Meet the Press   |  May 09, 2010

Administration eyeing Miranda modification?

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder discusses the interrogation of Faisal Shahzad and the debate over reading suspects their Miranda rights.

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MR. GREGORY: Do you support stripping American citizenship from those who are thought to be involved in terrorist activity ?

MR. HOLDER: You know, that's something that Senator Lieberman has proposed. I've really not had a chance to look at the bill that I guess he is in the process of, of putting together. But I do know that using just traditional law enforcement techniques we can put people in jail for extended periods of time, we can put them in jail for the rest of their lives, we can even execute them. I think there are constitutional concerns with the bill that Senator Lieberman is proposing.

MR. GREGORY: You issued a Miranda warning to Shahzad , the right to remain silent , at which point a lot of defendants, suspects could get a lawyer. You did that after eight hours and after you had already gotten him talking. There's criticism about injecting the possibility that a suspect will not provide intelligence if you give them that Miranda warning . Take me through that process of what the balancing test is before Miranda is actually issued.

MR. HOLDER: Well, I wouldn't say that we talked to him for eight hours without giving his Miranda warnings , but aside from that what you do is you use the public safety exception that the Supreme Court has defined to make sure that there are no immediate threats.

MR. GREGORY: The quote/unquote " ticking time bomb " scenario.

MR. HOLDER: Ticking time bomb . And then you make the determination whether or not it is appropriate, whether you think that giving Miranda warnings to that person is going to stop the flow of information or whether the flow of information will continue, and you make the determination. In this particular case, is it more important for us to get intelligence from this person , or is it more important for us to build the case? One of the things that we have certainly seen is that the giving of Miranda warnings has not stopped these terror suspects from talking to us. They have continued to talk even though we have given them a Miranda warning .

MR. GREGORY: Is that still the case here with Shahzad ?

MR. HOLDER: It's clearly the case. He was given his Miranda warnings after the public safety exception questioning was finished, and he has talked to us and he continues to talk to us.

MR. GREGORY: But would you like interrogators to have more flexibility?

MR. HOLDER: I think we have to look at the rules that we have and look at the situation that we now confront. The public safety exception was really based on a robbery that occurred back in the '80s and something to do with a supermarket. We're now dealing with international terrorists, and I think that we have to think about perhaps modifying the rules that interrogators have and somehow coming up with something that is flexible and is more consistent with the threat that we now face.

MR. GREGORY: So let me, let me unpack that a little bit. What you'd like to see happen is that Congress would pass a law that would say to judges, "Hey, look, in this environment if we extract information that could be valuable intelligence about another terror plot, about who they're involved in, whether they're connected to the Pakistani Taliban , we want to get all that without them lawyering up and still be able to use that against them in the court of law ." And you need more flexibility to do that, you think.

MR. HOLDER: Yeah. We certainly need more flexibility, and we want the public safety exception to be consistent with the public safety concerns that we now have in the 21st century as opposed to the public safety concerns that we had back in the 1980s .

MR. GREGORY: So that's news. I mean, that's an important development. Would you work with Congress to try to get that new law passed?

MR. HOLDER: Yeah. We want to work with Congress to come up with a way in which we make our public safety exception more flexible and, again, more consistent with the threat that we face. And yes, this is, in fact, big news. This is a proposal that we're going to be making and that we want to work with Congress about.

MR. GREGORY: So a new priority for the administration .

MR. HOLDER: It is a new priority.