Protect Miranda

A specter is haunting Washington. The specter of the second Bush Administration. This specter is possessing members of the present administration. On Monday (5-10-10) the New York Times reported that Attorney General, Erich H. Holder Jr., wants a law so the US can "interrogate terrorism suspects without informing them of their [Miranda] rights." Do we really want the government to ignore people's rights? People SUSPECTED of a crime have a right to a fair hearing, a lawyer, a presumption of innocence, etc.

Holder thinks the government needs "greater flexibility to question terrorism suspects." But the government has been expanding the definition of who is a terrorist. It's not just the mad bomber from abroad anymore. Now there are mentally disturbed folks being labeled "domestic terrorists" – no Miranda for them. There are animal rights activists being charged as "terrorists" – no Miranda for them. Warning bells should go off anytime the government wants to take rights away from suspects, especially the usual suspects, because there is a danger we will all end up without these rights.

The right we should worry about is that guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment in the Bill of Rights – i.e., the right not to incriminate oneself which is the basis of the Miranda warning.

Well, as a matter of fact, the government already has "greater flexibility to question terrorism suspects." The government can question away without ever informing people of their Miranda rights - they just can't use the information in court against the suspects in criminal proceedings. If it is information they want to prevent a terrorist act that can go ahead and get it and ignore Miranda. They don't have to wait for a lawyer, read anyone their rights, or put off questioning at all. They just can't use the evidence later in court, but they can certainly get it and prevent a terrorist act.

Besides, we have been holding some suspects for years with no evidence and no charges completely ignoring the entire legal system so this new fuss about the Miranda warning is just an attempt to look tough. There is, anyway, a PUBLIC SAFETY EXCEPTION, recognized by the Supreme Court, that allows evidence to still be used in court even if the Miranda warning has not been given to a suspect. So what is Holder really doing?

He is just pandering to the Republicans and their fear mongering instead of standing up to them and pointing out that the Miranda rules are necessary to protect everyone's rights. The Times reports that "Conservatives have long disliked the Miranda ruling, which is intended to ensure that confessions are not coerced." Why anyone would want a coerced confession is beyond me but I am sure conservatives have their reasons. After all, there is a long tradition of forced confessions and frame ups by the police and conservatives are big on tradition.

Anyway, it is so much easier to get a coerced confession, as the Innocence Project has shown and as has the almost weekly announcements of some poor soul, after umpteen years in jail, being released as innocent. Holder should tell his conservative critics that he understands and even appreciates their desire to help the US win more cases and get more convictions by the use of coerced confessions, but it's a bad idea since our stance is that we represent truth and justice and all that good stuff.