This afternoon, Faisal Shahzad pleaded guilty in federal court in Manhattan to trying to detonate a homemade car bomb in Times Square. Shahzad has been “cooperating with federal authorities,” the New York Times reported.
His failed bombing attempt in May touched off a heated debate about whether Shahzad — a naturalized American citizen — should be Mirandized and tried in federal court, or be subject to a different, dubious legal protocol. Those who opposed the Constitutionally-based law enforcement approach argued Shahzad would not cooperate after being told he had the right to remain silent, and thus authorities would be unable to collect intelligence or convict him.
As the Washington Independent’s Spencer Ackerman sarcastically noted, Shahzad’s guilty plea is “obviously another crucial failure for a law-enforcement-based response to terrorism.” Indeed, Shahzad’s guilty plea puts the National Review’s Andrew McCarthy in an awkward spot. Just this morning — hours before the announcement of the guilty please — McCarthy gleefully declared the failure of the law enforcement approach, citing the Department of Justice’s failure to secure a guilty plea:
Now comes word from the U.S. attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York that Shahzad has been indicted.[...]
Attorney General Eric Holder has been telling anyone who would listen that Shahzad is cooperating and providing valuable information. Civilian due process has been no obstacle at all, Holder insists: no problem posed by Miranda, the appointment of counsel, the prospect of providing discovery, and the dynamics of plea-bargaining. Yet it is highly unusual to indict a cooperator, precisely because it is so strategically disadvantageous to the government. When someone is cooperating, the standard practice is to strike a deal, complete with a cooperation agreement and a guilty plea, in what is known as a “criminal information,” rather than to file an indictment. [...]
An indictment, on the other hand, is the throwdown moment in a criminal case, the opening bell for the first round of a prize fight. It signals that the parties have been unable to work out an agreement and are in an antagonistic posture.
Unfortunately for McCarthy, his eagerness to bash President Obama put him on the wrong side of the facts by about five hours. Of course, this probably won’t stop McCarthy from making up another reason for why the Obama administration has botched this terrorism prosecution.