Correction to This Article
An earlier version of this editorial incorrectly reported that the Obama administration had not publicly addressed intelligence officials' involvement in questioning Times Square bombing suspect Faisal Shahzad. Presidential spokesman Robert Gibbs said Tuesday that intelligence officials had been involved in deciding how to interrogate Mr. Shahzad.

Obama administration owes answers on how it handled Times Square suspect

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Wednesday, May 5, 2010

IN THE PAST two days, the Obama administration has released significant amounts of information about its arrest of Faisal Shahzad, the man accused of trying to detonate a car bomb in New York's Times Square. The most significant assertions: Mr. Shahzad, a Pakistani-born, naturalized U.S. citizen, received bomb training in Waziristan when he traveled to Pakistan late last year and has confessed to being responsible for making and trying to detonate the makeshift bomb.

But much is still not known about the administration's handling of this case. For example, how long was Mr. Shahzad questioned before he was read his Miranda rights? And what triggered the Justice Department's decision to suspend the "ticking time bomb" exception in case law that gives law enforcement officers an opportunity to gather information before advising a suspect of his right to remain silent? The administration has not said whether its High Value Interrogation Group (HIG) -- a group of law enforcement and intelligence experts specially trained for terrorism cases -- was up and running and deployed in the Shahzad case.

The administration rightly came under fire for its handling of the case of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a Nigerian citizen who tried to ignite explosives on a Detroit-bound plane on Christmas Day. In that case, the Justice Department failed to adequately consult its intelligence partners and rashly embraced a law enforcement approach without fully considering other options, including holding Mr. Abdulmutallab as an enemy combatant.

The Shahzad case is different, primarily because Mr. Shahzad is an American citizen. The decisions the administration has made in this case may have been well considered by all responsible parties and well founded. But the public is entitled to understand in greater detail what choices the administration made, through what process, and why.


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