April 21st, 2013
01:50 PM ET
10 years ago

Graham says 'enemy combatant' can be tried in civilian court

(CNN) - Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the suspect in federal custody for the Boston Marathon bombing, should be considered an enemy combatant only for interrogation purposes, not so he can be tried in a military tribunal, Sen. Lindsey Graham said Sunday.

"He is not eligible for military commission trial," the Republican senator from South Carolina said on CNN's "State of the Union." Graham argued Tsarnaev should be tried in a civilian trial in federal courts.

Graham was among Republicans Saturday who called for the U.S. government to label Tsarnaev as an enemy combat so authorities could waive his legal rights while they question him for intelligence purposes.

"Most Americans want to find out what he knew, who he associated with, does he know about terrorist organizations within or without the country that are trying to hurt us? Does he know about a future attack?" Graham said on Sunday.

Graham said none of that information could be used against him in civilian court. Anytime Tsarnaev is questioned "about his guilt or innocence," then "he's entitled to his Miranda Rights and a lawyer."

Critics have argued that because Tsarnaev is a naturalized citizen and authorities have so far found no links between him and terrorist organizations, he should not be tried as an enemy combatant. Foreigners with that designation have been held and tried in military trials at Guantanamo Bay.

But Graham said a U.S. citizen can be an enemy combatant and still be tried in civilian courts.

Tsarnaev had not been read his Miranda rights as of Saturday, and federal officials have not since said that he has. Miranda rights include the right to remain silent, the right to an attorney regardless of financial circumstances and the warning that any statements can be used to aid his prosecution.

Tsarnaev is currently hospitalized in "serious condition," according to Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

A Justice Department official said federal prosecutors would use the public safety exception to the Miranda rule for Tsarnaev, which alloeditws investigators to question a suspect before apprising him of his rights when they believe there is an imminent public safety threat.

Federal officials called in the interagency High Value Detainee Interrogation Group, which includes investigators from the FBI and CIA who specialize in collecting intelligence from terrorism suspects, to question Tsarnaev.

But Graham and other Republicans argue the public safety exemption can only be applied 48 hours after arrest, and the "enemy combatant" label could extend that exemption for a longer period of time.

It's not clear, however, how long the public safety exemption could be used. Attorney General Eric Holder wrote in a 2010 memo the FBI believed "that in light of the magnitude and complexity of the threat often posed by terrorist organizations, particularly international terrorist organizations, and the nature of their attacks, the circumstances surrounding an arrest of an operational terrorist may warrant significantly more extensive public safety interrogation than would be permissible in an ordinary criminal case."

In recent examples of domestic terrorism handled by the Obama administration, individuals initially questioned under the public safety exemption were later tried in civilian court - Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the "underwear bomber" who attempted to blow up a Detroit-bound airliner on Christmas Day in 2009, and Faisal Shahzad for his 2010 attempt to detonate a bomb in Times Square.

soundoff (42 Responses)
  1. GOP = Greed Over People


    ACK! Proof that Palinese is contagious and can cross from humans to cyberspace!

    April 21, 2013 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  2. Name lynn

    People we dont need to talk so much about the bombing, you dont,know what this man beening saying to other people this may not be over just because the people sayig they caught for the bombing. We have sorrow an sadness for the people thats involved in this bombing.

    April 21, 2013 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  3. Leftcoastrocky

    Thank god, we now have Graham's blessing.

    April 21, 2013 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  4. Arthur Angel

    While the Boston bombing was an appalling and heinous act,it is at just such times that it is most important that we abide by the protections of our constitution. The atrocity of the crime, the great desire for information, the "terrorism" label, or the greater ease of getting information without the "obstacle" of Miranda warnings or civilian court processes are temptations toward abandoning the very principles that define our country that we should not succumb to. "The wheels of justice grind slow but exceedingly thin."

    April 21, 2013 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  5. Jim Terwiliger

    Another Carmen Ortiz failure

    April 21, 2013 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  6. GI Joe

    I lived in the south many years. Had to for my job.

    As soon as I hear that drawl, my respect goes out the window. I'm not prejudiced. I've lived thru it and have first hand knowledge that they are lacking in intelligence.

    April 21, 2013 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
  7. GI Joe

    FCC won't fine profanity by one person (at game yesterday), but they will fine all others.

    Seems like every rule and every law has a loophole for the folks with $$$$$$$$$$$.

    April 21, 2013 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  8. Name willard

    I am feel strongest belived that citizen amercian plot are keep hide in the untied states with terroist
    Untied states amercian must take out of against citien immgration reform

    April 21, 2013 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  9. Lazarus Long

    If he is declared an enemy combatant, then as a US citizen he has the right to challenge his detention. Unless the government can prove that he indeed qualifies to be held as an enemy combatant, they would have to let him go. At which point I guess they would bring criminal charges against him anyway.

