Holder defends decision to read Miranda rights to Shahzad, cites his continuing cooperation

Saying there's "no higher priority'' than disrupting other attack plots, Attorney General Eric Holder told Senators that Times Square bomb suspect Faisal Shahzad continues to cooperate with federal agents and has provided "useful information.''
By William Branigin and Anne E. Kornblut
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, May 6, 2010; 4:09 PM

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. told a Senate panel Thursday that Faisal Shahzad, the suspect in Saturday's attempted car bombing in Times Square, is continuing to cooperate with federal agents as they try to unravel a plot with potential foreign origins, and investigators believe he is telling them the truth.

Appearing before a subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Holder strongly defended a decision to read Shahzad his Miranda rights within hours of his arrest late Monday, saying interrogators had already obtained useful information from him and that he continued to talk afterward.

"As we've seen in prior investigations, the giving of Miranda warnings has not deterred people from talking to us, and Mr. Shahzad is continuing to cooperate with us," Holder testified.

"We will continue to pursue a number of leads as we gather intelligence relating to this attempted attack," he said.

Holder also said that Shahzad, 30, a naturalized U.S. citizen originally from Pakistan, could face life in prison if convicted on terrorism charges. An FBI complaint issued Tuesday accused Shahzad of five felony counts of attempting to detonate explosives in Times Square and said he had admitted his involvement. Shahzad has not yet appeared in court, however. A federal court appearance originally set for Tuesday was postponed amid indications that interrogators wanted to continue questioning him before bringing him before a judge.

After some initial doubts, investigators now believe that the information Shahzad is giving them is largely credible, a senior administration official said Thursday.

Officials had said earlier that they were treating the suspect's statements skeptically. But on Thursday, an official said that while there are "bits and pieces" that seem dubious, they are "not rejectable but simply questionable."

"We have nothing that is contradictory to what he is telling us," the official said.

The theory of Shahzad's radicalization is still being developed, and investigators are "struggling" to come up with a cohesive account of how he evolved into a would-be terrorist, the official said.

"At some point in time, he seems to have gotten the bug -- and it seems to have been actualized on his last trip to Pakistan," the official said, adding that there is some new material from the interrogations -- which cannot yet be released -- that "sheds some light" on his mindset.

"But frankly, I wouldn't want to yet take what has come out of the interrogations and build a hypothesis out of it," the official said.

Officials continue to believe that the reports of his ties to Pakistani extremists are "very, very realistic," the official said.

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