- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Former Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales said Wednesday he was not surprised that the man accused of a terrorist plot in New York was a U.S. citizen.

Faisal Shahzad, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Pakistan, faces a five-count criminal complaint for attempting to detonate explosives inside a Nissan Pathfinder parked in New York’s Times Square. Now in custody, he is expected to be charged with an act of terrorism transcending national borders, attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction, use of a destructive device during the commission of another crime, and explosive charges.

“Well, quite frankly, I’m not surprised that we’re seeing the shift to people who look like Americans, speak like Americans, because the United States has spent a lot of money to make it more difficult for foreigners to come into this country, like the hijackers of 9/11,” Mr. Gonzales said on The Washington Times’ “America’s Morning News” radio show. “So quite frankly, the law enforcement community has anticipated that this was going to happen because our enemies are very patient and they are very smart — and they watch very carefully what the United States government does to protect its citizens — and so this kind of shift is not unexpected.”

Mr. Shahzad became a U.S. citizen on April 17, 2009.

“It presents some very unique and difficult challenges for law enforcement to identify someone who has the right to travel in this country, looks like everyone else, speaks like everyone else,” Mr. Gonzales said. “This has been something the law enforcement community has been preparing for. We’re doing everything we can, I’m sure, as a government to protect American citizens.”

Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, Vermont Democrat, made earlier comments comparing the recent terrorist attempt in New York to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. He accused the Bush administration of dropping the ball.

“The most important thing, we got the person who did this,” Mr. Leahy said. “They crossed all the t’s, they dotted all the i’s, but what I find frustrating are the people like Mr. (Rush) Limbaugh, of course, who want the president to fail, even though the country would fail. This really bothers me because after 9/11, even though the ball had been dropped, even though 9/11 could have been avoided if everybody had done what they should have, Democrats and Republicans came together and said: ‘OK, that happened. Let’s make it better so it doesn’t happen again.’”

After hearing Mr. Leahy’s quote, Mr. Gonzales responded, calling the comments “unfortunate.”

“I think President Bush deserves a great deal of credit for keeping America safe, certainly in the weeks and months following 9/11,” Mr. Gonzales said. “There was expectation within the government and, I suspect, around the country that there might be another 9/11-type attack, and so we were very worried about that. President Bush gave us the directive to do everything we could under the Constitution to ensure that American citizens would remain safe. And I’m proud of my service, and I’m proud of the role I played in helping President Bush secure our country.

“I think the comments from Sen. Leahy are are unfortunate and don’t reflect the reality and, quite frankly, don’t reflect the appreciation that more and more Americans are feeling every day about the service of those who served in the Bush administration securing our country.”

When asked about whether he thought that Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. will try 9/11 terror suspect Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in New York or the United States, Mr. Gonzales said: “I think the (Obama) administration is struggling to find the right solution. My own bet is that he would not be tried in a criminal trial in New York City, but the department and the administration has not yet decided what to do and, quite frankly, I’m not sure if I were in General Holder’s shoes that I would make a pronouncement about K.S.M. without knowing exactly what I was going to do with him to bring him to justice.”

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