Menu

Politics

Executive

Officials Consider New Tactics to Keep Pace With Evolving Terror Threat

Nypd_square_050310.jpg

A New York City police officer stands watch in Times Square May 3 as pedestrians pass by. (AP Photo)

U.S. officials are considering new tactics -- including re-examining the right to remain silent -- in the ever-evolving war against Al Qaeda and its affiliates, with some saying the changes are needed to keep up with foreign terror groups in the wake of the failed Times Square bombing. 

Officials say the plot proves foreign networks are intent on using American citizens to launch deadly attacks on U.S. soil. Attorney General Eric Holder and White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan said Sunday that the investigation has revealed that the Pakistani Taliban were behind the failed attack, and that suspect Faisal Shahzad -- a U.S. citizen -- likely acted on their direction. 

It would mark the first time the militant group has breached America's defenses to launch an attack and signal a shift in focus, from attacks inside Pakistan to a more global target range -- using people like Shahzad as well-placed pawns. 

"We certainly have seen with the Shahzad incident that they have not only the aim, but the capability of (infiltrating the United States)," Attorney General Eric Holder said on ABC's "This Week." 

To combat the changing landscape of the war, both the administration and Congress are considering changes to the law to better address potential plots inside and against the United States. 

Holder, whose Justice Department has taken criticism for reading rights to terror suspects like Shahzad and alleged Christmas Day bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, revealed Sunday that the administration plans to work with Congress to propose possible changes to Miranda rights. 

"This is in fact big news," Holder said on NBC's "Meet the Press." "It is a new priority." 

Holder would not reveal many details but acknowledged he may try to change the law so investigators have more time to question terror suspects before reading them their rights and so flexibility is added to allow more evidence to be admissible in court. 

"We're now dealing with international terrorism, and I think we have to think about perhaps modifying the rules that interrogators have, and somehow coming up with something that is flexible and is more consistent with the threat that we now face," Holder said. "We certainly need more flexibility." 

Holder specifically called for changes to the so-called public safety exception which allows interrogators, as in the case of Shahzad, to hold off on reading a suspect his rights if they have reason to fear an imminent threat to public safety and need information fast. 

Holder stressed that any modifications would be "constitutional." 

Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., said on "Fox News Sunday" that determining how to deal with Miranda rights is essential as the country faces "more and more homegrown terrorists -- yes, American citizens." 

On a separate track, Sen. Joe Lieberman has proposed legislation that would revoke U.S. citizenship from anybody arrested overseas for affiliating with a foreign terror organization. The bill would expand a 1940s-era law that requires citizens fighting in a military force that is an enemy of the U.S. to renounce their citizenship to include those who are part of a terrorist organization. 

Rep. Jason Altmire, D-Pa., introduced a companion bill in the House. 

Holder questioned the bill's constitutionality on Sunday, but Lieberman stressed its importance in fighting the evolving terror threat. 

"Al Qaeda and the other terrorist groups are changing their mode of operating. And increasingly, they're looking for American citizens to carry out these plots, and one of the reasons is the passport that lets them -- like Shahzad -- come in and out of the country," Lieberman said. "The passport is part of a tool that the terrorist groups have now. It's probably the main reason why the terrorists in Pakistan wanted to use Shahzad. He had an American passport. We've got to stop that." 

Brennan told "Fox News Sunday" that while he's not sure what motivated Shahzad to seek U.S. citizenship, America's enemies are looking to "take advantage" of potential recruits like him. 

Brennan said that citizenship allowed Shahzad to travel back and forth to Pakistan "numerous times," presumably without raising red flags. 

The Times Square attempt has raised questions about the effectiveness of U.S. intelligence against a growing and evolving network of threats. Brennan defended the administration Sunday for its success in thwarting a series of terror plots to date and pledged to "refine our system as needed." But others say the attempted bombing, along with the Christmas Day plot and the Fort Hood shooting last year, shows that America's defenses are being penetrated. 

Rep. Pete Hoekstra, R-Mich., ranking Republican on the House intelligence committee, said Sunday that the plot means counterterror officials have even more to worry about -- with the Pakistani Taliban being added to a growing list that already includes Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and "homegrown" plots. 

"This now becomes a very, very complex picture," he told Fox News. "We need to be in the business of prevention."