The Obama administration said Sunday it would seek a law allowing investigators to interrogate terrorism suspects without informing them of their rights, as Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. flatly asserted that the defendant in the Times Square bombing attempt was trained by the Taliban in Pakistan.
Mr. Holder proposed carving out a broad new exception to the Miranda rights established in a landmark 1966 Supreme Court ruling. It generally forbids prosecutors from using as evidence statements made before suspects have been warned that they have a right to remain silent and to consult a lawyer.
He said interrogators needed greater flexibility to question terrorism suspects than is provided by existing exceptions.Conservatives have blasted interrogators for informing terrorism suspects of their constitutional right not to speak to law enforcement officers and to secure legal counsel.. Conservatives, however, have a long history opposing Miranda.
Miranda Is a Constitutional Requirement
In 2000, the Supreme Court rejected the Justice Department's argument that the Miranda requirement was not a constitutional rule. Only two justices dissented. Former Chief Justice Rehnquist -- a staunch conservative -- authored the ruling. Given the Court's ruling, it is unclear how Congress can alter and set limits to Miranda by statute. Civil libertarians quoted by the New York Times agree with this assertion:
Still, Anthony D. Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, said Congress had no authority to “chip away” at the Miranda ruling because it was based in the Constitution. He predicted that any effort to carve a broader exception would be vigorously contested.
“The irony is that this administration supposedly stands for the rule of law and the restoration of America’s legal standing,” he said. And Virginia E. Sloan, president of the bipartisan Constitution Project, said the existing public safety exception to Miranda seemed to be working, so there was no need to erode constitutional protections in ways that could later be expanded to other kinds of criminal suspects.
“It makes good political theater,” she said, “but we need to have a clear problem that we are addressing and a clear justification for any change. I haven’t seen that yet.”The Court could, however, validate legislative guidelines if Congress acts upon Holder's recommendation.