This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.
Somebody in the White House should have winced Sunday when Attorney General Eric Holder raised the possibility of more Miranda-less questioning of terror suspects.
“We’re now dealing with international terrorism,” he said about the attempted Times Square bombing, describing it as a “new threat.” The “now” and “new” suggest that that the bomber’s apparent Taliban connection was a big surprise that has suddenly required the Obama administration to rethink how it handles suspects.
Let’s hope Holder and others in the administration weren’t caught that flat-footed. There’s nothing remotely new about international terrorism; the World Trade Center was first bombed in 1993, and the likes of al-Qaida have been targeting the United States ever since.
The supposed novelty of an international attack has at least given the Obama administration a pretext for re-examining its overly rigid practice of reading Miranda rights almost immediately to suspected terrorists arrested on American soil.
This conventional police approach is clearly a reaction to abuses of the Bush era. It’s also an overreaction.
Delaying a Miranda warning or questioning someone as an enemy combatant, by themselves, are not the same as torture or extraordinary rendition. Extended questioning without a warning can be done within the law. There’s also room to legally expand the practice, as Holder seemed to be conceding.
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