Obama curtails Miranda rights for American terrorism suspects

By David Edwards
Thursday, March 24, 2011 11:10 EDT
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The Obama administration has created a new policy that allows investigators to waive Miranda warnings for domestic-terror suspects, even when there is not an “immediate threat,” a report said Thursday.

The rule was revealed by an FBI memorandum obtained by The Wall Street Journal. It says that in “exceptional cases,” investigators can hold suspects without informing them of their rights.

The policy applies where investigators “conclude that continued unwarned interrogation is necessary to collect valuable and timely intelligence not related to any immediate threat.”

A 1966 Supreme Court ruling said that law-enforcement officials must notify suspects of their right to remain silent and have an attorney present for questioning. Another decision, 1n 1984, gave law enforcement the ability to question suspects for a limited time without a Miranda warning where public safety was at stake.

The 1984 exception has been used to justify interrogating domestic-terror suspects for hours without reading them their rights.

With the new rules, that exception has been significantly expanded.

First word of Obama’s new Miranda policy made the news in January, when Salon’s Justin Elliot reported that Attorney General Eric Holder had a new Miranda policy, but decided to keep it secret.

Republicans had criticized the administration’s decision to give Miranda warnings in two recent domestic-terror arrests. Umar Farouk, the accused 2009 Christmas Day bomber, was interrogated for less than an hour before being notified of his rights. Faisal Shahzad, the Times Square bombing suspect, was interrogated for three hours.

In both cases, authorities said that the suspects continued to give helpful information after being read their rights.

Update: ACLU issues statement on new Miranda rules

“Miranda is a constitutional rule, not an interrogation policy,” the ACLU said Thursday.

“It is important to remember that no change in FBI interrogation policy can alter the constitutional imperative that information gained without Miranda warnings is inadmissible against a defendant in a court of law where no public safety exception exists. This principle is fundamental to the American system of justice.”

David Edwards
David Edwards
David Edwards has served as an editor at Raw Story since 2006. His work can also be found at Crooks & Liars, and he's also been published at The BRAD BLOG. He came to Raw Story after working as a network manager for the state of North Carolina and as as engineer developing enterprise resource planning software. Follow him on Twitter at @DavidEdwards.
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