Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham (SC), John McCain (AZ), and Kelly Ayotte (NH) lashed out at liberals and libertarians on Tuesday, claiming it was dangerous to oppose the notion the United States was a "battlefield."
The three senators have been pushing for Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to be treated as an enemy combatant for intelligence purposes. The term enemy combatant was controversially used by the Bush administration to refer to alleged members of al-Qaeda and the Taliban, making them neither criminals nor prisoners of war.
Speaking on the Senate floor, the three Republicans said the government should expand the definition of an enemy combatant to include any domestic terrorists inspired by "radical Islam." They said Tsarnaev should be interrogated as an enemy combatant before being transferred to the civilian justice system, despite the fact he is an American citizen.
"Ultimately, the broader question is whether you view the United States as part of the battlefield in the global fight against terrorists," McCain remarked. "I know that some don't. I, however, don't see how we can avoid this fact... we cannot afford to build a wall between the fight against terrorists abroad and the fight against terrorists who are trying to attack us here at home, including when American citizens are involved in this fight, as some clearly are and will continue to be."
Graham noted Jose Padilla, a U.S. citizen, was arrested as an “enemy combatant” in 2002 and detained at a U.S. navy prison in South Carolina for nearly four years without charge. He was allegedly tortured while in military custody. Unlike Tsarnaev, Padilla had connections to al-Qaeda.
“We’re at war with a radical ideology that hates everything that we stand for," Graham added. "As a matter of fact, radical Islam is regenerating. And the way they are coming after us, is to find people in our own backyard and turn them against us."
Ayotte argued the Obama administration was endangering Americans by not allowing Tsarnaev to be interrogated by the military without a lawyer.
"We have to acknowledge we are at war with radical Islamic jihadists that are seeking to kill us not for anything we've done, but for what we believe in and what we stand for," she said.