Pakistani immigrant and U.S. citizen Faisal Shahzad pleaded guilty last June to charges that he attempted to set off a car-bomb in the heart of Times Square in New York City. Today, U.S. District Judge Miriam Cedarbaum sentenced Shahzad to life in prison. During the sentencing, Cedarbaum highlighted the utility of tying terror suspects in U.S. courts. The sentence was an “adequate deterrent to those inclined to follow the defendant and to protect the public against the crimes of this defendant,” she said.
Upon Shahzad’s arrest, conservatives cried foul when reports surfaced that he was read his Miranda rights. Rep. Peter King (R-NY) was one of the most vocal critics, claiming that valuable intelligence would be lost if Shahzad was given the right to remain silent. “The Supreme Court has held there’s no constitutional obligation to give him Miranda rights,” he said, preferring that Shahzad get handed over to the military where he could have faced indefinite detention without conviction.
Given King’s objection to following the rule of law in Shahzad’s case, Politico asked him to comment on the result, which King attributed to luck:
“The case worked out well. I had questions about it. There was a bit of luck involved here,” he said. “He was advised of his rights and kept talking. If he had not, I don’t know what would have happened.”
“If he was more sophisticated or more trained, or if he had not talked there could have been a follow-up attack, he could have been part of a larger conspiracy,” he said, adding that Shahzad himself would have been convicted on the evidence whether or not he cooperated. “It worked in this case, but to me it’s too much of a risk to take in every case.”
Despite being read his rights, an FBI official said Shahzad was “cooperative and provided valuable intelligence and evidence.” Yet King would rather try to score political points and demean the justice system by calling Shahzad’s conviction and life sentence “luck.”
But King isn’t the only Republican to lack faith in U.S. authorities to handle terrorism cases. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said in February that a cable news host would do a better job at interrogating terror suspect Umar Farouq Abdulmutallab than U.S. counterterrorism officials would. And even after reports that Abdulmutallab began cooperating with the FBI, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) — a JAG lawyer who said in May that he wants to “stop reading these guys their Miranda rights” — said that getting information from Abdulmutallab was “blind luck.”
“This is obviously another crucial failure for a law-enforcement-based response to terrorism,” national security blogger Spencer Ackerman said sarcastically upon news of Shahzad’s guilty plea in June. Salon’s Glenn Greenwald noted, “[Y]et again, civilian courts — i.e., real courts — provide far swifter and more certain punishment for Terrorists than do newly concocted military commissions.” It’s too bad that Republicans lack such confidence in the American justice system.
White House Spokesman Nick Shapiro told ThinkProgress:
We are pleased that this terrorist has been sentenced to spend the rest of his life in prison, after providing substantial intelligence to our interrogators, and a speedy civilian trial. We tried the case in a civilian court, we were able to use everything that he said and everything that we uncovered for intelligence collection purposes. His trial served no propaganda purpose for al Qaeda, and only underscored the strength of our justice system. The case shows once again how our values and the rule of law can keep us safe against those determined to do us harm on behalf of terrorist organizations overseas.