Tonight on MSNBC, Rachel Maddow ripped apart Republicans — Senators Susan Collins, Lindsay Graham, and Mitch McConnell — who have been attacking the Obama administration for its handling of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the attempted Christmas day undie-bomber.
As Maddow pointed out to these lawmakers, the constitutional right to an attorney when arrested applies to everyone arrested in the USA — not just to American citizens. It doesn’t matter whether you’re an Al-Qaeda terrorist trying to blow up a plane in Detroit or an Italian tourist trying to kill a stripper in Illinois or a Mexican drug lord trying to kill a US border guard in Texas. If you’re accused of a crime here — any crime — you have the right to remain silent, you have the right to an attorney, you have the right to everything else included in the Miranda warning.
That’s one of the things that makes America great. While in other countries you can be held without bond or legal assistance or for any reason the authorities may claim, here in the USA we have a system that assumes you are innocent until proven guilty, the burden is on the government to prove you did what they claim you did, and you can’t be forced to confess or give up information if you don’t want to.
Imagine that you were traveling overseas and were arrested for an attempted criminal act, but the authorities there decided that you were a terrorist or a spy and thus locked you up without so much as a hearing in court or any other kind of legal defense. Remember the anti-North Korean sentiments expressed when that government sentenced Current TV journalists Euna Lee and Laura Ling to 12 years of hard labor for accidentally crossing the border? Would any American accept the explanation that they weren’t eligible for those protections because they were not a citizen of that foreign nation?
Don’t get me wrong. I have no doubt at all that Abdulmutallab wanted to blow up Northwest 253, but the thing that sets us apart from totalitarian regimes — one of the aspects of America that make us a shining example of freedom to the world — is that we don’t run a rigged system (or, at least, we’re not supposed to).
Most importantly, the GOPers haven’t paid attention to reports which say that Abdulmutallab has been voluntarily giving investigators valuable information about his training and contacts, even after having his rights read to him. They also have no memory of the Bush administration handling accused terrorists arrested here, like shoe bomber Richard Reid, in exactly the same Miranda-friendly manner. Nor do they seem to remember that when they took office, every member of Congress swore an oath to uphold the Constitution Of The United States, and I don’t recall an asterisk or exception anywhere in there.
Judge Andrew Napolitano, the constitutional scholar who serves as senior judicial analyst for Fox News Channel, has repeatedly warned against the “constitutional horrors of allowing federal agents, even presidents, to decide to whom the constitution applies and to whom it does not apply.” Today on his online TV show, “Freedom Watch,” Napolitano made the case for why Abdulmutallab can’t be denied those rights and should not face a military tribunal. Unfortunately, I can’t embed that video, but you can watch it here.
Meanwhile, here’s Maddow tonight, enumerating the ways Republican leaders have been dead wrong on the subject…