In the aftermath of last week’s terrorist attack at the Boston Marathon, proponents of treating suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev as an enemy combatant are rightfully distraught over today’s White House announcement. Citing Tsarnaev’s United States citizenship, Press Secretary Jay Carney released the decision to prosecute him through the civilian system of justice after noting several successful terrorist cases that have brought US citizens to justice since the 9/11 attacks.
Representative Peter King was the first to call for labeling Tsarnaev as an enemy combatant citing the potential intelligence the suspect might possess about future attacks. In being tried as a US Citizen, Tsarnaev was read his Miranda Rights, which includes the right to remain silent, leaving authorities with many unanswered questions about his potential connections to terrorist groups. Proponents of treating the suspect as an enemy combatant called on authorities to institute the public safety exemption which would prevent the suspect from being read his Miranda Rights.
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham strongly criticized the Obama Administration for coming to a decision prematurely in treating Tsarnaev as a civilian despite the potential vital intelligence information he may possess. Graham also noted that while the suspect would ultimately be tried in a court of law, “the last thing we should do is limit our ability to gather intelligence.”
Senators Graham, John McCain and Kelly Ayotte rationalized the designation by arguing that Tsarnaev is not a “common criminal”. In a press release over the weekend, the trio declared:
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.
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was charged with using a weapon of mass destruction that resulted in 3 civilian deaths and over 200 injuries in front of a federal magistrate judge. His older brother Tamerlan Tsarnaev was killed in a shootout with police shortly after he shot a Campus Safety Officer on the MIT campus in Boston.
The White House is holding firm in their decision to try Tsarnaev as a civilian and announced that the entire national security team was in agreement with this assessment. Let’s hope they are not mistaken.