    April 21, 2013 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  10. rs

    Republicans, thy name is inconsistency. C'mon, look, you guys freaked out when Obama wanted to try the Gitmo terror prisoners in civilian courts thus forcing GItmo to remain in business while the military tribunals grind along. Now, you want to deny the surviving terror suspect his miranda rights, but say he can be tried in a civilian court. Alnong the way you'll use this guy to keep from making any immigration reform, you'll keep Gitmo going (and accuse Obama of failing to close it), and try this American citizen for the crimes he's committed, and probable mess that up by ensuring he won't get a fair trial anywhere.
    What you guys know about the law, and the Constitution can apparently be put someplace very, very small.

    April 21, 2013 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  11. Joseph Maumoynier

    The man deserves the right to a fair trial. If he is convicted he should be punished to the full extent of the law if he is found not guilty he should be released. Our government was established to protect the rights of it's citizens. He is a criminal not a soldier. This sets a terrible precedent for the future of civil liberties in the US.

    April 21, 2013 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  12. Yanni

    Graham must have received the new testament for US constitution.

    April 21, 2013 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  13. Jim Terwiliger

    Lol the 9/11 hijackers were Saudi and TSA recently put Saudis on the easy access list into the country. Dear N Korea please wait until you can reach DC

    April 21, 2013 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  14. wigglwagon

    He is an enemy combatant.

    The nation of Islam has declared war on everyone who is not subservient to them, and especially those who have created societies where women are not slaves.

    April 21, 2013 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  15. Steve

    – It would be a legally fruitless effort to "Mirandize" the suspect: it is nearly certain that he is not in a condition to understand his rights and the consequences of responding to questions.
    – It is also of dubious value to question him in his current state for any reason: what value would his answers have?
    – And ... several days later, one is also wondering how "imminent" a threat to public safety must be to qualify as "imminent" and thus fitting under the public safety exemption.
    – Attempts to classify him as an "enemy combatant" are extremely dubious. If this case fits, then any violence by any member of any politically active group – think KKK, "militias" – would make that person an "enemy combatant." I would look before I leaped on that proposition.

    April 21, 2013 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  16. Marie MD

    Is it me or dos ms. lindsey's southern drawl get stronger by the day?
    Why is this guy back at it again? Benghazi failed him but where was he when we attacked Iraq for no good reason?

    April 21, 2013 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |
  17. Patrick in Wisconsin

    Call Tzarnaev what he is: a TERRORIST.

    April 21, 2013 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
  18. g

    any body that kills american with military style assault weapons should also be charged the same

    April 21, 2013 05:34 pm at 5:34 pm |
  19. scarf

    I'm not a lawyer, but I read a lot of history. I would have sworn that during the Civil War, the Supreme Court ruled that civilians actively working to undermine the Union war effort (i.e., Copperheads) could not be tried in a military tribunal where civilian courts were operating. If that's true, then Graham is wrong.

    April 21, 2013 05:55 pm at 5:55 pm |
  20. max3333444555

    the game playing with our constitution needs to stop. read him his rights, get him a lawyer and prosecute him.

    our system works UNTIL you pervert it with the patriot act and NDAA.

    every time we have allowed our politicians to bypass due process as a matter of course we have seen massive abuses and introduced ridiculous and controversial situations, including human rights abuses.

    here is my response to Graham – be American and follow the constitution!

    April 21, 2013 06:17 pm at 6:17 pm |
  21. don in albuquerque

    Thank goodness for Sunday, and we get to watch either Graham, McCain or both together make fools of themselves again.

    April 21, 2013 06:33 pm at 6:33 pm |
  22. sjt

    if he is considered American then he has to have Miranda rights read period....killing him doesn't make it right either....yes he did wrong but his brother did as much and more so. I don't think taking all ur anxietys out on him,,,his brother was the main guy....!!!!! How I feel about this whole mess is,,,,terrorism has been here since the 1800's starting with the Native Americans,,,this was there land...so no one owns it but the Natives...the whites stole it and maimed people for it.

    April 21, 2013 06:38 pm at 6:38 pm |
  23. GI Joe


    He is an enemy combatant.

    The nation of Islam has declared war on everyone who is not subservient to them, and especially those who have created
    Can you pinpoint the :nation of islam" on a map Sarah? IT'S A RELIGION. Al Quaifs is a group of terrorists.

    Got that????

    April 21, 2013 07:16 pm at 7:16 pm |
  24. Gene

    He is a U.S. citizen, he is not a foreign solider. He should be tried in the civilian courts... it is crazy (not to mention s t u p i d) to consider stripping him of his rights. Taking rights away from a U.S. citizen because of the magnitude of his crime is a very slippery slope.

    April 21, 2013 08:09 pm at 8:09 pm |
  25. Just a thought

    Does any american with a memory longer than that of a knat remember how Lindsey "Flim Flam" Graham and his party of no-nothings missed everything associated with 9/11 and landed this country in Iraq for a 10 yr plus war to look for non-existent WMD's???? Does anyone with a brain even remember that epic fail? Geesh...and we are suppose to listen ole "Lindsey Flim Flam" becuz?????

    April 21, 2013 08:38 pm at 8:38 pm |
1 2