Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Obama Caving to the Right On Miranda?

Once again I get the sense that Obama is caving to the Right on important, core issues. He did it on the issue of prosecuting terrorists in civilian Federal courts (something this nation has always done), and now Eric Holder has signaled that the Administration is willing to tinker with Miranda to give law enforcement more flexibility when dealing with terror suspects. There have been several other examples of this caving to Conservatives. I have honestly lost count.

Now the Congress is even flirting with the idea of stripping citizenship from people involved in terrorism, sometimes even before the disposition of a trial; and Speaker Pelosi thought that it might be a good idea. What in the World is going on? One question that immediately comes to mind for me is.... will this law be applied to the Right wing terrorists and their organizations? I'm talking about the McVeigh's, the Eric Rudolph's, the Jim Adkisson's, the Matthew Hale's, the James Von Brunn's, the Benjamin Nathaniel Smith's, and the James Kopp's. Certainly they are terrorists. Will they be banished from the Country? Will they be stripped of their rights as citizens?

Of course the Obama administration is flirting with the idea of changing Miranda (which he can't change in any significant way because it is protected by Supreme Court precedent), all to sort of pacify Conservatives who are complaining about the way he is handling terror suspects...some suggesting that Miranda should be banished altogether, even for terror suspects who are citizens.

The fact is, Miranda doesn't need any significant changes. The investigative process has been working fine, for the most part, under the current law. In fact, a public safety exemption already exists, when it comes to Miranda. The exemption has been around for 25 years and was established in the case of New York v. Quarles. In it, the Supreme Court concluded:
"concern for public safety must be paramount to adherence to the literal language of the prophylactic rules enunciated in Miranda."

Law enforcement authorities already have flexibility in how they use Miranda. Obama, a Constitutional law scholar, has to know this. I think (and hope) these moves are designed to try to blunt Republican talking points....which have been driving the debate on just about everything. I hope this is not a signal that Obama is willing to change basic civil liberties. As much as some may disagree, even terrorists have rights in this Country.

The irony in all of this is the fact that since 9/11, the Country has proclaimed that it would not allow terrorists to change the American way of life. But by tinkering with core principles of due process, miranda, etc, the Country is signaling that it is willing to change its most fundamental values. The terrorists win every time a nutty Republican tries to divide the Country on issues of fundamental rights.

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