Saturday, June 13, 2009

(Not Carmen) Miranda

Did you hear the one about Obama giving the Miranda warning to dangerous terrorists?

It all started with a report at the Los Angeles Times, used by The Weekly Standard's Stephen Hayes to write "the Obama Justice Department has quietly ordered FBI agents to read Miranda rights to high value detainees captured and held at U.S. detention facilities in Afghanistan, according a senior Republican on the House Intelligence Committee." This was followed by ABC's Jake Tapper, then by Rush Limbaugh on 6/11 noting "Stephen Hayes, at the Weekly Standard on his blog mentioned that terrorist detainees in Afghanistan are being read their Miranda rights. This signals a huge shift once again that fighting terrorism is a criminal enterprise."

It's not only more innocent, but more sensible when one goes back to the original story. Following the terrorist attacks on 9/11/01, the role of the FBI in interviewing terrorism suspects was downgraded, while use of civilian contractors, skilled in coercing false information, expanded. No wonder, then, that reportedly more than 525 detainees were released from the prison camp at Guantanamo by the Bush Administration- and only three convicted. Sure, "it was one of the worst and most harmful decisions made in our efforts against Al Qaeda," as FBI agent Ali Soufa testified last month before Congress, but it had the advantage of reflecting conservative anti-government, pro-outsourcing dogma.

In January, the LA Times Josh Meyer writes, "Obama shut down the CIA's secret 'black site' prisons and forbade the use of coercive interrogation techniques." A greater role for the FBI (and the Justice Department) has been invoked, with use of its "model of "informed" interrogation -- knowing everything about a suspect to get them talking."

A Justice Department spokesman, suggesting that the policy excoriated by the right had been carried over from the Bush Administration, contended "While there have been specific cases in which FBI agents have Mirandized suspects overseas, at both Bagram and in other situations, in order to preserve the quality of evidence obtained, there has been no overall policy change with respect to detainees."

Better interrogations, more evidence, fewer terrorists released, and perhaps President Obama's pledge, "We are not going to release anyone if it would endanger our national security," can be fulfilled. You would expect conservatives like Stephen Hayes and Rush Limbaugh to appreciate that. No, you wouldn't.

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