Attorney General Eric Holder announced Tuesday that the Justice Department will charge the suspect in the attempted Times Square bombing with terrorism and mass destruction.
Faisal Shahzad, a naturalized citizen from Pakistan living in Connecticut, was arrested late Monday night at JFK International Airport. After being questioned by FBI agents, Shahzad admitted his role in what Holder called a “terrorist plot aimed at murdering Americans in one of the busiest places in this country.”
FBI Deputy Director John Pistole said Shahzad was placed on the no-fly list hours before his arrest, which helped authorities to keep him from fleeing the country to Pakistan. However, despite being on the no-fly list and paying cash for a one-way ticket, the airline failed to stop Shahzad and he wasn’t caught till after he was on the plane.
Additionally, Washington, DC, law enforcement officials said Tuesday that Pakistani authorities apprehended several people in connection to the attempted bombing, though no charges have been filed as of yet.
Officials focused on Shahzad after tracking down the owner of the Nissan Pathfinder used in the attack. Though it had the wrong plates and the vehicle identification number was removed from the dashboard, police used the VIN number from the engine to find the SUV’s registered owner, who had sold it for $1,800 in cash.
On Saturday night, the Pathfinder was parked on a busy New York City street just off Broadway and loaded with propane tanks, gasoline and fireworks. A bystander noticed smoke from the vehicle and notified police, who called for assistance after smelling gunpowder and soon began to evacuate Times Square.
Deputy Commissioner and Police Department Spokesman Paul Browne said the bomb “looked amateurish” and apparently malfunctioned while it was detonating.
The FBI emphasized its use of “traditional” law enforcement techniques such as court-authorized search warrants in tracking down and arresting Shahzad.
“Our collective success unraveling this plot comes down to traditional investigative skills and intelligence collection,” Pistole said at a press conference Tuesday.
“JTTF [Joint Terrorism Task Force] agents and officers interviewed Mr. Shahzad last night/early this morning under the public safety exception to the Miranda rule,” Pistole continued. “He was cooperative and provided valuable intelligence and evidence. He was eventually transported to another location, Mirandized, and continued talking.”
However, some politicians argued it would have been counterproductive to read Shahzad his Miranda rights.
“Obviously that would be a serious mistake … at least until we find out as much information we have,” Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona), a ranking member on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said on Don Imus’s radio talk show Tuesday morning.
Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Connecticut) said that there should be a process to strip citizenship from anyone who joins a foreign terrorist group, and their Miranda rights as well.
“If you have joined an enemy of the United States in attacking the United States and trying to kill Americans I think you sacrifice your rights of citizenship,” he said.
John Cloonan, former special agent in the New York Field Office of the FBI, argued in a statement released by the Constitution Project that the suspect was entitled to his rights, which in no way interfered with the investigation or put anyone in danger.
“Mr. Shahzad is a naturalized U.S. citizen, not an enemy combatant picked up on the battlefield,” he said. “Reading Shahzad his Miranda rights in no way impeded the continuing investigation…. This case illustrates how following the rule of law does not put U.S. citizens at risk or weaken our national security.”
James Robinson, former assistant attorney general for the Criminal Division of the Department of Justice, agreed.
“For members of Congress to criticize the arrest and subsequent ‘mirandizing’ of suspected bomber Faisal Shahzad not only shows a glaring lack of understanding of the law, but also a lack of confidence in the law enforcement officials putting their lives on the line to keep our nation safe,” he said.
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