Obama 'Open' to Scaling Back Miranda Rights: What's at Stake?

The tension between national security and civil liberties

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Angering liberals and civil libertarians, President Obama is "open to looking at" new legislation that would allow authorities to interrogate terror suspects for longer periods before reading them their Miranda rights. On CNN this Monday, Obama's political adviser David Axelrod said the White House was "willing to talk to Congress" about new rules expanding the power of authorities. Pundits are debating whether this will make America safer or needlessly curb civil liberties.

  • This Is a Dangerous Idea, writes conservative Ed Morrissey at Hot Air: "Attempting to shoehorn a war into the criminal courts system is so dangerous to American citizens.  In order to make it work, the federal government will have to make broad changes to criminal procedure and constitutional protections not just for a few jihadis but for everyone who appears in the federal court system for justice. Shahzad belongs in that system, but KSM, Abdulmutallab, and the Gitmo detainees do not.  The creation of military commissions protects our rights as well as American national security."
  • Making Exceptions to Miranda Will Make Us Safer, says conservative Fox News host Bill O'Reilly: "Some good news for Americans who want a sane country...President Obama understands the [Miranda] issue has hurt him.  And I believe he has ordered Holder to pull back.  Yesterday, Holder, interviewed on NBC, cited the so-called public safety concern when talking about captured terrorists.  The public safety law is a vague exception that allows authorities to question someone without Miranda rights if they believe an act of terrorism is ongoing, a ticking time bomb scenario. Apparently Holder now likes the public safety exception, especially in the case of the Times Square guy Shahzad."
  • Holder's Being Disingenuous, writes the Boston Globe editorial board: "Holder is wrong to suggest that new legislation is needed to create broader exceptions. The existing rules worked well with Shahzad: He provided what the FBI called 'valuable intelligence and evidence’' and even kept talking after hearing his rights. It’s unclear what problem Holder is proposing to solve."
  • This Is Just Obama Trying to Satisfy GOP Critics, says Jon Dean, a columnist at FindLaw appearing on Countdown with Keith Olbermann: "it's certainly good political grandstanding. The right has been hammering on this on how tough they are on terrorism, how weak the Democrats are.  So, they keep pounding that drum. It looks like Mr. Holder and the administration is trying to respond to that.  They're never going to satisfy it.  In fact, we don't need legislation.  There's no evidence that Miranda has ever been a problem for law enforcement.  There's no evidence that it's a problem now with terrorism.  There's no evidence they need anything more in the exception than they already have."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.