Attorney General Eric Holder announced yesterday that the Obama administration will move to make the Miranda law more flexible for people facing accusations of terror. The debate over whether or not to Mirandize terrorism suspects has been renewed by the case of Faisal Shahzad, the American citizen who attempted to detonate a bomb in Times Square last week. When asked on “Meet the Press” about gathering information from terrorism suspects, Holder said, “We certainly need more flexibility, and we want the ‘public safety exception’ to be consistent with the public safety concerns that we now have in the 21st Century.”
The Miranda law prohibits a court from considering information gathered without informing a suspect of their right to remain silent and to have an attorney present. The public-safety exception allows the limited use of information gathered before a suspect is Mirandized. Some argue that expanding an exception to the Miranda law is necessary in instances when there is a “ticking bomb” – in situations, that is, when there is an immediate threat. But, if we recall, the ticking-bomb theory is the same one we heard used over and over again to justify torture in the Bush era. The ticking bomb is on a very, very slippery slope. Sen. Joe Lieberman is already pushing passage of a bill to deny citizenship rights to citizens suspected of connections to foreign terrorist groups. The slide from changing the Miranda law to revoking citizenship is potentially a fast one. At the bottom of the slope, we may find ourselves once again torturing people like Shahzad, all in the name of an immediate threat.