WASHINGTON, May 21 (UPI) -- U.S. President Barack Obama said Thursday America needs to return to foundational values to fight terrorism after the Bush administration's "ad hoc" approach.
Shortly afterward, former Vice President Dick Cheney defended the Bush administration's terrorism policies, accusing critics of engaging in "feigned outrage based on a false narrative."
Obama said the United States can effectively fight al-Qaida and its affiliates, "but we must do so with an abiding confidence in the rule of law and due process, in checks and balances and accountability."
"We must never -- ever -- turn our back on its enduring principles for expedience sake," he said.
According to an FBI memo revealed by The Wall Street Journal on Wednesday, interrogations are now allowed to be carried out without suspects being notified of their rights in order to “collect valuable and timely intelligence."
* * *
President Barack Obama tried to alter the constitutionally mandated Miranda rights last year but was rebuffed by Congress. This time, Obama plans to effect the change administratively rather than through the legislative process in Congress.
The new policy is the latest in a series of controversial measures Obama has taken to limit the civil rights of American citizens and legal immigrants.
A brief review of Miranda rights from MirandaRights.Org:
Miranda Rights were created in 1966 as a result of the United States Supreme Court case of Miranda v. Arizona. The Miranda warning is intended to protect the suspect’s Fifth Amendment right to refuse to answer self-incriminating questions.
It is important to note that Miranda rights do not go into effect until after an arrest is made. The officer is free to ask questions before an arrest, but must inform the suspect that the questioning is voluntary and that he or she is free to leave at any time. The answers to these questions are admissible in court.
If the suspect is placed under arrest and not read Miranda rights, spontaneous or voluntary statements may be used in evidence in court. For example, if the suspect starts using excuses justifying why he or she committed a crime these statements can be used at trial.
Silence can be used against the suspect if it occurs before he or she is read the Miranda rights. For example, an innocent person would proclaim his or her evidence or try to give an alibi rather than staying quiet. The prosecution will try to use the suspect’s silence against him or her in court.
Following criticisms from Republican noise-makers on the DOJ's handling of terror cases, the Obama Administration has given the FBI more “leeway” to question terror suspects held in custody without first properly Mirandizing them. At one point, the DOJ had considered broadening the laws regarding Mirandizing suspects but backed down after opposition from Democratic lawmakers. However, there is a public safety exception which allows law enforcement to detain and question a terror suspect. Since Miranda warnings are, in fact, enshrined in the Constitution, any attempts to broaden its application outside of the public safety exception would rightly be met with criticisms from all sectors. But an administrative tweak – broadening the public safe exception – can be achieved without having to go through all the hoops of a legal challenge.
According to Jonathan Turley in a recent article, Obama Orders Limits on Miranda Rights For Domestic Suspects:
The Administration is claiming a categorical right to invoke the public safety exception for any terror suspect — a facially absurd assertions since terror cases may or may not involve an imminent threat. Jose Padilla was claimed as being involved in an imminent threat of an nuclear attack. That claims was later withdrawn by the Bush Administration.
* * *
The public safety exception has always been highly case specific and this would be the ultimate example of the exception swallowing the rule. Of course, as constitutionally based, Obama cannot unilaterally change the meaning of this right by simple decree.
What is truly alarming is the failure of the Administration to tell anyone that (after being rebuffed by Congress) Obama simply went forward and ordered the change. The policy allows investigators to deny the protection of Miranda in “exceptional cases” where investigators “conclude that continued unwarned interrogation is necessary to collect valuable and timely intelligence not related to any immediate threat.”
Obviously, that would allow investigators to claim the need for timely intelligence in any case. What investigator (or approving supervisor) is going to say that this case is not really a pressing matter of public safety? Under Obama’s approach, an investigator can interrogate a suspect first and then, after he has incriminated himself, tell him that he could have remain silent.
The disclosure of the policy further cements Obama’s legacy as a civil liberties nightmare. He is no longer viewed by civil libertarians as a disappointment, he is now viewed as a menace to fundamental rights.
Finally, for another take on this topic, I refer you to Glenn Greenwald's latest article, Miranda is Obama's latest victim in which he states:
Today, the Obama DOJ unveiled the latest -- and one of the most significant -- examples of its eagerness to assault the very legal values Obama vowed to protect. The Wall Street Journal reports that "new rules allow investigators to hold domestic-terror suspects longer than others without giving them a Miranda warning, significantly expanding exceptions to the instructions that have governed the handling of criminal suspects for more than four decades." The only previous exception to the 45-year-old Miranda requirement that someone in custody be apprised of their rights occurred in 1984, when the Rehnquist-led right-wing faction of the Supreme Court allowed delay "only in cases of an imminent safety threat," but these new rules promulgated by the Obama DOJ "give interrogators more latitude and flexibility to define what counts as an appropriate circumstance to waive Miranda rights."
For that reason, the WSJ is surely correct when it calls these new guidelines "one of the Obama administration's most significant revisions to rules governing the investigation of terror suspects in the U.S." Note that, in 7 years of prosecuting the War on Terror after 9/11, the Bush administration never tried to dilute Miranda guidelines (though doing so for them was irrelevant because they simply imprisoned even American citizens (such as Jose Padilla) without any charges or due process of any kind).
The Obama Administration has come a long way since May 2009 (the opening quote in this diary) to today. Your thoughts, comments and analyses always appreciated.