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NY senators want Pakistani Taliban on terror list

NYPD Counter Terrorism Unit officers patrol Times Square,

NYPD Counter Terrorism Unit officers patrol Times Square, Wednesday, as U.S. and New York City officials ratcheted up security in the wake of a botched Times Square car bomb plot. (May 5, 2010) Photo Credit: Getty Images

WASHINGTON - New York's senators Tuesday urged State Department sanctions against the Pakistani Taliban for its role in the attempted car bombing of Times Square, but one senior senator questioned the certainty of the evidence for the group's involvement.

At a news conference, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) called on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to place the Pakistani Taliban on the State Department's list of foreign terrorist organizations for aiding bomb suspect Faisal Shahzad.

Schumer, who sent Clinton a letter signed by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and other senators, said "Once the evidence in the Shahzad case came forward and it was clear that the Pakistani Taliban was involved, I don't think there's much choice."

The State Department said it was looking very closely at the issue.

But after a closed-door briefing of the Senate Intelligence Committee Tuesday, chairwoman Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and ranking Republican Sen. Kit Bond (R-Mo.) disagreed about the strength of evidence tying Shahzad to the Pakistani Taliban.

Both stopped short of the certainty expressed by Attorney General Eric Holder when he said on a news show Sunday, "We've now developed evidence that shows the Pakistani Taliban was behind the attack."

Bond said the evidence appeared to him to be based on "suspicions," "tenuous connections" and "leads" being pursued. Feinstein said she did not agree with Bond, though she would not say she had seen a "smoking gun" proving the tie.

"I think there is a very high likelihood that there were interactions between this suspect and the Pakistani Taliban," Feinstein said.

The Justice Department Tuesday stood strongly by statements by Holder and White House adviser John Brennan on Sunday making the link.

In response to Bond's doubts, Schumer said the group should be listed based on the "totality of their actions."

Feinstein said she supports the listing of the group.

The State Department is "actively considering" it, spokesman P.J. Crowley said. "It is a group that we have been focused on for some time," Crowley said, "but I think in light of the Times Square attempt, it's something we're looking at very closely."

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