There is something very commendable and seriously troubling in the calls by the so called “responsible media,” the ACLU, and select liberals to preserve the rights of the surviving Boston Marathon bombing suspect. On the one hand, we cannot but be proud about how strongly Americans are committed to the rule of law, the Constitution, and granting a fair trial to those who engage in the most despicable acts—even when the wound is so deep and still fresh. Hospitals are still full with people whose limbs have been amputated and the victims of the attack (including an 8-year-old child) have not yet been laid to rest. But the extent to which many observers of our public life ignore the balance carefully crafted by the Constitution—between individual rights and the public interest—is stunning.
One wishes that the ardent advocates for the rights of suspected terrorist would read the Fourth Amendment, which captures very well the balance the Constitution calls for. Unlike the one-sided, absolute language of the First Amendment (“Congress shall make no law…”), the Fourth protects “against unreasonable searches and seizures,” thus recognizing on the face of it that there are reasonable searches—that is, those justified by a compelling public interest.
This essential text leads us to a question that has received much attention: should the Boston Marathon bomber have been Mirandized or was there a compelling public reason to withhold this right? Authorities did not bend the rules or sidestep justice when they delayed reading Dzhokhar Tsarnaev his rights; indeed, their decision to do so is fully supported by the public-safety exception introduced precisely for the situation at hand. The Supreme Court upheld the exception in the 1984 case New York v. Quarles, in which police were informed the suspect had a gun and asked where it was before reading his rights. It also was invoked in the case of the 2009 Christmas Day bomber and in 2010 for Faisal Shahzad after he attempted to set off a bomb in Times Square. In the wake of the Boston attack, law enforcement is trying to find out if other plots are afoot. This is always a legitimate question when one deals with acts of terror, but especially in this case, as officials already established that the brothers had stockpiled more bombs and ammunition. If this is not a threat to public safety—what is?
Read the rest at The Institute For Communitarian Policy Studies site.