Times Square bomb suspect still cooperating: Holder

WASHINGTON Thu May 6, 2010 2:45pm EDT

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder (2nd L) and other top-ranking U.S. security officials face a news conference as suspect Faisal Shahzad (R) is pictured on a television screen at the Justice Department in Washington May 4, 2010. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder (2nd L) and other top-ranking U.S. security officials face a news conference as suspect Faisal Shahzad (R) is pictured on a television screen at the Justice Department in Washington May 4, 2010.

Credit: Reuters/Kevin Lamarque

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Pakistani-American accused of the New York Times Square car bomb plot has provided useful information and is still cooperating with U.S. authorities and Attorney General Eric Holder said on Thursday.

Holder, speaking at a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing, said authorities were pursuing information provided by Faisal Shahzad, 30.

The suspect has been charged with driving a car bomb into crowded midtown Manhattan on Saturday and unsuccessfully trying to detonate it. He was captured two days later trying to flee the country on a plane to Dubai.

The Obama administration has come under fire from some Republicans for reading certain terrorism suspects, including Shahzad, their Miranda rights, which entitle them to a lawyer and the right to remain silent.

Despite being read his rights, Shahzad has waived those rights.

"Mr. Shahzad is continuing to cooperate with us," Holder told the Senate committee.

The FBI has said after Shahzad was arrested at John F. Kennedy International Airport, he was interviewed to determine whether there was any immediate threat before he was read his Miranda rights.

"During ongoing questioning by federal agents, Shahzad has provided useful information and we will continue to pursue a number of leads as we gather intelligence relating to this attempted attack," Holder said.

Holder told the committee that several terrorism suspects who were given their Miranda rights have cooperated with U.S. authorities and provided useful intelligence, including a Chicago man, David Headley, who pleaded guilty to helping scout targets for the 2008 Mumbai attacks.

In the Times Square incident, Holder said authorities were reviewing records to see if there was information prior to the incident that should have tipped them off.

There are concerns that Shahzad, who was born in Pakistan and became a naturalized U.S. citizen a year ago, was able to board a commercial flight bound for Dubai without being stopped despite being added that day to the "no fly" watchlist. Authorities were able to detain him before takeoff but the close call disturbed senators on the panel.

"We're really grouchy about the watchlist and what happened," said Democratic Senator Barbara Mikulski. "There should have been a significant kind of red alert for the methods for leaving the United States. ... Once again the watchlist seemed to be dysfunctional."

The Transportation Security Administration on Wednesday ordered airlines to check their passenger manifests for matches more frequently when an urgent bulletin is sent to them.

The problems with watchlists was evident on Thursday when another Emirates flight was about to leave JFK Airport for Dubai but was stopped because a passenger had a name similar to one on the no-fly list. The flight departed later without incident.

Senators also were critical of the fact that Shahzad purchased his ticket at the last minute for cash, which some have argued should be a trigger so that the passenger is subjected to enhanced screening.

Separately, a group of U.S. lawmakers introduced legislation that would authorize the State Department to revoke the citizenship of Americans who have affiliated with groups that are designated as a "Foreign Terrorist Organization."

Part of the aim would be to limit the rights of those caught trying to carry out an attack in the United States and make it easier to prosecute them in a special military trial, said one of the sponsors, independent Senator Joe Lieberman.

(Additional reporting by James Vicini; Editing by Bill Trott)

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