Treat Boston bombing suspect as enemy combatant, GOP lawmakers say
WASHINGTON — A legal and political fight has begun over whether the wounded ethnic Chechen suspected of being one of two Boston Marathon bombers should be treated as an enemy combatant instead of as a conventional criminal.
With charges imminent, Republican lawmakers want the Justice Department to designate Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, as an enemy combatant, while senior Democrats say that's unwarranted.
The outcome will determine how Tsarnaev is treated, and, in particular, how he is questioned. Though the naturalized U.S. citizen appears ineligible for the kind of military commissions established for foreign terrorists, designation as an enemy combatant could subject him to extended, isolated interrogation.
“We should be allowed to question him for intelligence gathering purposes to find out about future attacks and terrorist organizations that may exist that he has knowledge of,” Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said on Sunday on CNN's “State of the Union.” “That evidence cannot be used against him in trial. That evidence is used to protect us as a nation.”
Politically, the Justice Department's decision will have consequences. Congressional Republicans are leading the call for Tsarnaev to be designated an enemy combatant, and they appear ready to use the issue against the Obama administration if they get a chance.
“I very much regret the fact that there are those that want to precipitate a debate over whether he's an enemy combatant or whether he is a terrorist, a murderer, et cetera,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., chairwoman of the Senate Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, said on “Fox News Sunday.”
Even if he's not designated an enemy combatant — or “unlawful” combatant, in the term preferred by the Obama administration — Tsarnaev can be questioned for a time without an attorney present under a public safety exception to the standard Miranda rights. Carmen Ortiz, the U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts, said on Friday that “the government has that opportunity now” to invoke the exception.
Sen. Dan Coats, R-Ind., a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said on ABC's “This Week” that Tsarnaev was shot in the throat, rendering him speechless for at least the time being.
“It's questionable when and whether he'll be able to talk again,” Coats said.
It's not clear whether Tsarnaev was shot by police or inflicted the wound himself.
Authorities on Sunday said that Tsarnaev, who has been under close guard in Boston's Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center , was awake and responding in writing to their questions.
Tsarnaev's brother and suspected bombing accomplice, 26-year-old Tamerlan Tsarnaev, died early Friday during a car chase and confrontation with police that ended with about 200 shots being fired.
State and federal charges could be brought against Dzhokhar Tsarnaev for the bombings that killed three and injured more than 180. More than 50 people remain hospitalized, some with amputated limbs, the hospitals said.
Massachusetts does not have a death penalty. The federal government does, for crimes including first-degree murder and the murder of a law enforcement officer. The charges against Tsarnaev will likely include the killing of Massachusetts Institute of Technology police Officer, Sean Collier, 26, who was gunned down late Thursday.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Scientists hope tiny robotic bee’s big dreams take flight
- Don’t eat tuna, Consumer Reports tells mothers-to-be
- EPA cites risks from air toxics in urban areas, improvements
- $1T cost to sustain fighter jet in cross hairs
- $132.5M ransom asked for Foley
- States can apply for more time before using student scores to evaluate teachers
- GPS stations show drought-stricken California — not pushed downward by 63 trillion gallons of water — is rising
- National Guard leaves Ferguson as protests over shooting wane
- Utah woman gets 5 years in baby sitter’s overdose death
- Fla. ban on gay marriage upended
- Assad’s chemical weapons stockpile destroyed, U.S. declares