A major debate is taking place on national television, and even in Congress, regarding terrorism, detainee rights, torture, and constitutional protections. While not attempting to deride the whole criminal justice system, one would think that we should examine the differences between cases due to the recent debate regarding due process and who deserves Miranda warnings. In November, Major Nidal Hasan shot thirteen people in Ft. Hood Texas. He was a 39 year old psychiatrist with a history of odd behavior, eventually seeking the advice of Al-Qaeda regarding the “anti-Muslim” army which he was a part of. Hasan was read his rights and charged with murder. This incident was declared a ione wolf terrorist attack by politicians and became a central focus of the civil liberties versus safety debate. In December, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the so-called “underwear bomber,” actually failed to detonate a bomb on an airplane. You wouldn’t know, if you only watched TV, after the failed attempt he was subdued by passengers. Some politicians seized upon the fact that he is not a US citizen and used it to demand racial profiling, criticize the FBI for reading him his Miranda rights, and revitalize accusations of the Obama administration being “soft on terror.” The way the FBI handled this case was in keeping with their guidelines, but elected officials are playing politics with our Constitution. Most recently, Amy Bishop, a teacher who was seeking tenure opened fire on staff, killing three people at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, AL. She had been accused of violent behavior before. Bishop was arrested, read her rights and charged with three counts of capital murder. There has been little politicization of this incident; in fact, not one politician has stepped up and cried, “Terrorism! So here’s the point. Our Constitution demands that everyone within the custody of the United States be treated equally under the law. When it comes to who gets rights, whether Bishop, Hassan, Abdulmutallab, or any other accused, they all are entitled to full due process, including Miranda warnings. The Fifth and Sixth amendments mandate due process, which the Supreme Court has ruled must include Miranda warnings. As Matthew Yglesias discusses at Think Progress, we cannot “give” or create rights for a suspect upon arrest; the warning is simply an explanation of a suspect’s right to due process. We cannot allow our Constitution to cover some people and not all, to be used as evidence to create political talking points on what should be routine or to be put into question every single time an attack happens. The letter of the law is clear: people have rights, and calling for the treatment of certain suspects differently, as in the case of Abdulmutallab, renders our justice system unequal and ineffective.
/ / The Bill of Rights applies to all
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