WASHINGTON (CN) – Attorney General Eric Holder defended the decision of law enforcement officials to read the Miranda rights to would-be Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad within hours of his arrest, saying it did not hinder the investigation. “The giving of Miranda warnings has not deterred people from talking to us, and Mr. Shahzad is, in fact, continuing to cooperate with us,” Holder said Thursday in a Senate appropriations subcommittee hearing.
Shahzad, a Pakistani-born U.S. citizen, was arrested on Monday after a search that lasted 53 hours and 24 minutes. On Tuesday, Shahzad was charged with acts of terrorism and other federal crimes. If convicted, he faces a potential life sentence.
“It is not conferring a right on somebody or treating them in a special way,” Holder said of reading Miranda rights, adding that the process allows department officials to ensure that a suspect’s statements will be admissible in court.
Holder listed numerous cases in which people were read their Miranda rights “and still ultimately decided to speak with the government.”
Holder said that Shahzad has “provided useful information to us about his activities.”
Holder said the Times Square bombing attempt serves as “yet another reminder that terrorists are still plotting to kill Americans.” He defended President Obama’s $29.2 billion fiscal year 2011 budget request for the Justice Department, saying it would ensure that the department had adequate resources to do its job. The budget reflects a 6 percent increase over fiscal year 2010.
Holder said the agency has “no higher priority than disrupting potential attacks and bringing those who instigated them to justice,” an objective that requires federal dollars.
Holder credited disrupting Shahzad’s plan as a “joint effort with state and local partners,” emphasizing the importance of funding joint terrorism task forces. “We have to use our state and local counterparts as force multipliers,” Holder said.
Some committee members congratulated Shahzad’s quick apprehension, while other senators criticized the effort.
“As good as that was, I think there’s a lot of concern out there about why the suspect was not apprehended until the jet was pulled away from the gate,” Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, said, adding that she herself has been screened for buying a one-way flight at the last minute. “He triggered all the flags,” she said, such as buying an international ticket with cash shortly before the flight departed.
Holder assured her that the department was continuously learning from its experiences in order to be more effective in the future.
“Once again, the [terrorist] watch list seemed to be dysfunctional,” said committee chair Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md. “Who is in charge of watching the watch list?”
Holder said the government has already made changes to the watch list, including having the Transportation Security Administration look at changes to the no-fly list every two hours as opposed to every 12.
“But are you satisfied?” Mikulski asked, referring to the end result of the investigation.
“I’m never satisfied.” Holder said, “We were successful here, but am I satisfied? No.” He noted that even though the investigation was successful, “I don’t take too much from that.” He emphasized that the agency would continue to be vigilant.
He also emphasized that Shahzad’s investigation is still ongoing. “We are in the process of determining what we knew about him and when,” Holder said.
Holder said he is also committed to assisting in the legal challenges surrounding the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, saying he has dispatched a task force of lawyers to protect the federal government from incurring costs from the spill and educating small local business owners on how to “maximize their opportunities” for recovering damages from the spill.
Holder said that BP has reportedly backed off on their attempt to pressure small business owners affected by the spill to sign waivers that would limit damages to as little as $5,000.
Holder said he and the Justice Department stand ready to “vigorously enforce” the laws to protect the locals, the environment and American taxpayers in the BP oil spill in addition to working on “identifying and adverting nascent plots” for terrorist acts aimed at the United States.