Terrorists And Miranda

Most of America knows what the Miranda rights are, we hear them every time we watch a police procedural show on television. The product of a 1960’s Supreme Court case, Miranda vs. Arizona, it mandates that a suspect be told his or her rights before an interrogation, lest the results of that interrogation be inadmissible in court. The question in today’s headlines is whether this should be extended to terrorist suspects, and whether the extension of such rights is dangerous to America.

I have written many times of my personal beliefs on this matter; liberty and principle don’t matter when they are thrown aside in times of danger. Patrick Henry called us to this ethic when he decried, “Give me Liberty or give me death!” But neither do I desire to be overly critical of divergent opinion; citizens have the right to call for the safety of their families. What then, are we to make of the recent controversies surrounding the “wannabe-bomber” and the “underwear-bomber”?

I would like to set aside most of the Republican criticism of this Administration, up to and including the ridiculous irrelevancies of Rudy Giuliani. The Obama Administration has not, in fact, handled terror subjects differently than either the Bush Administration or the State of New York. Both entities have previous successful interrogations and convictions of all the suspects who were alive after they committed their actions. Despite the lies spread in the media for the last 2 years, there is a long line of terrorist actions from the post-9/11 Bush era from which to judge precedent.

The important question is, what should be done going forward that aligns with American principles? Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was handled under the Obama Administration’s protocols, and this is the timeline from that handling:

  • “12:03 p.m.: The plane lands, and U.S. customs agents come aboard and arrest Abdulmutallab. After holding him in a special room, officials decide at 12:45 to take Abdulmutallab to the University of Michigan hospital for emergency treatment of his second- and third-degree burns. While the suspect’s burns are being treated, the FBI’s Detroit special agent in charge picks two agents to carry out the initial questioning of Abdulmutallab. One of the two is a veteran counterintelligence agent with experience in Iraq and Afghanistan; the other is a specialist in bomb material.
  • • “2 p.m.: FBI agents arrive at the hospital and discuss Abdulmutallab’s physical and mental state with doctors treating him.
  • • “3:30 p.m.: Agents begin interrogating Abdulmutallab under rules that permit questioning about immediate threats to U.S. security without the reading of Miranda rights. The questions concern whether other bombs were on the plane, whether Abdulmutallab had co-conspirators and whether there were plans for other attacks. ‘It’s to take advantage of the shock of arrest,’ said one law enforcement official. The interrogation produced some useful intelligence, according to this and other officials. After 50 minutes FBI agents end the questioning ‘when doctors need to take him in for additional treatment because his medical condition has deteriorated,’ according to the chronology.”

The FBI interrogated the suspect under the auspices of a “safety interrogation”, a technique whereby law enforcement can question suspects to follow leads in the prevention of immediate threats to public welfare. The Supreme Court ruled on this in 1984 in the case, New York vs. Quarles. Rudy Giuliani would be, of course, supremely aware of this ruling, having been a prosecutor in New York at that time. Given his recent open mouth, insert foot experiences, he seems to have forgotten this critical fact.

Our democracy, it seems, was well-constructed to handle the concepts of liberty during times of great danger. It is beyond my comprehension then, why people who claim to adhere to a strict constructionist view of the Constitution want to rewrite our laws and throw aside our principles at the times we need them the most. I suppose fear has something to do with it…..but perhaps it is less about fear and more about political branding. Worse, perhaps it is about the wanton consolidation of power in a government that some want run by the corporations, for the corporations, and of the corporations. Hey, it can’t be more paranoid friends, then advocating the notion that capitalist news ventures are pushing for world socialism.

The Rational Middle hopes all had a wonderful Mother’s Day….and we are listening…

7 thoughts on “Terrorists And Miranda

  1. Michael, I do not think Petraeus or McChrystal are lying. (With the caveat that I'm certain they are not above doing so.) Nor do I think they are prosecuting the War Effort free of Political consideration.

    Your admonition that I "set aside your preoccupation with who is in the White House" would imply to me you feel any disagreement I might have is based simply on my disagreement with the Obama Presidency. I disagree with many of Obama's policies, and for reason. Not because of who he is or is not.

    I'm not sure, but are you aware of an historical precedent (before we began prosecuting Politically Correct Wars) where Generals in the field announced months prior to attack where and when we would be launching that attack?

    Again, it's just a common sense thing to me.

