WASHINGTON — Twice, U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan has traveled to Pakistan and talked with leaders about the country's work on eliminating terrorism, returning most recently last month.
On Tuesday, she and four other Democrats called on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to declare a Pakistani Taliban group a foreign terrorist organization, saying its atrocities — until now contained within the Pakistani borders — have reached U.S. soil with the attempted Times Square car bombing.
Her request follows assertions Sunday from U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder that the bombing suspect, Faisal Shahzad, was supported and trained by the Pakistani Taliban, also known as Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, or TTP.
The staffs of Hagan and U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York say they are relying on Holder's words in calling for the designation, which would have the immediate effect of stepping up intelligence work on the group.
Holder said on the Sunday political talk shows that the Pakistani Taliban was "intimately involved" in the attempted bombing and that it "directed this plot."
Schumer, who led Tuesday's effort, said phone records linked Shahzad to the Pakistani Taliban and that Shahzad had admitted traveling to Pakistan last year to receive training.
The foreign terrorist organization designation sought by Schumer and Hagan would allow the U.S. to freeze the Pakistani Taliban's financial assets. It also would allow for criminal charges against anyone providing material assistance to the organization and would prevent foreign nationals with ties to the group from entering the United States.
Other senators signing the letter to Clinton were Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, and Robert Menendez and Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey. All are Democrats.
U.S. State Department spokeswoman Rhonda Shore said analysts there have begun considering whether to add the Pakistani Taliban to its list of foreign terrorist organizations.
Pakistan is on the verge of receiving a potential $7.5 billion in foreign aid from the United States in legislation now before Congress.
U.S. Rep. Sue Myrick, a Charlotte Republican and member of the House Intelligence Committee, said the two countries need to work together.
"We give assistance to Pakistan, and that assistance needs to be cut off if they're not going to work with us," Myrick said.
Myrick said she supports Hagan's efforts but that more should be done to give the same designation to other foreign organizations, including splinter groups that she said loosely associate themselves with al-Qaeda.
"They're all working together for their own benefit, which is terrorism," Myrick said.
Myrick also criticized the Obama administration for not yet briefing the intelligence committee on the Times Square case. Last week, she and eight other members wrote the White House complaining that officials are withholding details and leaving the committee out of the loop on several critical issues in recent months.
(McClatchy special correspondent Saeeh Shah contributed to this report from Karachi, Pakistan.)