Boston Bombing Suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev Not Read Miranda Rights
Civil liberties advocates have decried the decision to deny the surviving Boston Marathon bombing suspect his Miranda Rights as “un-American.”
In refusing to read 19-year-old Boston bombing suspect and American citizen Dzhokhar Tsarnaev his rights, authorities cited the ‘public safety exception,’ by which police may legally interrogate a suspect without reading him or her their Miranda Rights— the right to remain silent and be afforded legal counsel– if it is believed that suspect could have information about a threat to public safety.
The ‘public safety exception’ has been applied to a handful in several high-profile terror cases in recent years. Among them: convicted Christmas Day ‘underwear bomber’ Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab and convicted Times Square bomber Faizal Shahzad. In both cases, the FBI claimed to have gleaned useful information as a result of interrogating the suspects after denial of their Miranda rights.
But the nation’s foremost civil liberties group is now warning that denying rights to even those suspected of heinous crimes such as last week’s marathon bombing is “un-American” and will hamper efforts to “obtain fair convictions.”
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) issued a statement on Saturday in which it decried the government’s violation of Tsarnaev’s rights:
“Every criminal defendant is entitled to be read Miranda rights,” the statement reads. “The public safety exception should be read narrowly. It applies only when there is a continued threat to public safety and is not an open-ended exception to the Miranda rule. Additionally, every criminal defendant has a right to be brought before a judge and to have access to counsel. We must not waiver from our tried-and-true justice system, even in the most difficult of times. Denial of rights is un-American and will only make it harder to obtain fair convictions.”
“The issues are framed by this overarching question that really has driven all of these questions since the September 11th attack, which is: Are we going to dismantle our traditional legal protocols and constitutional protections in the name of fear, and in particular under the banner of one word, which is ‘terrorism’? And all of the controversies brewing over this case are essentially a byproduct of that overarching question,” constitutional lawyer and Guardian columnist Glenn Greenwald said Monday on Democracy Now!
In denying Tsarnaev his rights, authorities cited the possibility of undiscovered, unexploded bombs that may have been planted by him, his brother Tamerlan (who was killed by police in a shootout on Friday) or other possible accomplices.
Some observers, including some prominent Republican lawmakers, welcomed the decision to deny Tsarnaev his Miranda rights.
“The last thing we may want to do is to read Boston suspect Miranda rights telling him to ‘remain silent,'” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) tweeted in response to Tsarnaev’s capture.
In a joint statement, Graham and fellow Republican senators John McCain of Arizona, Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire and Representative Peter King of New York asserted that Tsarnaev should not only be denied his Miranda rights, he should also be denied access to an attorney and declared an ‘enemy combatant.’
“Under the Law of War we can hold this suspect as a potential enemy combatant not entitled to Miranda warnings or appointment of counsel,” the joint statement read. “Our goal at this critical juncture should be to gather intelligence and protect our nation from further attacks.”
“The accused perpetrators of these acts were not common criminals attempting to profit from a criminal enterprise, but terrorists trying to injure, maim and kill innocent Americans,” the statement said. “The suspect, based on his actions, clearly is a good candidate for enemy combatant status. We do not want this suspect to remain silent.”
Rep. King, who is best known for his hearings on radical Islam which critics charged were reminiscent of McCarthy-era communist witch hunts, told Politico that since the United States was now a “battleground” in the so-called War on Terror, Tsarnaev should be treated accordingly.
“America is part of the battleground. If you capture someone on the battleground, they should not be given the privilege of a civilian trial where they are given different rights,” King said. “He’s going to be convicted one way or another. My concern is intelligence we can get from him, whether other people were involved, whether he’s dealt with other Islamist terrorists in the past, is there a Chechen base overseas, [ties] to the Middle East, other cells?”
“The only way to get that is through extensive, intensive interrogation,” King continued, adding that his “real concern is whether there are other sleepers around.”
One Republican lawmaker went even further, suggesting that Tsarnaev should be tortured in order to elicit potential intelligence.
“So, scum bag #2 in custody,” New York state Sen. Greg Ball tweeted following Tsarnaev’s capture. “Who wouldn’t use torture on this punk to save more lives?”
The denial of Tsarnaev’s Miranda rights has also raised concerns that despite promising never to apply it to American citizens, the Obama administration may invoke the indefinite detention clause of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which allows for the indefinite military detention of terror suspects without charge or trial, even Americans, for the duration of hostilities– which, in an open-ended conflict such as the so-called War on Terror, could potentially be a literal lifetime.
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