- Oscar Pistorius vomits during graphic testimony
- Toronto Mayor Rob Ford flubs daylight saving time advice: ‘Turn your clocks back’
- Americans don’t support sending U.S. troops to Ukraine
- Florida lawmakers move to wipe corrupt ‘Boss Hogg’ town from map
- N.C. math whiz to unveil secret of March Madness picks
- An appealing offer: Chiquita merges with Fyffes to make world’s largest banana firm
- Amnesty International says Syria guilty of war crimes for food blockade
- Mitch McConnell on beating tea party: ‘We are going to crush them’
- Adam Lanza’s dad: He would’ve killed me ‘in a heartbeat’
- North Korea holds election: 100% turnout, Kim Jong-un gets — 100% of vote
Attack on Boston puts Obama’s anti-terrorism policy to the test
Despite President Obama’s best efforts to focus the country on top domestic priorities, the Boston bombings have thrust the war on terrorism back to the top of his agenda, and the renewed focus on protecting the homeland will test his national security team and their reliance on the criminal justice system in handling terrorism suspects.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said Monday that the Boston bombing suspect will not be tried as an enemy combatant under the law of war, throwing cold water on a heated partisan debate over how to handle his interrogation and prosecution.
In announcing the administration’s intention, Mr. Carney stressed that the president’s entire national security team agrees that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who is in a hospital suffering from a neck wound and was charged Monday with conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction, should be tried in civilian court under regular criminal statutes rather than under the law of war.
“He will not be treated as an enemy combatant,” Mr. Carney said. “We will prosecute this terrorist through our civilian system of justice.”
Key Republicans, including Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and John McCain of Arizona, say that decision is a national security mistake. Over the weekend, they called on the administration to deem Mr. Tsarnaev an enemy combatant in order for intelligence officials to question him as long as necessary and without the guidance of an attorney.
Doing otherwise, Mr. Graham and Mr. McCain said, could jeopardize intelligence gathering aimed at thoroughly investigating the two bombing suspects’ ties to extremist groups and preventing another terrorist attack.
“What I’m worried about is what does this individual know about future attacks or terrorist organizations that may be in our midst,” Mr. Graham said Monday at a press conference. “We have a right to gather intelligence.”
The Obama administration has rejected that argument, following a pattern of turning to civilian courts to try terrorism suspects. Since the 9/11 attacks, the federal government has used the civilian court system to convict and incarcerate hundreds of terrorists, Mr. Carney said, including Faisal Shahzad, the so-called Times Square Bomber, and Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the so-called underwear bomber. Both were sentenced to life in prison.
“The system has repeatedly proven that it can successfully handle the threat that we continue to face,” he said, noting that it’s illegal for Tsarnaev to be tried in anything but a civilian court because he is a U.S. citizen.
But Mr. Graham and others urging the enemy combatant designation were not arguing for Tsarnaev to be tried in a military court. Because of his U.S. citizenship, under law he can be tried only in a civilian court, and Mr. Graham personally authored that portion of the law. Yet if he were deemed an enemy combatant, he could be detained indefinitely and never face trial a scenario even some Republicans oppose.
Sen. Mike Lee, Utah Republican, agrees with the Obama decision to rely solely on the criminal justice system to prosecute Tsarnaev.
“My understanding is that he is a U.S. citizen, was apprehended on U.S. soil, and I am not aware of any circumstances that I believe would warrant holding him indefinitely without trial,” he said during an appearance Monday at the conservative Heritage Foundation.
But that temporary exception, designed to allow for a short, usually 48-hour, period after a suspect is apprehended to search for additional weapons or accomplices, ended Monday when the suspect was read his rights in his hospital room, according to several news reports.
© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
About the Author
Susan Crabtree is an award-winning investigative reporter with more than 15 years of reporting experience in Washington, D.C. Her reporting about bribery, corruption and conflict-of-interest issues on Capitol Hill has led to several FBI and ethics investigations, as well as consequences for members within their caucuses and at the ballot box. Susan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- GOP senators want IG probe of Sebelius' 'Obamacare' fundraising
- Teaming up with Christie, Obama says Jersey shore 'back in business'
- No Moore: Obama flubs name of Oklahoma city devastated by tornado, calls it 'Monroe'
- Obama to Okla. tornado victims: 'We have got your back'
- Amid his own challenges, Obama calls on Navy grads to hold themselves accountable
Latest Blog Entries
TWT Video Picks
Taxpayers must pay the freight for over-budget train projects
- Kim Jong-un calls for execution of 33 Christians
- Rand Paul wins 2014 CPAC straw poll, Ted Cruz finishes a distant second
- Senate Democrats, Republicans spar over restoring unemployment benefits
- CURL: Today's GOP really is Reagan's 'Big Tent' party
- As Crimea falls, Obama takes Key Largo golf vacation, Biden hits Virgin Islands
- Russia besieges Crimea as U.S. seeks diplomacy; Putin remains undeterred by Obama's sanctions
- SAUERBREY: Taxing Marylanders until they flee
- Investigators puzzle: How does a 777 jetliner just disappear into thin air?
- Florida lawmakers move to wipe corrupt 'Boss Hogg' town from map
- U.S. pilot scares off Iranians with 'Top Gun'-worthy stunt: 'You really ought to go home'
Pope Francis meets his 'mini-me'
Celebrity deaths in 2014
Winter storm hits states — again