The Militant (logo)  

Vol. 74/No. 21      May 31, 2010

U.S. gov’t takes aim
at workers rights
(front page)
In a move to further undermine workers’ rights, the Barack Obama administration is discussing with the Justice Department and members of Congress how to strip some U.S. citizens of their “Miranda rights” when undergoing police interrogation.

These rights were put in place following a Supreme Court ruling in 1966 that threw out the conviction of an Arizona worker, Ernesto Miranda, who “confessed” to a crime while he was in police custody with no lawyer present. The case was heard in the midst of the civil rights battles that overturned Jim Crow segregation against Blacks. That powerful movement was also the impetus for a parallel expansion of political rights and constitutional protections for all working people.

The 1966 court ruling held that a suspect has the right to remain silent when interrogated by cops and the right to an attorney, including one paid for by the state if the defendant can’t afford it. The police must inform the person of their rights in advance of questioning. Failure to do so makes any information obtained inadmissible in court.

To question someone held incommunicado in detention “is inherently intimidating and works to undermine the privilege against self-incrimination,” the court ruled. “Unless adequate preventive measures are taken … no statement obtained by the defendant can truly be the product of his free choice.”

The court noted it had heard a series of cases in which “the police resorted to physical brutality—beating, hanging, whipping—and to sustained and protracted questioning incommunicado in order to extort confessions.”

When the government interrogated Faisal Shahzad, the U.S. citizen accused of attempting to bomb Times Square, it was four hours before he was read his Miranda rights. Arrested May 3, it was 15 days before he was arraigned.

Attorney General Eric Holder has tried to justify the treatment of Shahzad by pointing to a 1984 Supreme Court ruling that allows cops to delay reading someone their rights in cases of “public safety.” He said on ABC that the latitude for interrogation before reading someone their Miranda rights should be expanded to be “more consistent with the threat that we now face”: “international terrorists.”

The Supreme Court aimed another blow at workers’ rights May 17 by upholding a law that permits the U.S. government to extend the detention of some federal prisoners indefinitely beyond their sentences. The law allows authorities to arbitrarily declare certain inmates convicted in abuse cases as being too “sexually dangerous” to release.

Five inmates who remain in a North Carolina prison hospital even though they have served out their time filed suit to overturn the law. Four of them originally received three- to eight-year sentences. More than two years have passed since the expiration of their terms.

As solicitor general Elena Kagan argued before the high court in favor of upholding the reactionary law. She is now the Obama administration’s Supreme Court nominee.

Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas voted against upholding the law. In his dissent Thomas wrote, “The fact that the federal government has the authority to imprison a person for the purpose of punishing him for a federal crime—sex-related or otherwise—does not provide the government with the additional power to exercise indefinite civil control over that person.”

According to Reuters, there are about 100 cases of other federal prisoners still incarcerated after serving their sentences. U.S. states also have the power to continue holding inmates convicted of sex crimes after their term is up.
Related articles:
Free the Cuban Five!
Oppose assault on workers rights
Blacks, Latinos targeted in N.Y. ‘stop and frisk’
Seattle video shows cop brutality  
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