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 That claims was later withdrawn by the Bush Administration.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. We thought we planted an oak in 2008 and all we got was a reed. Which ever way the wind blows, there Barry?

  2. I totally agree with this article.

    I am totally freaked out by DOJ under Obama. DOJ detained me for 5 months without a criminal charge and without a bail hearing. I don’t have a criminal record. The government didn’t appear and the U.S. Attorney for the D of Colorado where I was detained in 2005, 2006 and 2007 recently wrote in response to an FOIA request that they don’t have even a single record of me. No Miranda warnings and they tried to coerce me into admitting character flaws and giving up statutory and constitutional rights as a condition of release. I was told in court before being detained that I didn’t have a right to an attorney (I am not an attorney) and that I didn’t have a right to an evidentiary hearing. I wasn’t sentenced and no DOJ lawyer contacted me when I was held. The Federal public defender for Colorado wrote to me in jail that his office couldn’t defend me because I wasn’t accused of a crime.

    Just this week, DOJ claimed that it can exempt itself from 5 USC 552a e(7) obligations, which is opposite to the statutory language of The Privacy Act. And DOJ also claimed that 18 USC section 242 prosecutions require a race or class issue. I searched on USDOJ.gov for “color of law” and found press releases about criminal prosecutions for 18 USC section 242 that didn’t mention race at all.

    I have been a registered Democrat since I voted for Jimmy Carter. I actually donated to the Obama campaign and wore an Obama campaign pin. I have attended “Move-On.org” functions, went door to door for Democrats and once held a Democrat precinct meeting in my home.

  3. “A government big enough to give you everything you want, is big enough to take away everything you have.”
    T. Jefferson [misattributed]


    Thomas Jefferson said no such thing. He wasn’t that unlettered or simplistic. That statement came from that master of the malaprop, Gerry “There is no Soviet domination of eastern Europe” Ford.

    However, Jefferson did say:

    “Honesty is the first chapter of the book of wisdom.”
    ~Thos. Jefferson

  4. It wouldn’t surprise me, Gyges. I think it like the “those who give up liberty …”, it is attributed to several speakers. Here is where I found it.


    I consider myself a libertarian and would like a gov’t that operated within the confines of our constitution. Whether it is ignoring the bill of rights for US citizens or giving billion of our tax dollars to businesses, our leaders seem to steamroll the citizens and the rule of law. The fact that the feds oversee a 3,550,000,000,000 dollar budget is just one more symptom of the problem, they will do anything to stay in power rules be damned. And in the process of doing anything they are micromanaging too much in order to appease the interest groups that fund and vote for them.
    Sorry for the dis-jointedness.

  5. W=c,


    I read a column the other day where someone was lamenting that the Civil Rights movement had ceased to be about getting equal rights for minorities and about protecting citizens of all color from the abuses of government. They weren’t lamenting this because it took focus off minorities though. They were lamenting because it was necessary in the face of official evil.

    I had a conversation once in law school about bad cops with someone from So. Central Los Angeles. They were lamenting that bad cops were a bane on the black community. It was not hard to convince her that abusive cops were indicative of systemic abusive via malfunction and that such infections of the body politic eventually spread, meaning that bad cops and by extension bad pols that enable them would one day cease to be a primarily black problem but a problem for everyone. Which meant then that the problem of bad cops in the black community wasn’t just a problem for black, but a problem for us all. What it means now is that I was once again sadly but accurately prescient.

    I’ve always been able to do this. It’s not magic. It’s just a form of synthetic extrapolation – sometimes more complex than others. Just like I was right when I said to a group having a discussion on the steps of law school that we would see our civil rights stripped from us under the guise of terrorism (real or imagined) within 7 to 10 years. That was the spring of 1992. Just like I was right when I told a former best friend his first marriage was doomed to fail within a year. The future can be predicted. Not to the last detail and to varying degrees of accuracy largely determined by the complexity of the systems involved and their interactions. It’s not like reading a book though. It’s like a quick glimpse around a corner or listening to an echo in reverse. But it is far from a gift. It is more like a curse.

    Many days I know how the mythological Cassandra felt. Blessed with knowledge of the future. Cursed to have no one believe her.

    I want nothing more – and I truly mean nothing – than to be utterly and completely wrong about how far I see us as a nation falling before we rise again. But rise again we will. Actions have equal and opposite reactions. The inevitable reaction to tyranny is rebellion. I know this is so for this is what the arc of history tells me. History tells me also that there is really only one pertinent question to ask about this scenario.

    What price for freedom will be paid in blood?

    If you find this depressing? First, I am sorry. To depress is not my intention, for everything is cyclical and there is no dawn without first a darkness. Second, do not feel bad at your reaction as depression is a natural reaction for a rational and caring human being facing the onerous task of battling impending and ever growing evil. People want to believe in what a friend of mine used to call “the Heinlein Maneuver” – “My future will be better.”

    Obama’s corporatist actions and malaise upon civil liberties surely takes us further down the darker path. The tide will eventually turn. But at what final cost and before possibly terminal damage is done to Earth and/or civilization remains an open question.

  6. Buddha, you are saying evrything right today!

    I can add nothing….except the somewhat snarky thought that it would be a shame after everything that black Americans have given in the fight for civil rights to sit by and watch a black man unravel them….a sad shame…

  7. I said from day (it’s online, you can look it up) that the biggest thing that gave me pause about Obama was his turncoat support of FISA right before the election. It was the action of someone wanting to consolidate power rather than stand on principle.

    I was hoping it was a blip. Clearly hope is all I had.

    As for the reactions of the Democratic leadership – what leadership? I haven’t seen any in years.

  8. Must be my day to qoute myself:

    “eniobob 1, March 24, 2011 at 10:37 am

    “or the administration is choosing to pursue an exceedingly wrong-headed course of action.”

    Seems to be par for the course lately.”

  9. smallgovguy,

    Many people make the mistake of thinking that because I’m for building and maintaining necessary social infrastructure (like universal health care) and physical infrastructure (like high speed rail) through government that I’m for a big government. Big, small, I largely consider size irrelevant with the appropriate size being just big enough to get the job done and no larger as that is an operational inefficiency. To me the best test of government is not size, but rather functionality: Is the process performing the task(s) it is designed to perform and is it performing the task(s) efficiently? In the case of the American Federal government, the task(s) is it supposed to be performing is the job of government as defined by the Constitution (“form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity”). Our government has been failing this test for quite some time now.

    And thanks.

  10. “eniobob 1, March 24, 2011 at 10:33 am

    I have given up trying to figure it out.”

  11. Buddha, well said!

    “A government big enough to give you everything you want, is big enough to take away everything you have.”
    T. Jefferson

  12. What now you are anti-american? Get those heathen off of my shore. If they do this here then shoot them on site. No questions asked.

  13. Buddha and Bob,
    Well said, but Buddha, I consider the treatment of Pvt. Manning to be akin to “disappearing” people because they are trying to break him.

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

    Spineless marvels.

  15. Illegitimate is as illegitimate does. Nice goin’ there, Herr President. The Professor is spot on: you’re a menace to civil rights. You’re as bad or worse than Bush and Cheney in your Constitutional abuses, Mr. “President”. Why not just dispense with the facade and start disappearing people, Pinochet-style? Hmm? I rue the day I ever even thought of voting for you.

    I respect the Office of President. I respect the Constitution. You apparently respect neither.

    But respect you the man and lawyer? No, no, no. That must be earned and all you’ve earned is scorn and derision.

    You, Barrack Obama, are a traitorous dictatorial fascist warmongering lying two-faced dick.

    Have a nice day.

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