The federal judge handling the case against the so-called “underwear bomber” just handed the Obama administration a major victory in their approach to Miranda rights for terror suspects, endorsing their interpretation of the public safety exception.
U.S. District Court Judge Nancy G. Edmunds ruled that the government could use statements that Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab allegedly made before he was advised of his Miranda rights in his upcoming trial.
Abdulmutallab, a 24-year-old Nigerian, was arrested on Christmas Day 2009 for allegedly trying to set off a bomb built into his underwear. The Obama administration’s handling of Abdulmatallab — as a criminal in federal court instead of as an “enemy combatant” in a military tribunal system — became a political firestorm.
But Edmunds’ decision on Friday means that the federal case against Abdulmatallab wouldn’t be getting tripped up because the feds didn’t initially advise him of his right to remain silent or his right to a lawyer.
“Defendant was asked questions that sought to identify any other attackers or other potentially imminent attacks — information that could be used in conjunction with other U.S. government information to identify and disrupt such imminent attacks before they could occur,” Edmunds wrote.
“The agents limited their questioning to approximately 50 minutes, at which time they had sufficient information to address the threat to public safety,” Edmunds wrote. “The agents then concluded their interview and immediately passed that information on to other law enforcement and intelligence agencies worldwide, further underscoring that it was obtained for purposes of public safety, to deal with other possible threats.”
Edmunds wrote that the agents handling the case were “mindful of Defendant’s self-proclaimed association with al-Qaeda and knowing the group’s past history of large, coordinated plots and attacks” and “feared that there could be additional, imminent aircraft attacks in the United States and elsewhere in the world.”