Constitution Daily

Smart conversation from the National Constitution Center

Watch the debate: Should Miranda rights apply to terrorism suspects?

April 11, 2011 by Dr. Steve Frank


Last week, the Obama Administration announced a dramatic switch on the procedures law enforcement personnel should follow when interrogating "operational terrorists" on issues that involved an "immediate" threat.

The new rules, which were outlined in a FBI memo, expanded the previous "public safety" exception to Miranda rights -- the requirement that suspects first be informed that anything they say may be used in a court of law against them, that they have a right to an attorney and to remain silent.

Heretofore, there had to be an "imminent threat" -- a stricter standard than "immediate" -- for pre-Miranda statements to be admissible in court. But the Obama justice department declared that the "magnitude and complexity" of the terrorism issue required a "significantly more extensive public safety interrogation without Miranda warnings than would be permissible in an ordinary criminal case.”

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On March 5, in a public program presented by the National Constitution Center's Peter Jennings Project for Journalists and the Constitution, two prominent Supreme Court litigators -- Carter Phillips and Kanan Shanmugam -- argued this very issue before a panel of distinguished federal judges. You can watch the moot court here.


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