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White House press secretary Jay Carney said Monday that Boston bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev will not be treated as an “enemy combatant.”
The White House announcement comes after some Republicans lawmakers called over the weekend for Tsarnaev, who remains hospitalized with gunshot wounds, to be tried as an enemy combatant.
“He will not be treated as an enemy combatant,” Carney said. “We will prosecute this terrorist through a civilian system of justice. Under U.S. law, United States citizens cannot be tried in military commissions. It is important to remember since 9/11, we have used the federal court system to convict and incarcerate hundreds of terrorists.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., argued on CNN Sunday that Tsarnaev, who was born in Kyrgyzstan and is a naturalized U.S. citizen, should be held as an enemy combatant for interrogation purposes. That would allow authorities to take their time gleaning information from him. Graham acknowledged that Tsarnaev, 19, is not eligible to be tried by a military commission because he was not caught on a foreign battlefield.
“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?” Graham said. “Does he know about a future attack?”
Carney noted that the federal courts have been used as the venues for the prosecution of Faisal Shahzad, the Pakistani-American citizen in the failed May 2010 Times Square car bombing, and of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Nigerian man known as the “underwear bomber” who tried to blow up a Detroit-bound flight on Christmas Day 2009.
He added, “The system has repeatedly proven it can successfully handle the threat we continue to face.”
Carney said that the president’s entire national security team was in agreement that Tsarnaev’s prosecution belongs in the civilian courts.
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