Though separated by 240 years, the Boston massacres of 1773 and 2013 share disturbing themes.
In both cases, foreign entities killed and wounded Americans in order to deprive them of their liberty and subjugate them to their will. British soldiers killed five and wounded six to further the cause of an empire that dominated our ancestors. Fast-forward more than two centuries and two Chechen brothers from southern Russia purportedly have killed four and wounded 264 to further the cause of radical Islam, which now seeks to dominate us.
Faced with such grave threats against our liberty and security, President Obama must take bold action without delay to protect Americans. He can start by sending the surviving suspected assailant, 19-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, to Guantanamo.
At Gitmo, Tsarnaev would be subject to exhaustive yet humane interrogations that could reveal numerous co-conspirators and determine whether there was overseas involvement in the plot to detonate powerful improvised explosive devices contained in pressure cookers. From there, we might learn where the next terrorist target might be — steps that may save hundreds or thousands of Americans from death and dismemberment in places such as Times Square, which Dzhokhar and elder brother Tamerlan reportedly marked for their next attack.
Though the FBI had just begun to interrogate Tsarnaev at his Boston hospital using a temporary public-safety exception to Miranda warnings, he stopped cooperating after 16 hours once federal Magistrate Judge Marianne B. Bowler advised him at bedside that he had the right to remain silent and be represented by an attorney. His subsequent reluctance to respond to questions was a no-brainer.
Those engaged in acts of war against the United States should be treated accordingly — as unlawful enemy combatants. The place where we have successfully held and interrogated unlawful enemy combatants since four months after Sept. 11, 2001, is Gitmo. Information gleaned from detainees there helped lead to Osama bin Laden and has stopped countless terrorism plots, saving untold American lives.
Team Obama has a chance to right the wrong of Judge Bowler by formally classifying Tsarnaev as an unlawful enemy combatant. This would make him eligible for military and intelligence agency interrogation and subsequent trial by Gitmo military commission.
The Obama administration clearly has shown that it is capable of tough action against terrorists. It ordered the risky nighttime raid by Navy SEALs that killed bin Laden in Pakistan. It signed the death warrants of some 3,000 Islamist militants and supporters in places such as Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen via drone strike — including against American citizens Anwar al-Awlaki and his 16-year-old son, Abdulrahman.
Why not get tough on terrorists right here on U.S. soil? The wide gap between terrorism policies overseas and within the United States frankly makes no sense.
It's not just the White House that must act now. Congress has several ways to engage.
First, it should publicly pressure Team Obama into abandoning its ideologically motivated ivory tower from where it views stopping radical Islamist-inspired terrorism within the United States as a law enforcement issue, similar to stopping bank robbers. Though it's not a war of our choosing, we are in a struggle for our survival.
Second, it should revive the Enemy Expatriation Act, introduced in 2011 by then-Sen. Joe Lieberman, Connecticut independent, to strip U.S. citizenship of those engaging in hostilities against our nation. Enacting such legislation would deter "citizens of convenience" like Tsarnaev, who was granted humanitarian refugee status, from thinking they can kill Americans and then hide behind our Constitution. Let's not forget would-be Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad of Pakistan, who gained U.S. citizenship in 2009 and then attempted to kill hundreds of us in 2010.
Third, Congress should tighten the antiquated visa system that has left Americans vulnerable to attacks by radical Islamists. Though designed with noble intentions, our system seems all too quick to offer legal status to tens of thousands of people from places where radical Islam isn't so radical and terrorism isn't so uncommon — like Chechnya and Dagestan. Bangladesh also comes to mind: Recall Quazi Mohammad Nafis, a student who sought to bomb the Federal Reserve Bank in New York last year. Of course, there's Saudi Arabia, home to 15 of the 19 Sept. 11 hijackers. Canada shares this problem, as millennium bomber Ahmed Ressam came under the false pretense as a humanitarian refugee from Algeria.
Although it's too late for the victims of our modern-day Boston massacre, the White House and Congress must act now, and decisively, to prevent the next one. Failure to do everything possible within reason would be unforgivable.
J.D. Gordon is a retired Navy commander and former Pentagon spokesman who served in the Office of the Secretary of Defense in the George W. Bush administration.