Commentary: Now the real works starts in New York bomb case

If he's indeed guilty of intending to blow up a grab-bag of explosive elements in the heart of a New York Saturday night, Faisal Shahzad must have developed a sudden sinking feeling late Monday when the Mideast-bound airliner he was aboard began to taxi back to the terminal gate at Kennedy Airport. Would his escape plan sputter out just like his failed attempt to cause murder and mayhem by blowing up an SUV in Times Square?

The rest of us, however, felt a great sense of relief, and can only applaud the quick, effective police work that led to Shahzad's uneventful late-night arrest at JFK.

The job that remains is to uncover the full extent of this latest terror plot and to draw from it the necessary public-safety lessons. On Tuesday afternoon, Attorney General Eric Holder said Shahzad, 30, has admitted his role and is cooperating with investigators. That's a start.

The suspect, to be sure, had not covered his tracks well, and when his newly purchased SUV didn't explode as intended, a truckload of clues became available to investigators. One of those, the vehicle identification number stamped into the engine block, led to the Connecticut resident who had sold Shahzad the used Nissan Pathfinder.

It was, apparently, that line of investigation, rather than an initially highlighted security camera video of a man shedding clothing near Times Square, that led authorities to southern Connecticut, where Shahzad lived. Given his Pakistani origins - Shahzad became a U.S. citizen only a year ago - and his recent extended visit to his homeland, focusing on a possible escape via an airport made perfect sense.

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