Obama administration seeking to limit Miranda rights in terror cases

[JURIST] US Attorney General Eric Holder [official profile] said Sunday that the Obama administration plans to ask Congress to enact legislation allowing interrogators to question terror suspects for a longer period of time than currently allowed before informing them of their constitutional rights to remain silent and be represented by an attorney. Holder's announcement [NYT report] came after many criticized interrogators for informing so-called "Christmas Day Bomber" Umar Farouk Adbulmutallab [BBC profile; JURIST news archive], and Faisal Shahzad [JURIST news archive], whom authorities accuse of attempting to detonate a car bomb in Times Square last week, of their Miranda rights. The law, as established in Miranda v. Arizona [opinion text], generally prohibits law enforcement from using statements made by an arrested suspect before they have informed the suspect of his rights. In 1984, however, the Supreme Court recognized a "public safety exception" to this rule in New York v. Quarles [opinion text], whereby officials may question a suspect before informing him of his rights if there is an immediate risk to public safety. Holder indicated that the safety risks posed by terrorism [JURIST news archive] may require a similar or even greater exception in order for law enforcement to gather information necessary to prevent terror attacks.

Last week, lawmakers introduced a bill [JURIST report] that, if passed, would strip US citizenship rights from those suspected of engaging in terrorism. Earlier last week, Shahzad was charged with terrorism [JURIST report] for his role in attempted the Times Square bombing. In March, Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) proposed a law [JURIST report] that would require terror suspects to be stripped of their Miranda rights and to face military interrogation and trial. Amos Guiora of the University of Utah College of Law criticized the proposed legislation [JURIST op-ed], claiming its impact "would be a fundamental miscarriage of justice." In February, Holder defended his decision [JURIST report] to try Abdulmutallab in federal court as well as the decision to read him his Miranda rights.

 

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