ARREST IN TIMES SQUARE CASE…. When reports in the early evening said federal authorities believe Saturday’s attempted car bomber in Times Square “did not act alone and had ties to radical elements overseas,” it came as something of a surprise. After all, we’ve come to expect at least some degree of sophistication when it comes international terrorist plots.

And Saturday night’s car bomb was not sophisticated. The device itself was crude and ineffective. The driver neglected to remove the vehicle identification numbers. The truck included more than 100 pounds of fertilizer that wouldn’t explode. Even the propane tanks hadn’t been prepared properly.

What’s more, the attempted terrorist (or terrorists) left plenty of clues about his identity. A former NYPD bomb squad detective said, “He was trying to cover his tracks, but he left more clues than a guy walking into a bank to rob it without a mask.”

Late last night, about 48 hours after the attempted bombing, authorities apprehended Faisal Shahzad as he attempted to flee the country.

Federal agents and police detectives arrested a Connecticut man, a naturalized United States citizen from Pakistan, shortly before midnight Monday for driving a car bomb into Times Square on Saturday evening in what turned out to be an unsuccessful attack, Justice Department officials announced. […]

Mr. Shahzad was taken into custody at Kennedy Airport as he tried to board a flight to Dubai, U.S. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said in an early morning statement delivered at the Justice Department in Washington. Charges against Mr. Shahzad, who had returned recently from a trip to Pakistan, were not announced, but he was expected to be charged Tuesday in federal court.

The investigation will, of course, continue, given that the suspected terrorist likely had accomplices. Of particular significance are questions about Shahzad’s overseas contacts, and yesterday, control of the investigation shifted to the Joint Terrorism Task Force, a multiagency group led by the Justice Department.

This is obviously a story that’s still unfolding, and if recent history is any guide, conservatives are going to start complaining incessantly about whether Shahzad has been Mirandized, whether he’ll face charges in U.S. courts, and with demands that he be tortured immediately. GOP rhetoric is already tiresome, and it hasn’t even started yet.

But before all of that gets started, now seems like a good time to applaud the exceptional work of law-enforcement officials at every level, from the cop on horseback who first smelled gunpowder to the federal agents who put the suspect in handcuffs last night. This was an exceedingly impressive display.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.