Times Square Car Bomb Suspect Pleads Guilty, Details Plot Pakistan-born U.S. citizen Faisal Shahzad has admitted to conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction and other charges. After pleading guilty Monday, he surprised the court by detailing his actions and motivations in a half-hour conversation with the judge. He faces a life sentence, and though he has been cooperating with investigators, no plea agreement was reached.

N.Y. Car Bomb Suspect Pleads Guilty, Details Plot

In this courtroom sketch, Faisal Shahzad pleads guilty Monday in Manhattan Federal Court to carrying out the failed May 1 car bombing in New York's Times Square. Some of the 10 terrorism and weapons counts to which he pleaded guilty carry mandatory life prison sentences. Elizabeth Williams/AP hide caption

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Elizabeth Williams/AP

In this courtroom sketch, Faisal Shahzad pleads guilty Monday in Manhattan Federal Court to carrying out the failed May 1 car bombing in New York's Times Square. Some of the 10 terrorism and weapons counts to which he pleaded guilty carry mandatory life prison sentences.

Elizabeth Williams/AP

The man accused of trying to set off a car bomb in Times Square pleaded guilty in court Monday, but that wasn't surprising; he'd been cooperating with investigators for weeks. What's out of the ordinary is how he described his actions and motivations in the plot publicly, and in detail, in a nearly half-hour conversation with the judge.

Initially, it appeared that Faisal Shahzad's day in court would be a rather ordinary arraignment. A federal grand jury indicted the 30-year-old Pakistani-American on 10 federal counts last week, including conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction, transporting explosives and gun charges. Given that he had been cooperating with authorities, the assumption was that he would plead guilty to all of the charges against him in exchange for a reduced sentence.

Instead, after a short delay in which lawyers for both the prosecution and the defense huddled with U.S. District Judge Miriam Cedarbaum, Shahzad reappeared in court and spoke with the judge for about a half-hour. He said he wanted to read a prepared statement. She asked him not to and just to tell her what happened instead.

'We Will Be Attacking The U.S.'

Typically, when terrorism suspects speak in open court, they take the occasion to rant. In Shahzad's case, it was a quiet colloquy. In a calm, matter-of-fact voice, he offered details of how he trained with the Pakistani Taliban to build bombs and returned to the U.S. to launch an attack to avenge attacks on Muslims by U.S. forces overseas. "One has to understand where I am coming form," he told the judge. "I consider myself ... a Muslim soldier."

Heard On 'Morning Edition'

He explained that he left an SUV rigged with explosives in Times Square fully understanding that he would kill women and children who were in the square May 1. He left the car in an area of theaters just as the matinees were letting out. Had the bomb exploded, it would have had devastating effects. As he explained to the judge, U.S. forces were killing indiscriminately in Muslim lands, so American civilians were fair game. Until the U.S. changes its policies, he added, "we will be attacking the U.S."

A lot of the details Shahzad provided about the plot Monday had been previously reported by NPR. He said he had gone to Pakistan for training shortly after he received his citizenship. He said that he sought out the Pakistani Taliban to get training for an attack in the U.S. and that it was his idea. He ended up getting five days worth of explosives training in North Waziristan.

He said the Pakistani Taliban initially gave him $4,000 when he left the training camp. But then he asked them for more cash, and he ended up getting $12,000 more wired to him through an informal remittance system called hawala. (Two people connected to that transfer of cash have been picked up by authorities in Massachusetts and Maine. It is unclear whether they knew what the money was for. Hawala is legal in the U.S.)

This undated booking mug released by the U.S. Marshals Service shows Faisal Shahzad. At the time of his first court appearance May 18, authorities said his willingness to talk kept him out of court for two weeks, speeding up the progress of an investigation into the Times Square plot. U.S. Marshals Service/AP hide caption

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U.S. Marshals Service/AP

This undated booking mug released by the U.S. Marshals Service shows Faisal Shahzad. At the time of his first court appearance May 18, authorities said his willingness to talk kept him out of court for two weeks, speeding up the progress of an investigation into the Times Square plot.

U.S. Marshals Service/AP

Lighting The Fuse, Walking Away

Shahzad explained that the used SUV he bought shortly before the attack was actually rigged to be several bombs. A fertilizer bomb and then a set of propane tanks and gas rigged with fireworks. Neither went off. The fertilizer Shahzad used is not the kind that explodes. And the fireworks had safety fuses on them, so they would not have gone off in a chain reaction.

Shahzad told the judge that he lit the fuse and figured within 2 1/2 to 5 minutes, the explosion would happen. He walked away from the car and waited for the explosion. When it didn't go off, he said, he just walked to Grand Central Station and hopped a train back home to Connecticut. He had left a getaway car near Times Square, but had left the keys to that car -- and his house keys -- in the rigged-up SUV. So he had to take the train home. He told the judge he built the bomb by himself.

The Justice Department said in a statement Monday that the investigation was continuing and that no plea agreement was reached with Shahzad. There have been as many as 11 people arrested in connection with the plot -- several in the U.S. and the rest in Pakistan -- but no one else has been charged.

Shahzad pleaded guilty to all 10 counts against him. Several of the charges carry mandatory life sentences, so his cooperation with authorities in the case probably won't do much if anything to reduce his jail time. His sentencing is set for Oct. 5.