Mirandize Shahzad? Of Course!
Two prominent Republican Congressmen have come out against reading Miranda rights to American citizens suspected of terrorism.
Congressional Republicans want to know whether the Pakistani-born American arrested in the Times Square car bombing plot was read his Miranda rights, with Sen. John McCain saying it would be a “serious mistake” if the suspect was reminded of his right to remain silent.
Rep. Peter King (N.Y.), the top Republican on the House Homeland Security Committee, wants to know whether the Justice Department consulted with the intelligence community before they decided to hold his trial in civilian court.
But King and McCain may be off base with their criticisms. U.S. citizens cannot be tried in military commissions, which is what Republicans prefer for terrorist trials. The 2006 law that outlines guidelines for the commissions authorizes them only for “alien unprivileged enemy belligerent[s].”
“Obviously that would be a serious mistake until all the information is gathered,” McCain (R-Ariz.) said on “Imus in the Morning” when asked whether the suspect, Faisal Shahzad, should have been Mirandized.
In a civilian trial, a judge can toss out evidence taken from a suspect who has not been read his Miranda rights.
“I hope that [Attorney General Eric] Holder did discuss this with the intelligence community. If they believe they got enough from him, how much more should they get? Did they Mirandize him? I know he’s an American citizen but still,” King told POLITICO.
This, everyone seems to agree, is nonsensical.
- John Cole: ” Half our political leadership wants a banana Republic, and our media is just treating it like it is another opinion. At what point do we start calling these people what they are?”
- Scott Lemieux: “Did John McCain strenuously object when Scott Roeder was read his Miranda rights? If not, I wonder what criteria McCain is using to determine which American terrorists are entitled to their constitutional rights and which aren’t…”
- Bernard Finel: “Faisal Shahzad is an American citizen, arrested by American authorities, on American soil. This is not a difficult or controversial issue. Charge him with treason if you want, but arguing that the government can essentially strip citizenship rights by fiat by declaring someone an ‘enemy combatant’ is both a stupid and incredibly dangerous position.”
- Kevin Drum cites no less an authority than Glenn Beck: “He’s a citizen of the United States, so I say we uphold the laws and the constitution.”
Indeed, there’s simply no question whatsoever that, if our intent is to charge Shahzad with a crime, he should have been Mirandized. First, failing to do so would automatically mean that any information he gave — along with any other information following from that information — would be subject to the Exclusionary Rule. Which is to say, tossed out of court. Second, there’s no possible harm that could come from reading him his rights as required by law. By definition, he would already have been in police custody. And, as an American citizen, it’s virtually inconceivable that he didn’t know his Miranda rights, anyway, what with their ubiquity on television. (Although, either I’ve become immune to it or they don’t recite them as much as they used to on cop shows.)
Rick Moran disagrees. Sort of:
First of all, it is never a “mistake” to follow the law. Mr Shahzad is an American citizen, and even if he had murdered thousands, he would still be entitled to the protections guaranteed under our Constitution.
And yet, this is one instance where the “ticking bomb” scenario might very well be a reality. Newsweek reports there may be a connection between Shahzad and the Pakistani Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud:
Might there be other terrorists in other major American cities waiting to strike as I write this? And would that be a good enough excuse for the government to arbitrarily waive Mr. Shahzad’s Constitutional rights, designate him an “enemy combatant,” and interrogate him using all legal means at our disposal (I take it as a given that President Obama has rejected “enhanced interrogation” as an option)?
For some on both sides of the argument, this is an easy question to answer in the affirmative or negative. However, knee jerk ideological reactions from civil liberties absolutists or bloodthirsty right wingers are just not good enough in this situation.
The threat is real and immediate. Hundreds – perhaps thousands – of American lives may be at stake. Wouldn’t it be easier just to forget the Constitution in this one instance and treat this terrorist as the enemy he himself claims to be?
First off, we can’t designate American citizens as “enemy combatants.” The Supreme Court has made that quite clear, in case it wasn’t absolutely obvious upon reading the Bill of Rights. Second, while the Constitution isn’t a suicide pact, it is supposed to limit government’s powers over its citizens. Rule of law and all that. Third, lest we forget, Shahzad is merely accused of a crime. The government not infrequently accuses the wrong people. Even, it turns out, for terrorism.
Now, I suppose, if the president or the attorney general felt strongly enough about the matter, they could order their subordinates to flout the law. But that would mean that Shahzad would be much harder to jail. And it would mean possible criminal charges against those ordering the unconstitutional acts and those carrying out those unlawful orders.
But let’s be clear: Just as I didn’t trust President Bush, for whom I voted twice, to decide when to deprive citizens of their rights, I don’t trust his successor. And neither should you. That is, after all, the very definition of absolute power. And we all know what that does.
Update (Steve Verdon): Senator Joe Lieberman has come out in favor of stripping citizenship for those accused of terroristic acts.
Joe Lieberman has a creative solution: Take away their citizenship. “If you’ve joined an enemy of the United States in attacking the United States and trying to kill Americans, I think you should sacrifice your rights of citizenship,” Lieberman, an independent from Connecticut, told reporters Tuesday.
Only one tiny problem…he is only accused of doing the above, it hasn’t been proven yet. Remember Richard Jewel and Stephen Hatfill? Should their citizenship have been stripped? After all sure would have made it easier not having to deal with Miranda and those pesky civil rights. I have to agree with Radley Balko, Joe Lieberman is nothing but a coward.