It turns out that the criticism surrounding the decision to read Miranda rights to the attempted Christmas bombing suspect didn’t originally come from any office-holding Republican.
Rather, it was pioneered by Tom Ridge and Dick Cheney in the days after Christmas, and only later picked up by members of Congress like Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-MI) and Sen. Kit Bond (R-MO).
With the heated Obama-GOP back-and-forth this week over the Mirandizing of Umar Abdulmutallab, we decided to look back at the facts of what happened, and when critics pounced on the issue.
One notable fact is that Abdulmutallab was criminally charged by the Justice Department on Dec. 26, just a day after the incident. At that point, it would have been fair to assume that Abdulmutallab had been read his rights.
Here’s the rest of what we found:
Abdulmutallab is captured in Detroit after the alleged bombing attempt. “Shortly after 3:30 p.m.” FBI agents begin what would be a 50-minute interrogation of Abdulmutallab at the hospital, according to the AP.
The agents deliberately decide not to initially inform Abdulmutallab of his rights (e.g. to remain silent, to consult an attorney).
(There is a public safety exception to the Miranda rule — though it’s unclear if the FBI agents had it in mind. It arises from the 1984 Quarles case, in which the Supreme Court ruled that police could ask an arrestee about matters that could threaten public safety before reading the arrestee his rights. The police in the case asked the arrestee where he had hidden a gun.)
After 50 minutes, the agents end the interrogation after Abdulmutallab was given medication “and the investigators decided it would be better to let the effects of the drugs wear off before pressing him further,” according to the AP. After he went into surgery for several hours, a second, “clean” team of agents came in to interrogate Abdulmutallab.
According to the AP, “FBI bosses in Washington had decided a new interrogation team was needed. They made that move in case the lack of a Miranda warning or the suspect’s medical condition at the time of the earlier conversations posed legal problems later on for prosecutors.”
Abdulmutallab is read his rights “nearly 10 hours” after the attempted attack, according to the AP. That would be roughly 9 p.m. After he was read his rights, he did not speak to the second team, the AP reported.
Sometime during the evening, Brennan calls four leading Republicans — Hoekstra, Bond, Rep. John Boehner, and Sen. Mitch McConnell — and updates them on the case, noting that Abdulmutallab was in FBI custody. They do not raise the Miranda issue.
In the early afternoon, the Justice Department sends out a press release announcing that Abdulmutallab has been criminally charged: “A 23-year-old Nigerian man was charged in a federal criminal complaint today with attempting to destroy a Northwest Airlines aircraft on its final approach to Detroit Metropolitan Airport on Christmas Day, and with placing a destructive device on the aircraft.”
The Washington Post reported the next day that Abdulmutallab was charged in the U.S. District Court for Eastern Michigan. He was informed of the charges at University of Michigan hospital by U.S. District Judge Paul D. Borman.
In the first instance we could find of a prominent Republican going after Obama on the Miranda issue, former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge says on Larry King:
“I take a look at this individual who has been charged criminally, does that mean he’s going to get his Miranda warnings? Does that mean the only kind of information we want to get from him is if he volunteers it. He’s not a citizen of this country. He’s a terrorist, and I don’t think he deserves the full range of protections of our criminal justice system embodied in the Constitution of the United States.”