Editorials

Miranda timeline deserves extensive debate, not poses

By the Herald editorial staff

One of the most disappointing things about the Congress of the United States is that many of the members seem to have already formed opinions on every subject under thesun.

That is the case with Attorney General Eric Holder's suggestion that Congress and the administration work together to see if further exceptions should be made to the Miranda rule as it applies to suspected terrorists.

Rather than being open to discussion of an important subject, some members are already hectoring Holder for raising the issue.

Must it always be this way?

Are our national legislators really so bright that the public is expected to take their personal conclusions as gospel?

This is a serious matter, this discussion about the rights of terrorist suspects.

Ours is a country at risk from organized fanatics.

Yet to the dullest among us, every question too often is about the next election.

Some leeway is already provided in a 1984 Supreme Court decision that allowed statements by defendants made before they were read the Miranda warnings to be admitted at trial when public safety was threatened.

Attorney General Holder has said that Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, accused of beingthe thwarted "underpants bomber," was questionedfor almost an hour without having his rights read to him, according to The New York Times.

More recently, Faisal Shahzad, accused of being the attempted Times Square bomber, was questioned for several hours before being read his Miranda rights.

In the latter case, the accused just kept on talking after hearing of his rights. In the former, the accused Detroit bomber initially shut up after the warning, but relatives, according to the Times, convinced him to continue talking.

"If we are going to have a system that is capable of dealing in a public safety context with this new threat, I think we have to give serious consideration to at least modifying that public safety exception," Holder was quoted in the Times. "And that's one of the things that I think we're going to be reaching out to Congress to do: to come up with a proposal that is both constitutional but that is also relevant to our time and the threat that we now face."

Some terrorism experts agree that more interrogation time is necessary before terrorist suspects are informed of their rights.

The American Civil Liberties Union and others argue that constitutional guaranteesare for everyone under our system.

Abdulmutallab is a Nigerian. Shahzad is a naturalized American citizen.

There's a divide among citizens as to which way to go.

The same rights for everyone has a patriotic ring to it.

We have to get information about terrorism -- as much as we can and as quickly as we can -- has a certain "this is war," logic to it.

How far to go with Miranda is a fundamental question.

It needs honest give-and-take debate.

Not just sound bites from "I'm more patriotic than you" politicians.

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