  2. How am I to view your position Hank? General Petraeus and General McChrystal have both repeatedly testified (in public forums and private interviews) to their strategy in AfPack. You need to be clear on this point; either you believe that these two gentleman are telling the truth or not. They have said repeatedly (and McChrystal was clear in his troop request of August 2009) that this surge was a modified version of the successful strategy in Iraq…a strategy I acknowledge with some humility that I was opposed to. The strategy clearly accomplished its goals, and has been replicated in AfPack. Clearly stating the intended directionality of attack is a part of that strategy, as revealed by the theater commander…it allows innocents to leave, and creates a situation that forces easy to observe moves. These moves can then be analyzed via satellite and drone imagery to help see the coalitions and operational structure of our enemy. I did not come up with this…the Generals did…I am repeating what they have told others in Congressional testimony and news interviews. You are of course at liberty to believe that the Generals are fibbing to Congress and the public under orders from the President, but you should follow up your assertions with a reasonable scenario based on observable facts that explains why the President would undertake such chicanery. It is in his best interests politically to be successful in that venture, and he is nothing if not a President keenly aware of the mistakes that doomed previous Democrats in the White House (namely, micromanagement). This reason and others explain his diligence in selecting a national security structure that is packed with experienced and diligent officers (James Jones and Dennis Blair at the top of the list). I can only respond to what I am reading Hank, and I hope you realize that I wouldn't respond to anyone whose point of view it was my intent to dismiss.

  3. Michael says, "Hank, with respect, this is your ideology talking."

    Not so. See my comment. I said, "…this administration, or ANYONE.."

    Please don't fall into the rut of dismissing anyone's concerns as a simplistic "preoccupation with who is in the White House.."

    I have faith in the military but I don't think for one second the military ran this war in the, (Harrumph!! Harrumph!!) PREVIOUS Administration and I don't think they are running it in this one either. The "homegrown strategists" are the pimps and whores in the halls of Congress.

    And your statement that "Much can be learned about an enemy that thinks he knows something, and acts accordingly." may be true to some extent. But I don't feel it applies to the concerns I articulated. I think there is a very narrow avenue of applicability for that particular notion.

  4. Hank, with respect, this is your ideology talking. All administrations announce intentions ahead of time. Mutually assured destruction was (and remains) our national strategy for avoiding nuclear confrontation. It is built on the idea of letting enemies know precisely what will happen. Patton is rolling in his grave, because homegrown "strategists" are questioning a specific strategy in Afghanistan developed and implemented by General Petraeus and General McChrystal. They are running the "surge" strategy that was developed in Iraq, up to and including announcing targets and cultivating relationships with former enemies. You are an intelligent guy Hank…set aside your preoccupation with who is in the White House and listen to what the commanders in the field have said about operations during the surge. Much can be learned about an enemy that thinks he knows something, and acts accordingly. Our enemies have known our rules of engagement under Bush (W), Bush (HW), Reagan, and Nixon. Have a little faith in our military…they haven't been reduced to anything. And finally Hank, what does the enemy's concern about capture have to do with anything? We aren't talking about capital punishment and the war on crime Hank; these folks are ready to die…telling them prison is nice and comfy won't change their calculus one iota.

  5. Michael – I can't honestly say I have a real problem with the way the Current Administration is handling most of these situations. My difficulty with them is their penchant to advertise their "good intentions" to the world. I don't think that is necessary and I think it further invites or encourages activity from those that wish us harm.

    Why is it this administration, or ANYONE for that matter, would consider it beneficial to tell your enemies up front what you might or might not do? Let them wonder. LET them be a little afraid.

    For instance, why advertise our "Rules of Engagement" to the enemy? If the enemy KNOWS you are under orders not to fire under certain conditions, would they not be expected to take advantage of those restrictions? Heck!! Wouldn't ANY enemy be so inclined?

    If you are going to forbid "enhanced interrogation" fine. But what is to be gained for advertising to the enemy that they have even LESS to be concerned about should they be captured?? Why not just silently and without fanfare, allow the changes to take place?

    It just doesn't make sense to me. (Most of these issues fly in the face of my common sense meter LONG before they impact my ideology radar!) Ironically, I was having a similar conversation with my liberal, significant other this morning. I commented to her that Patton and Eisenhower would be rolling over in their graves if they knew our military had been reduced to announcing publicly, months ahead of time, their intention to attack an enemy position. (Kandahar)

    The truly sad, human factor of it is, how about the impact on ONE parent, or ANY parent (husband, wife) that loses a child or loved one simply because the enemy had advance notice of an impending attack and was better prepared? And that notice had come from the very organization prosecuting the attack?

    Seems kinda futile to me.

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