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Murkowski Quizzes Attorney General Holder on NYC Terrorist Suspect and 9th U.S. Circuit Court Split

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, today asked Attorney General Eric Holder whether he was satisfied with the “takedown” of the suspected New York City terrorist bomber, questioning how Faisal Shahzad, after being placed on a ‘no fly’ list, got onto a Persian Gulf-bound jet that had pulled away from the gate at New York’s Kennedy Airport before authorities made an arrest Monday night.

“I come from a state where … we’ve got a level of scrutiny at our little airports … where people feel like the level of scrutiny and surveillance is just over the top,” Murkowski said. “And then they look at an individual who’s triggered all the red flags – purchased the ticket with cash, purchased it just immediately before the flight, an international flight – all the indicators and one has to wonder, where was the failing here? What happened with this watch list?”

Holder, who was testifying before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce and Justice, said he is “never satisfied,” even though he termed the New York incident a success. “We always have to look at our failures, our successes and figure out ways that in the next occasion we be even better,” he said.

As to Murkowski’s question about the no-fly list, Holder said the government had already reduced the time that airlines are required to look at changes to the watch list from 12 hours to two hours.

Murkowski said the government could be doing more to apprehend terrorists and raised the possibility of establishing something similar to an Amber Alert system – currently used when a child goes missing – for terrorist incidents.

Alaska’s senior senator also quizzed Holder about legislation to split the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals into two circuits. Murkowski favors such a split because of the 9th circuit’s heavy caseload and geographic size.

Holder said the 9th circuit did present “unique problems” both in its size and because of the caseload. “I think we want to look at that and make a determination about whether there is the need for some reconstruction, some reconfiguring,” Holder said. “We’ll certainly want to work with Congress in looking at the work load, the geographic dispersion of the 9th circuit in making the appropriate determination.”

Holder also said the Obama administration would be open to candidate suggestions from Murkowski and the other members of the Alaska congressional delegation on filling federal court vacancies at both the district and circuit court levels.

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