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article imageObama White House has secret policy on Miranda warning

By Lynn Herrmann     Jan 22, 2011 in Politics
Washington - A new “internal document” issued by the Obama administration offers suggestions to agencies involved in terrorist suspect interrogations, giving them freedom in those interrogations “without immediately providing Miranda warnings.”
The secret document’s existence was revealed by Salon this week but as of date the Department of Justice (DOJ) will not publicly release its detail, other than calling it an “internal document,” according to a spokesman. However, Dean Boyd, a spokesman for DOJ is on record with Salon, stating:
“As demonstrated most recently after the attempted terrorist bombings last Christmas and in Times Square last spring, law enforcement has the ability to question suspected terrorists without immediately providing Miranda warnings when the interrogation is reasonably prompted by immediate concern for the safety of the public or the agents. Because of the complexity of the threat posed by terrorist organizations and the nature of their attacks -- which can include multiple accomplices and interconnected plots -- we have formalized guidance that outlines the appropriate use of the well-established public safety exception to providing Miranda rights. To ensure that law enforcement is aware of the flexibility that the law gives them in these circumstances, the guidance has been distributed to relevant agencies.”
The Miranda warning dates back to 1966 when the Supreme Court made a decision on a case by that name and requires that criminal suspects be informed of their rights before law enforcement officials begin interrogation. Failure to do so means any statements made by the suspect during interrogation are inadmissible in court. Miranda centers on the Fifth Amendment regarding self-incrimination and due process as stated in the Constitution.
However, the Supreme Court created a public safety exception clause, when in 1984 the Quarles case came before the court. In that case, police officers first asked a suspect the location of a hidden gun in a grocery story before reading him his rights. The Supreme Court ruled the suspect’s statement was acceptable in court, citing the “situation where concern for public safety must be paramount.” It is that clause which DOJ is apparently focusing on.
DOJ began applying that clause shortly after the 2009 failed Christmas day bombing attempt and again with the Times Square bombing suspect, relying on “an expanded interpretation of the exception,” Salon noted. In both cases, the suspects were interrogated for up to four hours before reading them their Miranda rights.
Until the White House makes a public statement of its position on the Miranda warning, the secret policy could be used in future cases. Stephen Vladeck, a law professor at American University who focuses on legal issues in relation to terrorism cases, said: “In the classic public safety case, there are exceptional facts, where one kidnapping suspect might know where his accomplice is hiding a kidnapee,” according to Salon.
Those exceptional facts now appear to be playing an expanded role. “What's different here is the mentality that every terrorism case is the exception. The entire analytical justification for the public safety exception is that it's only applicable in the most extreme factual circumstances. Not every terrorism case fits that,” Vladeck added.
It is not clear whether DOJ interprets the clause as an expansion of enhanced interrogation techniques heavily reported on during the GWBush presidency.
Nor is there any mention of the Obama administration’s interpretation of the clause in how it might be applied as it pursues a case against Wikileaks’ founder, Julian Assange. Recently brought to light is the solitary confinement treatment of Pvt. Bradley Manning, allegedly connected to the Wikileaks affair.
Manning, currently being held at Quantico, is being treated in a manner that many consider to be torture. He is allegedly responsible for releasing thousands of US government documents that include video of military personnel killing innocent civilians and journalists in Iraq as well as the Afghan war diaries and most recently, a batch of embassy cables shedding light onto beliefs of US diplomats who influence government policy.
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