The suspect in the attempted car-bombing in New York’s Times Square is talking to interrogators and has already provided valuable intelligence and evidence, including an admission of involvement in the plot, US officials said on Tuesday.
Faisal Shahzad was questioned immediately after his arrest late Monday night and the interrogation continued through the early hours of Tuesday.
“He was … cooperative and provided valuable intelligence and evidence,” Assistant FBI Director John Pistone said at a press conference in Washington.
Attorney General Eric Holder declined to reveal the content of any Shahzad statements, but he did confirm that Mr. Shahzad admitted involvement in the attempted car bombing. “He has been talking to us and providing us with useful information,” Mr. Holder said.
Officials refused to say how long the questioning took place before federal agents administered Miranda warnings – informing Shahzad of his right to remain silent and consult a lawyer. They said that sometime on Tuesday he was transported from his initial interrogation site to a different location, where Miranda warnings were given.
Mr. Pistone said Shahzad has continued talking after receiving the warnings.
The initial questioning was conducted under the public-safety exception to the general requirement that suspects be issued Miranda warnings, Pistone said. Courts have recognized an exception to the Miranda rule in instances when fast action is necessary to prevent or defuse an ongoing threat to public safety.
The issue of how soon to give a freshly arrested terrorism suspect Miranda warnings is a point of bitter contention between the attorney general and many congressional Republicans. The issue arose after the arrest of the attempted Christmas Day bomber on a commercial airliner in Detroit.
In that case, the suspect, Umar Abdulmutallab, was questioned for about 50 minutes before he was advised of his right to remain silent. He then chose to exercise that right.
Republicans criticized the move as potentially endangering US lives by failing to press for actionable intelligence that might help thwart ongoing Al Qaeda plots. Many Republicans favor the Bush administration’s approach of turning terror suspects over to the US military for open-ended detention and interrogation.
Attorney General Holder has emphasized in testimony before Congress that Miranda warnings do not necessarily result in a suspect ending all cooperation. He has said that the suspected Christmas Day bomber has since resumed cooperating and providing information to US officials.
Holder was asked whether Saturday’s attempted bombing in Midtown Manhattan might make him reluctant to conduct the criminal trial of suspected 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in New York City. Holder has proposed a New York trial for Mr. Mohammed, but city officials are opposed to it.
“Unfortunately, New York and Washington, D.C., remain targets of people who would do this nation harm. And regardless of where a particular trial is, where a particular event is going to occur, I think that is going to remain true,” Holder said.
The attorney general said New York was still under consideration as a potential trial venue. “We are considering a number of options with regard to where that trial might be held. And I’ll leave it at that,” he said.