Saturday, May 8, 2010

Res Miranda

The Obama administration is aggressively exploiting an exception to the requirement to issue a Miranda warning to terrorism suspects. A Miranda warning is, according to the case of the same name, a constitutional requirement under most circumstances; failing to administer it to a suspect can be severely damaging to the prosecution's case.

Nonetheless, several terrorism suspects have recently been questioned for a reported one to three hours before being "Mirandized." (How I hate that term, but it seems to have become standard.) The linked post... and, surprisingly, the comment thread following it... are, together, an excellent introduction to the scope of the problems involved, both practical and constitutional.

The problem I have with this is that it is another attempt to circumvent the intent of the law in pursuing terrorism charges, after eight years of mostly successful such attempts under Bush/Cheney. Now we have Obama, a self-proclaimed constitutional scholar, and Holder, his formerly respectable AG, trying to nail terrorists by playing tricks with the Bill of Rights.

That alone would be bad news. But considering both Bush's and Obama's military commissions, denial of classified evidence to defense attorneys, imprisoning people for years with no access to defense attorneys, etc., one cannot help seeing a pattern: in order to keep the GWOT going, and to appear to be "winning" it, the most powerful Executive branch figures in two successive administrations are willing to treat the Bill of Rights as yesterday's birdcage liner.

Once again it's time to begin saying farewell to the due process rights accorded not only all Americans until now, but over 800 years of British rights before us. Apparently, we really are going to sacrifice who we are and what we have always believed, in exchange for "safety" from at most a few hundred people. Following Ben Franklin, let me observe that this is a terrible trade-off.

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