Ex-CIA top official’s op-ed supports Miranda rights

Philip Mudd, former deputy director of the CIA’s Counterterrorist Center from 2003 to 2005 and senior intelligence adviser to the FBI from 2009 to 2010, has an op-ed in The Washington Post entitled “Mirandizing terrorists: Not so black and white”.

In the article, Mudd argues that interviewing a suspect terrorist must pursue two objectives, which are not necessarily irreconcilable: to protect lives and to guard American civil liberties. More importantly, Mudd observes that suspect terrorist’ motives for talking or not with their interviewers are not driven by Miranda.

“His motivations are complex: He folds quickly after arrest, revealing everything he knows about a plot because he was never fully committed to a cause. Or he remains silent, requesting a lawyer and refusing to reveal whether another bomber is on the loose because his ideological roots run deep. Or he’s somewhere in between, offering some truths but also spinning tales, challenging his interrogator to separate fact from fiction and to steer the dialogue — or, more precisely, his unique psychology — toward a slowly evolving relationship that reveals plots and players”, Mudd writes describing the multifaceted attitudes of suspect terrorists towards their interviewer.

According to the ex-CIA official, Miranda rights have never been a real issue in real-world situations. He reports interviewers having said that Miranda was not a bar to intelligence-gathering during detainee debriefings.

“Washington officials make decisions all the time on whether a detainee is providing valuable intelligence. I sat at hundreds of briefing tables for nine years after Sept. 11, 2001, and I can’t remember a time when Miranda impeded a decision on whether to pursue an intelligence interview”, he says.

On the other hand, Mudd points out that Miranda can contribute to the acquisition of intelligence, encouraging a detainee to speak in a context dominated by the rule of law.

“Mirandizing a young detainee might prove to nervous parents — say, from countries with fearsome security services — that the rule of law applies in the United States and that there is incentive for their child to speak. In cultures with tight family structures, those parents could be the deciding factor in whether a young detainee talks” he observes.

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