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Miranda V. America

Obama wages Warren terror

by: daniel clark | published: 06 17, 2009

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So now we're reading Miranda rights to captured terrorists in Afghanistan. That makes it official; it is absolutely impossible to caricature President Obama, because he'll eventually get around to doing everything his detractors had once joked about.

Since January, our new president has repeatedly done things that would have sounded like paranoid fantasies just months earlier. He has staged a fascist takeover of General Motors and fired its CEO, given almost a billion dollars in foreign aid to Hamas, floated a trial balloon about slashing veterans' benefits, proposed the release of al-Qaeda-trained terrorists into the United States, and appointed a "pay czar" to oversee executive compensation.

It was all but inevitable, then, that he would now have our interrogators bestowing Miranda rights on terrorists, as Sarah Palin had semi-seriously predicted during the campaign. Palin's pretentious critics may have rolled their eyes at the suggestion at that time, but it's merely an extrapolation of the Democrats' treatment of terrorism as a domestic law enforcement issue.

One of the most basic flaws in that approach is that the same liberals who want to treat our foreign enemies as criminals also treat criminals as victims of society, as illustrated by the 1966 Miranda v. Arizona Supreme Court decision. The object of the Warren Court's sympathy in that case, Ernesto Miranda, was a confessed rapist. Although there was no indication that his confession had been coerced, the justices absurdly required that the police demonstrate the absence of duress. The Court-prescribed mechanism for establishing this was the requirement that they inform a suspect of his rights to remain silent and to speak with an attorney.

While the police must respect those rights, they are not constitutionally bound to advise the accused on how to exercise them. Making them actually warn criminals not to confess is so preposterous that no law enforcement official would ever have devised such a rule. Instead, it had to be concocted by five tyrants in black robes, who chose to subordinate the Constitution to their own perverse sociological theories.

In a majority opinion that could be charitably described as a harangue, Justice Earl Warren cited multiple irrelevant cases in which criminal suspects were forcibly deprived of their rights, and then conceded that Miranda was not alleged to have received any such treatment. He nevertheless asserted that inducing a confession through psychological ploys and verbal trickery is -- somehow or other -- equally unconstitutional. In fact, he found that, "the very fact of custodial interrogation exacts a heavy toll on individual liberty, and trades on the weakness of individuals."

In his dissenting opinion, Justice John Marshall Harlan warned, "I believe the decision of the Court represents poor constitutional law and entails harmful consequences for the country at large. How serious these consequences may prove to be, only time can tell." One can just imagine what Harlan would think if he knew that this ruling would someday be applied to America's wartime enemies.

Thankfully, Miranda was retried and convicted a year later, but many subsequent cases have since proven Harlan right. It's not unusual these days for liberal judges to set criminals free, because they blurted out confessions before being read their rights, or because they couldn't understand their rights when read to them in English.

By treating Islamic terrorists as criminals, the Obama administration is availing them of these same technicalities. Considering that the prosecution would have to prove that terrorists from places like Pakistan, Somalia and Chechnya understood the Miranda warnings, this policy is tantamount to handing them "get out of jail free" cards.

Another folly in equating terrorists with criminals is that the object of interrogating a terror suspect is not to extract a confession, but to gather intelligence that will be used to catch other terrorists and thwart their plots. Since self-incrimination is not an issue, the pseudo-constitutional rationale for the Miranda ruling does not even apply. Why Obama would grant terrorists a "right" not to talk to interrogators, then, defies innocent explanation.

Not only does reading Miranda rights to terrorists make it more difficult to obtain information from them, but by signaling that they will be treated as domestic criminals, it suggests that the military will be expected to produce physical evidence of their criminality. If we follow this policy to its natural conclusion, our soldiers may find themselves being riddled with sniper fire, while dusting the battlefield for prints.

… And just for the record, that is not a joke.

-- Daniel Clark is a Staff Writer for the New Media Alliance. The New Media Alliance is a non-profit (501c3) national coalition of writers, journalists and grass-roots media outlets.

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Daniel Clark is a writer from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. While earning an M.A. in English at Indiana University of Pennsylvania in the mid-90s, he had weekly opinion and sports columns published in the independent student newspaper. In 1999, he created a web publication called The Shinbone: The Frontier of the Free Press, for which he has written on a wide array of topics, but with a particular emphasis on the need to return to a literal interpretation of the Constitution. He is now a Staff Writer for the New Media Alliance, a non-profit (501c3) national coalition of writers, journalists and grass-roots media outlets.



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