GOP Lawmakers: Tsarnaev is a “Good Candidate for Enemy Combatant Status”

Leah Barkoukis

4/20/2013 1:10:00 PM - Leah Barkoukis

So what’s next for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev? President Obama declared the Boston Marathon bombings an “act of terrorism” but seems keen on granting Tsarnaev a civilian criminal trial. Others, including Sens. Lindsey Graham and John McCain think he should be held as a potential enemy combatant, which would deny him a court-appointed attorney, among other rights, under the ‘law of war’. The case for the former, via Ken Klukowski:

 According to reports, Tsarnaev became a U.S. citizen in Sept. 2012. He was captured on U.S. soil by federal law enforcement officers (not military). This was not a battlefield setting, and at this point it appears Tsarnaev was not working for a foreign government or terrorist organization with which we are at war.

Tsarnaev is now in federal custody and will be prosecuted in federal court by the U.S. Department of Justice through Massachusetts U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz.

If all those facts are correct, then Tsarnaev is entitled to a full-dress criminal prosecution and able to assert all the rights of the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, and Eighth Amendments in the Bill of Rights of the U.S. Constitution.

Makes sense, but Rep. Peter King and Sens. Graham, McCain and Kelly Ayotte see the situation differently. “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,” their joint statement reads. “The suspect, based upon his actions, clearly is a good candidate for enemy combatant status. We do not want this suspect to remain silent.”

A high value detainee interrogation team will question Tsarnaev without reading him Miranda rights as allowed under the “public safety” exception. The lawmakers commend this decision but have concerns given its restrictions. “…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 lawmakers said.

“We continue to face threats from radical Islamists in small cells and large groups throughout the world. They have, as their primary focus, killing as many Americans as possible, preferably within the United States. We must never lose sight of this fact and act appropriately within our laws and values.” As a result, the lawmakers urge the administration to consider enemy combatant status as allowed by national security statutes and US Supreme Court decisions, rather than a domestic criminal trial that could take years to complete.

What do you think?