Posts Tagged ‘Times Square bomber’

Mirandizing the Times Square bomber

May 7, 2010

Everything in the Times Square bomber case went as it should.  An alert bystander – an immigrant from a Muslim country, by the way – tipped off police to a suspicious circumstance. New York City police courageously and skillfully rendered the bomb harmless.  A suspect, Faisal Shazad, was apprehended before he could get out of the country. He was questioned by the FBI’s crack High Value Interrogation Group and, according to the government, provided valuable information both before and after he was informed of his constitutional right to remain silent.

Senators John McCain, Orrin Hatch and others nevertheless criticized the FBI for issuing the Miranda warning.  Evidently they have a principled objection to due process of law, even when it works.

The right to remain silent, guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, is one of the most basic concepts of the Anglo-American tradition of liberty under law.  It was enshrined in the English Bill of Rights of the 1687 after a long struggle against absolute monarchs whose power was based on forced confessions and secret trials.

The Supreme Court decision in Miranda vs. Arizona came as a result a long history of abuses by American police.  People my age remember the expression “third degree” and what it meant. I don’t want to go back to that era.