White House: Bombing Suspect Will Not Be Tried As “Enemy Combatant”
The White House made clear today that it will not seek to classify Dzhokhar Tsarnaev as an enemy combatant:
White House press secretary Jay Carney said Monday that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev will not be classified as an “enemy combatant,” despite pressure from some congressional Republicansto do so. Speaking during his daily press briefing, his first since the Boston bombing, Carney said Tsarnaev will be tried in civilian court.
Democrats, along with at least one leading voice of the GOP’s libertarian wing, have resisted the “enemy combatant” argument.
To this point, Tsarnaev has not been read Miranda rights, but so far the stated justification is the so-called Public Safety Exception, which allows law enforcement to delay Mirandizing a suspect until it can be determined whether he or she knows of further threats to public safety. Tsarnaev is communicating in a limited fashion with investigators, but remains in serious condition and has a gunshot wound to the throat, authorities said.
Given Tsarnaev was a U.S. citizen engaged in terrorism on home soil, there continues to be disagreement about whether he can be held as an enemy combatant — a term generally used for someone acting on behalf of a state with which the United States is at war.
Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) agreed, saying Sunday that Tsarnaev was not eligible for enemy combatant status.
“I do not believe under the military commission law that he is eligible for that,” she said on “Fox News Sunday.” “It would be unconstitutional to do that.”
Feinstein is, from what I’ve been able to read on the subject, correct here. The definition of what an “enemy combatant” is when a U.S. citizen is involved was narrowed in a law past last years by Congress in response to objections from both Republicans and Democrats that the existing definition was too broad and threatened to deny citizens their rights. Under the current definition as I understand it, it’s virtually impossible for a citizen to be designated an “enemy combatant” unless there is direct evidence of a link between them an al Qaeda or an al Qaeda linked group. There isn’t any such evidence in this case.