Washington: Pakistani-American terror suspect Faisal Shahzad faces a potential life sentence if convicted on the charges of attempted use of weapons of mass destruction and plotting a bomb at Times Square, a top US official told lawmakers on Thursday.
Shahzad, a naturalised US citizen born in Pakistan, was arrested in connection with the Times Square failed bombing bid, and was charged with acts of terrorism transcending national boundaries, attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction, and other federal crimes.
"If convicted, he faces a potential life sentence in prison," US Attorney General Eric Holder, said in his appearance before a Congressional Committee.
Holder said during ongoing questioning by federal agents, Shahzad has provided useful information. "We will continue to pursue a number of leads as we gather intelligence relating to this attempted attack," he said.
"Although this car bomb failed to properly detonate, this plot was yet another reminder that terrorists are still plotting to kill Americans," he said.
He recalled that in February, Najibullah Zazi, a key participant in the plot to bomb New York City`s subway system, pleaded guilty to terrorism violations.
"Less than two weeks ago, we secured another guilty plea from one of Zazi`s co-conspirators and revealed the role of senior al Qaeda leaders in ordering the plot. Three others also have been charged as a result of our investigation," he said.
Holder said these attempted attacks are stark reminders of the threats that the United States confronts. For the administration, he said, there is simply no higher priority than disrupting potential attacks and bringing those who plot them to justice.
"In the Shahzad and Zazi cases, that is exactly what the dedicated federal agents, law enforcement officers and Justice Department prosecutors achieved through exemplary investigative efforts.”
"It is in every American`s best interest to ensure that these public servants have the resources necessary to continue their outstanding work," Holder said.
Amidst criticism from Republican Congressmen over the reading out of Miranda rights to Shahzad, Holder said it has not deterred him from speaking.
"As we have seen in prior investigations, 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 in response to a question at the hearing.
Holder said reading out Miranda rights is not tantamount to conferring a right or treating somebody in a special way.
"It is allowing us to make sure that statements that they give to us are going to be admissible in court," he said. He said in the recent past many suspects including David Headley, have been given their Miranda warnings and have after that continued to cooperate.
"Mr Zazi, his co-conspirator, Abdulmutallab -- all of these people were ones who got Miranda warnings and still ultimately decided to speak with the government," Holder said in response to the question.
Holder said that the notion that people could bring guns to airports -- especially given the al Qaeda focus on the use of airplanes as terrorist tools -- was worrisome.
"I would hope that we would try to keep weapons, guns, away from the very instruments that al Qaeda and other organisations successfully used on September 11th and have continued to try to use in the present and I suspect in the future as well," he said.
The United States is committed to keeping guns out of the hands of people who should not have them, he said. "We have certainly seen a disproportionate number of gun crimes in our inner cities and in other places," he said.
"Without getting into too much detail with regard to Shahzad, the questioning under the public safety exception far exceeded the amount of time that we had with Mr Abdulmutallab," Holder said in response to a question.
He added that the information gained during this period was quite important.
"With regard to Shahzad, we made extensive use of the public safety exception before a decision was made to give them their Miranda warnings," he said.
"He would not be successful in trying to say that the interrogation that was done was done inappropriately. He would not be successful in that," Holder said in response to a question.
"He could certainly retain counsel in whatever forum he was in to try to challenge the decision that was made to not give him his Miranda warnings.”
"I think on the basis of the way in which the interrogation was done here and the care with which it was done, I don`t think he would be very successful," Holder said.