WASHINGTON - Terror suspect Najibullah Zazi will likely spend the rest of his life in prison after pleading guilty to a plot to blow up New York City's subway system.
Prosecutors say the investigation of the 25-year-old Afghan native is ongoing and could lead to more arrests.
Foiled Plot Sets Big Apple on Edge
As more details about the subway plot unfold, New Yorkers understandably are on edge.
"Well, I don't feel safe at all when I hear stuff like that," one subway commuter said.
The plan, according to Zazi who took a plea deal with prosecutors, was to cripple the city's subway system using TATP - the same explosives found on would-be shoe bomber Richard Reeve.
However, law enforcement officials stopped the plan before it could take effect, describing it as "one of the most serious terrorist threats" since 9/11.
"This attempted attack on our homeland was real. It was in motion, and it would have been deadly," U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said.
Zazi pleaded guilty to conspiring to use weapons of mass destruction, conspiring to commit murder in a foreign country and providing material support for a terrorist organization.
"The plea allocution, I think, speaks for itself," said William Stampur, Zazi's attorney.
The former airport shuttle driver says he was on his way to Afghanistan to fight with the Taliban when he was intercepted by al Qaeda. Nazi says the militant group convinced him to become a suicide bomber using homemade explosives with materials he purchased at a beauty salon.
The attack was planned to coincide with the eighth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.
"There is no question the NYPD and the FBI together stopped a plot that would have really hurt this city," New York City's Mayor Michael Bloomberg said.
Obama Administration Defends its Actions
Meanwhile, the Obama administration has come under fire from conservatives for trying terror suspects in civilian courts instead of military tribunals.
However, the attorney general has used the plea bargain to counter those attacks.
"In this case, as it has been in so many other ones, the criminal justice system has proved to be an invaluable weapon for disrupting plots and incapacitating terrorists," Holder said.
Zazi's cooperation could give prosecutors more information to expand the case and bring charges against other suspects.
But it also reveals a troubling conclusion: According to intelligence officials, al Qaeda wants to hit the U.S. so badly they'll even use smaller attacks, so long as they are successful.