WASHINGTON — Saying they obtained new evidence, senior White House officials said Sunday that the Pakistani Taliban was behind the failed Times Square bombing.
The attempt marks the first time the group has been able to launch an attack on U.S. soil. U.S. officials have downplayed the threat — citing the bomb's lack of sophistication — but the incident in Times Square and the Christmas Day airline bombing attempt indicate growing strength by overseas terrorist groups linked to al-Qaida even as the CIA says their operations are seriously degraded.
The finding raises new questions about the U.S. relationship with Pakistan, which is known to have al-Qaida and other groups operating within its borders.
Concerning the Pakistani Taliban, Attorney General Eric Holder said: "We know that they helped facilitate it; we know that they helped direct it. And I suspect that we are going to come up with evidence which shows that they helped to finance it. They were intimately involved in this plot."
Faisal Shahzad, a U.S. citizen of Pakistani descent, is believed to have spent five months in Pakistan before returning to the United States in February and preparing his attack.
Shahzad has told investigators that he trained in the lawless tribal areas of Waziristan, where both al-Qaida and the Pakistani Taliban operate. He was arrested aboard an Emirates Airlines jet in New York minutes before it was to take off for Dubai.
John Brennan, the president's homeland security and counterterrorism adviser, rejected suggestions that the attempted bombing shows terrorist groups overseas were gaining strength.
"They now are relegated to trying to do these unsophisticated attacks, showing that they have inept … training," he said.
Brennan spoke on CNN's State of the Union, Fox News Sunday and CBS's Face the Nation. Holder spoke on NBC's Meet the Press and ABC's This Week.