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How databases connect to the arrest of Faisal Shahzad

The arrest of Faisal Shahzad, the man who allegedly drove a car bomb into Times Square Sunday, was nabbed courtesy of some tech-aided sleuthing.

This is a guest post from Larry Dignan of TechRepublic's sister site ZDNet. You can follow Larry on his ZDNet blog Between the Lines, or subscribe to the RSS feed.

Updated: The arrest of Faisal Shahzad, the man who allegedly drove a car bomb into Times Square Sunday, was nabbed courtesy of some tech-aided sleuthing.

Add it up and Shahzad's steps were revealed courtesy of cell phone, various databases, and collaboration between various counter terrorism agencies. Piecing those steps together led to his arrest.

Gallery: Tracking down the Times Square bomb suspect

The technology wasn't perfect-for instance there are limits to video surveillance-but here's a look at the IT intersections with Shahzad, who earned a Bachelor of Science in computer applications and information systems from the University of Bridgeport along with an MBA.

On scene surveillance: Surveillance photos showed a suspect holding a briefcase and setting up the alleged bomb. Meanwhile, 82 video surveillance cameras in New York and a bunch of private cameras chipped in. However, there are limitations to the video surveillance so it's unclear how beneficial this technology turned out to be. Craigslist: FBI agents found that the 1993 Pathfinder that carried the bomb was sold three weeks ago. From there, agents were able to find the former owner and further implicate Shahzad (picture from Orkut right). The Web trail was helpful for sure. Cell phone records: From the Craigslist seller investigators were able to track down the prepaid cell phone number Shahzad used. The phone was tossed, but the databases that recorded calls lived on. Law enforcement databases/collaboration. Shahzad was identified by the Department of Homeland Security's U.S. Customs and Border Protection while attempting to take a flight to Dubai. Law enforcement parties were exchanging information as they should. See FBI statement. Update on Customs and Border Protection (CBP): An administration source tells CBS News that Shahzad had been added to the no fly list as a result of the attempted bombing investigation. However, the addition was so recent that the information had not yet been "populated" into the system so it could trigger an automatic alert. Earlier yesterday, CBP had developed an old fashioned "be on the lookout" type of alert on its own based on the investigation. That's how CBP caught him.

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