Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Mirandizing Terrorists

There's recently been some discussion about whether we should have (or should, full stop) Mirandize suspected terror wannabe Faisal Shahzad. Commentators on both left and right have suggested that perhaps we should not.

He should be Mirandized and accorded all other lawful treatments guaranteed under our Constitution and any applicable statutes. This man (a) is an American citizen (recently naturalized, but so what?) and (b) has been arrested on American soil as a suspect in a crime committed in America. This has no relation whatever to the Guantanamo case of a foreign terrorist breaking the Geneva Convention on foreign soil. Nor is it similar to the Abdulmutallab case in which the suspect was a Nigerian citizen who had not yet legally entered the United States (and was caught red-handed, or should we say "red-pantsed").

But there is no provision in law for a recently naturalized citizen to be treated any differently from a birthright citizen. Given that, Shahzad has exactly the same rights as any "home-grown" terrorist, such as Timothy McVeigh. If Shahzad is found to have committed an act of war against the United States, he can be stripped of his citizenship (not that I think this would actually happen). Even then, he would be a foreign citizen who had been caught in America committing a crime on American soil. Such a person is entitled to Miranda warning.

"The Constitution is not a suicide pact", as they say. But Miranda procedures account for this: there is the public safety exception. The exception is inapplicable in this case, as Shahzad was captured after the imminent threat had been eliminated.

If there is a public-safety need to create an exception to Miranda, then let the Congress do so and the Supreme Court test its Constitutionality. In nearly nine years since 9/11, such an exception has not been created. Until that time, the criminal justice system should not make ad-hoc exceptions when convenient.

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