White House: Suspect Won't Be Treated as Enemy Combatant

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
April 22 2013 1:27 PM

White House: Dzhokhar Tsarnaev Won't Be Treated as Enemy Combatant

Screen shot 2013-04-19 at 5.05.25 AM
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev won't be treated as an enemy combatant, the White House announced Monday

Photo courtesy of the FBI

Well that settles it, via CNN:

Josh Voorhees Josh Voorhees

Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City. 

The surviving suspect in last week's Boston Marathon bombings, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, "will not be treated as an enemy combatant," but rather will be prosecuted "through our civilian system of justice," White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters Monday afternoon. "Under U.S. law, United States citizens cannot be tried in military commissions," he said.
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Sen. Lindsey Graham and other GOP lawmakers had made it known that they wanted the suspect to be questioned as an enemy combatant, a classification that would have denied him the right to have a lawyer present while being questioned, along with other protections of the U.S. criminal justice system. The New York Times on Sunday offered a refresher on where the Obama administration has come down on the issue in the past:

The Obama administration has said it thinks terrorism suspects arrested inside the United States should be handled exclusively in the criminal justice system. It has indicated no intention to do otherwise in Mr. Tsarnaev’s case, but the issue is taking on political currency, underscoring a major divide on national security legal policy.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, a naturalized citizen, is currently in serious condition at a Boston-area hospital, where he is under close guard and reportedly communicating to some degree with police. Assuming those reports are true, we still don't know what exactly he may or may not be saying/writing/nodding. "There have been widely published reports that he is (communicating silently). I wouldn't dispute that, but I don't have any specific information on that myself," Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis told CNN. "We're very anxious to talk to him and the investigators will be doing that as soon as possible."

Federal authorities officially charged Tsarnaev today, although the complaint has been sealed. He will be tried in civilian court, according to the White House.

UPDATE 1:51 p.m.: The Justice Department unsealed the complaint this afternoon. The big takeaway: He's being charged with using a WMD and could face the death penalty.

***Follow @JoshVoorhees and the rest of the @slatest team on Twitter, and read more on Slate about the Boston Marathon bombing.***