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Citizen or Not, Terror Suspects Are Not Guaranteed Miranda Rights

Several legal and security experts explain to PJM why national security must trump prosecutorial success.

by
Elise Cooper

Bio

May 28, 2010 - 12:00 am
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You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law.

For national security purposes, apprehended terrorists should not be read this statement of their rights. Al-Qaeda and the Taliban are making concerted efforts to radicalize American citizens, and knowing this, a balance must be struck between civil liberties and national security interests. From former FBI agent Craig Dotlo:

We are dealing with a new kind of threat that we never faced before, and have no rules and regulations to fall back upon. This is so different.

The underwear bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, was read his Miranda rights less than an hour after his capture, which detrimentally affected American national security. Says former CIA Director Michael Hayden:

You don’t Mirandize in less than an hour. We don’t have many terrorists that we can talk to and gain information from. Mirandizing is about prosecution, whereas intelligence is about information. We are not doing this for the purpose of prosecution; we are doing this for the purpose of information. It is all about the prevention of the next attack.

American citizens that are suspected terrorists — such as the Times Square bomber — should not be given Miranda rights until the interrogators are reasonably certain that all actionable intelligence has been gained. From Andrew McCarthy, the lead prosecutor in the first World Trade Center bombing trial and author of the soon-to-be-released The Grand Jihad: “If a person happens to be a U.S. citizen, it makes no difference. If he is operating at a high enough level on behalf of our wartime, terrorist enemies, it is more important to get intelligence from him than to get him convicted. He can always be handed over to civilian authorities later for a trial.”

Furthermore, all those interviewed pointed out that Miranda rights are more of a policy question than a constitutional one. The Fifth Amendment states that someone cannot be a witness against himself. This means captured terrorists who are American citizens do not have to be read their Miranda rights if the evidence is used solely to gain information rather than for prosecution.

If there is not enough evidence to obtain a conviction, the Supreme Court, in the Hamdi case, ruled that American citizens can be held as enemy combatants. A former high-ranking CIA official noted to PJM that preventing the next attack is the top priority, not obtaining a conviction:  ”In a perfect world, it would be nice to obtain both.”

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