Thursday, February 11, 2010

About Miranda Rights/Richard Reid/Newt Gingrich/Abdulmutallab

There has recently been a flap over Newt Gingrich's Daily Show interview (and subsequent comments, along with others by various Republicans) related to the Obama administration's handling of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the man who attempted to blow his underwear up on a flight to Detroit. The GOP criticism is basically that the Obama administration read Miranda rights to Abdulmutallab and generally treated him like he was an American citizen. They argue that this is completely unacceptable behavior...he's a foreign terrorist, and shouldn't get the benefits of our legal system. Stewart raised the issue of Richard Reid, the shoe bomber, with Gingrich - Reid was also read his Miranda rights and largely treated within the rules of the U.S legal system. Gingrich's response was that Reid was a U.S. citizen - other Republicans have been making this point as well. Of course, this is not true at all - Reid was a British national. The left has been arguing that this is proof of hypocrisy - Abdulmutallab basically was treated like Reid, but the GOP didn't go after President Bush. This is, of course, entirely true, but I think we're missing the bigger point. We got good intelligence from Abdulmutallab. Why isn't this the central point of discussion?

Yeah, look, today's Republican party is a hypocritical one, and I think it is important to point this out (note: I think the same standard applies to the Democrats, too - I'm an equal hypocrisy hater). But why is this the central point of discussion? The Abdulmutallab case is really a testament to the effectiveness of normal legal practices. Gingrich talked about how the Obama administration's treatment of Abdulmutallab was wrong because he's not a U.S. citizen and because it makes America less safe. Well, that last point is kind of the crux of the argument, and the one we really should focus on. Apparently, the US got a lot of useful intel from Abdulmutallab, Mirandized and all. Is there reason to believe treating him more harshly, say, waterboarding, would have gotten us more info? We've already discussed this on the Spoon here, and here, and, at the very least, we don't see that being likely. We're not exactly going out a limb with that view. A hell of a lot of experts agree that harsh interrogation techniques don't get you good information. So, the flap over treating Abdulmutallab "lightly" seems to be problematic in that, by making such an argument, the GOP leaves itself open to being rightly accused of pushing harder interrogation to appear tougher, while actually making us LESS SAFE. You know, because harsher interrogation might actually get us less intelligence. Now, if only that point could be discussed more often, so as to finally kill this dangerous tough-guy debate. And by the way, the "tough-guy" lawmakers who want harsher interrogation look like kids that got beat up for lunch money growing up. So, you know, just throw a punch at them every now and then. Like calling them out for their discourse on this that makes America less safe.


Anonymous said...

I had no idea that Richard Reid was a British national, and apparently many Republican representatives did not either. (BTW do have a link to a source that might confirm this? I'm curious). This single fact--assuming that you did your homework ;-) transforms the general argument that has, at least in my world, pervaded more than just the talk-shows and media networks. My general thoughts are that if our system is, indeed, the best, why wouldn't we be able to use it for anyone, but against vehement conservativism that doesn't go very far. Knowning, however, this new "intel" on the shoebomber does make it a stronger point, if only because it levels the playing field by transforming a variable into a control--so to speak.

Number 2 said...

Reid is a British national...this has been reported quite frequently. There are probably hundreds of news articles that mention this fact. Yes, that gets to the hypocrisy problem, but again, that avoids the real issue, which is that hawkish legislators are talking about enhancing American security by advocating policies (getting medieval on Abdulmutallab's ass and others, to paraphrase Marsellus Wallace) that seem to make us less safe. That's the issue. We get good intel from normal interrogation procedures. We seem to get bad intel from harsh interrogation/torture. So, if you advocate torture, you're supporting policies that seem to hurt America. These chicken-hawks need to be attacked on this point vehemently.

Lara Jane | Ultimate Lifestyle Project said...

This is really fascinating. Top job for calling the hypocrisy out regarding Reid being a British national.

Your comments about the lawmakers looking like old high school kids that used to get beaten up is priceless, but you are probably not too far off the mark. The old school mentality is cemented in decades of war and laced with white settler mentality - they would rather crush their opponent for the share joy of seeing them in pain, than act on an intelligent, well researched and documented decision that would see the terrorists not harmed but in the best interests of American citizens.

Great post, thanks.
Lara Jane
Founder of the Ultimate Lifestyle Project