AP: Tsarnaev clammed up after hearing Miranda warning

The Associated Press reported this yesterday. Somehow I missed it until now, but it’s interesting enough to go ahead and take note of:

BOSTON (AP) — The surviving suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings acknowledged to the FBI his role in the attacks but did so before he was advised of his constitutional right to keep quiet and seek a lawyer, U.S. officials said Wednesday.BostonSuspect2

Once Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was read his rights on Monday, he immediately stopped talking, according to four officials of both political parties who were briefed on the interrogation but insisted on anonymity because the briefing was private.

After roughly 16 hours of questioning, investigators were surprised when a magistrate judge and a representative from the U.S. Attorney’s office entered the hospital room and read Tsarnaev his rights, the four officials and one law enforcement official said. Investigators had planned to keep questioning him…

Authorities say they have more than enough evidence without a confession, but they no longer have a font of information on the Tsarnaev brother’s actions, plans or associations.

Which sort of makes this a perfect way of raising yet again the question which so divides the left and right of the political spectrum: Should terrorism be treated as a crime, with emphasis on what it takes to get a conviction, or should we shove prosecutorial considerations aside in order to get information to prevent future attacks?

In a way, we got both approaches here, and perhaps the best of both: A few days of interrogation that led to a preliminary conclusion that the brothers acted without confederates and that now that one is dead and the other in custody, there’s no further danger. Now, the prosecutors can do their thing.

And maybe that’s the way to do it. But I’m sure some would argue that he should have heard his Miranda rights immediately, while others would like to have him continuing to sing to investigators. The latter seems the preference of our own Lindsey Graham, according to Politico:

… Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who had been calling for Tsarnaev to be tried as an enemy combatant rather than as a criminal, on Thursday slammed Attorney General Eric Holder and said he sympathized with the FBI.

“This is the Eric Holder crowd basically refusing to embrace interrogation techniques available to us to make us safe,” he said on “America Live with Megyn Kelly.” After reiterating that Tsarnaev should have earned enemy combatant designation, Graham added, “I know that the FBI agent and the counter terrorism experts have to be incredibly frustrated that they could not continue to interview this suspect about what awaits us as a nation. This was a big mistake.”

What do y’all think?

8 thoughts on “AP: Tsarnaev clammed up after hearing Miranda warning

  1. Bryan Caskey

    As an initial matter, I’m not sure that DOJ (Holder) can control what a Federal Magistrate Judge does. They can probably “suggest” things, though.

    Specifically, the Magistrate gave the surviving terrorist his Miranda warnings at the initial appearance (Full transcript here: http://www.scribd.com/doc/137434934/First-Hearing).

    Also, don’t forget: the surviving terrorist has the right to remain silent (and to counsel) even if he doesn’t get his Miranda warnings. When we say we’re not giving someone their “Miranda rights,” what we mean is that we’re not giving them the standard warning about what their rights are — but they do retain all their rights. We’re not taking the rights away, or denying the rights; we are merely (if I may use that word) deciding not to advise them of their rights.

    Why? Well, the moment someone hears the word “lawyer” he might start thinking maybe that’s a good idea. Power of suggestion and all.

    If I were the AUSA, I would have requested that the Magistrate have not read him the Miranda warning during the initial hearing. Maybe they did. Sometimes judges do what they want to do.

  2. Phillip

    The public safety exception to Miranda had been reasonably exercised, in that it seems fairly certain determination was made that there were no bombs anywhere waiting to explode, nor were these “jihadi knockoffs” (to use Joe Biden’s colorful phrase) part of a wider organization. You put it well to say that “the best of both” approaches were used correctly, to serve the balance our particular society requires between the freedoms we supposedly treasure and making our nation as safe as is reasonably possible from terrorist attacks. You’re not going to make happy those who believe that he should have been immediately Mirandized, nor will you make happy the Lindsey Grahams of the world who would probably rather he never be Mirandized.

