The LWOT: DOJ announces relaxed Miranda rules; Alleged white supremacist indicted over Spokane bomb

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Mark Wilson/Getty Images
Mark Wilson/Getty Images
Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Miranda rules relaxed under new FBI guidelines

The Justice Department announced Mar. 24 that it issued a policy guidance to its agents last October (a change reported by the New York Times last December) clarifying the situations in which agents can delay reading a suspected terrorist their Miranda rights in order to gather intelligence about immediate security threats (NYT, WSJ, AP, SCOTUS Blog). While law enforcement have long been able to question some suspects without reading them their Miranda rights under a "public safety exception," the policy guidance is a rejection of efforts made last year to legislate the amount of time a suspect can be questioned without being read their rights. However, as some commentators have pointed out, Miranda does not prevent law enforcement from questioning suspects - it  means evidence gathered before suspects are read their rights is inadmissible, in some situations, in court (The American Prospect, Lawfare Blog).

A Federal Circuit Court on Mar. 21 reinstated a lawsuit filed in 2008 by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) protesting a new amendment to the law governing foreign intelligence collection, filed on behalf of a group of lawyers and journalists who believed the government had tapped their communications with people overseas, including the families of terrorism suspects the lawyers represent (NYT, WSJ, AFP). The court reversed a 2009 ruling dismissing the case on the grounds that the plaintiffs did not have standing to sue, ruling instead that plaintiffs can sue as long as they have a "reasonable fear of injury" and incur costs to avoid such injury (AP, Lawfare Blog). 

Miranda rules relaxed under new FBI guidelines

The Justice Department announced Mar. 24 that it issued a policy guidance to its agents last October (a change reported by the New York Times last December) clarifying the situations in which agents can delay reading a suspected terrorist their Miranda rights in order to gather intelligence about immediate security threats (NYT, WSJ, AP, SCOTUS Blog). While law enforcement have long been able to question some suspects without reading them their Miranda rights under a "public safety exception," the policy guidance is a rejection of efforts made last year to legislate the amount of time a suspect can be questioned without being read their rights. However, as some commentators have pointed out, Miranda does not prevent law enforcement from questioning suspects – it  means evidence gathered before suspects are read their rights is inadmissible, in some situations, in court (The American Prospect, Lawfare Blog).

A Federal Circuit Court on Mar. 21 reinstated a lawsuit filed in 2008 by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) protesting a new amendment to the law governing foreign intelligence collection, filed on behalf of a group of lawyers and journalists who believed the government had tapped their communications with people overseas, including the families of terrorism suspects the lawyers represent (NYT, WSJ, AFP). The court reversed a 2009 ruling dismissing the case on the grounds that the plaintiffs did not have standing to sue, ruling instead that plaintiffs can sue as long as they have a "reasonable fear of injury" and incur costs to avoid such injury (AP, Lawfare Blog). 

The investigative website Truthout has a must-read report this week on the CIA and Department of Defense interrogation programs after 9/11, featuring handwritten notes from the architect of these programs, Dr. Bruce Jessen, which outline the use of abusive techniques not just to gain immediate intelligence, but to "exploit" detainees and pressure them to collaborate with their interrogators (Truthout). Also this week, the blog Secrecy News reports that a two-year Senate investigation into the CIA’s interrogation program is still unfinished (Secrecy News).

Alleged white supremacist arraigned over Spokane bomb

Washington State man Kevin Harpham pled not guilty on Mar. 23 to charges that he placed a "viable explosive" on the route of a Martin Luther King Jr. day parade in Spokane Washington (CNN, Reuters, Reuters). Harpham is under investigation for his possible links to white supremacist groups and posts he is believe to have previously written on a website that promotes itself as, "No Jews. Just Right."

A New York court heard arguments on Mar. 24 that four men convicted of placing inert bombs outside of Bronx synagogues as part of a government sting operation were entrapped by an FBI informant (NYT, Reuters, AP). The hearing centered in part on the issue of the men’s motivation for taking part in the plot, with Judge Colleen McMahon agreeing with the defense counsel that, ""It was painfully obvious that the reason they did it was for the money" – including an offer of $250,000 and a luxury car.

The FBI is investigating an incident in Detroit where a bag with "explosive components" including a PVC pipe, timer and wires sat unattended for nearly three weeks in a federal building before being x-rayed by a contract security officer (CNN, Washington Post). The man suspected of leaving the bag outside the building called himself the president of the United States in complaints to the police about the FBI, and said that something called the "card system" had killed thousands and threatened his own life (AP).

Saudi college student Khalid Ali-M Aldawsari will be arraigned in Texas on Monday on charges that he attempted to construct explosives to use against targets including former president George W. Bush’s house in Dallas (AP). And Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) announced this week that he would hold a hearing Mar. 29 on protecting Muslim civil rights (CNN, CBS).

British foreign office issues new guidelines on torture

Britain’s foreign ministry this week released guidelines for its officers explaining how to identify if a person has been tortured, in response to ongoing investigations of MI5 and MI6 officers for allegedly witnessing or knowing of the torture of British subjects and not reporting it (Telegraph). The guidelines also identified different practices as constituting cruel and inhumane treatment or torture, including "the use of stress positions, sleep deprivation, physical abuse, withdrawal of food, water or medical help, sexual embarrassment, religious taunting, and deliberate use of ‘white noise.’"

The results from the public inquest into the 7/7 London transit bombings, in which four bombers killed 52 commuters, will be announced on May 6 (BBC). And a nursing student in Scotland accused of funding Swedish suicide bomber Taimur Abdelwahab al-Abdaly appeared in a Glasgow court on Mar. 23 for a hearing, and will stand trial later this year (BBC).

No evidence, but lingering concern, about al Qaeda in Libya

Despite concern that the ongoing unrest in Libya will provide an opportunity for al Qaeda-linked fighters to become involved in fighting against the Qaddafi regime, the Los Angeles Times reported Mar. 23 that U.S. intelligence had found no indication that al Qaeda or affiliated groups were involved in an organized way in the fighting (LAT, National Journal, CNN).

And as the government of Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh wavers in the face of growing protests and defections of key military leaders and tribes, the Washington Post reports that it is even less likely that Saleh’s weak government will be able to capture radical American cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, believed to be hiding in the country’s unruly southern provinces (Washington Post).

Trials and Tribulations

  • The U.S. State Department on Mar. 24 named Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) operative and key bombmaker Ibrahim al-Asiri a "specially designated global terrorist" freezing his assets and forbidding Americans from doing business with him (State Department, Reuters).
  • Prosecutors arguing against the appeals of Guantánamo Bay detainees Salim Hamdan and Ali al-Bahlul apologized this week after comparing the Seminole Indians to al Qaeda, as a means to establishing a precedent from the 1818 Seminole Campaign for military courts to try suspects on charges of "aiding the enemy" (Miami Herald).
  • A Human Rights Watch report released this week alleged that a Ugandan police unit that has worked with U.S. authorities on counterterrorism investigations had engaged in the beating, torture, and extrajudicial execution of suspects (NYT).
  • Indonesian police announced this week that they had arrested and identified the courier who allegedly delivered several "book bombs" that have struck Jakarta recently, and said he was linked to an unnamed terrorist organization (Sydney Morning Herald).
  • Lawmakers in Tennessee have removed language referencing religion and specifically shariah, or Islamic law, from a bill allowing state officials the authority to identify terrorist groups (The Tennessean).
  • Interpol Secretary General Ronald Noble announced Mar. 24 that Interpol last week arrested an alleged terrorist who was reportedly part of a plot to attack the Cricket World Cup (Express Tribune, The Hindu).

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