WASHINGTON, DC—A day after the man behind the Times Square terror plot confessed to receiving training and financing from the Pakistani Taliban, U.S. Senators Charles E. Schumer (D-NY), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Robert Menendez (D-NJ) revealed Tuesday that the U.S. State Department still has not added the organization to the official list of terrorist groups. The senators announced they would offer legislation to require the Pakistani Taliban to be immediately designated as a terrorist group. The designation is a critical step in combating foreign terrorist groups. It triggers a series of steps, including: freezing of assets, barring foreign nationals with ties to the group from entering the U.S., and criminalizing the act of providing any material assistance to the group.
“Now that the Times Square terrorist has pled guilty in court, it is time to take the next step by confronting the organization that aided and abetted him. Even as Shahzad pled guilty, he vowed that he and others from the Pakistani Taliban would be back to carry out more attacks on the U.S. We cannot wait any longer to go after this group with everything we’ve got. This organization poses an existential threat to the safety of not only our soldiers fighting abroad, but also Americans here at home. It’s time we dealt them with every tool at our disposal,” Schumer said.
“The Times Square incident is by no means the first time that the TTP has tried to kill innocent people. This group has been implicated in domestic terrorism in Pakistan for years. The group has reputedly been linked to al Qaida, and now has apparently set its sights on the U.S. The Times Square incident showed that law enforcement and everyday Americans stand ready to do what’s necessary to keep America safe. Now Washington needs to do its part to prevent this type of near-disaster from ever happening again,” Gillibrand said.
“If the Pakistani Taliban is not a terrorist group, then what is? The Pakistani Taliban is a dangerous organization that has proven its determination to attack America. The State Department must act without hesitation to put this murderous group on its list of terrorist organizations and use every resource to isolate it from any political or financial support,” Lautenberg said.
“The only thing that stopped this group from having blood on its hands was an incompetent agent of terror, who carried out the attack poorly and pled guilty yesterday to terrorism charges. It’s not theoretical that they’d attack us on our soil — they have already done so. There is no clearer case than that to put them on the list,” Menendez said.
According to the Justice Department’s indictment of Shahzad, the 30-year-old naturalized U.S. citizen received training in explosives from the Pakistani Taliban while he was in Pakistan in 2009. Then, in February of this year, he received a $5,000 cash payment mailed to him from a Pakistani national who Shahzad believed was connected to the group. Shahzard later received an additional $7,000 from the same individual.
On May 11, the senators sent a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urging the administration to cite the group, also known as the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) in order to trigger a series of counterterrorism measures.
Currently, 45 different organizations are named on the list, including Al Qaeda, Hamas, and the Real Irish Republican Army (RIRA). Designations, which last for two years and must be renewed, are made following an interagency process involving the State, Justice, Homeland Security, and Treasury Departments. By law, the designation requires three conditions are met:
1. The organization is foreign;
2. The organization engages in terrorist activity;
3. The terrorist activity threatens the security of U.S. citizens or the national security of the U.S.
The senators said that the TTP clearly meets all three criteria. In addition to the evidence linking the group to the Times Square incident, the senators pointed in their letter to an April 2010 video in which TTP representative indicated the group would be targeting U.S. cities. The group has also been implicated in the 2007 assassination of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, and, according to reports, has partnered with Al Qaeda.