Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham held a press conference on Monday to express his disappointment that Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was not being treated as an enemy combatant.
Though Graham said the 19-year-old suspect should be treated as an enemy combatant for interrogation purposes, he agreed with the decision to try him in a federal court. The Republican senator acknowledged it would be unlawful to try an American citizen such as Tsarnaev in a military commission.
Graham said the United States was at war with “radical Islam.” He also alleged Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and his brother, 26-year-old Tamerlan Tsarnaev, attacked the United States because they viewed the country as a colonial power and a “Christian nation.” Designating Tsarnaev as an enemy combatant would allow the government to question him without a lawyer, he explained.
Graham has faced harsh criticism since calling for Tsarnaev to be treated as an enemy combatant on Friday. At the press conference, he attempted to rebuff claims that he wished to ignore the Constitution. Graham emphasized he was calling for “interrogation under the Law of War, not torture.” He also emphasized he wasn’t seeking to “compromise any criminal defendant’s right to a fair trial.”
The Bush administration controversially labeled alleged members of al-Qaeda and the Taliban as “enemy combatants” following the September 11 terrorist attacks. In a statement released Friday, Senate Armed Services Committee chairman Carl Levin (D-MI) doubted there was any legal basis to designating Tsarnaev as an enemy combatant since there was no evidence he had any connections to al-Qaeda or the Taliban.
“To hold the suspect as an enemy combatant under these circumstances would be contrary to our laws and may even jeopardize our efforts to prosecute him for his crimes,” he said.
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