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Posted at 10:55 AM ET, 05/17/2010

Ex-agent questions Mueller's silence on Miranda

By Jeff Stein

Joe Navarro, a retired FBI agent who has interrogated scores of spies and terrorists, says Miranda rights don't inhibit the questioning of suspects, and he wants FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III to stand up and say so.

Longtime pressure to change the statute appeared to gain new momentum after the Times Square bomb incident, when Attorney General Eric Holder said the law could benefit by being made more “flexible.”

But Navarro says the law -- which requires suspects be informed they have a right to silence and a lawyer -- works fine as it is.

“In 25 years working as an FBI agent, I found that the Miranda decision did not interfere with me in either obtaining usable information or making prosecutable cases,” Navarro wrote in an opinion piece in the weekend Tampa Tribune.

“Miranda doesn't interfere with making cases,” he added. “Incompetent investigators do.”

Navarro is also the author of "Hunting Terrorists: A Look At the Psychopathology of Terror."

The Miranda law “is not to be trifled with by newscasters, the well-meaning but ignorant, or by politicians, especially those running for office,” he wrote.

In 2008, Navarro joined with other former FBI and CIA interrogators to denounce the use of waterboarding and other so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques,” which they called ineffective, counterproductive and unethical.

Now he’s trying to shame Mueller into declaring what the director has only suggested to date, in the case of the alleged Detroit airline bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmuttalab: The FBI can make cases without “modernizing, clarifying [or] making more flexible the use of the public safety exception” in the Miranda law, as Holder suggested.

“It is unfortunate that the current head of the FBI has refused to step forward and say, ‘This is the law, and FBI agents will abide by it, end of story. We can do our job with Miranda,’ ” Navarro wrote.

“Sadly, few people in government have risen up to set the record straight and demand respect for the law.”

No direct defense of the Miranda law by Mueller could be found in news accounts or in his speeches and testimony, posted on the FBI’s Web site.

An FBI spokesman said he didn’t think Mueller had made any.

UPDATE: The American Civil Liberties Union and about three dozen human rights and antiwar organizations sent a letter to Attorney General Holder Monday urging him to leave the Miranda rule untouched.

"In the nearly nine years since the attacks of 9/11, the Department of Justice has obtained convictions in more than 400 international terrorism or terrorism-related cases without weakening Miranda or risking the safety of Americans," the ACLU letter said. "The ‘public safety exception’ is exception enough."

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By Jeff Stein  | May 17, 2010; 10:55 AM ET
Categories:  Intelligence, Justice/FBI  
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to view a partial list of crimes committed by FBI agents over 1500 pages long see

to view a partial list of FBI agents arrested for pedophilia see

also see

Posted by: mabumford | May 17, 2010 2:03 PM | Report abuse

and what does any of that have to do with the issue of Miranda rights, mabumford? Can't say anything substantive about an issue so instead you just want to smear for no other reason? People like you shouldn't be allowed to post.

Posted by: hohandy | May 17, 2010 2:39 PM | Report abuse

"It is unfortunate that the current head of the FBI has refused to step forward and say, ‘This is the law, and FBI agents will abide by it, end of story."


Perhaps this Navarro guy isn't aware that the debate is about CHANGING the law, not breaking it. If we change it, and follow the new law, we are still following the law, aren't we?

This guy's argument strikes me as more than a bit disingenuous.

PS - Mabumford, go grind your anti-FBI axe elsewhere, we're not talking about the FBI, we're talking about changing an out-dated law called Miranda.

Posted by: ZZim | May 17, 2010 4:21 PM | Report abuse

Of note is that the so-called "Miranda Rights" don't come from "a law called Miranda."

The "Miranda Warning" (as it is properly called) comes from a Supreme Court ruling which held that the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution REQUIRED the police to advise suspects of their right to silence before beginning a custodial interrogation.

It's not "a law called Miranda" we'd need to change, it's the Fifth Amendment itself.

And what kind of country are we if we're going to say "we accord everyone the right to remain silent; but for some people, we're just not going to tell them about it and hope they forget." It's pure petty gamesmanship with a fundamental human right, it's beneath us, and -- least importantly -- it's ineffective.

Posted by: kcx7 | May 17, 2010 6:16 PM | Report abuse

It is unfortunate that this article uses the term "Miranda law" as if this is something Congress is able to amend. "Miranda" is Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966), a U.S. Supreme Court decision.

In Miranda, the Court stated, "To maintain a 'fair state-individual balance,' to require the government 'to shoulder the entire load,' to respect the inviolability of the human personality, our accusatory system of criminal justice demands that the government seeking to punish an individual produce the evidence against him by its own independent labors, rather than by the cruel, simple expedient of compelling it from his own mouth. In sum, the privilege is fulfilled only when the person is guaranteed the right 'to remain silent unless he chooses to speak in the unfettered exercise of his own will.'"

This is not some rule that can be adhered to or modified at the whim of the AG or DoJ. Rather, it is a right guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution according to the decision of the U.S. Supreme Court. The WP does itself and the public a disservice when it reports with such sloppiness.

Posted by: 51fordf2 | May 17, 2010 6:17 PM | Report abuse

1.It's not clear that foreign terrorists are even entitled to have Mirand warnings--only one district court so ruled....hardly definitive.

2. It's OK for FBI to question w/o giving Miranda warnings....especially in cases like Ahmandmuttlalab underwear bomber since everything in his indictment was based on evidence on him and in plane...nothing from what he said, so FBI could grill him about his contacts, etc. since those statements won't be used vs him anyway.

3. While some terrorists are dumb/incompetent, most would know their "rights" anyway (even if not a pure right) and clam up anyway since it's not a crime NOT to talk to the FBI..but then again, suspect may blab anyway with false info to throw FBI off the track.

Posted by: philpost1 | May 17, 2010 6:26 PM | Report abuse

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