In the Arena


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It is gratifying to see the often-lockstep conservatives in a tussle about the Times Square bomber’s Miranda rights. I don’t think there’s much question about this: under current law, as an American citizen, Shahzad has them. But there is a larger question here: whether the Miranda principle should be modified to exclude terrorism cases. I’m open to arguments from both sides…but I’m inclined to think that these sort of cases fall into a different legal category, one much closer to the rules governing the interrogation of enemy combatants (this is especially true if the bomber is suspected of having ties to international terror organizations).

Update: I’ve done a bit of reporting in the past half hour and there is an effort underway in Washington to figure out a revised Miranda process in terrorism cases–it might involve a 48-hour delay in Mirandizing suspects or a process similar to the FISA court, where a judicial panel rules on whether Miranda rights are appropriate. As I said above, terrorists–that is, those who would plan and enact the mass killing of innocents–are enemy combatants, not common criminals, and different rules apply. I’m sure that a reasonable balance can be struck between protecting the rights of citizens and protecting the lives of innocents.

And furthermore: There apparently already is a public safety exception to the Miranda law, which gives police officers the right to delay reading the rights if there is a situation where lives are in danger (see post above by Adam Sorensen). This may or may not apply in a case like the truck bomb, which was already foiled. The FISA-like court proposed above would, then, be a device to protect alleged terrorists by reviewing their cases before the interrogation begins, and also a way to interrogate would-be terrorists whose plots have been foiled.