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

Video On the Scene: In Gaza, Darkness Brings Dread and Death

Palestinians fear nighttime raids, many feel abandoned by outside world, VOA's Scott Bobb reports More

African Small Farmers Could Be Key to Ending Food Insecurity

Experts say providing access to microloans, crop insurance, better storage facilities, irrigation, road systems and market information could enable greater production More

University of Michigan Wins Solar Car Race

Squad guided its student-designed solar-powered vehicle to fifth consecutive time victory in eight-day bi-annual American Solar Challenge 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.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid