By KASIE HUNT
Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) thinks he’s found a work-around on the whole Miranda rights debate for U.S. citizens accused of terrorism: Strip their citizenship and ship them to Guantanamo.
Lieberman plans to introduce a bill that would amend a decades-old law aimed at yanking citizenship from U.S. citizens who fight for a foreign military.
“I’m now putting together legislation to amend that to [specify that] any individual American citizen who is found to be involved in a foreign terrorist organization, as defined by the Department of State, would be deprived of their citizenship rights,” Lieberman said Tuesday.
Such a law would potentially cover terror suspect Faisal Shahzad, a Pakistani-born American citizen charged in connection with the attempted car bombing in New York City’s Times Square. He was apprehended Monday night at the city’s John F. Kennedy airport after he boarded a flight to Dubai.
“If you have joined an enemy of the United States in attacking the United States and trying to kill Americans, I think you sacrifice your rights of citizenship,” Lieberman said.
There is one exception to the existing law: Americans are allowed to serve in the Israel Defense Forces without losing their citizenship.
At a press conference Tuesday, Attorney General Eric Holder said Shahzad was questioned without a Miranda warning under the so-called public safety exception but was later read his rights and continued to speak with investigators.
In a civilian trial, a judge can toss out evidence taken from a suspect who has not been read Miranda rights.
The incident is the most serious terrorism attempt in this country since Christmas Day, when Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab is accused of trying to detonate a bomb aboard a Northwest Airlines flight. Abdulmutallab, a Nigerian national, was read his Miranda rights, sparking an outcry from Republicans — who argued he should have been interrogated as an enemy combatant.
Lieberman said he believes the administration should have used the recently created High-Value Detainee Interrogation Group in those interrogations.
“My feeling is that if they [HIG] make a judgment that this was a terrorist act, the person should be turned over to the military,” Lieberman said.
That’s not allowed under current law if the suspect is an American citizen, because U.S. citizens cannot be tried in military commissions. The 2006 law that outlines guidelines for the commissions authorizes them only for “alien unprivileged enemy belligerent[s].”
That didn’t stop congressional Republicans from clamoring to know whether Shahzad was read his Miranda rights and questioning whether a civilian court is the appropriate venue.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said reading Shahzad his rights was a “serious mistake.”
“I certainly would not read this individual his Miranda rights. I would not do that,” he said.
“What I was talking about was that we don’t have to Mirandize someone immediately. You don’t — before you charge them, there’s time that elapses,” McCain later clarified to POLITICO.
New York Rep. Peter King, the top Republican on the House Homeland Security Committee, wants to know whether the Justice Department consulted with the intelligence community before it decided to hold his trial in civilian court.“I hope that Holder did discuss this with the intelligence community. If they believe they got enough from him, how much more should they get? Did they Mirandize him? I know he’s an American citizen, but still,” King told POLITICO.
“I hope that if they did read him his rights, and if they are going for an indictment as opposed to a tribunal, that he did discuss it with the director of national intelligence, the Central Intelligence Agency, all the component parts of the intelligence community,” King said.
King acknowledged that Shahzad’s case is different. “It is different from the Christmas Day bombing because, one, this guy is an American citizen; it appears that most of the work was carried out here in the United States as opposed to [with] Abdulmutallab, who was flying in,” King said. “That said, before there’s a rush to indict him, I think they should make an effort to figure out what is the best venue for him.”
Lieberman also pointed to the public safety exception that allowed officials to question Shahzad — though Holder and other national security officials would not say how long that portion of the interrogation lasted.
Maine Sen. Susan Collins, the top Republican on the Senate Homeland Security Committee and a key critic of the administration’s handling of the Abdulmutallab case, declined to criticize the Justice Department’s handling of the case.
“Law enforcement and intelligence authorities continue to follow up on a number of ongoing leads,” Collins said in a statement Tuesday. “This attempted attack reminds us once again that terrorists are unrelenting in their desire to kill Americans. We cannot let down our guard and must meet this ongoing threat to our security with strength and resiliency.”