    Speaking of Lil’Lindsey, two thumbs up for our National Master Thespian’s (remember Jon Lovitz on SNL?) phrase about the frustration over interrogators being unable to learn more from Tsarnaev over “what awaits us as a nation.” Time was, it took the combined power of the Wehrmacht to elicit the defiant and courageous words from a Churchill about “fighting them on the beaches” etc. Now, we tremble in waiting to learn “what awaits us as a nation” from a 19-year-old punk with a few pressure cookers and nails. You honor the loss of life that took place in Boston and the suffering of those with terrible injuries much more deeply if you acknowledge that the twisted minds of the relatively scattered few who carry out these types of attacks will have no effect whatsoever on “what awaits us as a nation,” unless of course we let them have that effect, which is what they sought in the first place.

  3. Karen McLeod

    I can almost agree with the “best of both worlds” approach if it were safely corralled by a law which specified a limited duration of such interrogation, and very narrowly defined who could be interrogated under it. Otherwise, no. This person is an American citizen, a killer no doubt, but a citizen of this country. If we can change the rules for him, where are the boundaries? If we capture a vicious serial killer, and we have reason to believe he may have some living victims stashed somewhere, might we interrogate him in such a fashion? What about one who knows of other graves? Can it then be stretched to cover a thief who knows where ill gotten millions are stashed? Without specific legal boundaries the possibilities get wider and wider. I am much more concerned about government encroachment on rights in this manner than I am about needing a gun to protect myself against the government. I simply fear that if they can effectively take away one citizen’s rights (and if he doesn’t know what they are, he doesn’t have the use of them), then they can take away any citizens rights.

  4. Ralph Hightower

    Israel and Palestine. Are Palestinan bombers terrorist or criminals?

    Timothy McVeigh: Terrorist or Criminal?

    The first bombing on the World Trade Center happened in 1993 with a van bomb in a parking garage which resulted in a few deaths, far fewer than 9/11.

    But where do we draw the line between terrorism and criminals?

    We should probably reclassify the Black Panthers and the SLA of the 70’s as terrorists. But we didn’t know that then.

  5. Kathryn Fenner

    How about distinguishing terrorists from criminals by defining terrorists as those who use violent means to make a political statement, and maybe not as a member of a “well-organized militia.”

    Everybody else is a criminal. Being a terrorist, however, should not mean you get fewer rights. If you are a member of a well-organized militia, you get the whole military justice deal. Everybody else gets the criminal justice system.

  6. Kathryn Fenner

    I think people make some distinction in their minds between ordinary criminal conspiracies, a gang and terrorists. I am not sure this is a valid one. If your loved one is killed in a armed robbery gone bad, gang crossfire or a terrorist attack, it is all the same, no?

  7. Brad Warthen Post author

    It makes all the difference in the world, in terms of what our proper response is. In terms of preventing it from happening again, or seeking justice and/or retribution.

    Our discussions here are in the public sphere. They’re not about private grief. They’re about what our proper response is, as a society.

    And in those terms, the Boston bombings seem to fall into the area of treating it as a crime. Yes, there are some things for agencies concerned with foreign intelligence to do — running down what happened on Tamerlan’s trip to Russia. But so far that’s sounding like a dead end.

    These kids are sounding more and more like the Columbine killers, a couple of kids who for their own private reasons went on a killing spree. It doesn’t matter that they had a political/religious motive, they had no impact in that regard. If their motive had been that they wanted to turn the moon into green cheese, it would be fairly irrelevant to how governmental agencies should respond to them.

    9/11 was fraught with political and policy implications for this country. It was launched by an organization that had been attacking Americans all over the world, including an attack on a U.S. Navy warship. That made it an act of war, but by a nonstate actor. So that’s who we were at war with — al Qaeda. And their allies, such as the Taliban. There were people out there to be dealt with, and they couldn’t be dealt with without military force.

    Here, there’s nobody to be at war (or whatever you choose to call it) with. There’s no real policy context for what these kids did. They’re just killers.

    That argues for thinking “crime” in this instance. Because in terms of preventing it from happening again and/or punishing the guilty, there’s just this one guy to deal with, and he’s in custody. According to what we know so far…

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