News / USA

Times Square Arrest Reignites Debate over Terror Suspects' Rights

The US Supreme Court, Washington, DC (file)
The US Supreme Court, Washington, DC (file)

Multimedia

Audio

 



The arrest of a Pakistani-born U.S. citizen in the New York City bombing attempt has reignited the debate over the rights of terrorism suspects in the United States.  Some U.S. lawmakers and political commentators say that even those who have U.S. citizenship should be denied legal protections guaranteed by the United States Constitution.  

The debate centers around a legal principle known as the Miranda warning.

It was named after a Supreme Court decision in 1966 that found that a robbery suspect named Ernesto Miranda had been wrongfully convicted.  The ruling said he was not made aware of his constitutional right to remain silent and consult an attorney before police questioning.

The Miranda warning is seen as one of the pillars of due process in the U.S. justice system.  But many people worry that in terrorism cases, it ties the hands of interrogators trying to get vital information.

"People are concerned, whether rightly or wrongly, that by giving Miranda warnings, as if this were just an ordinary criminal case, suspects may 'clam up' [i.e., not speak] and not provide information, crucial intelligence information about whether there are other attacks that are imminent, related to the one involved," said Richard Pildes, a constitutional law professor at New York University.

Arizona Republican Senator John McCain called it a mistake that Times Square suspect Faisal Shahzad was informed of his Miranda rights after his arrest.

The debate over whether Miranda rights should protect terrorism suspects has raged since a Nigerian citizen tried to blow up an Amsterdam to Detroit airliner in December as it was about to land.  Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab tried unsuccessfully to set off explosives hidden in his underwear and was read his Miranda rights soon after being arrested.

Many Americans were furious that even as a foreign citizen, Abdulmutallab was given the same due process rights as a U.S. citizen.  The debate is now centered on Shahzad's status as a naturalized U.S. citizen and whether the rights enshrined in the U.S. Constitution cover all Americans - even those suspected of terrorism.

Experts say terrorism suspects often possess valuable intelligence on their organizations.  New York University law professor Richard Pildes says interrogations to obtain incriminating evidence are allowed without Miranda rights, if public safety is threatened.  The problem, he says, is that such circumstances are hard to define.

"It's easy to say there's reason to believe there's a public safety threat if there's a loaded gun, you know, in the corner or a bomb about to go off.  But suppose what you're concerned about with terror suspects is getting as much information as you can from them, about who they're connected to in Pakistan or what the organizational structure is.  It's not obvious that that falls into that public safety exception to Miranda," said Pildes.

President Barack Obama says he wants to uphold America's core legal guarantees in the fight against terrorism.  But after the Times Square and last December's bombing attempts, experts say the Obama administration is learning how difficult that is to do as it seeks to balance order and justice.  


Jerome Socolovsky

Jerome Socolovsky is the award-winning religion correspondent for the Voice of America, based in Washington. He reports on the rapidly changing faith landscape of the United States, including interfaith issues, secularization and non-affiliation trends and the growth of immigrant congregations.

You May Like

Obama: I Will Do 'Everything I Can' to Close Guantanamo

US president says prison continues 'to inspire jihadists and extremists around the world' More

Sierra Leone Educates on Safe Ebola Burials

Also, country is improving at rapid response to isolated outbreaks, but health workers need to be even faster, officials say More

Religion Aside, Christmas Gains Popularity in Communist Vietnam

Increasingly wealthy Vietnamese embrace holiday due to its non-religious glamor, commercial appeal More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubansi
X
Sharon Behn
December 19, 2014 9:34 PM
For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubans

For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Cuba Deal is Major Victory for Pope’s Diplomatic Initiatives

Pope Francis played a key role in brokering the US-Cuba deal that was made public earlier this week. It is the most stunning success so far in a series of peacemaking efforts by the pontiff. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.

All About America

AppleAndroid