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Feinstein, Bond: No Definitive Evidence Yet Tying Pakistani Taliban to Times Square Bomber

Following a classified briefing on the attempted car-bombing of Times Square for the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, the panel’s leadership said there was not yet definitive evidence tying the Pakistani Taliban to the failed terrorist attack believed to be perpetrated by naturalized U.S. citizen Faisal Shahzad.

But committee chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) inclined strongly toward that interpretation. “We clearly know that Shahzad drove the bomb-laden SUV to Times Square [and] that he received explosives training in Waziristan,” Feinstein said, calling for both the Pakistani Taliban and the extremist network run by the Haqqani family on both sides of the Afghanistan/Pakistan border to be placed on the State Department’s list of banned terrorist organizations. Asked for clarification about Shahzad’s ties to the Pakistani Taliban, who claimed responsibility the day of the attempt, “I believe there is a high likelihood that he did have training while he was in Pakistan, specifically Waziristan, from the Taliban,” but called that in part a “deduction from what I’ve heard.”

Feinstein’s GOP counterpart, Kit Bond (R-Mo.), chided Attorney General Eric Holder for being definitive about Shahzad’s Taliban connections on Sunday talk shows. “I am not convinced by the information I’ve seen so far that there is adequate, confirmable intelligence to corroborate the statements on Sunday television shows,” Bond said. “We hear there are lots of strong suspicions and lots of trails [the intelligence community is] following. I think people should wait to speak about the origins until they are certain about it.”

Bond objected to reading Shahzad, a U.S. citizen, his Miranda rights to remain silent and to speak with an attorney. Feinstein countered that Shahzad has waived his right to a speedy arraignment, an indication, she said, “that he’s continuing to provide valuable information to authorities.” But earlier today, Robert Gibbs told a White House press briefing that President Obama wants “limited flexibility” to expand the time a suspect can be interviewed in an emergency situation before receiving Miranda. And Feinstein appeared to go even further — even if she intended to head off a piece of legislation.

“There are grounds in the law now to revoke his American citizenship,” Feinstein said. “I don’t think you need additional legislation to revoke his citizenship, because this is within five years of him having been naturalized and that’s the criteria. And the act that you can remove citizenship for, I believe, has been committed by this man.” Feinstein was referring to legislation by Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) that would allow the government to strip terrorists of their American citizenship.

Feinstein, Bond and their committee received their briefing this afternoon — a belated one, in their view — from John Pistole, the deputy director of the FBI, the lead agency in the Shahzad case; Michael Leiter, the director of the National Counterterrorism Center; and Rand Beers, an undersecretary of Homeland Security.

Unlike in the case of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the would-be Christmas bomber, Feinstein said the intelligence community did not have information on Shahzad in advance of the attempt on Times Square. “Shahzad was almost completely under the radar,” she said, “which in many ways is even more ominous.” She suggested that the intelligence community should “improve our screening” of Pakistanis entering and leaving America, but hastened to add that she didn’t “want to harass people unnecessarily.”

But there was one commonality between Shahzad and Abdulmutallab that Feinstein said might indicate a new template for extremist recruits: They’re both sons of prominent families educated in Western countries with clean criminal records. “The individual with no suspicion about him is going to be the individual that may be the new lone wolf of the future in this country,” Feinstein said.

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