What To Do With Miranda

I listened to some of the congressional testimony by Attorney General Eric Holder yesterday. I had to switch the radio because of the badgering idiocy of some of the questioning.

One Republican congressman kept trying to get Holder to blame "radical Islam" for terrorism, which Holder understandably declined to do. First, in any individual case, it is necessary to discover whether the terrorist was radicalized and turned to "radical Islam" as an avenue to express an already extant violent streak, or if the person was radicalized by those who speak, falsely, in the name of one of the world’s great religions. Second, as Holder understands and this congressman should too, why would the Attorney General want to give the terrorists a sound-bite clip that feeds their false charge that the West is at war with Islam. Maybe the congressman only cares about what his primary voters think, but a responsible public servant must adopt a broader focus, and not try and goad the Attorney General into saying something that will do nothing to help us win the minds and hearts of those in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan whose hearts we need to win.


From the Democratic side came a fetish for Miranda that is astounding. There was an unwillingness to acknowledge the fact that the rationale for the "public safety" exception to Miranda might have to be tweaked in light of the different kinds of information to be gained from a terror suspect: the ticking time bomb exception is certainly relevant, but so is the need to uncover a network which, appraised of the terrorist’s arrest, will scatter to the winds.

Sanity returned to the discussion on the pages of the Washington Post. In an op-ed, Benjamin Wittes makes the point that what authorities in terrorism cases need is broader than a tweaking of Miranda. They need "greater flexibility in the rules that govern the first several days of these crisis cases – rules that give the executive some time and room to maneuver before it has to make fateful decisions. This would require congressional action and judicial tolerance." Wittes has written a thoughtful book that defies easy ideological characterization, Law and the Long War, that argues forcefully for congressional revision of such rules.

Alas, in an election year, with incumbents in both parties facing challenges from the extremes of their respective bases, such congressional thoughtfulness is unlikely.


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Brian Thompson
8 years 8 months ago
I don't know.
When a Christian Fundamentalist does something stupid or violent, I am not offended when they blame his Fundamentalism as a cause (if indeed it was a factor). Yes, there will always be a fool or two who get upset because they feel Christianity is being maligned, but they are few since generally people are smart. Radical Islam is not mainstream, those in the mainstream need not be afraid or offended,
What makes me think that Holder was not just being cautious and avoidant of fearmongering, as the article claims, is that when asked if a Radical form of Islam was a factor, he responded that religious reasons likely were a factor. When it was pointed out that a Radical from of Islam was the religion of the man in question, Holder still refused to admit it could have even been a factor.
As for Miranda, I am always worried when extreme left or right folks suggest we need to revise th rights of citizens. Scary stuff. 
James Lindsay
8 years 8 months ago
Considering how many domestic terrorists are on the right wing, I would not see that it is in the interests of the GOP to water down protections.

Should McVeigh have been waterboarded? After all, there was a question of an unindicted third person. Should McVeigh's accomplice be waterboarded until he talks?

It is chilling when people of an ideology with radical sympathizers themselves start using buzzwords in order to rile up their supporters - since the questioners raise such topics not from a desire to know, but to make points with the folks back home. The folks back home should realize that if their dark fears about Obama were true, they would not want the government to have unlimited power to call someone a terrorist and drop Miranda.
8 years 8 months ago
Leftist perspective: Don't cite radical Islam as the cause of a terrorist's actions, but by all means, blame the Catholic Church for the sexual abuse scandal.

Gabriel Marcella
8 years 8 months ago
With all due respect, the following statement is almost tautological, it also overlooks the enormous complexity of the societies under discussion:

"First, in any individual case, it is necessary to discover whether the terrorist was radicalized and turned to "radical Islam" as an avenue to express an already extant violent streak, or if the person was radicalized by those who speak, falsely, in the name of one of the world’s great religions."

