In apparent need to live up to his reputation as critic-in-chief and find fault with the Obama administration about something, anything, Charles Krauthammer acknowledges the excellent work done by authorities in tracking, apprehending, and interrogating alleged attempted Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad, but then asks us to imagine… something different. What then?
But what if Faisal Shahzad, the confessed Times Square bomber, had stopped talking? When you tell someone he has the right to remain silent, there is a distinct possibility that he will remain silent, is there not? And then what?
The authorities deserve full credit for capturing Shahzad within 54 hours. Credit is also due them for obtaining information from him by invoking the “public safety” exception to the Miranda rule.
But then Shahzad was Mirandized. If he had decided to shut up, it would have denied us valuable information — everything he is presumably telling us now about Pakistani contacts, training, plans for other possible plots beyond the Times Square attack.
I hate to break this to Charles, but Shahzad could have “decided to shut up” whether or not he received his Miranda warning. It’s amazing how many conservatives seem to be under the impression that “Mirandizing” a suspect somehow grants them special super powers of silence, rather than simply informing them of rights they already have. The truth is that Shahzad could have stopped talking whenever he wanted, regardless of whether he was Mirandized. (What would Krauthammer suggest in that case? Well, given his past statements, probably “torture him.”) As it happens, apparently, Shahzad cooperated, and according to reports he’s been giving up good information. But so committed is Krauthammer to a militaristic approach that he’s got to spin out alternative scenarios where the Obama administration’s silly commitment the the rule of law led to a bad outcome.
This is just the latest instance of “national security” conservatives embarrassing themselves when forced to discuss national security in anything but the most general terms. We saw this repeatedly from Sen. John McCain during his presidential campaign. Another, more recent example is Sen. Lindsey Graham, one of the foremost proponents of a “war on terror,” whose opposition to civilian trials for terrorists is founded, as Spencer Ackerman reported, on an “urban myth” that military trials can better protect secret information than civilian trials can.
What unites all of these conservatives is a religious commitment to the idea that terrorism is a problem best handled as a military problem, a belief that resists all evidence that such an approach generates more terrorism than it eliminates, and ignores the numerous successes that the U.S. has had in confronting terrorism as a law enforcement problem, and terrorists as criminals.