The suspected Pakistani-trained Times Square bomber is continuing to provide federal authorities with “useful information” as federal agents pursue a number of leads and intelligence concerning the New York terrorist attack, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. told a Senate subcommittee on Thursday.
Mr. Holder noted that Faisal Shahzad, 30, had been read his Miranda rights, a decision the attorney general vigorously defended, adding that federal agents had obtained valuable information from Mr. Shahzad both before and after he was advised of his rights.
“As we’ve seen in prior investigations, the giving of Miranda warnings has not deterred people from talking to us, and Mr. Shahzad is in fact continuing to cooperate with us,” Mr. Holder said, adding that the warning “allows us to make sure that statements they give to us are going to be admissible in court.”
The question surfaced after several Republicans this week, including Sen. John McCain of Arizona, suggested that it was a “serious mistake” to have given Mr. Shahzad his Miranda warnings. Mr. McCain, ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said during the “Imus in the Morning” program, “Obviously that would be a serious mistake … at least until we find out as much information we have,”
Mr. Holder told the Senate Appropriations subcommittee on commerce, justice, science and related agencies that the Supreme Court has ruled that every American has a right to hear a Miranda warning before being questioned, although “there are exceptions … and that is one of the ways in which we conduct our interrogations of terrorism suspects.”
Mr. Shahzad was arrested at John F. Kennedy International Airport at 11:45 p.m. Monday by FBI agents and New York Police Department detectives after boarding an overseas flight to Dubai. Identified by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents from a passenger manifest, Mr. Shahzad was removed from Dubai-based Emirates Airline Flight 202 after it had been ordered back to the tarmac.
Mr. Holder told the subcommittee that Mr. Shahzad was charged Tuesday in federal court with acts of terrorism transcending national boundaries, attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction, and other federal crimes.
If convicted, he said, the naturalized U.S. citizen faces a potential life sentence in prison.
In the Shahzad investigation, FBI Deputy Director John S. Pistole told reporters this week that Mr. Shahzad was questioned initially by FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force agents and New York Police Department detectives under the public safety exception to the Miranda rule, but later was also read his Miranda rights.
The public safety exception to the Miranda warning allows police to question a criminal suspect immediately for situations in which there is a threat to public safety.
Mr. Holder noted that the public safety exception allows federal agents to try to immediately determine if others are involved, whether they were acting alone, whether other threats continue to exist and whether others are coming to assist the suspect.
He said “useful, valuable intelligence was gained” during a period in which Mr. Shahzad was questioned under the public safety exception.
Mr. Shahzad, according to a criminal complaint filed in the case, received bomb-making training in Pakistan. The complaint said he traveled to the United States, drove a Nissan Pathfinder to Times Square and attempted to detonate explosive and incendiary devices inside the vehicle. It said the sport utility vehicle contained three full propane gas tanks, two 5-gallon gasoline canisters and several plastic bags containing fertilizer, as well as 152 M-88 fireworks and two alarm clocks.
Born in Karachi, Mr. Shahzad recently returned to the United States after a two-month visit in Pakistan, said U.S. authorities and Pakistani police. They said he traveled to the northeastern city of Peshawar, where the Pakistani army has battled the Taliban.
The complaint said Mr. Shahzad had purchased a prepaid cell phone that was used to call a fireworks store and to receive a series of calls from Pakistan. It said that after his arrest, Mr. Shahzad admitted he had attempted to detonate a bomb in Times Square and that he had received bomb-making training in Pakistan.
According to the complaint, written by FBI agent Andrew Pachtman, a member of the bureau’s New York-based Joint Terrorism Task Force, a second vehicle Mr. Shahzad maintained and drove to the airport was located by law enforcement authorities at JFK and that agents recovered a gun from inside the vehicle.