The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

Two sides of the coin on detaining alien terrorists

A burning debate has ensued in light of combating violent extremism. Should authorities be given the right to interrogate those who have either exhibited behavior that is indicative of violent extremism or who have verified ties to violent extremists, without the presence of a lawyer and the opportunity to remain silent in the interest of national security?

Or should detainees be given the same rights that are afforded to non-military suspects accused of committing a crime in this country, such as having their Miranda Rights read and being afforded council. This debate has picked up intensity after the recent treatment of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Christmas Day bomber who was granted
these amenities during his questioning.
There are essentially two sides to this issue.

After 9/11, America performed an overhaul of its national security procedures. As the possibility of other attacks seems not only realistic but likely, it can be said that America’s primary responsibility is to its citizens and their ability to experience the freedoms that are delineated in its founding documents. Interrogation should take place without the presence of an attorney and Miranda Rights should not be read at that time, in light of what appears to be relentless attempts to send the U.S. reeling and the possibility of
multiple attacks occurring simultaneously.

Valued intelligence information is vital and would probably not be extracted from someone who is protected by the Fifth Amendment. As in the issue of the infamous Bank Bailout, where systemic risk outweighed moral hazard, national security should outweigh Constitutional integrity when dealing with issues of this kind, as lives are hanging in the balance.

On the other hand, America has been known for years as an international superpower and the template for all other countries to emulate. This gave our country the almost nationalistic pride that some would argue was prevalent for years and that characterized the Bush administration’s sentiments towards the rest of the world. In light of this, America has been burdened with the responsibility to act with the utmost of integrity when interacting with those of differing international ties.

In the case of violent extremism, it could be argued that the U.S. should behave no differently, as those who are suspected of being affiliated with extremist groups or who have been explicitly caught performing extremist acts should be treated with the same “Constitutional respect,” as a person who is accused of mugging an elderly woman in a dark alley. International climate and sentiment towards the U.S. should not possess the ability to compromise values that are
embedded in the fabric of its nation.

Both of these stances are valid in their own right, but there is one element that drastically affects the issue: The element of urgency. In the case of murder versus self-defense, urgency is considered within the context of the offense, as one’s need for self-preservation outweighs the social responsibility to not kill. But, just as someone cannot completely disregard legal statues when defending themselves (such as firing at a fleeing assailant), the U.S. government should not completely disregard their Constitutional standards when
interacting with suspected terrorists.

There must be a middle ground found, a balance achieved, where, in light of urgency, interrogation absent of the reading of Miranda Rights, should be allowed to take place within a specified period
of time immediately following arrest.

After this period, detainees should be afforded all of the rights that non-detainees are. Here, both sides of this issue would be satisfied without disregarding the context in which the alleged offense is in.

Ultimately, everything is contextual.Though this is not an excuse to forsake ideals, it must be considered when dealing with issues of this kind, and few issues will ever be as controversial as the
treatment of alien criminal detainees.

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