to Lindsay Lohan with really big hair. He of the big movies and NRA.
Congress, Up in Arms
By Gail Collins
Published: NY Times, May 5, 2010
There seems to be a strong sentiment in Congress that the only constitutional right suspected terrorists have is the right to bear arms.
“I think you’re going too far here,” said Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina at a hearing of the Senate Homeland Security Committee on Wednesday. He was speaking in opposition to a bill that would keep people on the F.B.I. terrorist watch list from buying guns and explosives.
Yes, if you are on the terrorist watch list, the authorities can keep you from getting on a plane but not from purchasing an AK-47. This makes sense to Congress because, as Graham accurately pointed out, “when the founders sat down and wrote the Constitution, they didn’t consider flying.”
The subject of guns turns Congress into a twilight zone. People who are perfectly happy to let the government wiretap phones go nuts when the government wants to keep track of weapons permits. A guy who stands up in the House and defends the torture of terror suspects will nearly faint with horror at the prospect of depriving someone on the watch list of the right to purchase a pistol.
“We make it so easy for dangerous people to get guns. If it’s the Second Amendment, it doesn’t matter if they’re Osama bin Laden,” said Paul Helmke, the president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.
Graham wanted to make it clear that just because he doesn’t want to stop gun purchases by possible terrorists, that doesn’t mean he’s not tough on terror.
“I am all into national security. ... I want to stop reading these guys their Miranda rights,” he said.
The Obama administration has been criticized by many Republicans for having followed the rules about how long you can question a terror suspect before you read him his rights. These objections have been particularly loud since the arrest of Faisal Shahzad in the attempted Times Square bombing. No one seems moved by the fact that Shahzad, after being told that he had the right to remain silent, continued talking incessantly.
“Nobody in their right mind would expect a Marine to read someone caught on the battlefield their rights,” Graham said.
Terror threats make politicians behave somewhat irrationally. But the subject of guns makes them act like a paranoid mother ferret protecting her litter. The National Rifle Association, the fiercest lobby in Washington, grades every member of Congress on how well they toe the N.R.A. line. Lawmakers with heavily rural districts would rather vote to legalize carrying concealed weapons in kindergarten than risk getting less than 100 percent.
The Senate Homeland Security Committee hearing on “Terrorists and Guns: The Nature of the Threat and Proposed Reforms,” concerned a modest bill sponsored by Senator Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey. It would allow the government to stop gun sales to people on the F.B.I. terror watch list the same way it does people who have felony convictions. Because Congress has repeatedly rejected this idea, 1,119 people on the watch list have been able to purchase weapons over the last six years. One of them bought 50 pounds of military grade explosives.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York City and his police commissioner, Ray Kelly, dutifully trekked down to Washington to plead for the bill on behalf of the nation’s cities. The only thing they got for their trouble was praise for getting the city through the Times Square incident in one piece. And almost everyone had a good word for the T-shirt vendor who first noticed the suspicious car and raised an alert. Really, if someone had introduced a bill calling for additional T-shirt vendors, it would have sailed through in a heartbeat.
Gun legislation, not so popular.
Lautenberg’s bill has been moldering in committee, and that is not going to change.
“Let me emphasize that none of us wants a terrorist to be able to purchase a gun,” said Senator Susan Collins of Maine, who nevertheless went on to argue against allowing the government to use the terrorist watch list to keep anyone from being able to purchase, um, a gun.
“Some of the people pushing this idea are also pushing the idea of banning handguns,” said Graham, darkly. “I don’t think banning handguns makes me safer.”
The terrorist watch list is huge, and some of the names on it are undoubtedly there in error. The bill would allow anyone denied the right to purchase a firearm an appeal process, but that would deprive the would-be purchaser some precious gun-owning time. Before we subject innocent Americans “to having to go into court and pay the cost of going to court to get their gun rights back, I want to slow down and think about this,” said Graham.
Slow is going to be very slow, and the thinking could go on for decades.
Miranda and public safety
By Syndicated columns
May 07, 2010, 6:00AM
By Charles Krauthammer
"(Law enforcement) interviewed Mr. Shahzad ... under the public safety exception to the Miranda rule. ... He was eventually ... Mirandized and continued talking."
-- John Pistole, FBI deputy director, May 4
All well and good. But what if Faisal Shahzad, the confessed Times Square bomber, had stopped talking? When you tell someone he has the right to remain silent, there is a distinct possibility that he will remain silent, is there not? And then what?
The authorities deserve full credit for capturing Shahzad within 54 hours. Credit is also due them for obtaining information from him by invoking the "public safety" exception to the Miranda rule.
But then Shahzad was Mirandized. If he had decided to shut up, it would have denied us valuable information -- everything he is presumably telling us now about Pakistani contacts, training, plans for (BEG ITAL)other(END ITAL) possible plots beyond the Times Square attack.
... My view is that we should treat enemy combatants as enemy combatants, whether they are U.S. citizens (Shahzad) or not (the underwear bomber). If, however, they are to be treated as ordinary criminals, then at least agree on this: no Miranda rights until we know everything that public safety demands to know.