Suddenly Mirandizing matters to everyone. Thanks to politicians, who have whipped up a frenzy over the Obama administration’s treatment of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the man held in the Christmas Day airline bombing attempt, Miranda matters to people who don’t know its true meaning from Adam. Mirandizing might as well be a new form of recycling, a new Olympic event or a new skill to test on a “reality” TV show, for all the silly dialogue that suggests Miranda warnings will render a prosecution impossible.
Here’s what Miranda isn’t: It isn’t sport, or “political football,” or “recklessness cloaked in righteousness,” or other kitschy political quips masquerading as profundity. Perhaps because politicians are often more effective at mobilizing opposition than educating the public, the conversation — about terrorism and laws of war and whether to try terrorist suspects before military commissions rather than giving them a “voice” in civilian courts — has become detached from its constitutional criminal grounding. Miranda isn’t about whether we can handle the truth. It’s not even about the truth, really. It’s about following simple rules to administer justice for all (yes, even for non-citizens suspected of committing crimes in the United States). Miranda warnings are one of those simple rules of law to follow.
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