NYC car bomb suspect pleads guilty to terrorism charges

[JURIST] Pakistani-born US citizen Faisal Shahzad [BBC profile] pleaded guilty Monday to 10 counts of terrorism and weapons charges [indictment, PDF; JURIST report] relating to last month's attempted car bombing in New York City's Times Square. Appearing before Judge Miriam Goldman Cedarbaum in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York [official website], Shahzad was asked a detailed set of questions to ensure he understood his rights and the possible ramifications of pleading guilty. Cedarbaum questioned Shahzad as to why he wanted to carry out the attack and whether he had any remorse over the lives that could have been lost. Shahzad indicated that he was a Muslim soldier [Al Jazeera report] and that his actions reflected an act of war. He also stated that attempted attacks would continue until US forces leave Iraq and Afghanistan and stop using unmanned drone attacks [JURIST news archives] in Somalia, Yemen and Pakistan. Shahzad also admitted to receiving training in the Waziristan region of Pakistan from members associated with Tehrik-e-Taliban [GlobalSecurity backgrounder], a branch of the Pakistani Taliban, as well as financial support for carrying out the attack. US Attorney General Eric Holder [official website] praised the role of the justice system [press release] in obtaining the guilty plea, stating:

Faisal Shahzad plotted and launched an attack that could have led to serious loss of life, and today the American criminal justice system ensured that he will pay the price for his actions. We will not rest in bringing to justice terrorists who seek to harm the American people, and we will use every tool available to the government to do so.
US Attorney Preet Bharara stressed that Shahzad's plea was not part of a plea agreement and that the investigation into the plot is ongoing. Shahzad is scheduled to be sentenced on October 5, and will likely be sentenced to life in prison.

Shahzad's arrest and subsequent interrogation have helped shape debate in the US over the reading of the Miranda warnings to terror suspects. Shahzad was given Miranda warnings but waived them and continued talking with police [NYT report] for more than two weeks before finally meeting with counsel. Despite the information provided by Shahzad, lawmakers continue to push for more limitations on Miranda. Last month, Holder indicated that the Obama administration plans to ask Congress to enact legislation [JURIST report] allowing interrogators to question terror suspects for a longer period of time than currently allowed before informing them of their constitutional rights to remain silent and be represented by an attorney. Also last month, lawmakers introduced a bill [JURIST report] that, if passed, would strip US citizenship rights from those suspected of engaging in terrorism. In March, Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) proposed a law [JURIST report] that would require terror suspects to be stripped of their Miranda rights and to face military interrogation and trial. The proposed legislation, has been controversial [JURIST op-ed], with critics claiming its impact "would be a fundamental miscarriage of justice."

 

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