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…