ACLU's Romero: Congress Doesn't Have The Power To Chip Away The Fifth Amendment

The ACLU's Anthony Romero did a good job on Hardball pushing back at Attorney General Eric Holder's assertion that there's a need to modify the Mirand
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The ACLU's Anthony Romero did a good job on Hardball pushing back at Attorney General Eric Holder's assertion that there's a need to modify the Miranda rights given to terror suspects.

MATTHEWS: Yes, I guess that`s the question, Anthony.

I can imagine -- we see this case of a guy who obviously is a fugitive from -- he`s almost hot pursuit case. What happens if there`s a bunch of people who are Arabic-speaking or they have an accent or they have an Middle Eastern aspect to them and a cop walks in the door and sees five people arguing about Americans, somebody -- did somebody say something against America here? Do they become terror suspects? Do you drop Miranda with them?

I mean, where do you draw the line of this safety exception I guess is the question.

ANTHONY ROMERO: I think that`s exactly right, Chris.

And I was astonished that the attorney general yesterday said that we need to broaden the public safety exception. I mean, break it down first. When we give up our freedoms for our safety, we lose. That`s what the terrorists are fighting for.

And, most fundamentally, when you think about Miranda, that`s the one right that most people know from TV, the right to remain silent...

MATTHEWS: Yes.

ROMERO: ... the right that you know that anything will be used against you in a court of law. God, that`s the one right that people get. And when you begin to chip away at that one, you`re chipping away at one of the bedrock rights.

MATTHEWS: OK.

ROMERO: Number two, right, no one can tell us why we need these additional powers. You have the public safety exception. It`s worked in both the Christmas bomber and the Thanksgiving -- the Times Square bomber.

We have got them talking. We`re using their statements against them. What powers does the government have now that it doesn`t -- doesn`t -- that it doesn`t yet need?

MATTHEWS: OK.

ROMERO: Third -- third, it`s going to be prosecution so much more difficult. When you start to open up this Pandora`s Box, oh, we`re going to have so much litigation on our hands. Fourth, Congress doesn`t have the power to chip away the Fifth Amendment. That`s a basic right. That`s in the Bill of Rights.

Finally, I`ll just note for Police Chief Timoney that, ironically, when this issue last came up in the Supreme Court in 2000, it was law enforcement officials who weighed in saying that they wanted Miranda, because it made for law enforcement to be effective and professionalized.

TIMONEY: I wrote an op-ed piece on that issue, supporting that Miranda shouldn`t be watered down. However, in the area of terrorism -- this is a whole new era. I think that`s what Eric Holder was trying to deal with yesterday, that we have to look and make sure, for example, there are some property, that there are protocols in place, that there are written policies in place, when it does apply, when it doesn`t apply, so it isn`t left up to the individual agent or police officer.

ROMERO: We have those policies in place.

MATTHEWS: Let me go to the chief on that. I want to ask him, in real practice, when you are out in the field and you get a suspect, I have noticed in the case of the Christmas Bomber -- we are using these funny terms, Christmas Bomber, a little whimsical, perhaps, but we use they. They both, we were told, were Mirandized at a point.

Now you wonder what principle applies if the guy is about to interrogate very aggressively, why do you Mirandize the guy, chief, after you interrogated him? What`s the point at that point? I don`t get it. Why warn him of his rights after you get all the info out of him?

TIMONEY: I think the issue of the Christmas day attempted bomber, he was not a citizen. This was an enemy combatant that came in from across the pond, if you will. I don`t think he had any rights any way.

ROMERO: That`s not true.

TIMONEY: Different story here is a naturalized citizen. It`s a naturalized citizen. And there clearly the rights of every American applies.

MATTHEWS: Let`s go to that more difficult case. Let`s go to the case of an enemy, someone who clearly is an enemy, an enemy national who is out for no good. How do we treat him? Anthony?

ROMERO: Look, the Bill of Rights is very clear. It`s every person entitled to core Fifth Amendment and Fourth Amendment rights. Just because you`re not here as a citizen, doesn`t mean you don`t have rights. This is America. Second of all.

MATTHEWS: The guy is in an airplane over America, first of all. It`s a question of geography. Is he here if he`s committing a crime in the airplane above us?

ROMERO: No, it`s different. But both the Times Square and the Christmas day bombers were on American soil. I think it`s a red herring when we talk about the fact that we`re going to try to carve out an entirely new system when our system has worked. We have prosecuted 300 terrorism cases in the criminal courts. Our law enforcement officials know what to do.

We should give the FBI a big pat on the back for how they handled these last two cases. It`s working. You have to tell me what is not working that requires us to revisit something as fundamentally important as Miranda? I don`t get it.

My question for Chris Matthews is why did he feel the need to bring this guy on his show to counter Anthony Romero?

John Timoney, America’s Worst Cop:

There are many reasons why John Timoney should be fired. He has trampled civil rights, from the 2003 Free Trade Area of the Americas protests to the soon-to-be-placed video cameras throughout downtown. He accepted a free Lexus SUV from a local auto dealer and then lied about it. And, according to the police union, he allowed subordinates to manipulate crime statistics to make it appear he's doing a good job.

There's also this: City cops hate him. On September 4, 520 of 650 police union members cast no-confidence votes against the chief.

All of that has been publicized. But until now, no one has talked about perhaps his greatest sin. He's the city's best-paid employee — with a compensation package worth more than $214,000 per year — but he's not around much. During four years and nine months in office, Timoney has been out of town for at least 138 days — not counting vacation. During his 30 jaunts to places like Belfast and Los Angeles, he has stayed in the Wilshire Grand and the Mandarin Oriental. Cost to taxpayers: more than $28,000.

Adam Burden, Candidate for Seattle Police Chief, Had Some Rough Years in Miami:

Burden most recently served as deputy for several years to Miami's chief of police, John Timoney, the guy our sun-baked colleagues at Miami New Times called "America's Worst Cop."

Timoney's six-year tenure was marked by acrimony with the local police union and other controversies, not least of which was a high-profile lawsuit brought against himself, Burden, and other highly placed members of the department in the aftermath of Miami's own version of the WTO protests.

Yeah, great choice there Chris.

Entire transcript here.

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