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Terrorists Should Be Read Their Miranda Rights, Too

November 16, 2017

Terrorists who commit crimes on American soil are not foreign soldiers.  To treat them as soldiers is to dignify them in a way they don’t deserve—as part of something larger—a nation state at war with American ideals and America itself.  Instead, they are criminals deserving the same and no more respect than that afforded by the Constitution.  To treat them as soldiers reinforces the false notion that Islam and America are at war, perpetuates rifts that plague our society, and further incentivizes radicals.  We must not buy into the rhetoric of a global religious war—us against them—and sacrifice the very principles and ideals that serve as the very foundation of our nation—including the right to remain silent and the right to counsel in a criminal case.  If we abandon these—our values, our commitment to freedom and fairness—then we might as well give up and let these terrorists win. In the wake of the TriBeCa car attack on October 31st, Senators Lindsey Graham and John McCain, along with Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, called for Sayfullo Saipov to be labeled and held as an “enemy combatant.”  To their disappointment the Trump administration didn’t take such action and the Acting U.S. Attorney in Manhattan instead formally charged Saipov under federal criminal law.  When someone is held as an enemy combatant, he is not afforded the same rights as everyone else charged under the federal criminal code, and he may never be formally charged and Mirandized.  Advocates of enemy combatant labeling believe that reading a suspected terrorist Miranda rights, and have him potentially invoke his right to an attorney and remain silent, will impede the United States from properly interrogating him and gathering beneficial information on others.  While there is always the risk of lawyering up, there is  strong evidence to suggest that torture doesn’t work as an interrogation tool. The Bush Administration, after 9/11, held suspected terrorists as enemy combatants as part of the “war on terror” against al Qaeda.  With this policy, President Bush stretched the definition of “war” and manipulated it to suit a dubious agenda that included torture and having White House lawyers attempt to justify it, as well as conducting warrantless searches on Americans, despite having the opportunity to use a secret court, FISA, set up specifically for obtaining warrants without opposition.  By labeling the hostility with al Qaeda as a “war” within the larger context of the “War on Terror,” Bush then claimed that domestic criminal law would not suffice for proper prosecution of al Qaeda’s agents, aka “terrorists.”  President Bush also claimed that the “war” with al Qaeda was a special type of war and therefore adherence to the rules set by the Geneva Convention of 1949, which contain rules limiting the barbarity of war, was unnecessary. The legality of holding suspected terrorists claiming ISIS affiliation, like Saipov, as “enemy combatants” is further questionable because ISIS, unlike al Qaeda, isn’t covered by the 2001 Authorization of the Use of Military Force, which Congress authorized to be carried out exclusively against those involved with the 9/11 attacks and any “associated forces.”  ISIS was not associated with al-Qaeda and had no part in the 9/11 attack, as it didn’t exist in 2001.  The policy of holding suspected terrorists as enemy combatants, however, […]

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