Car bomb terrorist endorsed attacks on U.S.
When Faisal Shahzad, the suspect in the failed Times Square bombing, pleaded guilty last month, the judge asked whether he knew what he had been doing was a crime.
''I would not consider it a crime," Shahzad replied.
Was he aware he had violated U.S. law? the judge asked.
Shahzad said he was aware, but added, "I don't care for the laws of United States."
It was a revelatory moment in a court case that abruptly ended on June 21, when Shahzad expounded for more than half an hour on how and why he had tried to detonate a bomb in Times Square on May 1, a crowded Saturday evening.
Lawyers, prosecutors and others who have heard such statements, when the defendants are given an opportunity to explain their actions and motivations at length, say they can offer valuable insight into terrorists' minds, particularly in a case as baffling as Shahzad's.
The would-be bomber had cooperated for more than two weeks without counsel, then turned around and endorsed attacks on the United States, declaring he was a "Muslim soldier" who believed that killing children was justified in the war against America.
''I don't recall that I've really ever seen or known of someone who was actually an activist operative, a committed jihadist, who in this length of time became converted, showed remorse," said Mary Jo White, a former U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York who oversaw terrorism prosecutions from 1993 to 2002 that led to 30 convictions.
Some of those interviewed suggested that Shahzad's statements, delivered in response to questions from a judge, were an attempt to rehabilitate his image among jihadists, given his botched bombing attempt and the perception that he gave information to investigators that led to arrests overseas.
''He's not your conventional criminal who's trying to receive leniency," said Thane Rosenbaum, who teaches law at Fordham University and is the author of "The Myth of Moral Justice."
''His crime is entirely based on some symbolic gesture of hatred and retaliation," he added. "For him, the only way to validate the symbolism is to publicly proclaim what he wanted to do."
On June 21, Shahzad told Judge Miriam Goldman Cedarbaum that he wanted to read aloud from a piece of paper. But the judge told him not to read it. "I want to know what happened," she said. "Tell me what you did."
He will most likely have another opportunity to address her, and the world, at his sentencing in October.
But after that, like so many convicted terrorists before him, he will probably go silent.