What Lindsey Graham said about bombing suspect

There’s been a lot of overwrought reaction to Lindsey Graham’s suggestion that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev should be tried by military tribunal rather than under our criminal system.

For instance, there was this writer over at Forbes who moaned, “Why is it that those who spend an inordinate amount of time professing their dedication and fealty to the United States Constitution seem to always be among the first to toss our founding document out the window the moment it becomes inconvenient to their desires?”

Which is a grossly unfair mischaracterization of Lindsey Graham and what he said.

What did he say? The main ideas can be found in a series of Tweets starting Friday night, and continuing through this morning:

If captured, I hope Administration will at least consider holding the Boston suspect as enemy combatant for intelligence gathering purposes.

If the #Boston suspect has ties to overseas terror organizations he could be treasure trove of information.

The last thing we may want to do is read Boston suspect Miranda Rights telling him to “remain silent.”

The last thing we may want to do is read Boston suspect Miranda Rights telling him to “remain silent.”

The Obama Administration needs to be contemplating these issues and should not rush into a bad decision.

I appreciate the hard work and bravery of our law enforcement and intelligence communities. #Boston

Now that the suspect is in custody, the last thing I want is for him to remain silent. #Boston

It is vital he be questioned for intelligence gathering purposes about possible future plots. #Boston

We should be focused on preventing possible attacks over the coming hours and days. #Boston

The least of my worries is a criminal trial which will likely be held years from now. #Boston

The Law of War allows us to hold individual in this scenario as potential enemy combatant w/o Miranda warnings or appointment of counsel.

The goal is to gather intelligence and protect our nation which is under threat from radical Islam. #Boston

I hope the Obama Administration will seriously consider this option. #Boston

Just put out this statement with @SenJohnMcCain about #Boston suspect and #Miranda warning. http://www.facebook.com/USSenatorLindseyGraham …

It is clear events we have seen over the past few days in Boston were an attempt to kill American citizens & terrorize a major American city

The accused perpetrators of these acts were not common criminals attempting to profit from a criminal enterprise….

Under the Law of War we can hold #Boston suspect as a potential enemy combatant not entitled to Miranda warnings or appointment of counsel.

Just released this statement with @KellyAyotte @SenJohnMcCain and @RepPeteKing about Boston / enemy combatant.. https://www.facebook.com/USSenatorLindseyGraham

American citizens who take up arms against our nation or collaborate with our enemies HAVE been held as enemy combatants.

The questioning of an enemy combatant for national security purposes has no limit on time or scope.

In a case like #Boston, it could take weeks to prepare the questions needed to be asked & months before intelligence gathering is completed.

An enemy combatant is entitled to a habeas hearing before a federal judge with appointment of a counsel. Usually, w/in 30 days of capture.

As to any future trial, if this suspect is an American citizen, he is NOT subject to military commission trial. #Boston

Under the Law of War, suspect must be humanely treated, consistent w/ the Detainee Treatment Act, domestic law, and the Geneva Conventions.

A decision to NOT read Miranda rights to the suspect was sound and in our national security interests.

I could care less about the trial – a first year law student could do this trial – I want to gather intelligence. http://www.mediaite.com/tv/lindsey-graham-on-bombing-suspect-take-up-arms-against-america-and-you-can-be-killed-or-captured/ …

Graham spoke with @foxandfriends earlier this morning about enemy combatant status for Boston suspect.
http://www.iqmediacorp.com/ClipPlayer/default.aspx?ClipID=2cc05f9e-32ee-4024-b64c-c9941c890f05&PN=bt9sZFac%2bKA%3d …

The reason you see some repetition in those Tweets is that Graham was responding to comments by others, and reiterating points.

As it happened, so far Graham’s wishes have been followed — the prisoner has not been Mirandized, and apparently has been interrogated to the extent that his wounds (he was shot in the throat) will allow. It is not necessary to consider him an “enemy combatant” to withhold the Miranda warnings, under the public safety exemption — in other words, to gather the intelligence that Sen. Graham values.

As to his being considered an “enemy combatant” — well that’s a war of words that Republicans have been carrying on with Democrats for 12 years now. Republicans prefer the rules of war; Democrats prefer to treat terrorism as a cops-and-robbers thing.

