President Barack Obama has hopefully learned his lesson after the withering (and legitimate) criticism he faced in late 2010 after the public learned that Umar Farouq Abdulmutallab, aka the Christmas Day Bomber, was read his Miranda rights after only 51 minutes of questioning. The potentially disastrous blunder here was in providing a terror suspect with the right to legal counsel and to silence when a wider and much more deadly attack might still be in the works.
According to NBC News, Dzhokhar Tsarnaez, the surviving suspect in Monday’s Boston Marathon bombings, has not yet been given his Miranda warning. This means that, after he his healthy enough to talk, he has no right to remain silent or to hide behind an attorney.
An indication of the complex investigation ahead came Friday night, when an Obama administration official told NBC News that Tsarnaev would not be given a Miranda warning when he is physically able to be interrogated after receiving medical treatment.
The exemption can be invoked when information is needed to protect public safety. In this instance, the government believes it’s vital to find out if Tsarnaev planted any other explosives before his capture or whether others might have plotted with him to do so, said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity.
There is no question Tsarnaev needs to be interrogated as quickly as possible. While it felt wonderful to exhale with all of Boston Friday night after five incredibly intense days, that doesn’t mean the threat is gone.
The unanswered questions in this attack are legion, and could lead anywhere. I’m not going to publicly speculate on anything, but demanding that questions be answered is not engaging in speculation — it is the only way to ensure that the current speculation that “all is well” does not turn fatal.
Civil liberties are vitally important, but they are not a suicide pact.
Follow John Nolte on Twitter @NolteNC