Obama Curbs Miranda Rights for Domestic Terror Suspects

'Read 'em their rights?' Not if you're suspected of 'domestic terror,' according to the Obama administration. In a reversal of a law that has been intact for over four decades, the government is now extending exceptions to the rule that says law enforcement must advise suspects of their rights, including that of an attorney. The Wall Street Journal:

A Federal Bureau of Investigation memorandum reviewed by The Wall Street Journal says the policy applies to "exceptional cases" where investigators "conclude that continued unwarned interrogation is necessary to collect valuable and timely intelligence not related to any immediate threat." Such action would need prior approval from FBI supervisors and Justice Department lawyers, according to the memo, which was issued in December but not made public.

Matthew Miller, a Justice Department spokesman, said the memo ensures that "law enforcement has the ability to question suspected terrorists without immediately providing Miranda warnings when the interrogation is reasonably prompted by immediate concern for the safety of the public or the agents." He said "the threat posed by terrorist organizations and the nature of their attacks—which can include multiple accomplices and interconnected plots—creates fundamentally different public safety concerns than traditional criminal cases."

If the new move sounds highly illegal and proto-Colonial, it might be. Making the move administratively rather than through legislation might not stand up in court, and last year its suggestion to change Miranda law was dismissed by wary Dems who weren't feeling all that comfortable about curtailing such a fundamental element to a fair justice system.

You know who's really into the idea, though?

New York Republican Peter King, chairman of the House homeland-security committee, is among the lawmakers who welcomed Mr. Holder's call to change Miranda. At a hearing last year, Mr. King said, "It's important that we ensure that the reforms do go forward and that at the very least the attorney general consults with everyone in the intelligence community before any Miranda warning is given."

As Glenn Greenwald notes, this curtailing of justice is a direct reversal from the tenets Obama campaigned upon, and a solid step into Bush Administration territory.

Ironically, it was the administration -- and its followers -- that defended the sanctity of Miranda back in late 2009, when the Cheney/Kristol/Limbaugh/Palin Right attacked Obama for Mirandizing the "underwear bomber" as soon as he was taken into custody. Back then, the White House and its loyalists stridently argued that Miranda does not interfere with effective interrogations and that, in any event, it is a pillar of our justice system that should not be eroded. We'll undoubtedly be hearing from the same precincts now -- from the very same people -- that diluting Miranda is necessary to Keep Us Safe; that it's fully within a President's right to change Miranda guidelines without Congress (just like he can start wars on his own); and that it's merely a tiny little change that pales in comparison to the Important Issues of the Day. For anyone who defends Obama's new decision here, shouldn't you also admit that Rush Limbaugh and Bill Kristol were right in criticizing Obama back then and demanding dilution of Miranda for Terrorism suspects?

Ugh. Read the full story at the WSJ.

AlterNet / By Julianne Escobedo Shepherd

Posted at March 24, 2011, 4:43am

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