Don’t mess with success (or due process)

DON’T MESS WITH SUCCESS (OR DUE PROCESS)…. When it comes to the political reaction to the attempted Times Square car bombing, it’s been an odd week. On Monday, the various political players were cautious and responsible as law enforcement officials launched an around-the-clock investigation.

By Tuesday morning, with Faisal Shahzad, the apparent terrorist, in custody, Republicans decided it was time to renew a debate. Does an American citizen, who committed a crime on American soil, and who is in the custody of American officials, deserve to be made aware of his rights and subjected to due process?

The “debate,” if we can call it that, wasn’t initiated by bizarre media personalities. On the contrary, Glenn Beck — Glenn Beck! — was entirely reasonable on this point. Rather, the problematic rhetoric came from senior Republican lawmakers like Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Rep. Pete King (R-N.Y.), and Sen. Kit Bond (R-Mo.).

Even the Washington Post editorial page got in on the act: “How long was Mr. Shahzad questioned before he was read his Miranda rights? And what triggered the Justice Department’s decision to suspend the ‘ticking time bomb’ exception in case law that gives law enforcement officers an opportunity to gather information before advising a suspect of his right to remain silent?”

In Slate, Emily Bazelon asks a good question.

What is the Post talking about? Or was the editorial board so eager to pounce on the Obama administration for its handling of the case that it didn’t even read its own newspaper? Is this a problem of different deadlines? Good grief. The Post editorial also criticizes the administration for not saying whether the FBI used the crack interrogation team (called the High Value Interrogation Group) on Shahzad. But the administration did say so, and the answer is yes.

The criticism on this really is bizarre. Of all the fights to pick to argue against Mirandizing, this seems the wrong case to do it.

Why? Because federal officials went by the book, and the process worked exactly as it should. Shahzad was taken into custody, and the authorities invoked a public safety exception to delay making him aware of his rights. The suspect was interrogated, and provided useful information. At that point, he was Mirandized — and continued to share useful information.

Leading Republicans, at this point, only appear interested in what Adam Serwer has wisely labeled “culture-war counterterrorism.”

As long as the Obama administration continues to ignore their nonsense and practice actual counterterrorism, we’ll have more successes like the one we’ve seen this week.