Dead To Rights

June 15, 2009

Dead To Rights


War On Terror: Six years ago, our political cartoonist Michael Ramirez, while working for another newspaper, drew a U.S. soldier reading a jihadist his Miranda rights. It was funny then. We’re not laughing now.

Read More: Global War On Terror

It seemed absurd: A terrorist being told that he had “the right to remain silent . . .” as he was captured on the battlefield. Surely that would never happen. But now a U.S. congressman believes it’s happening in Afghanistan, likely by order of the Justice Department.

Rep. Mike Rogers, a Michigan Republican and credible veteran of the Army and FBI, says that he has watched the Mirandizing of terrorist suspects. If so, the practice severely handicaps this country’s effort to wipe out terrorism.

The Miranda warning is based on the Constitution’s Fifth Amendment, which guarantees criminal suspects the right to not self-incriminate, or testify against themselves, as well as the right to an attorney who can be present during questioning.

Less than three months ago, President Obama clearly staked out his position on Mirandizing terrorist detainees.

“Do these folks deserve Miranda rights?” he asked CBS’ Steve Kroft during a March 22 “60 Minutes” interview. “Do they deserve to be treated like a shoplifter down the block? Of course not.”

When pressed about speculation that the administration has made a significant policy shift on Mirandizing suspected terrorists, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs was coy, saying he had “no reason to disbelieve a member of Congress.”

Asked on a follow-up question if it would be “a surprise at the White House” if the Mirandizing was taking place, Gibbs said: “It’s not a surprise to me.”

That’s an unmistakable admission that the administration has, in fact, changed course and is now treating terrorism as it would domestic crime. Now it’s just a nuisance, reduced, as Sen. John Kerry was hoping for in 2004, to an offense that has to be endured like prostitution and gambling.

And here we thought it was about life, death and the preservation of America and Western civilization.

If Rogers is right, forget waterboarding. A Mirandized terrorism detainee cannot even be interrogated. A hostile combatant who might have information that can save lives on a foreign battlefield or in an American city has the option, one he is sure to take, to just remain silent — that is, until he begins to taunt his interrogators while his lawyer is present.

What if Khalid Sheikh Mohammed had been Mirandized rather than waterboarded? He reportedly told his captors that “I’ll talk to you guys after I get to New York and see my lawyer.” But instead of huddling with an attorney, he rode the waterboard and gave up information that saved American lives.

With conditions in Afghanistan deteriorating to the point that Gen. David Petraeus sees “difficult times ahead,” American soldiers don’t need to be playing policeman. They and others fighting in the war on terrorism have more pressing needs to attend to on the battlefield than reading Miranda rights.

While the U.S. justice system is effective in dealing with domestic crime, it is not sufficient for foreign enemies who want to slaughter on a mass scale. When we give them rights, we put lives at risk.


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