We Can Interrogate Abdulmutallab Even After He’s Mirandized

By
Wednesday, December 30, 2009 at 3:36 pm

Yesterday I debated Pat Buchanan on MSNBC about Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the would-be bomber of Northwest Airways Flight 253. Out of nowhere, he started saying how we needed to deny Abdulmutallab pain medication to get him to speak, and that by charging him in federal court and reading him his rights we were jeopardizing our ability to collect intelligence about al-Qaeda in Yemen or potential follow-on plots. This is a purely hypothetical concern, I replied, and both on that show and on Rachel Maddow’s last night I tried to point out that no one I’ve talked to in intelligence or law enforcement has complained about not getting good information out of Abdulmutallab. It’s just a made-up thing.

But it’s a persistent thing. Tom Ridge, the former homeland security secretary, blanched, “He gets his Miranda warnings? The only information we get is if he volunteers it?” And sure enough, now that Abdulmutallab has gotten his lawyer and invoked his rights, the cry intensifies. Michael Goldfarb at The Weekly Standard laments, “Now he’s got a lawyer, and we can’t interrogate him, we can’t smack him around, we can’t lay a finger on him.”

Well, yes, we can’t smack him around, and that’s a good thing, particularly if we want good intelligence and to promote the rule of law. Just because the guy lawyers up doesn’t mean we can’t interrogate him.

U.S. intelligence and law enforcement officials I’ve talked to in the last several hours have been flabbergasted to hear this line of argument, because at its heart, it betrays a fundamental ignorance of the process. One who has experience in these matters called it “flat-out ignorance” to claim that the “criminal justice system or law enforcement methods impede the collection of actionable intelligence. There is no basis in fact.”

Why? Let me turn this over to a U.S. official deeply familiar with intelligence matters who requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the Abdulmutallab case. “I cannot speak from first-hand knowledge of the present matter, but if a terror suspect like Abdulmutallab invokes [his] right to silence, it does not mean law enforcement officials must cease the interview,” the official said. “It simply means inculpatory information probably will not be used in court.”

Got that? Mirandization is about admissibility in court. This ought to explain why law enforcement and intelligence officials aren’t complaining about Abdulmutallab. It’s just Obama’s political enemies, who have no problem inventing a concern based on absolutely nothing and then promoting their ignorance about security matters to a pliant media.

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Comments

20 Comments

nicholasbeaudrot
Comment posted December 30, 2009 @ 3:42 pm

Actually, it's more restricted than that, right? It's about admissibility in court against him. It has nothing to do with admissibility against some Yemini cleric.

I think that considering the dude has burns on his groin, gathering evidence against him isn't going to be a problem.


chrisjay
Comment posted December 30, 2009 @ 3:54 pm

the finer points of our legal system are no match for a Republican squealing into a microphone like a stuck pig


Name
Comment posted December 30, 2009 @ 4:51 pm

“Let me turn this over to a U.S. official deeply familiar with intelligence matters who requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the Abdulmutallab case. 'I cannot speak from first-hand knowledge of the present matter'…” Come on – if he has no knowledge of the present matter, why does he need anonymity? Is the entire government under a gag order? If he refused to speak on the record, couldn't you get a lawyer who knows about these things that will speak publicly? Also, what he said I think I already learned from watching Law & Order, so it can't be that secret. It doesn't sound like a sensitive statement that he could get in trouble for, given that he's just repeating standard interpretation of federal law. Plus he forgot to add that anything the suspect says with his lawyer's permission can be used in court, right? If the anonymous thing is some sort of joke, forgive me – I just started reading this blog. If it's not a joke it's just silly. Don't give people anonymity for no reason.


chrisjay
Comment posted December 30, 2009 @ 5:00 pm

the anonymity of the quote seems to me to be irrelevant to the salient point here:
'Mirandization is about admissibility in court'
—that's a nobrainer which many a federal judge wishes would have occurred to either Bush or Cheney during almost 8 years of botched terrorism legal cases.


hsalguod
Comment posted December 30, 2009 @ 5:13 pm

The idea of debating Pat Buchanan – particularly on Chris Matthews (the mouth that won't stop) – is absurd. Why this Nazi apologist is still being pandered about on MSNBC would be worth looking into. Buchanan's writings are the worst screed imaginable re: his Nazi sympathies. He must have a good lawyer or special angel for MSNBC to keep paying him.


nicholasbeaudrot
Comment posted December 30, 2009 @ 8:42 pm

Actually, it's more restricted than that, right? It's about admissibility in court against him. It has nothing to do with admissibility against some Yemini cleric.

I think that considering the dude has burns on his groin, gathering evidence against him isn't going to be a problem.


chrisjay
Comment posted December 30, 2009 @ 8:54 pm

the finer points of our legal system are no match for a Republican squealing into a microphone like a stuck pig


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Trackback posted December 30, 2009 @ 9:31 pm

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Name
Comment posted December 30, 2009 @ 9:51 pm

“Let me turn this over to a U.S. official deeply familiar with intelligence matters who requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the Abdulmutallab case. 'I cannot speak from first-hand knowledge of the present matter'…” Come on – if he has no knowledge of the present matter, why does he need anonymity? Is the entire government under a gag order? If he refused to speak on the record, couldn't you get a lawyer who knows about these things that will speak publicly? Also, what he said I think I already learned from watching Law & Order, so it can't be that secret. It doesn't sound like a sensitive statement that he could get in trouble for, given that he's just repeating standard interpretation of federal law. Plus he forgot to add that anything the suspect says with his lawyer's permission can be used in court, right? If the anonymous thing is some sort of joke, forgive me – I just started reading this blog. If it's not a joke it's just silly. Don't give people anonymity for no reason.


chrisjay
Comment posted December 30, 2009 @ 10:00 pm

the anonymity of the quote seems to me to be irrelevant to the salient point here:
'Mirandization is about admissibility in court'
—that's a nobrainer which many a federal judge wishes would have occurred to either Bush or Cheney during almost 8 years of botched terrorism legal cases.


hsalguod
Comment posted December 30, 2009 @ 10:13 pm

The idea of debating Pat Buchanan – particularly on Chris Matthews (the mouth that won't stop) – is absurd. Why this Nazi apologist is still being pandered about on MSNBC would be worth looking into. Buchanan's writings are the worst screed imaginable re: his Nazi sympathies. He must have a good lawyer or special angel for MSNBC to keep paying him.


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