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.”
CNN highlights Ridge’s comments for a standalone article and they are subsequently repeated ad nauseum on cable.
Rep. Peter King (R-NY) calls out the Obama Admin for putting Abdulmutallab in the criminal justice system. “My concern is that we did miss the opportunity, because once we put him into the criminal justice system, he gets a lawyer and Miranda rights,” he says, apparently the first sitting Republican to raise the issue.
Politico goes up early in the morning with an exclusive statement from Dick Cheney:
“As I’ve watched the events of the last few days it is clear once again that President Obama is trying to pretend we are not at war. …. He seems to think if he gives terrorists the rights of Americans, lets them lawyer up and reads them their Miranda rights, we won’t be at war. ”
The media goes wild; Cheney’s comments are picked up far and wide.
Obama Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer takes to the White House blog to respond to Cheney for engaging “in the typical Washington game of pointing fingers and making political hay.”
In the following days, a handful of Republicans — including Michele Bachmann and Jim DeMint — picked up on the Miranda criticism, a Nexis news archive search shows. But it wasn’t until a week or even two weeks after the Cheney comments exploded that any of the four Republicans engaged in the dispute with Brennan seized on the issue.
The first instance we can find on Nexis or congressional Web sites — admittedly not comprehensive sources — of Hoekstra, Bond, Boehner, or McConnell mentioning the issue is a statement from Hoekstra on Jan. 13, more than two weeks after Abdulmutallab was criminally charged. Hoekstra also said Dec. 30 that Abdulmutallab should have been handled as an enemy combatant, but did not mention the Miranda issue.