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Obama Justice Department Goes Silent on Miranda

12:46 AM, Jun 12, 2009 • By STEPHEN F. HAYES
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A Justice Department spokesman told the Weekly Standard Thursday that the department will not be answering any questions about the number of high-level detainees who have been Mirandized since Barack Obama took office five months ago.

"I can't comment on how many people have been Mirandized in recent months or years, as that information might relate to ongoing investigations and prosecutions, but there has been no policy change -- the FBI Mirandizes suspects overseas to preserve the quality of evidence and does so on a case-by-case basis, depending on the circumstances," said Matthew Miller, Director of the Justice Department's Office of Public Affairs.

On Wednesday, the Justice Department released a statement Wednesday in response to a TWS article reporting that the U.S. government has been reading Miranda rights to some high-level detainees.

The statement:

There has been no policy change and nor blanket instruction issued for FBI agents to Mirandize detainees overseas. While there have been specific cases in which FBI agents have Mirandized suspects overseas, at both Bagram and in other situations, in order to preserve the quality of evidence obtained, there has been no overall policy change with respect to detainees.

The statement, which confirms that the US government is, in fact, reading Miranda rights to some detainees, is otherwise highly misleading. The Justice Department claims that there has been "no policy change" with respect to reading Miranda rights to detainees. In background conversations with reporters, Obama administration officials are explaining that they can make this claim -- no change in policy -- because the practice of Mirandizing detainees started under the Bush administration.

And technically, they are correct.

There is at least one instance in which we know that a high-level detainee was Mirandized during the Bush administration. It concerns the case of Aafia Siddiqui. Siddiqui, a female, is married to Khalid Sheikh Mohammad's nephew. While waiting to be interrogated by FBI officials in Afghanistan, she grabbed the rifle of a US Army warrant officer and attempted to shoot and kill her captors. It was after this crime that she was read her Miranda rights. The Bush Justice Department fact sheet on Siddiqui and her case is here. So she was not read her rights after her initial detention, but only after she committed a subsequent crime (attempted murder) at the US detention facility.

FBI agents and other law enforcement and intelligence officers on the ground in Afghanistan told Mike Rogers, a former FBI special agent and US Army officer who currently sits on the House Intelligence Committee, that they have been told to Mirandize some high-value detainees. These officials also told Rogers that the International Red Cross has been advising detainees to take advantage of their new Miranda rights by getting a lawyer. And in at least one instance, a high-level detainee has taken that advice and requested a lawyer.

So despite claims from Justice officials in Washington that there has been "no change in policy," several of the individuals responsible for conducting interrogations of detainees believe that there has been.

As one way to gauge the extent of Mirandizing, TWS asked for a breakdown of how many detainees had been Mirandized during the Bush administration and how many have been Mirandized under President Obama. And at least for now, the Justice Department, the agency leading the Obama administration's efforts on transparency and open government, is refusing to provide them.