Republicans Urge Obama To Declare Suspected Boston Bomber An ‘Enemy Combatant’

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Even before the suspected Boston Marathon bomber was captured Friday night, top GOP lawmakers were urging President Obama not to afford him the constitutional protections of the American criminal justice system. Those calls escalated after his capture, with a growing cadre of Republicans demanding that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev be declared an enemy combatant.

Leading the charge to handle Tsarnaev’s case outside of the Article III courts is Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham (SC), backed by fellow GOP Sens. John McCain (AZ) and Kelly Ayotte (NH) and Rep. Peter King (NY).

“The suspect, based upon his actions, clearly is a good candidate for enemy combatant status. We do not want this suspect to remain silent,” the four Republicans said in a joint statement Saturday. “We continue to face threats from radical Islamists in small cells and large groups throughout the world.”Graham appeared Saturday on Fox News and labeled Tsarnaev a radical Islamist “on a jihad mission.”

“The reason we wanted to capture him alive is find out about the attack and find out who he trained with and what connections to … terrorism,” the senator said “Ask the people in Boston. Radical jihadists are trying to attack us here at home. Every day we face threats from radical islamist and they are coming through our back yard and trying to radicalize American citizens.”

On the other end are civil rights advocates, led by the American Civil Liberties Union, who insist that Tsarnaev should be tried in accordance with the criminal justice system.

“Every criminal defendant is entitled to be read Miranda rights. The public safety exception should be read narrowly,” said ACLU’s executive director Anthony Romero. “We must not waver from our tried-and-true justice system, even in the most difficult of times. Denial of rights is un-American and will only make it harder to obtain fair convictions.”

For now, the Obama Justice Department has chosen Option C: a carveout under Miranda law that lets authorities interrogate a suspect under the public safety exemption without reading him Miranda rights.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sahil Kapur is TPM's senior congressional reporter and Supreme Court correspondent. His articles have been published in the Huffington Post, The Guardian and The New Republic. Email him at sahil@talkingpointsmemo.com and follow him on Twitter at @sahilkapur.
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