Violent extremists (of left or right) often orginate from a process of victimization. As many scholars, including Islamic, have pointed out, states in the Middle East have failed to provide social, economic, and political benefits. Poverty, authoritarianism, and political exclusion add to the sense of victimization, and call for a return to the tenets of Islam. Some scholars and religious leaders have argued that the reason for such failures is the abandonment of Islamic ways for Western ways. These tensions and problems need to be understood.
8 years 8 months ago
1. Re "radical Islam"; when the perpetrators of these attacks and attempted attacks explicitly invoke the Islamic religion, and expressly justify their actions in the name of Islam, why is it wrong to conclude that perhaps an extremist, radical strain of Islam is to blame?  This is the kind of PC sensitivity that is getting ridiculous.  You can submerge a crucifix in a jar of urine, but by all means don't conclude that people yelling glory to Allah or whatever when they crash planes into buildings has anything to do with Islam.  When the first reaction to some of these things is for the president to come out and lecture law abiding Americans about how Islam is a religion of peace, then I think something is off-kilter.
2. Re: Mr. Bindner's daily dose of nonsense; the key difference between McVeigh and these terrorists is that there was no indication that McVeigh was part of a global movement that has declared war on Western culture and is being financed by millions of dollars, no doubt some of it through US-granted aid.  So the fact that we are in a "war" of sorts is quite different from the other strands of "domestic" terrorism that are primarily the acts of loners without signification funding.  This is, of course, what the Bush administration tried to do in its approach to terrorism- to differentiate between the middle eastern/Islamic terrorism that planned 9/11 and the McVeighs of the world.  Liberals such as you refuse to understand that difference.  I am relieved that the majority of Americans DO understand that difference, and that nothing short of the survival of Western civilization is at play in this struggle.
Eugene Pagano
8 years 8 months ago
One point to keep in mind is that persons in custody will still have the right to remain silent, whether or not they are entitled to be warned of them.  Truly well-trained terrorists could be instructed about that right as part of their training, unless the terrorist or his organization decide that talking is more conducive to the group's goals.
Vince Killoran
8 years 8 months ago
All religious traditions have self-identified believers who might be termed "fundamentalists" or "extremists." This shouldn't be ignored when we discuss the motivations of terrorism but, as Gabriel maintains, it needs to be understood, not consigned to being a catch-all explanation.
I take the point about the difference in scale between McVeigh and Bin Laden & Co. but domestic terrorism is more than "primarily the acts of loners without signification funding" as Jeff Landry suggests. In fact, there are domestic networks of these people and groups in place and some even have international connections.
Finally, Miranda.  A couple of years ago a group of West Point officials and interrogation experts visited the set of the t.v. show "24" to deliver a message: the "ticking time bomb" scenario is a bogus one that distracts from the hard, boring work of gathering information and winning the confidence of suspects in custody with legal means.
Tom Maher
8 years 8 months ago
The Obama administration has just had another near-death experience with the Times Sqaure attempted bomding. How many such episodes of terroism are required for the admisistration to see reality? Radical Islamic terrorism is a world-wide problem for the last twenty years. How many times will acts of terroism be allowed to happen within the United States for the Obama admististration to admit we are at war with radical Islamic terrorism?

Describing 9/11 as a "man-caused" disaster is very dull yet this is the stand Democratic operative takes to deny the reality radical Islamic terrorism. These act of terror are not isolated criminal acts of one or two individuals.

But even Eric Holder, the Attorney General, has finally seen the writting on the wall. On ABC's "This Week" of Sunday, May 2, 2010 Holder said that the Times Square attempted bomber had not acted alone and was part of a larger terroist group of Taliban terroristm. Holder also said the Justice Department is studying changes (major changes) to the Miranda laws to better allow for the discovery of other individuals terrorist who help plan, finance and execute terrorist plots. The repeated pattern is the terrorist always have much larger support groups.

Terrorist acts against the U.S. will continue to be made and must be expected. Ineffective, politcally correct responses to terrorism by the Obama admistration will politically ruin the Obama prresidency. The Obama admisistration needs to finally get serious about stopping terrorist acts.
Stanley Kopacz
8 years 8 months ago
The hurry to scrap individual rights because of terrorist threats results from a quick fix mentality. There is no quick fix. Interception of terrorist plotting will result from constant competent law enforcement and intelligence with the requisite resources. This is another reason why the nation-reprogramming wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are a waste of resources and detrimental to national security. More harm to Al Quaeda has probably been done by freezing their monetary assets than by military means.


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