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ACLU Slams Eric Holder On Decision To Alter Miranda Protections

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The American Civil Liberties Union is decrying the decision of U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to make changes to Miranda protections in terrorism cases. Holder's decision was reported in the New York Times this past weekend by Charlie Savage:

Mr. Holder proposed carving out a broad new exception to the Miranda rights established in a landmark 1966 Supreme Court ruling. It generally forbids prosecutors from using as evidence statements made before suspects have been warned that they have a right to remain silent and to consult a lawyer.

He said interrogators needed greater flexibility to question terrorism suspects than is provided by existing exceptions.

The ACLU, in a press release, responded thusly:

Attorney General Eric Holder said this weekend that the Obama administration would seek a new law to loosen the requirement that terrorism suspects be informed of their constitutional rights during interrogation. Holder made the statements on network news shows Sunday morning. The proposed legislation would undermine the Miranda requirement that was ruled to be a constitutional right by the U.S. Supreme Court, said the American Civil Liberties Union.

The following can be attributed to Laura W. Murphy, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office:

"President Obama has taken many important steps to restore respect for the Constitution and the rule of law, but his attorney general is now proposing that Congress chip away at the cherished Miranda protections. It's disappointing to hear Mr. Holder suggest that Americans should trade their freedoms for security. Congress should strongly reject this proposal and the underlying argument that the Constitution doesn't work. Gradually dismantling the Constitution will make us less free, but it will not make us more safe."

The following can be attributed to Jameel Jaffer, Deputy Legal Director of the ACLU:

"Mr. Holder's request for a broad exception to the Miranda requirement for terrorism cases is not only discouraging, but also bewildering. For one thing, there is no evidence that the Miranda requirement has obstructed the government from obtaining information from suspected terrorists - Mr. Holder himself has said that the terrorism suspects detained over the last few months provided information to the FBI even after being informed of their right to remain silent. More fundamentally, legislation that significantly undermined Miranda would be unconstitutional; as Mr. Holder should know as well as anyone, the Miranda requirement is rooted in the Fifth Amendment."

Their criticism is understandable. What we've seen in the investigations spawned from the attempted terrorist acts of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab and Faisal Shahzad is that the proper application of Miranda rights neither inhibited, nor was inhibited by the need to conduct a thorough investigation-slash-intelligence gathering operation. This can basically be seen as a victory for both proper law enforcement and Miranda rights -- though I'm hesitant to use such a heady word like "victory" in the latter case, since Mirandization was only opposed by inveterate political hacks who either a) had no idea what they were talking about or b) did know and just lied about it.

Yet, for reasons that are difficult to fathom, given the unalloyed successes of law enforcement, Holder has decided to blink in the face of critics of Mirandization. Classic "solution in search of a problem" decision-making.

By the way, Spencer Ackerman helpfully highlights the important part of Savage's article:

Rudolph W. Giuliani, the former New York City mayor and Republican presidential candidate, said Sunday on "This Week" on ABC that he supported Mr. Holder's proposal. However, he also suggested that enacting it would not quell conservative criticism, arguing that it would be even better to hold suspects like Mr. Shahzad as military detainees for lengthier interrogation.

Same old story. From a position of strength, Holder gives unnecessary ground to the inveterate political hacks, and what does he get in return? A promise of more political hackery. Meanwhile, this must do wonders for the morale of the law enforcement officials who've proven their mettle in the war on terror.

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