Faisal Shahzad, a U.S. citizen of Pakistani descent, was pulled off a plane May 3 as it was preparing to depart New York for Dubai. He is the main suspect in the failed car bombing in Times Square in Manhattan.
Shahzad reportedly confessed to the crime, waived his right to be promptly arraigned in court, and has been taken to an undisclosed location for interrogation.
Attorney General Eric Holder told NBCs Meet the Press May 9 that the government has evidence that Shahzad was operating under the direction of the Taliban Movement Pakistan (TTP), a banned Taliban federation at war with the Pakistani government.
The TTP appeared to claim responsibility following the attack. But several days later TTP spokesman Azam Tariq denied the claim, saying the group had no ties to Shahzad. At the same time Tariq praised Shahzad for his attempt and reiterated the groups intention to carry out terrorist attacks in the United States.
Details of Shahzads capture are being cited by politicians and the press to justify stricter security procedures and monitoring of international travelers. The FBI tracked him down based on information he provided during an airport screening on his return from Pakistan months earlier. He was selected for special scrutiny as part of procedures covering all travelers from 14 countries for several months following the failed December 25 bombing of a Northwest Airlines flight to Detroit.
Under a public safety exception enacted in 1984, interrogators questioned Shahzad for hours before informing him of his Miranda rights: the right to remain silent and be represented by a lawyer.
Holder said the administration would seek to further weaken restrictions on using evidence obtained from questioning suspects without reading them their Miranda rights. We want to work with Congress to come up with a way in which we make our public safety exception more flexible and consistent with the threat that we face, he stated.
A bill sponsored by senators Joseph Lieberman and Scott Brown has received support among a layer of both Democratic and Republican politicians in Congress. The Terrorist Expatriation Act would allow the government to revoke the citizenship of anyone suspected of being affiliated with terrorists. Among other things, it would facilitate trying citizens by military tribunal.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke favorably about the proposal and said the administration would take a hard look at it. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said she supported the spirit of the bill.
Shahzad reportedly told interrogators he followed the writings of Anwar al-Awlaki, a U.S.-born cleric of Yemeni descent with alleged ties to al-Qaeda. Al-Awlaki is said to have communicated with Maj. Nidal Hasan before Hasans shooting rampage at Fort Hood, Texas, killing 13 soldiers last November. Al-Awlaki is also reportedly the first U.S. citizen known to be targeted for assassination by executive order.
If the president can authorize the killing of a United States citizen because he is fighting for a foreign terrorist organization, we can also have a law that allows the U.S. government to revoke Awlakis citizenship and that of other American citizens who have cast their lot with terrorist organizations, Lieberman said in defense of the Terrorist Expatriation Act.
Thanks Faisal! blared the front page headline of the New York Post reporting New York mayor Michael Bloombergs announcement May 6 that the city was reversing its decision to cut nearly 900 police jobs as part of its budget cuts.
Washington presses war in Pakistan
Over the past several months, military and intelligence cooperation between Washington and Islamabad has deepened and the Pakistani military has opened new offensives against the Taliban, al-Qaeda, and allied groups in the countrys tribal areas. Holder praised Islamabads cooperation in the Shahzad investigation, but added Washington would take appropriate steps in Pakistan wherever the Pakistani government fell short.
Washington has used the opportunity to continue pressing the Pakistani government to expand its war against Taliban factions and other armed Islamist groups based in Pakistans tribal agency of North Waziristan where Washington has carried out 33 known aerial drone strikes so far in 2010. Hundreds have been killed in these strikes over the last year.
We want more. We expect more, Secretary of State Clinton said on ABCs This Week May 9. Weve made it very clear that if, heaven forbid, an attack like this that we can trace back to Pakistan were to have been successful, there would be very severe consequences.
Some U.S. officials are seizing on the incident to press for increasing U.S. special forces operating in Pakistan, whose presence is unpopular there. Over the last year, Washington has been increasing the number of U.S. elite soldiers in the country, now disclosed to be more than 200. Actual figures are classified.
There is a growing sense that there will need to be more of a boots on the ground strategy, one official told the New York Times.
Oppose war at home and abroad
Sudanese-born Canadian fights govt, UN blacklist
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