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Holder Claims Link Between Times Square Bomb, Pakistani Taliban

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Speaking Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press” and ABC’s “This Week,” U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said last Saturday's failed car bombing attempt in New York City’s Times Square was orchestrated by the Pakistani Taliban. Holder said mounting evidence shows that the group directed, facilitated and likely financed the attack.

"They were intimately involved in this plot," Holder said on "Meet The Press."

Faisal Shahzad, a naturalized American citizen of Pakistani descent, is the only person currently facing charges for the failed car bomb in Times Square. Shahzad is facing five terror-related counts that could result in a maximum sentence of life in prison.

The attempted car bombing marks the first time the Pakistani Taliban are known to have been able to organize a nearly successful attack in the United States. Government officials formerly said they did not believe the group had the resources to operate in the U.S., but Holder says new evidence has changed that perception.

"We certainly have seen with the Shahzad incident that they have not only the aim, but the capability of doing that," said Holder. "And that's why they have taken on, I think, a new significance in our anti-terror fight."

John Brennan, an assistant to President Obama and the Deputy National Security Adviser for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism who appeared Sunday on FOX, CNN and CBS’s “Face the Nation,” reiterated Holder's remarks, linking Shahzad to the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, or TTP, a militant group believed to be hiding senior Al Qaeda leaders, including Osama bin Laden.

Holder's statements about the close involvement of the Pakistani Taliban contradict earlier statements by other government officials. Last Friday, General David Petraeus, Commander of the U.S. Central Command, said that Shahzad had operated as a "lone wolf," while Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano said last weekend that the bomb attempt appeared to be a "one-off" incident.

The alleged link of the Pakistani Taliban to the failed Times Square attack shines a spotlight on the United States' relationship with Pakistan, where Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups are believed to be operating.

Interviewed Sunday evening on CBS’s “60 Minutes,” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said recent incidents show more than ever the need for cooperation between the Pakistani and U.S. governments. She claims that Pakistan is showing greater cooperation than it has in the past, but that the U.S. expects more.

New York City Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly also spoke with "60 Minutes" and said that last weekend's failed bomb attempt shows how foreign terrorism networks are choosing "unremarkable" young U.S. citizens to help coordinate attacks because those people can travel easily with U.S. passports.

According to government officials, Shahzad is still cooperating with federal investigators. The criminal complaint against Shahzad states that he has admitted to authorities that he drove the SUV filled with explosives into Times Square and that he received bomb making training in Waziristan, Pakistan. If Shahzad is charged and pleads guilty, there will be no need for a trial. Holder said if there is a trial, Shahzad would likely be tried in a civilian court and not by a military tribunal.

The Attorney General also said that he would ask Congress to give law enforcement officials more flexibility in questioning terror suspects. The current "Public Safety Exception" to the Miranda warning the law requires be administered to criminal suspects prior to questioning allows officials to postpone the reading of these rights in situations where a threat of imminent harm to the public exists. Holder believes this exception should be broadened to give federal officials more latitude when they arrest and question terror suspects. Government officials delayed reading Shahzad his Miranda rights under the "Public Safety Exception" when they arrested him last week.

"We want to work with Congress to come up with a way in which we make our public safety exception more flexible," said Holder, "and again, more consistent with the threat that we face."

Holder also added that the Department of Justice has not yet ruled out New York City as the site for the trial of alleged 9/11 plotter Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

For more of WNYC's continuing coverage of the Times Square investigation, please click here.

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