Holder Uncertain if Radical Islam Influenced Terrorists
Attorney General Eric Holder testifies before the House Judiciary Committee’s oversight hearing on the Department of Justice, Thursday, May 13, 2010, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Haraz N. Ghanbari)
“There are a variety of reasons why I think people have taken these actions,” Holder told the House Judiciary Committee. “One, I think just look at each individual case. We are in the process how of talking to Mr. (Faisal) Shahzad to try to understand what it is that drove him to take the action.”
The question as to whether the individuals were incited by radical Islam came from the committee’s ranking member Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas).
Smith followed, “But radical Islam could have been one of the reasons?”
Holder again said, “There are a variety of reasons.”
Smith later asked, “But all I’m asking is do you think among those variety of reasons, radical Islam might have been one of the reasons that the individuals took the steps that they did?”
After a two-minute back and forth, Holder eventually said, “I certainly think that it’s possible that people who espouse a radical version of Islam have had an ability to have an impact on people like Mr. Shahzad.”
Holder also faced scrutiny from Democrats on the committee for his proposal to make changes to rules regarding Miranda warnings in terrorism cases. Holder said the public safety exception was crafted in the 1970s to deal with common criminals and questions such as “where’s the gun?”
“What we’re focusing on is the potential modernization and clarification of the public safety exception to give police officers greater clarity,” Holder told the committee. “Now, in 2010, with terrorist matters, modernizing a small sliver of the public safety exception only for terrorisms would be more effective.”
The attorney general added that law enforcement would seek to find out from a terror suspect if others are involved, if al Qaeda is involved.
“These are all questions we think can be appropriately asked under the public safety exception,” Holder said.
Democratic lawmakers cast skepticism on Holder’s proposal to reform the use of Miranda warnings when prosecuting terror suspects.
“Last Sunday, the attorney general unilaterally chose to inject the issue of statutory modifications to the Miranda public safety exception into the national debate,” House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers (D-Mich.) said. “Although no specific proposals have been made, I believe the idea of such legislation is unnecessary and a mistake. “
The idea – not yet a formal proposal – would be a near about face if the Obama administration proceeds.
Holder first began talking about the change in Miranda warnings during Sunday morning interview programs, in the context of the attempted terrorist attack on Times Square in New York. This came after Holder and the Obama administration spent months defending the use of Miranda warnings against the suspected terrorist in the attempted Christmas Day bombing.
“As Attorney General Holder has said and has proven, and former Bush counterterrorism advisor Richard Clarke has agreed, the current system has worked effectively,” Conyers continued.
“For example, the attempted Times Square bomber was interrogated using the existing public safety exception, and reportedly has provided extremely valuable information both before and after receiving Miranda warnings. Attempting to hastily alter an effective and constitutionally based system could actually undermine rather than enhance law enforcement efforts,” he added.
However, given the administration’s poor record in pouncing on terrorists, such a reversal was unexpected, Smith said.
“Treating terrorists like common criminals makes Americans less safe,” Smith said. “Giving terrorists the ‘right to remain silent’ limits our ability to interrogate them and obtain intelligence that could prevent attacks and save lives.
“You recently said that you now want to work with Congress to limit terrorists’ Miranda rights,” Smith continued. “That’s surprising since it is this administration that has insisted upon extending constitutional rights in the first place.”
Holder boasted about the effectiveness of the criminal justice system in capturing Shazad, the suspect charged in the attempted Times Square attack.
Holder said the Shahzad’s arrest for the attempted Times Square attack is just the most recent action in a string of arrests by the Justice Department.
“Shahzad has been identified, located and arrested. When questioned by federal agents, he provided useful information,” Holder said. “We now believe that the Pakistan Taliban was responsible for the attempted attack. We are currently working with the authorities in Pakistan on this investigation, and we will use every resource available to make sure that anyone found responsible, whether they be in the United States or overseas, is held accountable.”
Holder praised the department’s fight against terrorism. In January 2009, 14 people were charged in Minnesota in connection with travel to Somolia to train and fight with terrorist groups in Shabaab. David Headley was convicted of plotting to bomb a Danish newspaper and for his involvement in the Mumbai terror attacks in 2008.
Also, Holder cited that Christmas Day underwear bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was charged with attempting to explode a passenger jet over Detroit. Finally, he pointed to the February conviction of Najibullah Zazi for conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction in trying to blow up the New York subway system.
But Smith contended that the administration’s record is nothing to be proud of.
The Christmas Day bomber’s “attack was thwarted by a poorly made bomb and alert passengers.” The attempted Times Square attack “was stymied by his ineptness and alert pedestrians.”
“Our national security policy should consist of more than relying on dumb bombers and smart citizens. Sooner or later, a terrorist is going to build a bomb that works,” Smith said. “As commander-in-chief, the president is responsible for protecting the American people. Unfortunately, several of this administration’s policies have put Americans at greater risk.”