Denial of Boston Suspect's Rights 'Yet Another Erosion of the Constitution'

Dzhokar Tsarnaev, 19, the primary suspect in Monday's bombings at the Boston Marathon

Denial of Boston Suspect's Rights 'Yet Another Erosion of the Constitution'

Civil liberties groups slam use of "public safety exception" to interrogate Tsarnaev without reading him his Miranda rights

Civil liberties groups are decrying "yet another erosion of the Constitution" following reports from officials that the main Boston bombing suspect would not be read his Miranda rights before being questioned.

As CNN reports:

Dzhokar Tsarnaev, 19, the primary suspect in Monday's bombings at the Boston Marathon, was taken into custody Friday night. When Tsarnaev was captured, authorities indicated they did not intend to read him his Miranda rights, which include the right to remain silent, the right to an attorney regardless of financial circumstances and the warning that any statements can be used to aid his prosecution.

In statements on Saturday, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and the ACLU denounced the administration's decision to use the "public safety exception" to abandon constitutional rights.

"Like Obama's expanded killing program and his perpetuation of indefinite detention without trial at Guantanamo, this is yet another erosion of the Constitution to lay directly at the President's feet," said CCR executive director Vince Warren.

"Obama's Justice Department unilaterally expanded the 'public safety exception' to Miranda in 2010 beyond anything the Supreme Court ever authorized. Each time the administration use this exception, it stretches wider and longer. However horrific the crime, continuing to erode constitutional rights invites continued abuse by law enforcement, and walks us down a dangerous path that becomes nearly impossible to reverse," stated Warren.

ACLU executive director Anthony D. Romero added, "Every criminal defendant is entitled to be read Miranda rights. The public safety exception should be read narrowly. It applies only when there is a continued threat to public safety and is not an open-ended exception to the Miranda rule."

"Additionally," said Romero, "every criminal defendant has a right to be brought before a judge and to have access to counsel. We must not waver from our tried-and-true justice system, even in the most difficult of times. Denial of rights is un-American and will only make it harder to obtain fair convictions."

But as Warren stated and Guardian columnist and former constitutional lawyer Glenn Greenwald pointed out yesterday, the Tsarnaev case is not the first time the administration denied these most basic rights.

the Obama administration has already rolled back Miranda rights for terrorism suspects captured on US soil. It did so two years ago with almost no controversy or even notice, including from many of those who so vocally condemned Graham's Miranda tweets yesterday.

In 2011, Greenwald continues,

The Obama DOJ's Memorandum (issued in secret, of course, but then leaked) cited what it called "the magnitude and complexity of the threat often posed by terrorist organizations" in order to claim "a significantly more extensive public safety interrogation without Miranda warnings than would be permissible in an ordinary criminal case". It expressly went beyond the "public safety" exception established by the Supreme Court to arrogate unto itself the power to question suspects about other matters without reading them their rights (emphasis added):

"There may be exceptional cases in which, although all relevant public safety questions have been asked, agents nonetheless conclude that continued unwarned interrogation is necessary to collect valuable and timely intelligence not related to any immediate threat, and that the government's interest in obtaining this intelligence outweighs the disadvantages of proceeding with unwarned interrogation."

While public outrage, shock and mourning may be overshadowing the need to adhere to constitutional rights, Emily Bazelon offers this reminder:

When the law gets bent out of shape for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, it's easier to bend out of shape for the rest of us.


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