Revisiting Miranda

As a person who owns a blog that doesn’t really get a lot of hits, I tend to notice when one article gets a lot of hits over anything else. Recently, the article that has been targeted for readership is "Mirandizing Terrorists", which ended with this line:

When we start drawing lines on who should not be informed of their rights, pretty soon the number of people who are informed of their rights becomes a minority. This should not even be up for question: Mirandize everyone who is apprehended by civilian law enforcement, citizen or not, regardless of why they are being arrested.

And I still stand by that sentiment.

The search terms bringing people to the article basically asked the question of whether Timothy McVeigh had been read his Miranda rights. Given that McVeigh was tried in a civilian Federal Court, he was at some point read his Miranda rights – whether it was at time of arrest I do not know. Contrary to popular belief, the police do not have to Mirandize you at time of arrest, but must do so prior to any questioning.

Not really understanding immediately why that article was attracting a ton of interest, I remembered that the FBI recently confirmed apprehension of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, one of two suspects in the recent Boston Marathon bombing, the other suspect, his brother, having been killed in a shootout with law enforcement.

Last night, April 19, 2013, Senator Lindsey Graham tweeted this:

The Law of War allows us to hold individual in this scenario as potential enemy combatant w/o Miranda warnings or appointment of counsel.

And in a statement in which Graham and other Republican Senators joined:

It is clear the events we have seen over the past few days in Boston were an attempt to kill American citizens and terrorize a major American city. The accused perpetrators of these acts were not common criminals attempting to profit from a criminal enterprise, but terrorists trying to injure, maim, and kill innocent Americans. The suspect, based upon his actions, clearly is a good candidate for enemy combatant status. We do not want this suspect to remain silent.

There are a couple problems with this. According to all reports, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is a naturalized citizen of the United States, so the laws of war do not apply. He is not an enemy combatant because he is not a foreign national. There is no reason to believe that they were acting on anything but their own volition, and that the brothers were not members or acting on behalf of any recognized terrorist organization, foreign military, or with authorization or sanction of a foreign state power.

So why is he to be treated as an enemy combatant, again? Better yet, why is the government of the United States labeling its own citizens "enemy combatants"? Have we truly lost our sanity?

One thing that has become very scary is how willing both the Democrats and Republicans are willing to just presume that rights protected by the Constitution of the United States suddenly do not exist. The left is doing it with the Second Amendment, as I’ve written about repeatedly here and in other venues, and the right is doing it with the Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Amendments.

We should all certainly be thankful that there were only three fatalities in the bombing, despite there also being 170+ injuries. But at the same time we should not find ourselves so willing to strip rights from others. And certainly we should not be treating every sensational circumstance as if it was an act of war on the United States. After all, we did not treat Jared Lee Loughner as an enemy combatant, nor did we treat James Holmes as an enemy combatant.

Again, this should not be up for question: everyone who is taken into police custody is protected by the Constitution and should be Mirandized.