Attorney General Eric Holder brought a newsy trump card Thursday to what has become a Capitol Hill ritual — facing criticism from Republicans for battling terrorism from within the criminal justice system.
Holder gladly shared breaking developments from that system with the House Judiciary Committee, telling both critics and allies that investigators had just executed search warrants connected with the Times Square bomb attempt investigation, taking several people into custody.
Among those who criticized Holder before he shared the news was Rep. Lamar Smith of Texas, the judiciary committee's ranking Republican.
"Treating terrorists like common criminals makes Americans less safe," Smith said at the start of the hearing.
Using the latest development to underscore his rebuttal, Holder said that protecting the American people is the government's top priority.
"We are on the right path," the attorney general declared. He said the criminal justice system has proven its strength.
"Just this morning we executed search warrants," Holder said. "Several individuals have been taken into custody."
Holder said the latest action was "the product of evidence gathered in the investigation" of the Times Square bombing attempt.
The civilian justice system has helped persuade terrorist suspects such as Faisal Shahzad, who is charged with the Times Square event, to provide useful information, the attorney general said in prepared remarks.
Holder said that guilty pleas in other cases had yielded long prison sentences and gained valuable intelligence for use against al-Qaida and other terrorist groups.
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