Obama's Interrogation Policy: You Had the Right to Remain Silent

Even as Obama insists that terrorists be read their Miranda rights, his Department of Justice lawyers are in court arguing the opposite. David B. Rivkin and Marc Thiessen write in the Wall Street Journal that DoJ lawyers are fighting attempts by terrorists in criminal court to have their confessions suppressed. The DoJ’s argument? We are at war with Al Qaeda:

On Dec. 18, 2009, days before the Christmas attack, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, Preet Bharara, made a secret filing in federal district court that was aimed at saving the prosecution of Ahmed Ghailani, another al Qaeda terrorist. Ghailani is facing charges for helping al Qaeda bomb U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998. Ghailani argues that those charges should be dropped because lengthy CIA interrogations have denied him his constitutional right to a speedy trial.

Mr. Bharara, on behalf of the Justice Department, filed a memorandum with the court stating that Ghailani’s claims are dangerous and off the mark. Interrogating terrorists must come before criminal prosecution, he wrote in language so strong that even a redacted version of his filing (which we have obtained) serves as a searing indictment of the administration’s mishandling of Abdulmutallab.

“The United States was, and still is, at war with al Qaeda,” Mr. Bharara argued. “And because the group does not control territory as a sovereign nation does, the war effort relies less on deterrence than on disruption—on preventing attacks before they can occur. At the core of such disruption efforts is obtaining accurate intelligence about al Qaeda’s plans, leaders and capabilities.”

Yes, we are at war with Al Qaeda. But then, why are we prosecuting the warriors in criminal court? Why do we feel we need to read the terrorist warriors their Miranda rights? Why are we having to beg federal judges not to throw out the warriors’ confessions?

By twisting the criminal justice system to accommodate cases that don’t belong there, Obama’s approach also threatens to weaken the protections of the system for all Americans. We have already seen how Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s trial has been turned into a show trial whose outcome is meaningless, making a mockery of the seriousness of criminal trials.

Now Obama is making a mockery of Miranda rights as well.

If unnamed sources in the Los Angeles Times are to be believed, Administration officials read the underwear bomber his Miranda rights — but only after they had decided that he was not going to talk any more:

The decision to advise the accused Christmas Day attacker of his right to remain silent was made after teleconferences involving at least four government agencies — and only after Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab had stopped talking to authorities, according to knowledgeable law enforcement officials.

. . . .

The source said that Abdulmutallab was not read his rights until he made it clear that he was not going to say anything else.

Let me get this straight. First they interrogate the suspect. Then, after he talks, they tell him he has the right to remain silent. (More like: he had the right to remain silent.)

If this account is correct, it’s clear that the Miranda rights are being read purely for show. Like KSM’s trial, Obama wants to give terrorists who wage war against this country the appearance of due process, by conferring on them procedural protections to which they are not entitled.

This makes a mockery of the process.

Telling terrorists we are going to try them in criminal court, but that the outcome doesn’t matter because they won’t be released if they win, makes the criminal trials a joke.

Telling terrorists we are going to read them their Miranda rights — but only after we have interrogated them to the point where they are done talking, makes Miranda rights meaningless.

The solution is simple. Listen to your lawyers, Barry. Treat criminal suspects as criminals — and foreign Al Qaeda fighters as warriors.

Your lawyers understand we are at war. Why don’t you?