Former FBI Interrogators Tell Obama Miranda Modifications May Do “More Harm Than Good”

Washington, DC  Troubled by reports that the Obama administration is considering modifications to the Miranda rule, three of the FBI’s most experienced interrogators and terrorism experts today told President Barack Obama that changes are not necessary to protect national security. In a letter sent to the President, former FBI interrogators Jim Clemente, Jack Cloonan and Joe Navarro warned that legislating changes to this time-tested rule may do “more harm than good.”

“Miranda rights are important and play a vital role in our work. As interrogators who have sat across the table from those who seek to harm our nation and its citizens, we assure you that existing Miranda rules are nimble enough to handle situations as they arise,” the interrogators noted.

According to the letter, sent as Attorney General Eric Holder is slated to testify before the House Judiciary Committee and will likely face questions related to recent reports that the administration is considering changes to Miranda, legislation to modify Miranda could very well result in rules that unnecessarily constrain law enforcement officials and hinder their ability to adapt to unforeseen situations. The interrogators, who have collectively interviewed thousands of individuals in connection with perceived terror threats, urged President Obama to “stand up for the rule of law and the ability of interrogators to effectively do their job” by standing up for existing Miranda rights and not seeking changes to these rules.

The interrogators wrote, “In our decades of working in law enforcement, including the years following 9/11, Miranda rights never interfered with our ability to obtain useful information or make prosecutable cases. Miranda doesn’t undermine the ability to bring criminals to justice, incompetent investigators and untested laws do. We must not abandon our nation’s fundamental rule of law in the name of preserving public safety and convicting terrorists. If we abandon our laws and apply draconian methods in response to terrorist threats, then the terrorists and their quest for lawlessness will have won.  What’s more, their victory will jeopardize our ability to bring those terrorists to justice later.”

About the signers:

  • Jim Clement spent 25 years as a FBI Supervisory Special Agent. Clemente was a member of the National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime (NCAVC) Behavioral Analysis Unit (BAU), an integral part of the Critical Incident Response Group, which provides behavioral support during all FBI crisis incidents.
  • Jack Cloonan, a 25 veteran of the FBI, was a special agent for the Bureau’s Osama bin Laden unit from 1996 to 2002. During that time, he played a lead role in the FBI’s efforts to stop Al Qaeda.
  • Joe Navarro spent 25 years working as an FBI special agent in the area of counterintelligence and behavioral assessment and is a founding member of the National Security Division’s Behavioral Analysis Program. Navarro authored the book that the FBI uses to train advanced interrogators. He is author of a number of books about interviewing techniques and practice including Advanced Interviewing, which he co-wrote with Jack Schafer, and Hunting Terrorists: A Look at the Psycopathology of Terror.

Published on May 13, 2010


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