In a huge and very important policy change, the Department of Justice has announced that all federal law enforcement agencies will now record their interrogations of suspects. This is a move that is crucial to making our criminal justice system more just and fair.
The FBI and several other U.S. federal law enforcement agencies will reverse a policy that has long prohibited the recording of interrogations of people held in custody, a Justice Department memo sent last week said.
The new policy, effective July 11, creates a presumption that agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the U.S. Marshals Service and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives will record video statements made by people who are in their custody prior to appearing in court.
Attorney General Eric Holder said in a video address on Thursday that the policy change was the result of a thorough review that concluded recordings would ensure an “objective account of key investigations and interactions with people who are held in federal custody.”
Criminal defense lawyers have long advocated that the over 100-year-old ban on recordings be overturned in the interest of transparency.
Unfortunately, there’s a “national security” loophole in the new policy, which as we have seen over the last decade can be used to justify virtually anything. But for the usual criminal suspects being interrogated, having them recorded can help prevent abuses and aid in their legal defense.