Attorney General Eric Holder offered a strong defense of his department's handling of terrorism-related cases on Thursday, arguing that critics in Congress not only lack a full grasp of the issues but also threaten to imperil American security.
Appearing before a subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Holder confirmed that the suspected Time Square bomber Faisal Shahzad was providing useful information to interrogators despite being read his Miranda rights early in the interrogation.
"It did not" deter our investigation, Holder said of the reading of Miranda rights to Shahzad. "As we have seen in prior investigations, the giving of Miranda warnings has not deterred people from talking to us and Mr. Shahzad is, in fact, continuing to cooperate with us."
Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), who chairs the Senate Justice Committee, pressed Holder to respond to predominantly Republican critics, who insist that by reading Shahzad his Miranda warnings, interrogators have granted him special privileges and invited him to clam up.
"It is not conferring a right on somebody or giving them -- treating them in a special way," Holder said. "It is allowing us to make sure statements they give to us will be admissible in court." The Attorney General then went through a list of terrorist suspects who were given the Miranda warnings "and still ultimately decided to speak with the government."
Holder's strongest pushback, however, came against those critics who have urged him to abandon efforts to try terrorist suspects in criminal courts instead of military tribunals.
"We want to make sure that we use all the tools that we have available to us in trying to prosecute this war," the Attorney General said, in defense of criminal proceedings. "If you were to take from us the ability to use the federal courts, you will weaken our ability to win this war. You will weaken the strength of this nation. We have to have the ability to use the Article 3 courts, the reformed military commissions, our military power, our diplomatic power. We need to have all these tools so that we are successful in this fight against al Qaeda and others who would do this nation harm."