GOP lawmakers demand Boston bombing suspect be designated an “enemy combatant”
Several prominent GOP lawmakers have called for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings, to be designated an “enemy combatant”, implying that the law of war rather than domestic criminal law applies in this case.
“It is clear the events we have seen over the past few days in Boston were an attempt to kill American citizens and terrorize a major American city. The accused perpetrators of these acts were not common criminals attempting to profit from a criminal enterprise, but terrorists trying to injure, maim, and kill innocent Americans,” wrote Senators John McCain (R-Ariz.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), and Congressman Peter King (R-N.Y.) in an open letter. “The suspect, based upon his actions, clearly is a good candidate for enemy combatant status. We do not want this suspect to remain silent.”
Shortly after Tsarnaev’s capture, U.S. officials invoked the public safety exception to the Miranda rights, which allowed investigators to interrogate Tsarnaev for up 48 hours without an attorney or the right to remain silent.
“We have concerns that limiting this investigation to 48 hours and exclusively relying on the public safety exception to Miranda, could very well be a national security mistake. It could severely limit our ability to gather critical information about future attacks from this suspect,” the Republican lawmakers wrote.
The GOP lawmakers pointed out that the “enemy combatant” status would have allowed the United States to detain and to interrogate Tsarnaev without an attorney or filing charges for weeks.
“I’m worried about what he knows. And the moment you provide legal counsel under criminal law, I think you diminish the ability to collect intelligence,” Graham told Fox News. He insisted that it’s “impossible” within that 48-hour window to “gather the information, to ask good questions of this suspect.”
“It will take weeks before we’re ready to do a good interview,” argued Graham.
Graham claimed that if Tsarnaev is not held as an enemy combatant, it will “incentivize Al Qaeda or radical jihadists…to radicalize American citizens and create in your homeland a terrorist safe haven in terms of legal rights.”
However, the “enemy combatant” status is applicable only in the law of war, which implies that Tsarnaev would be tried in a military tribunal rather than in a federal court.
The White House has pointed out that U.S. law prohibits American citizens from being tried in military commissions.
“[Dzhokhar Tsarnaev] will not be treated as an enemy combatant. We will prosecute this terrorist through our civilian system of justice,” said White House spokesman Jay Carney. “Under U.S. law, United States citizens cannot be tried in military commissions.”
Carney pointed out that the civilian federal court system has been used to convict and put away “hundreds of terrorists” – both citizens and non-citizens – since 9/11. Some of the high-profile terrorism cases handled by federal court include the Time Square bomber, Faisal Shahzad; Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the so-called underwear bomber; and Ahmed Warsame, a liaison between Somalia terrorist group Al Shabaab and Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
“The system has repeatedly proven that it can successfully handle the threat that we continue to face,” said Carney. “So this is absolutely the right way to go and the appropriate to go. And when it comes to United States citizens, it is against the law to try them in military commissions.”
- WhiteHouse.gov: Press Briefing by Press Secretary Jay Carney, 04/22/2013
- McCain.Senate.gov: Floor remarks by Sen. John McCain on the administration’s handling of the Boston terror suspect
- WhatTheFolly.com: Boston Marathon bombings
- WhatTheFolly.com: Feds cite public safety exception for temporarily revoking Tsarnaev’s Miranda rights
- WhatTheFolly.com: Transcript: Sen. John McCain’s floor speech on the Obama administration’s handling of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev
- WhatTheFolly.com: Transcript: Sen. Lindsey Graham on why Dzhokhar Tsarnaev should be held as an enemy combatant
- WhatTheFolly.com: Statement by Senators Lindsey Graham, John McCain, Kelly Ayotte & Rep. Peter King calling for Boston bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to be held as an enemy combatant