Should the Boston Bombing Suspect be Tried as an Enemy Combatant?
The day-long manhunt for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, allegedly the second Boston Marathon bomber, came to an end Friday night when the suspect was found gravely injured in a boat in Watertown, Mass. Tsarnaev, who is recovering from his injuries, was officially charged on Monday with using a weapon of mass destruction and malicious destruction of property. Tsarnaev's charges carry a maximum penalty of death.
With the charge, the government confirmed that it will be trying Tsarnaev in civilian court, not treating him as an enemy combatant subject to a military form of justice. "We will prosecute this terrorist through our civilian system of justice. Under U.S. law, United States citizens cannot be tried in military commissions," White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said.
However, many Republicans in Congress believe that Tsarnaev should be held and tried as an enemy combatant. "It is clear the events we have seen over the past few days in Boston were an attempt to kill American citizens and terrorize a major American city," said a release from Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.). "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."
Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., also called for Tsarnaev to be held as an enemy combatant for intelligence purposes. "I'm not worried about a conviction. I want the intelligence," he said. Tsarnaev was not immediately read his Miranda rights upon his capture, as officials invoked the so-called "public safety exemption," which allows limited questioning of suspects if officials believe there is an imminent threat to the public.
But other members of Congress, including Sens. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., aligned themselves with the administration in calling for Tsarnaev to be tried in civilian court. "I don't think we have to cross the line and say he should be an enemy combatant," Schumer said during an appearance on CNN. Juliette Kayyem, a former assistant secretary of Homeland Security, added, "I think it's an important statement especially after what this city went through to say, 'Yup, now you're just a normal criminal and we're just going to put you through the process.'"
So should the alleged Boston bomber be tried as an enemy combatant? Here's the Debate Club's take: