Obama Orders Limits on Miranda Rights For Domestic Suspects

President Obama has continued his attack on basic constitutional and legal principles with an astonishing new order that allows investigators to not only hold domestic terror suspects for longer periods but to deny them Miranda rights under a strained interpretation of the public safety exception. Obama had attempted to get this change from Congress but was rebuffed. He has now again adopted a tactic of his predecessor and acted unilaterally to trump recognized constitutional rights.

Past administrations have accepted that all domestic suspects are afforded the same protections under Supreme Court precedent governing Miranda warnings. The Supreme Court ultimately ruled in Dickerson v. United States, 530 U.S. 428 (2000), that the Miranda rights were constitutionally based.

The Administration is claiming a categorical right to invoke the public safety exception for any terror suspect — a facially absurd assertions since terror cases may or may not involve an imminent threat. Jose Padilla was claimed as being involved in an imminent threat of an nuclear attack. That claims was later withdrawn by the Bush Administration.

The public safety exception was recognized in New York v. Quarles, when a police officer got a rape suspect to tell him where a gun could be found in a grocery store. The Supreme Court allowed the incriminating statement to be admitted and ruled that it was “a situation where concern for public safety must be paramount to adherence to the literal language of the prophylactic rules enunciated in Miranda.” Notably, the Obama Administration is trying to achieve what it could not achieve in prior cases of coerced statements — to allow these statements to be introduced despite the contravention of a recognized constitutional right.

The public safety exception has always been highly case specific and this would be the ultimate example of the exception swallowing the rule. Of course, as constitutionally based, Obama cannot unilaterally change the meaning of this right by simple decree.

What is truly alarming is the failure of the Administration to tell anyone that (after being rebuffed by Congress) Obama simply went forward and ordered the change. The policy allows investigators to deny the protection of Miranda in “exceptional cases” where investigators “conclude that continued unwarned interrogation is necessary to collect valuable and timely intelligence not related to any immediate threat.” Obviously, that would allow investigators to claim the need for timely intelligence in any case. What investigator (or approving supervisor) is going to say that this case is not really a pressing matter of public safety? Under Obama’s approach, an investigator can interrogate a suspect first and then, after he has incriminated himself, tell him that he could have remain silent.

The disclosure of the policy further cements Obama’s legacy as a civil liberties nightmare. He is no longer viewed by civil libertarians as a disappointment, he is now viewed as a menace to fundamental rights.

Once again, the Democratic leadership is virtually silent in the face of this circumvention of not only the Constitution but Congress itself.

Source: WSJ

40 thoughts on “Obama Orders Limits on Miranda Rights For Domestic Suspects”

  1. Off Topic. Things just keep getting worse. Read on…

    Top Bush-era GITMO and Abu Ghraib psychologist is WH’s newest appointment
    FRIDAY, MAR 25, 2011

    One of the most intense scandals the field of psychology has faced over the last decade is the involvement of several of its members in enabling Bush’s worldwide torture regime. Numerous health professionals worked for the U.S. government to help understand how best to mentally degrade and break down detainees. At the center of that controversy was — and is — Dr. Larry James. James, a retired Army colonel, was the Chief Psychologist at Guantanamo in 2003, at the height of the abuses at that camp, and then served in the same position at Abu Ghraib during 2004.

    Today, Dr. James circulated an excited email announcing, “with great pride,” that he has now been selected to serve on the “White House Task Force entitled Enhancing the Psychological Well-Being of The Military Family.” In his new position, he will be meeting at the White House with Michelle Obama and other White House officials on Tuesday.

    For his work at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo, Dr. James was the subject of two formal ethics complaints in the two states where he is licensed to practice: Louisiana and Ohio. Those complaints — 50 pages long and full of detailed and well-documented allegations — were filed by the International Human Rights Clinic of Harvard Law School’s Human Rights Program, on behalf of veterans, mental health professionals and others. The complaints detailed how James “was the senior psychologist of the Guantánamo BSCT, a small but influential group of mental health professionals whose job it was to advise on and participate in the interrogations, and to help create an environment designed to break down prisoners.” Specifically:

    During his tenure at the prison, boys and men were threatened with rape and death for themselves and their family members; sexually, culturally, and religiously humiliated; forced naked; deprived of sleep; subjected to sensory deprivation, over-stimulation, and extreme isolation; short-shackled into stress positions for hours; and physically assaulted. The evidence indicates that abuse of this kind was systemic, that BSCT health professionals played an integral role in its planning and practice. . . .

    Writing in 2009, Law Professor Bill Quigley and Deborah Popowski, a Fellow at the Harvard Law School Human Rights Program, described James’ role in this particularly notorious incident:

    In 2003, Louisiana psychologist and retired Col. Larry James watched behind a one-way mirror in a US prison camp while an interrogator and three prison guards wrestled a screaming, near-naked man on the floor.

    The prisoner had been forced into pink women’s panties, lipstick and a wig; the men then pinned the prisoner to the floor in an effort “to outfit him with the matching pink nightgown.” As he recounts in his memoir, “Fixing Hell,” Dr. James initially chose not to respond. He “opened [his] thermos, poured a cup of coffee, and watched the episode play out, hoping it would take a better turn and not wanting to interfere without good reason …”

    Although he claims to eventually find “good reason” to intervene, the Army colonel never reported the incident or even so much as reprimanded men who had engaged in activities that constituted war crimes.

    James treated numerous detainees who were abused, degraded, and tortured, yet never took any steps to stop or even report these incidents. Last year, Steven Reisner — senior faculty member and supervisor at the International Trauma Studies Program, who also teaches at New York University Medical School and Columbia University — told Democracy Now: “there is a lot of evidence that has been made public showing that the torture programs in the CIA and at Guantánamo, the Department of Defense, were created and overseen by health professionals, particularly psychologists” and that psychologists were at these facilities “to use their professional expertise to break down the detainees.” James, argued Dr. Reisner, was directly implicated because:

    Larry James was the chief BSCT starting in January 2003. And when you read the standard operating procedures for mental health, for how to — behavior protocols for detainees during the time that Larry James was the chief psychologist, you find institutionalized abuse and torture — isolation for thirty days at a time with absolutely no contact, prohibition of the International Committee of the Red Cross to see these detainees, no access even to religious articles, to the Qur’an, unless they cooperate with interrogations, not to mention frequent interrogation.

  2. Aye, welcome back mespo.

    You and your sufficiently sterilized kidneys. 😉

  3. Yes welcome back mespo….even though I was unnamed….I knew you meant me right…..Just substitute Mespo for Kotter…

  4. Yawn…..I am waking up from a deep sleep…..who is president again…..

  5. So to recap: The president will decide who is a domestic terrorist. That list is created by the executive. No reason need be given by the executive for including an individual or group on the list.

    Next, the executive branch will be the sole arbiter of who is a terrorist when taken into custody. He will then take away that person’s Constitutional rights.

    Like that other thingy Mr. Obama claims he can do, kill American citizens anywhere for any reason once he decides to call them terrorists, these are clearly the actions of a dictator, not a president.

    Many people believe this is just fine, or only slightly disturbing because it does not touch their own life. They do not expect to be arrested or mistreated.

    Is this how we ought to form our own reactions? As long as it’s only happening to others, I’ll tolerate their abuse and the destruction of the rule of law? This is what the Germans did after the enabling decrees–Are we the good Americans? Or do we stand for the rights of others to justice? This grab for dictatorial power will not be stopped by Congress. It will not be stopped by a complacent, morally unconcerned public. It will only be stopped when the lives of others become important to us. Then, through the use of peaceful means, this dictator can be stopped.

  6. Mr. President has turned out not to be the man I thought I was voting for. I want my campaign contributions back.

  7. Rafflaw/BIL:

    Just got back into the office yesterday. Rarin’ to go. No Compari/vodka cocktails on the horizon.

  8. You all better be careful….I am gonna pull a Ronnie on all of you…..Then maybe I can be president too….

  9. James in LA,

    You are most welcome.

    As ever, one lives to be of service.

  10. eniobob,

    “That’s the $64,000 question”

    And I could sure use $64,000 right about now …

  11. I know this is OT, but it brings to mind the spinelessness of the Democrats …

    The Republican’s Big Lies About Jobs (and Why Obama Must Repudiate Them)
    Tuesday 22 March 2011

    by: Robert Reich | Robert Reich’s Blog | Op-Ed

    And if all others accepted the lie which the party imposed – if all records told the same tale – then the lie passed into history and became the truth.
    George Orwell, 1984 (published in 1949)

    House Majority Leader Eric Cantor was in town yesterday (specifically, at Stanford’s Hoover Institute where he could surround himself with sympathetic Republicans) to tell this whopper: “Cutting the federal deficit will create jobs.”
    It’s not true. Cutting the deficit will creates fewer jobs. Less government spending reduces overall demand. This is particularly worrisome when, as now, consumers and businesses are still holding back. Fewer government workers have paychecks to buy stuff from other Americans, some of whom in turn will lose their jobs without enough customers.

    But truth doesn’t seem to matter. Republicans figure if their big lies are repeated often enough, people will start to believe them.

    Unless, that is, those big lies are repudiated – and big truths are told in their place.

    What worries me almost as much as the Republican’s repeated big lies about jobs is the silence of President Obama and Democratic leaders in the face of them. Obama has the bully pulpit. Republicans don’t. But if he doesn’t use it the Republican’s big lies gain credibility.

    Here are some other whoppers being repeated daily:

    “Cutting taxes on the rich creates jobs.” Nope. Trickle-down economics has been tried for thirty years and hasn’t worked. After George W. Bush cut taxes on the rich, far fewer jobs were created than after Bill Clinton raised them in the 1990s.
    To his credit, President Obama argued against Republican demands for extending the Bush tax cut for those making more than a quarter million. But as soon as Republicans pushed back he caved. And the President hasn’t even mentioned that the $61 billion Republicans are demanding in budget cuts this fiscal year is what richer Americans would have paid in taxes had he not caved.

    “Cutting corporate income taxes creates jobs.” Baloney. American corporations don’t need tax cuts. They’re sitting on over $1.5 trillion of cash right now. They won’t invest it in additional capacity or jobs because they don’t see enough customers out there with enough money in their pockets to buy what the additional capacity would produce.

    The President needs to point this out – not just in Washington but across the nation where Republican governors are slashing corporate taxes and simultaneously cutting school budgets. President Obama says he wants to invest in American skills, but many states are doing the opposite. Florida Governor Rick Scott, for example, says his proposed corporate tax cuts “will give Florida a competitive edge in attracting jobs.” They’ll also require education spending be reduced by $3 billion. Florida already ranks near the bottom in per-pupil spending and has one of nation’s lowest graduation rates. If Scott’s tax cuts create jobs, most will pay peanuts.

    “Cuts in wages and benefits create jobs.” Congressional Republicans and their state counterparts repeat this lie incessantly. It also lies behind corporate America’s incessant demand for wage and benefit concessions – and corporate and state battles against unions. But it’s dead wrong. Meager wages and benefits are reducing the spending power of tens of millions of American workers, which is prolonging the jobs recession.
    President Obama and Democratic leaders should be standing up for the wages and benefits of ordinary Americans, standing up for unions, and decrying the lie that wage and benefit concessions are necessary to create jobs. The President should be traveling to the Midwest – taking aim at Republican governors in the heartland who are hell bent on destroying the purchasing power of American workers. But he’s doing nothing of the sort.

    “Regulations kill jobs.” Congressional Republicans are using this whopper to justify their attempts to defund regulatory agencies. Regulations whose costs to business exceed their benefits to the public are unwarranted, of course, but reasonable regulation is necessary to avoid everything from nuclear meltdowns to oil spills to mine disasters to food contamination – all of which we’ve sadly witnessed. Here again, we’re hearing little from the President or Democratic leaders.
    Look, the President can’t be everywhere, doing everything.
    There’s tumult in the Middle East, we’re suddenly at war in Libya, Japan is struggling with the aftermath of disaster, and surely Latin America is an important trading partner.

    But nothing is more central to average Americans than jobs and wages. Unless the President forcefully rebuts Republican’s big lies, they’ll soon become conventional wisdom.


    Every argument in our political environment is dominated by Republican lies, whether it be healthcare, jobs, taxes, etc. I know it’s a silly and stupid question but … what the f**k are the Democrats waiting for … if they are waiting for personal, engraved invitiations, they will wait. I can’t afford them. So, what WILL it take?

  12. Zero time today, what BIL said, with flourishes and underlines of a number approaching the ludicrous.

    The only thing lessening the sting of buyer’s remorse is that there is no real remorse. We would have moved to Canada by now under McGrandpa and his abominable concubine.

    Thank you BIL, for Representing. This is required for us to emerge.

  13. And I hope you didn’t have to drink any more of that Campari and vodka concoction.


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