation if the surveillance is detected,” the source said, commenting on the condition that he not be named.

“Risks can be mitigated by building in layers of redundancy, especially in a situation such as this where the subject was aware of the numerous media reports which alerted him to the fact he was being pursued by law enforcement. In this case, he was added to appropriate watch lists and was caught as he tried to escape.”

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