N.Y. Dems Urge Clinton to Put Pakistani Taliban on Terror List (But Don’t Call it Criticism)

May 11, 2010 12:31pm

ABC's Z. Byron Wolf reports:  UPDATE: ABC’s Kirit Radia reports State Department Spokesman PJ Crowley responded to Schumer Tuesday at a daily briefing for reporters: “We are considering the question of designating the Pakistani Taliban. As you would envision, you know, there is a deliberately — an intentionally deliberate process that we go through, and it — any group that is to be designated must meet very specific, you know, legal criteria. But it is something that we are considering in light of, you know, what happened. And obviously, the investigation will yield information that might give us greater clarity “… It is a group that we have been focused on or some time. But I think in light of the — the Times Square attempt, it's something we're looking at very closely “… we've been focused on the Pakistani Taliban for some time. But obviously, we are — we're gleaning information, you know, in this investigation, you know, based on the information that the suspect is providing us “… the idea that we have not been focused on this group as part of our broader struggle against political extremism is not true.” Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-NY, today called on his former Senate and state colleague, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, to place the Taliban of Pakistan – the group US authorities say helped Faisal Shahzad try to detonate a car bomb in Times Square — on the list of official Foreign Terrorist Organizations. Authorities have known about the group, Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), which is suspected of involvement in the 2007 assassination of  Benazir Bhutto, for some time. But Attorney General Eric Holder pointed the finger at TTP Sunday on ABC's "This Week" for involvement in the attempted Times Square bombing, saying it has taken on "a new significance in our anti-terror fight." The group is not, however, on the official list of 45 terror groups recognized by the US government. And while Schumer said there is a debate ongoing at the State Department about whether to place TTP on the terror group, he decided to hold a press conference on the matter today to help the process along. Schumer would not say why the State Department has been slow to add the group. The Taliban in Afghanistan, which Schumer called Pakistani Taliban’s “sister organization” is not on the terror list either, as American and NATO forces try to win both the military war and the war for hearts and minds, according to Schumer. He did not quibble with the absence of the Afghan Taliban from the list. But if the allegations about the Pakistani Taliban’s relationship with the Times Square plot are true, Schumer said the debate inside the State Department should end. “I believe my job is to make my voice known,” he said of why he called the press conference today. Schumer quibbled when reporters asked if he was criticizing Secretary Clinton and President Obama for not adding the group to the terror list earlier. “The bottom line is that there is a discussion within the state Department right now. It’s obvious they don’t need us to bring this issue to their attention right now. They know about it. We want to weigh in and make our voices heard. That is not commenting negatively on the administration’s fight on terrorism,” said Schumer, who today wrote a letter along with other Democratic lawmakers to Clinton. The other signatories on the letter include Sen. Kirsten Gilibarnd, who replaced Clinton as the junior Democrat from New York in the Senate, Sens. Frank Lautenberg and Robert Menendez, D-N.J., and Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C.. Schumer has also been critical of the Obama administration for attempting to cut some anti-terror funding from the New York region and for missteps in the no-fly-list procedure that allowed Faisal Shahzad, who is accused of trying to detonate the bomb in Times Square, to board a flight that was headed to Dubai. The flight was turned around before taking off and Shahzad was taken into custody on May 5. Shahzad is thought to have received training and instruction on carrying out his alleged attack from TTP in Pakistan. Designating that group a terrorist organization would enable U.S. authorities to freeze assets of the suspected group members in the U.S., bar foreign nationals with ties to the group from entering the U.S., and criminalize the act of providing any material assistance to the group. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has the power, in consultation with Holder and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, to make the designation. Congress would have seven days to dispute it.

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