During raids in Massachusetts, New York and New Jersey Thursday, federal agents arrested three men who may have helped bankroll Faisal Shahzad, the Pakistani accused of plotting to detonate a bomb in Times Square.
It is not clear if the three men knew how their money was being spent. They have been detained on immigration violations.
"These are people who are connected to Mr. Shahzad," said U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. "We are still trying to determine exactly what the nature of that connection was. There is at least a base to believe that one of the things that they did was provide him with funds."
Holder said the Pakistan Taliban "facilitated" and "directed" the failed bomb attempt. Shahzad told authorities he went to Pakistan to learn how to build bombs.
Pakistani officials have detained at least four people with connections to Shahzad.
U.S. officials tracked Shahzad's claims that he received money from Pakistan via an archaic money transfer network called Hawalas.
"It is an informal money transfer system that's been going on for thousands of years in places like Pakistan and Afghanistan," said former FBI agent Brad Garrett.
The arrests raise the question -- how much success has al Qaeda had in recruiting or planting operatives in the United States to carry out a terrorist attack from within?
Al Qaeda's arm in Yemen allegedly recruited would-be Christmas Day bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Nigerian with a U.S. passport who was flying from Amsterdam to Detroit when he attempted to set off explosives inside his underwear.
And most recently, al Qaeda successfully recruited an Afghan with legal permanent residence in the U.S. Najibullah Zazi was living in Colorado when he plotted to blow up New York City's subway system.
Meanwhile, Shahzad continues to provide authorities with information.