Nightly News   |  May 04, 2010

Sheehan: Bomb plot had 'stunning degree of incompetence'

NBC News Terrorism Analyst Michael Sheehan provides a profile of Faisal Shahzad, describing him as a self-motivated "lone wolf" without the skill set to put together a functional bomb.

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This content comes from a Full-Text Transcript of the program.

BRIAN WILLIAMS, anchor: Michael Sheehan is former State Department anti-terrorism ambassador, a veteran of the White House , ran counterterrorism for the NYPD . He's now an analyst for NBC News . Mike , I wrote down something you said on the air earlier today about this bomb making. A stunning degree of incompetence. Is this a kind of would-be terrorist that we kind of have to get used to? Yes, ties to professional-sounding groups overseas, but, at the end of the day , thankfully, in the execution , a failure.

Mr. MICHAEL SHEEHAN (NBC News Terrorism Analyst): I think so, Brian . Actually, we've had many of these cases over the last several years, and he just fits another of the pattern. And like Zazi , the guy who had the subway plot from Denver , had traveled to Pakistan , but still didn't have the trade craft, didn't have the skill set to put together a functional bomb and not be detected by police .

WILLIAMS: You wrote about lone wolf syndrome in this morning New York Times . This is part of this?

Mr. SHEEHAN: That's right . He was a lone wolf , probably self-motivated for whatever reasons, his financial crisis that was mentioned in the lead-up to this piece. He probably had some other type of disaffection, some anger, which he went to Pakistan , linked up with some people, apparently went to some camp, but obviously wasn't paying attention or the instructor wasn't very good, and came back and concocted a very, very crude, dysfunctional bomb.

WILLIAMS: Finally, in our newsroom today, a lot of people who deal with these kinds of stories all the time, myself included, a little bit surprised to learn the airlines maintain these no-fly lists. Is -- would that not be a more suitable role for government , actually?

Mr. SHEEHAN: The airlines are the first people to check that one because they're the ones that make the booking, and they're supposed to check it against the no-fly list. But the government , Department Homeland Security , also has mechanisms to check, as well. And it looks like they have a fairly plausible explanation here. They got him before he went off, but I think it still needs to be scrubbed. This is a very important aspect of counterterrorism. We can't afford to have glitches in our airports, and so I think they've got a little bit more explaining to do. But fortunately, the system worked here, and we remain safe in New York City .

WILLIAMS: Mike Sheehan , 33 years in this business. We were glad to have your counsel on this today. Thanks, as always.