The arrest of Faisal Shahzad in the failed car bombing attempt in Times Square has reignited the debate over reading Miranda rights to terrorism suspects, only this time the issue is much different because Faisal Shahzad is a American citizen. The debate on how to treat him has been passionate and in some cases misguided. Lets forget what actually happened for a moment , because the issue needs to be thought through for the next time (What actually happened was investigators conducted a preliminary interview with Shahzad overnight before reading him his rights. Afterwards, he continued to talk, law enforcement officials said.).
Peter King, the top Republican on the House Homeland Security Committee, wondered to Politico if the Justice Department consulted the intelligence community before it decided to hold Shahzad’s trial in civilian court, King also expressed concern over the decision to read the Miranda warning to Shahzad before finding out as much information as possible about the plot and others involved.
On the other hand Glenn Beck isn’t buying that. On his show today, he spend most of the day discussing what Shahzad’s rights should be. Beck’s position is Shahzad “a citizen of the U.S.,” and we should “uphold the laws and the Constitution on citizens.
Beck and Napolitano are correct. Shahzad is an American citizen, arrested by law enforcement in America. As a US citizen, Shahzad has the right to remain silent. In that sense, he differs from the EunuchBomber, who attempted to enter the country (our airspace) to conduct a sabotage mission for an enemy of the US. Ambdulmuttalab should have immediately been taken into custody by military and intelligence agencies, not the FBI, in order to make his status as an enemy combatant clear.
Do you think Cubans are fighting for healthcare or freedom from Communism?
And Rick Moran of the Right Wing Nut House comes down squarely on the fence.
It’s an easy choice – unless you lose someone because of that choice. Then it becomes a little more complicated, yes? Or, on the other side of the coin, if Mr. Shahzad knows nothing of any other attacks and precious little about his overseas connections, violating his constitutional rights would be seen as dramatic overkill. The law would have been violated for, what in retrospect, would be seen as no good reason.
So who is right? Who is Wrong. Well the snarky answer would be they are all right and all wrong. That snarky answer is not far away from the truth.
The fact is Faisal Shahzad is an American Citizen, and you can’t as Joe Lieberman said, automatically strip someone of their citizenship with out due process, and part of that due process involves reading someone their Miranda warnings. It also means, that as an American Citizen, unless he was arrested on a battle field he needs to be processed in the civilian courts.
On the other hand none of this means that an terrorist who is an American citizen needs to be immediately read his Miranda Rights, that depends on the evidence.
The Miranda warnings comes from the 5th amendment of the Constitution, specifically no one “shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself.” In other words, if you interrogate a citizen-terrorist without the Miranda warnings, you cannot use anything he says, or anything that leads from what he says against him in a court of law.
In the case of Faisal Shahzad, it appears that the Police/FBI had him red-handed before he was apprehended meaning if they felt secure he could be tried without using his testimony, they did not have to utter those famous words:
You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed to you. Do you understand these rights as they have been read to you?
A blanket statement pro or con regarding whether he needs to be Mirandized simply does not work.