NY bomb case prompts new burst of proposals to counter terrorism

In the wake of the failed New York City car bombing, several senators floated proposals Wednesday on procedures for handling domestic terror cases, terror watch lists, reports of suspicious activities and more.
Several lawmakers, particularly Republicans, called for giving authorities flexibility to strip people like bombing suspect Faisal Shahzad, a U.S. citizen, of certain legal rights, either temporarily or permanently.

Authorities have brought terrorism and mass destruction charges against the suspect in the failed Times Square car bombing, saying he has confessed to receiving explosives training in Pakistan.

Citizenship rights

A US senator called Tuesday for some Americans who target fellow citizens with terrorist violence to be stripped of their citizenship rights.

“If you’re attacking your fellow Americans in an act of war you lose the rights that come with citizenship,” Senate Homeland Security Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman, an independent, told reporters.

Lieberman said he was trying to amend an old US law “that says that if an American citizen is found to be fighting in the military of a nation with whom we are at war, they lose their citizenship.”

He said his proposal would apply to “any individual apprehended, American citizen, who is found to be involved with a foreign terrorist organization as designated by the Department of State.”

“If you have joined an enemy of the United States in attacking the United States to try to kill Americans I think you sacrifice your rights of citizenship,” said Lieberman.

Miranda rights

Lieberman also sided with critics of President Barack Obama’s administration in saying that Shahzad should not be read his legal “Miranda” rights to remain silent or have a lawyer before questioning.

“If they (US authorities) make a judgment that this was a terrorist act, the person should be turned over to the military,” notably an elite interrogation unit formed by Obama, he said.

“The first thing you want to get from somebody like this is information about other co-conspirators, perhaps about other attacks that are planned at the same time, and then a judgment is made about whether he should be read his Miranda rights,” said Lieberman.

But FBI deputy director John Pistole, standing alongside Holder at the same press conference, said Shahzad was actually interrogated early Tuesday under a “public safety exception to the Miranda rule,” and that he “provided valuable intelligence and evidence” to investigators.

“He was Mirandized later and continued to cooperate and provide valuable information,” Pistole said.

Democrats, including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., expressed reservations about legislation that Joseph I. Lieberman, I-Conn., plans to offer revoking citizenship for people who affiliate with foreign terrorist groups. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., a Judiciary Committee member, said she was sympathetic to the intent of Lieberman’s proposal but concerned about potential constitutional issues. “I would like to take a look at it,” she said.

Ban on gun sales to suspected terrorists

Lieberman, at a hearing of his Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said legislation is needed to give the Justice Department discretion to block people on terror watch lists from purchasing guns. Such legislation has encountered National Rifle Association opposition in the past, and several GOP senators said it could infringe on innocent citizens’ gun ownership rights.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg appealed to US lawmakers  to ban the sale of weapons to people on an FBI terror watch list, saying the failed Times Square car bomb underscored a “terror gap.”

“At a time when the threat of terrorism is still very real, as we in New York City know all too well, I think it is imperative that Congress close this terror gap in our gun laws, and close it quickly,” he said.

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