Hot on HuffPost:

See More Stories

Times Square Bomb Suspect Faisal Shahzad and the Miranda Warning

5 years ago
  0 Comments Say Something  »
Text Size
The arrest of Times Square car bomb suspect Faisal Shahzad early Tuesday morning bared a clear fault line among Washington lawmakers over the proper role of the famous Miranda warning in cases involving terror suspects.

Several prominent Republican lawmakers, including Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), quickly criticized the Obama administration for allowing its law enforcement officials to read Shahzad his rights while the scope of the attempted attack remained unknown. When it turned out that Shahzad was a U.S. citizen, and thus least likely to be deprived of constitutional rights, Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) took an even more remarkable position. He suggested that U.S. citizens accused of terror crimes should have their American citizenship revoked so that they may not rely upon broader protections against self-incrimination.

In the meantime, Rep Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) endorsed the Justice Department's handling of the Miranda issue in the Shahzad case. "Nothing says that we can't convict and give appropriate punishment to people just because we give them Miranda rights under the Constitution," Hoyer said. "As I understand it, he was availed of the same rights that any other citizen would be given." The House majority leader then went on to cite Glenn Beck, of all people, in making his case that U.S. citizens deserve the full expanse of their constitutional rights.

The debate over Mirandizing terror suspects, even American citizens accused of terror-related crimes, has lingered for years as an undertow to more general issues involving the federal approach to terror law cases. But it roiled anew a few months ago during the saga of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the so-called Christmas Day bomber, who is suspected of trying to blow up Northwest Airlines Flight 253. Evidently, Abdulmutallab stopped cooperating with the feds once he was warned that he had a right to remain silent. This enraged conservatives and other critics of the Obama administration who perceived the use of the warning as a sign of softness in the war on terror.

What none of these critics seem to understand is that the notice requirements contained in the Supreme Court's memorable 1966 Miranda decision neither preclude the questioning of a suspect nor are particularly effective in convincing suspects that they ought to stay quiet. Indeed, we now know that Shahzad was cooperating with officials both before he was Mirandized and afterward as well. Just because a suspect is told he has a right to remain silent, in other words, doesn't mean he will be. Indeed, over and over again, we have seen terror suspects since 9/11 only too happy to spill the beans. For example, the feds couldn't get al-Qaeda stoolie Zacarias Moussaoui to shut up.

Federal officials questioned Shahzad on Tuesday morning before reading him his rights under a "public safety" exception to the constitutional rule. Once the feds realized there was no imminent, active threat posed by Shahzad, they altered course, read him his rights, and then began questioning again with an eye toward future litigation in a federal civilian court. Whatever Shahzad told his interviewers after he was read his rights is fair game at his trial -- just like it is in thousands of cases around the country every month. Whatever he said before he was Mirandized is a little less likely to be allowed into court at trial. Seems to me that officials got to have their cake and eat it, too; got to satisfy their national security concerns pre-Miranda and then help their legal case post-warning. Why again is McCain unhappy about that?

The critical point is that the government may not necessarily need to use Shahzad's statements against him at trial. Prosecutors win plenty of cases without relying upon a confession or other incriminating statement made by the defendant. Indeed, tens of thousands of criminal defendants are convicted each year based upon circumstantial evidence or direct evidence that doesn't come out of the mouth of the suspect. Just think about what we now know about the Shahzad story. The feds didn't arrest him on a whim, hoping to pick his brain about the attempted car bomb attack in Times Square. This was no fishing expedition; they had a case against him before he was arrested and questioned. That case survives, Miranda warning or no.

There are plenty of terror suspects, like Abdulmutallab for example, who are not U.S. citizens and who thus don't have the full range of constitutional protections available under the law. Rightly or wrongly, legally or not, the Obama administration has decided to keep most Bush-era interrogation options for those people. But the Shahzad case is different. He's a naturalized American -- like tens of millions of others here. He really did have the right to remain silent -- just like you or I would. That's not something to criticize or seek to change. That's something to cherish and be proud of.
Filed Under: Terror, Times Square Bomb
Outbrain - The Most Trusted Content Discovery Platform

Get Your Content Discovered.

Promote your content on premium websites

Learn More ›

Outbrain Amplify:
Get your content discovered

Your content will be promoted on the web's largest and most respected media properties, including, Slate and ESPN. We make sure it's seen precisely when people will find it most interesting.

Learn More

Outbrain Engage: The solution for a modern publisher

Outbrain Engage is a full stack software solution that empowers an entire media organization to more effectively manage its online content and programming experience.

Learn More

The world's largest content discovery platform

We bring together premium publishers and marketers of all sizes (including many of the world's leading brands) into the world's largest and most vibrant content marketplace. Learn more about Outbrain ›

561 Million

The global audience reached by Outbrain each month*

190 Billion

The total recommendations we serve consumers monthly


Of the world’s leading brands use Outbrain

* Audience reach according to comScore, September 2014. Leading brands via Ad Age DataCenter / Kantar Media, 2014.

Andy Blau
We selected Outbrain not only because the revenues were higher than others, but because its engine drives better recommendations than others.
Andy Blau
Senior Vice President, Group General Manager
Time Inc.
Dan Horowitz
It's less about buying traffic than it is about reaching the right people with relevant headlines to get them to your content.
Dan Horowitz
EVP and Senior Partner
Fleishman-Hillard Digital
Katrina Craigwell
Our goal is always to deliver content that adds value to the conversations being held by the end user. Outbrain allows us to do just that.
Katrina Craigwell
Global Manager of Digital Marketing
Bailey Foote
The fact that we’re able to drive these kinds of transactions with consumers at scale and with increasing efficiency has made Outbrain paramount to our marketing strategy.
Bailey Foote
E-commerce Manager
The Line
Neal Moore
You cannot leave it to chance that someone will find and engage with your content. Outbrain can put your content in the midst of the world’s most prestigious publications.
Neal Moore
Zach Zavos
Having links to our content appearing directly on premium publisher sites helped us establish our brand.
Zach Zavos
Conversant Media
Mike Brito
Outbrain is one of those [critical] components helping us deliver the right messages to the right contingent at massive scale and in real time to counter a crisis.
Mike Brito
Group Director

A global footprint of service

We operate offices in 11 global territories and we partner with publishers and marketers in over 55 countries, including the U.S., UK, France, Brazil, India and Japan. Come join us ›

Our New Approach to Comments

In an effort to encourage the same level of civil dialogue among Politics Daily’s readers that we expect of our writers – a “civilogue,” to use the term coined by PD’s Jeffrey Weiss – we are requiring commenters to use their AOL or AIM screen names to submit a comment, and we are reading all comments before publishing them. Personal attacks (on writers, other readers, Nancy Pelosi, George W. Bush, or anyone at all) and comments that are not productive additions to the conversation will not be published, period, to make room for a discussion among those with ideas to kick around. Please read our Help and Feedback section for more info.

Add a Comment

*0 / 3000 Character Maximum Comment Moderation Enabled. Your comment will appear after it is cleared by an editor.

Follow Politics Daily

  • Comics
Featuring political comics by Robert and Donna TrussellMore>>
  • Woman UP Video
politics daily videos
Weekly Videos
Woman Up, Politics Daily's Online Sunday ShowMore»
politics daily videos
TV Appearances
Showcasing appearances by Politics Daily staff and contributors.More>>