Saturday, June 14, 2008

Cheney vs. Miranda

Yesterday was the 42nd anniversary of Miranda vs. Arizona, a decision of the Warren Supreme Court in 1966. The Court ruled that statements made under interrogation are admissible only if the prosecution can show that the defendant was informed of his right to consul, and of his right to refuse self-incrimination, prior to the interrogation. The ruling came after a legal movement formed in response to police interrogation practices that were widely perceived as brutal (the source of the slang term "the third degree"), but they were grounded in the 5th and 6th Amendments to the Constitution (part of the Bill of Rights), and in the broader Writ of Habeas Corpus, which states that police must show reason ("due cause") to hold or interrogate anyone.
This week the Court ruled that prisoners in Guantanamo Bay have a legal right to access to federal courts, a blow to the Bush Administration which has tried to make the case that the prisoners have no legal rights at all. But here's the real relationship between Miranda and Guantanamo: conservatives have always despised Miranda. (In fact conservative theorists even question the Bill of Rights.) Conservatives like Dick Cheney have been standing around at cocktail parties for the past 42 years deploring this legal curtailment of the prerogatives of local police to beat confessions out of people. Nor is this any kind of secret, or "right-wing conspiracy." Just ask them. They've been positively full-throated about it, all these years.
That, in turn, tells us all we need to know about the Bush Administration's aggressive posture on interrogations of "terror suspects," as well as the Orwellian "Patriot Act" that codifies domestic surveillance. All of the rhetoric of a "war on terror" was used, here as elsewhere, as a way to bum's-rush the public into accepting a radical conservative agenda. The real target has always been habeas corpus itself. 9/11 was seized upon right away as something that could be used to further the conservative philosophy of the administration. Remember, we got through World War II without systematically torturing prisoners. Imagine the hypocrisy of these people. Or no, you don't have to imagine it: it's laying bare now for all to see.

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