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Bombing suspect an ‘enemy combatant,’ GOP lawmakers say
A handful of Republicans on Capitol Hill on Monday ramped up their push to have Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev denied a defense attorney and treated as an "enemy combatant" in the name of national security.
Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina told Fox News' "Fox & Friends" he's not worried that Mr. Tsarnaev will go free because "a first-year law student could do this trial." But classifying him as an enemy combatant, which would strip him of some civilian rights, would be the most effective tool for extracting information from the 19-year-old naturalized U.S. citizen.
"I want to gather intelligence," he said. "He's a potential enemy combatant. He has ties with overseas terrorists. He's clearly a radical Islamist. I would hold him under that theory when the 'public safety' exception expires."
Mr. Graham called the notion of allowing the suspect to have an attorney present during police law enforcement interrogations at this point in the investigation "absolutely crazy."
"Citizenship doesn't give you immunity from the law of war," he said. "If you take up arms or hostile acts against the nation, you can be killed or captured. That's the law."
Rep. Peter King agreed, telling MSNBC's "The Daily Rundown" that he doesn't want to give Mr. Tsarnaev "the option to decide whether or not he's going to cooperate or not cooperate."
"By declaring him an enemy combatant, there will be virtual, at least for 30 days, unlimited interrogation," Mr. King said.
The New York Republican said the rationale for such a move would be to collect information for national security reasons — not to build criminal against Mr. Tsarnaev.
"He's going to be convicted one way or another," Mr. KIng said. "Once the interrogation is over he would end up being tried in a civil court. This is solely for the purpose of interrogation to find intelligence, the intelligence I believe we need."
House Speaker John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, stopped short of calling Mr. Tsarnaev an enemy combatant, telling Fox News on Monday the focus should be on finding the best way to extract information from him.
"There is a treasure trove of information, and the key here is to get to it," Mr. Boehner said. "Whether you call him an enemy combatant or you want to use this 'public safety' exception, the key here is getting the information to protect the American people, to learn whether others were involved, to learn more about how he got involved."
The Obama administration has invoked a "public-safety exception" that allows federal law enforcement officials to question the suspect for at least 48 hours before reading him his Miranda rights against self-incrimination. After that, Mr. Tsarnaev presumably will be treated as a criminal suspect — possibly as early as Monday — and put through the civilian justice system.
Mr. Boehner said he was "perfectly fine" with the move to temporarily waive the suspect's Miranda rights.
Former New York City Mayor and U.S. Attorney Rudy Giuliani warned that giving the suspect access to a lawyer could comprise national security, as the lawyer legally would be privy to sensitive information.
"The lawyer can then actually figure out which directions (prosecutors) are taking him in, which might actually give away more of what we're thinking than what he's thinking," said Mr. Giuliani a 2008 Republican presidential candidate, told the Fox Business channel.
"They would much much prefer to question him without a lawyer around, and I say this with all due respect to all my fellow lawyers. I'm a lawyer, and we tend to mess things up rather than advance things."
The former mayor said Mr. Tsarnaev potentially can be charged for crimes in three jurisdictions: Massachusetts for murder, federal court for terrorism and a military tribunal for committing a war act on the United States.
"The idea of worrying about prosecuting him, I won't worry about that at all," he said. He'll be found guilty "in so many places."
Mr. Giuliani added he hopes the administration will approach the issue, with a legal — not a political — mind.
"Meaning, I'd like to push everything in the direction of enemy combatant, if we can get there," he said. "We'd be much better off."
But the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union said it would be wrong for the federal government to classify Mr. Tsarnaev an enemy combatant.
"To hear members of Congress, the Senate, saying an American citizen who allegedly committed this crime ... on American soil is not entitled to the constitutional protections is breathtaking," Anthony Romero told "The Daily Rundown."
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About the Author
Sean Lengell covers Congress and national politics and can be reached at email@example.com.
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