With the suspect of the Boston Marathon bombings in custody, some members of Congress are seeking to give the suspect limited civil liberties when he is tried.
U.S. Sens. Lindsey Graham of North Carolina, John McCain of Arizona and Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, as well as U.S. Rep. Peter King of New York, asked U.S. President Barack Obama Sunday to consider Dzhokhar Tsarnaev as an enemy combatant, meaning he would not be read his Miranda rights or appointment of counsel.
“The accused perpetrators of these acts were not common criminals attempting to profit from a criminal enterprise, but terrorists trying to injure, maim and kill innocent Americans. The suspect, based upon his actions, clearly is a good candidate for enemy combatant status. We do not want this suspect to remain silent,” stated the politicians advocating the proposal in a press release Sunday.
Tsarnaev was taken into custody Friday night after avoiding the police for nearly 24 hours. Dzhokhar’s older brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, was also a suspect for the bombings and was killed early Friday morning after the brothers stole a car and led officers in a chase into Watertown, where there was a violent exchange of gunfire and explosives.
American citizens who take up arms against the United States or collaborate with enemies of the country have been held as enemy combatants, according to the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Hamdi v. Rumsfeld.
“There is no bar to this Nation’s holding one of its own citizens as enemy combatant,” the decision stated.
When a citizen of the U.S. is arrested, they are read their Miranda rights, which grant them the right to remain silent, and anything they say can be used against them in court and they have the right to consult with an attorney.
“A decision to not read Miranda rights to the suspect was sound and in our national security interests,” stated the release. “However, we have concerns that limit this investigation to 48 hours, and exclusively relying on the public safety exception to Miranda, could very well be a national security mistake. It could severely limit our ability to gather critical information about future attacks from this suspect.”
The public safety exception is a domestic criminal doctrine that allows questioning of a suspect without a reading of their Miranda rights for a limited time and purpose, according to the release.
“We hope the Obama Administration will consider the enemy combatant option because it is allowed by national security statutes and U.S. Supreme Court decisions,” stated the members in the release.
Anthony Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, said in a release Saturday that every criminal defendant is entitled to be read Miranda rights.
“The public safety exception should be read narrowly,” he said. “It applies only when there is a continued threat to public safety and is not an open-ended exception to the Miranda rule.”
Romero said the government should not forget the justice system of America, no matter what the crime is.
“Every criminal defendant has a right to be brought before a judge and to have access to counsel,” he said. “We must not waiver 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.”