Now that the Administration has made it clear that the Pakistani Taliban (called Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan - or "TTP" for short) was directly involved in the attempted car bombing in Time Square, five Democratic senators are calling on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to place the group on the Foreign Terrorist Organization list.
Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-NY, joined by his colleague Kay Hagan, D-NC, said Tuesday he was "shocked" to learn TTP was not already on the list, given their terrorist activity abroad and publicly stated intention to target U.S. cities.
What was perhaps more shocking for reporters was to hear a couple of Democrats publicly holding a Democratic Secretary of State's feet to the fire and publicly exposing a rift at the State Department. A senior Democratic leadership aide tells Fox that State Department officials, who spoke with Schumer and others Monday night, supported the news conference Schumer held today, no doubt a move the officials hope will spur the department to action.
The aide said he expected "activity on this front," implying an FTO listing of TTP, as early as this week but probably next.
Schumer alluded only to "discussions" happening at State. He would not elaborate, but he said there is "speculation" that it has something to do with the Pakistani government, in a delicate position balancing interests at home and abroad.
The FTO designation, which the senators requested of Clinton in a letter (see below), brings with it a host of punishments and triggers a series of counterterrorism measures. Assets in the U.S. are frozen, foreign nationals with ties to the FTO are barred from entering the US, and the designation criminalizes any material assistance to the group.
State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said the terror designation is an option U.S. officials are weighing.
“We are considering the question of designating the Pakistani Taliban as you would envision. There is … an intentionally deliberate process that we go through and any group that is to be designated must meet very specific legal criteria but it is something we are considering in light of what happened, and obviously the investigation will yield information that will give us greater clarity.”
May 11, 2010
The Honorable Hillary Clinton
Secretary, Department of State
2201 C Street, NW
Washington, DC 20520
Dear Secretary Clinton:
We write to urge you to add the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, otherwise known as the Pakistani Taliban, to the State Department’s list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTO). The Pakistani Taliban is a murderous organization dedicated to killing civilians, harming U.S. interests in the region, and has even taken credit for terrorist acts committed on U.S. soil. In a video recorded in April 2010, a representative of the Taliban in Pakistan indicated that this organization would make cities in the United States a "main target.” Additionally, Attorney General Eric Holder announced on May 9th, that U.S. intelligence indicates that the Pakistani Taliban helped train and finance Faisal Shahzad, a naturalized U.S. citizen who allegedly drove a bomb-carrying Nissan Pathfinder into the heart of Times Square on May 1.
We believe it is crucial that government officials use every available opportunity to highlight the importance that FTO designations play in our fight against terrorism. Designating the Pakistani Taliban as a foreign terrorist organization would be an effective means of curtailing support for their terrorist activities and pressuring other groups to withdraw their logistical, financial and political support for this terrorist organization.
Since 2001, the Pakistani Taliban have committed atrocities aimed at NGO workers, government officials, law enforcement authorities and innocent civilians. Additionally, the Pakistani government implicated the network in the December 2007 assassination of Benazir Bhutto and, in January 2008, the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency also confirmed its belief of their involvement in the assassination.
According to recent media reports, the Pakistani Taliban has made efforts to combined forces with Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups, threatening to extend their reach and murderous acts. Despite unified efforts to degrade their capabilities, the Pakistani Taliban have managed to expand their deadly influence through alliances with a number of other militant groups, terrorist organizations and independent terrorist cells under their control.
FTO designations play a critical role in our fight against terrorism and are an effective means of curtailing support for terrorist activities and pressuring groups to get out of the terrorism business. We urge you to immediately take the necessary steps to designate the Pakistani Taliban as a foreign terrorist organization by adding it to the State Department’s FTO list.
Thank you for your consideration of this important request. Please do not hesitate to contact me if we can be of any assistance.
U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer
U.S. Senator Kay Hagan
U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand
U.S. Senator Robert Menendez
U.S. Senator Frank Lautenberg