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Political Landscape

September 02, 2010

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) addressed everything from terrorist trials to Sacramento shenanigans at a Glendale Kiwanis Club meeting Aug. 28.

While the club is used to lighter fare, the six-term Congressman explained his bill inspired by the cases of the Christmas Day bomber and Times Square bomber, two men believed to be Muslim extremists who attempted to detonate explosives in the United States.

Schiff, a former federal prosecutor, said that when terrorists are captured, it forces a dilemma. Do investigators grill them to gain information on future terror plots and threats? Or do they treat them as suspected criminals, warning them of their Miranda rights and seeking only information useful in a prosecution?

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"It's a tough choice. Do we gather intelligence, or do we gather evidence?" Schiff said.

In July, Schiff introduced a bill to expand the amount of time — from six to 48 hours — that officials can interrogate suspected terrorists without offering a Miranda warning. That would be enough time to gain crucial info without infringing on their constitutional rights, Schiff said, and could only be done with the approval of a federal judge.

House Resolution 5934 also would expand the ability of U.S. investigators to grill suspected terrorists on foreign soil.

Schiff's bill was criticized last month in a Los Angeles Times editorial. Schiff acknowledged the criticism, saying with a smile that the Times has the right to be wrong.

He also took several minutes to praise U.S. troops in Afghanistan while saying that it still is too early to tell whether efforts to stabilize the country are taking root.

On the one hand, he said military action in Afghanistan has "seriously degraded Al Qaeda's capacity to attack us here." On the other hand, "epidemic corruption" among Afghan political leaders and police have made it difficult to establish democratic institutions that citizens can rely on.

Schiff said a few months ago he met with , then the top commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, as well as McChrystal's subsequent replacement, Gen. David Petraeus.

Schiff came away with the sense that the current combination of military and civilian efforts is the only viable one, he said. Even so, there is little certainty of success on the civilian side.

"By this time next year, we will know whether this is working or isn't working," Schiff said.

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