Roland Martin and the Washington Watch roundtable discuss the reaction to the Boston Bombing, if the alleged suspect should be declared an enemy combatant and if he should retain his rights under the American Constitution.
This week’s Washington Watch roundtable features Angela Rye, co-founder and principal at IMPACT Strategies; political consultant Raynard Jackson; Michelle Bernard, president and CEO of the Bernard Center for Women; and Steve Clemons, Washington editor at large for Atlantic Live.
MR. MARTIN: Welcome back.
Joining me here in our roundtable: Angela Rye, co-founder and principal at IMPACT Strategies; political consultant Raynard Jackson; Michelle Bernard, president and CEO of the Bernard Center for Women; and Steve Clemons, Washington editor at large for Atlantic Live.
Folks, welcome back to “Washington Watch.”
If there’s one thing that’s been bothering me this past week, it’s watching folks have the audacity to somehow suggest that the alleged Boston bombers – the young man who is in custody somehow should be declared an enemy combatant, as if we have no history in this country of providing Miranda rights and actually trying domestic terrorists according to our own U.S. Constitution.
I don’t understand how, even in this case, you should just somehow give up rights and just say they really don’t mean anything, just because of this terror attack in Boston.
MS. ANGELA RYE: I think there’s one thing in particular that you have to keep in mind, though, Roland in dealing with such a delicate situation. When he was originally apprehended, the questioning immediately began as soon as he came to consciousness. And one thing that’s been talked about a lot in the press is the fact that the courts intervened when the FBI believed they were on the verge of hearing something from him under this public safety exception that exists for Miranda rights. And the courts intervened, and they stepped in and said. “You know, it’s time for us to Mirandize this suspect.”
So, there’s a very delicate balance and a very careful line that you have to walk, with protecting the homeland and with ensuring that folks –
MR. STEVE CLEMONS: With all due –
MS. RYE: — have their rights protected.
MR. CLEMONS: — respect, I completely disagree – but in the nicest way.
MR. CLEMONS: I don’t believe this country, with people in this country, should ever withdraw rights from anyone. We saw during World War II how this was done to Japanese-Americans. You saw – that’s not what America’s about. America is about showing its norms in the toughest of times – not the best of times.
And in this particular case, it was outrageous because we’ve had other times in American history – particularly in the late 1960s – when you had a far greater incidence of this kind of domestic terrorism inside the United States. Those people, you know, had the law both protecting the public’s interest and protecting the interests of those that might have been accused of these crimes.
And so there’s nothing wrong with our criminal justice system. We entered into a phase during the Iraq War, during the Bush-Cheney Administration, where we created a gray war of rules and laws that most of the world doesn’t accept. And we’re now trying to get out of that, and we’re seeing it propagate now in our domestic political scene, and it’s a tragedy. It’s a really, really bad thing.
So, I’m glad that we didn’t make that decision and that, ultimately, we did read the suspect his Miranda rights.
MS. MICHELLE BERNARD: Sitting back and when I was watching the calls for us to look at this fellow as an enemy combatant, none of it seemed genuine. None of it rang true to me. To me, it literally looked like political pandering, and I never for once took the comment the calls to do this in any way seriously. To me, it looked like people who were trying to get on television; get their voices heard; and maybe have some far, right-wing constituent say, “Yeah, get those Chechens.” It just – it didn’t seem real at all. I don’t take them seriously.
MR. MARTIN: But I think about Eric Rudolph –
MR. CLEMONS: Um-hum.
MR. MARTIN: — the gentleman who was responsible for the Centennial Park bombing at the Olympics in Atlanta, 1996. I think about Timothy McVeigh, who killed 168 people in Oklahoma City. Look, I totally get in terms of this whole notion of a war on terror, but the moment Americans stand here and say that our soldiers are fighting for our rights, fighting for our way of life, fighting or our constitution – and then we turn around and somehow say, “Oh, let’s throw the same constitution out the window” – that, to me, is absolutely insanity.
MR. RAYNARD JACKSON: I think this was a very simple argument. He’s an American citizen. It happened on U.S. soil, so he’s protected, and he deserves his Miranda rights.
Now, if he was an American citizen in a foreign country, blowing up U.S. assets, to me, you can have a legitimate argument about this; but by him being an American citizen, it’s not even a[n] argument.
MS. RYE: But don’t you –
MS. BERNARD: I question –
MS. RYE: — I think it –
MS. BERNARD: — though, like, why is it the same people continue to forget all of the wrongs of the nation’s history? After Katrina, they had little prisons set up all over New Orleans before they were able to save anybody who needed water, and they were locking up people who “looked like” – quote-unquote – Muslims or Arabs, because they thought that they would use Hurricane Katrina as a way to bring terrorism to the United States. It was wrong, and we do it over and over –
MR. CLEMONS: It’s al- —
MS. BERNARD: — and over again.
MR. CLEMONS: — it’s always wrong. I mean that thing is always wrong, and I think it’s important for America to – we’re going to be challenged and tested. There’ll be other cases of domestic terrorism. We won’t know who it is. And to think that you can have a subjective scale on when you basically have the rights that Americans are guaranteed, or not – I’ll tell you what’s interesting is that a lot of people look at Russia today and Vladimir Putin, and there’s a lot of criticism about the slipping scale of democracy there and the fact that people don’t have rights and that you’re having executions, et cetera.
And, you know, in my view, it’s very important for the United States to maintain its legal codes and to be the “beacon on the hill,” so that we can criticize what’s going on abroad. If we do this kind of thing, you can’t criticize Vladimir Putin in Russia. You can’t criticize thuggish regimes that throw out their constitutions.
MS. RYE: I definitely understand what everyone is saying, but the public safety exception is not indefinite. It replies [sic] for a specific amount of time, according to Reed, because they thought that amount of time had passed.
I think it is so important for us not to treat the Constitution like a strict, black-and-white document. It is a living, breathing document, and it evolves based on certain principles. That’s why I went to law school. There are all types of exceptions to the law, and you have to definitely deal with them very carefully. You can’t just say, “This is the way that we’re going to apply this.” “This is the Miranda rule.” You just never know. And I think it’s really dangerous for us to live in absolutes.
MR. MARTIN: Well, look – and I agree [about] living in absolutes, but I think what really concerns me – to Steve’s point – is when you start going down that road –
MS. RYE: No question.
MR. MARTIN: — all of a sudden, you have people who are trying to apply an enemy combatant to virtually anything.
MS. RYE: Right.
MR. MARTIN: I mean if that’s the case, let’s just go ahead and ship the guy to Guantanamo without even charging him.
And I think, to Raynard’s point, when it happens on U.S. soil – and like it or not, this is an American citizen, you know. So, it’s not like this is somebody who came from another country. He’s, you know, here; slipped into the country. He is still an American citizen –
MS. RYE: Right.
MR. MARTIN: — and I think you still have to contend with the rights of being an American citizen, and you can’t just give that up, and say that, even if this person is an alleged bomber, that somehow you give up those particular rights – because, again, without our rights, without our laws, what makes us so different and so unique from some other country?
MR. CLEMONS: Right.
MS. BERNARD: Absolutely.