Shahzad, FBI Mystery Deepens

| Thu May 6, 2010 3:47 PM EDT

The mystery deepens. Yesterday I highlighted an intriguing paragraph buried in a New York Times piece on alleged Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad. It described how George LaMonica, who purchased his Norwalk, Connecticut condo from Shahzad in 2004, had received a visit by investigators from the national Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) shortly after moving in. According to LaMonica, they questioned him about the transaction and about Shahzad. The JTTF is the same FBI-led interagency unit that caught Shahzad as he attempted to flee the country to Dubai on Monday—and, if the Times account is accurate, the implications could be significant. It suggests that Shahzad was on the radar of federal counterterrorism investigators at least six years before he parked his bomb-laden Pathfinder on West 45th Street. Recently, the intelligence and law enforcement communities have been criticized for possessing vital intelligence yet failing to put together the pieces when it came to Fort Hood shooter Nidal Hasan and underwear bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab. How long the FBI has been aware of Shahzad and what brought JTTF investigators to LaMonica's doorstep seems like a major unanswered question.

So I asked FBI spokesman Paul Bresson whether LaMonica's account was accurate and, if it was, why JTTF investigators had been asking questions about Shahzad back in 2004. Here's where things get strange. "We have no record of interviewing him," Bresson replied in an email.

That didn't mean it didn't happen, so I followed up:

Was Shahzad the subject of an earlier investigation that would have entailed visiting people like LaMonica? And is the FBI following up to confirm whether or not the JTTF did in fact interview LaMonica?

Bresson responded:

The answer is no to your first question. I would not comment on your second question.

What to make of this? I have a call and email in to LaMonica to see what he has to say. I'll update the post when I hear back.

UPDATE: LaMonica maintains that he was contacted by a detective for an FBI-led task force. More here.