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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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John Yoo, former Department of Justice attorney in the Bush administration and author of Crisis and Command, pointed out:

[Americans must not] turn terrorism into a criminal problem. They should not see everything as a criminal justice problem but rather as a war.

Frances Townsend, former Bush homeland security adviser, commented regarding those Americans who have attempted or encouraged terrorist acts:

[They] crossed the threshold. It’s tantamount to an act of treason. It changes the gravity of the crime and the dynamics of how they should be treated.

President Obama has authorized American citizen Anwar al-Awlaki to be the focus of a targeted Predator drone killing. This is extremely rare, if not unprecedented — as a U.S. citizen, he has ultimately been given a death sentence without a trial, even one in absentia. However, this is well justified. Al-Awlaki, an extremist Muslim cleric, is widely referred to as inspiring the Fort Hood attacker, the underwear bomber, and the Times Square bomber. America is at war, and some American citizens are aligning themselves with the enemy. Yoo argues that deadly force can and should be used to stop them:

A citizen that joins the enemy does not get a force field around them. There should not be a specific privilege or exemption from the rules of war just because they are citizens.

Both Andrew McCarthy and Michael Hayden argue that the president has constitutional rights as commander in chief to determine that an American can be viewed as an enemy combatant, and what should be done to him. Americans must be willing to allow for constitutional amendments to be limited. They should not think of them as absolute during the war on terror.

National security has to be America’s most important priority. The phrase “the Constitution is not a suicide pact” expresses the belief that during this extraordinary time in America’s history, constitutional restrictions on governmental power must give way to urgent practical needs. Former CIA Director Hayden summarized the need to balance civil liberties with the need to prevent a national security threat:

There is a need to protect life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. This calls for very hard choices.

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The author is a freelance writer focusing on national security issues.
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