This case seems to be to dwell in sort of a twilight area — and arguments to treat it as war and as crime both seem to have some legitimacy.

Tsarnaev — the one who still lives — is a citizen. And not a citizen off in Yemen somewhere working with al Qaeda, whom President Obama might kill with a drone (just to help us remember that Democrats, too, have gone far beyond the bounds of due process in pursuing what can only be called a war — else there’s no justification for such actions). He’s a citizen who went bad like the Columbine killers.

His brother’s recent fascination with radical Islamism does suggest something that fits within the “War on Terror,” but I think we need to see more evidence that these attacks were somehow coordinated with a hostile foreign organization before we consider this something other than a mass murder. Perhaps such evidence will emerge.

When he is criminally prosecuted on state and federal charges, I wonder if there will be a charge — along with multiple counts of murder and many more of attempted murder — having to do with bringing Boston to a halt? I wonder what that cost, in terms of lost economic activity. This is on my mind after reading about the guy who we are told ran off naked on acid, and all the resources devoted to trying to find him. How much more did the Tsarnaev brothers cost the city, state and federal governments, plus untold thousands of businesses?

But I digress. By the way, while I was traveling over the weekend — driving to Memphis and back for a wedding — Bryan Caskey already did a post on this subject, which you might want to check out.

28 thoughts on “What Lindsey Graham said about bombing suspect

  1. Silence

    Brad – I think your HTML in the first graph is screwy. It looks like you were trying to imbed some video, but it didn’t work.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Yeah, I just saw that. Thanks. It’s fixed now.

      The video offered me two sets of code for the embed. The first one said “COPY STANDARD HTML EMBED CODE TO CLIPBOARD.” The other said “COPY WORDPRESS.COM SHORTCODE TO CLIPBOARD.”

      I initially chose the second one, because I’m on WordPress and thought maybe that was tailored for my site.

      It didn’t work. The first one does…

  2. bud

    This case seems to be to dwell in sort of a twilight area — and arguments to treat it as war and as crime both seem to have some legitimacy.

    No, that is completely wrong. This was a crime by an American citizen, period. He was not a soldier enlisted in an army of a foreign nation. He was not a spy for a foreign nation enlisted to aid some sort of battle campaign. He was not wearing a uniform. Whatever his motivation it was not a part of an operation to further the cause of any other country. It in no way resembled a war. Hence he should be treated as a criminal with all the rights afforded to American citizens. Lindsey Graham is way, way out of line on this one. And if he gets his way THAT would further the cause of terrorism.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      You know, when I started writing this post on Saturday — and had to stop because it was too involved, and I needed to be somewhere (at a wedding in Memphis) — I started out saying I disagree with Graham on this.

      But then I started reading about the public safety exemption to the Miranda rules, and thinking about those additional explosive devices that the brothers had made, and it occurred to me that some questioning before he’s told he has the right to remain silent might indeed be a good idea (and quite constitutional) — even though the info could never be used in court.

      Where I still don’t agree with Graham, I think, is on the “enemy combatant” designation. Until there’s evidence that the brothers weren’t working alone, I think that’s a misnomer. And I agree with what Burl says below…

  3. Burl Burlingame

    Why grant this murderous punk the dignity of “enemy combatant” status? That legitimizes his motivation.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      I agree. Something about “enemy combatant” almost legitimizes him. “Legitimize” isn’t quite the word, but I think you know what I mean.

      Many years ago, the late David Broder wrote about the value of political parties. I disagreed with him on his main point, because I despise parties, but he said they do serve one useful purpose: They answer the question, “Who sent you?” (He got the phrase from what some party boss used to ask candidates.) If you’re a party’s nominee, you not just some schmuck who decided to run on his own; there are substantial numbers of people saying that yes, they would like you to hold that office. (As I recall, Broder was bemoaning the fact that parties no longer performed that function well, because with modern media nobodies could propel themselves into the limelight without paying their dues in the party — think “Nikki Haley running for governor in 2010,” or “Alvin Greene.” He wanted parties to resume that filtering function again.)

      Anyway, I thought he put it well — “Who sent you?”

      An enemy combatant was sent by somebody. He’s represents somebody, or something. Not just himself. Even if what or who is nothing but a ragtag band of terrorists.

      That of course is the great conundrum of asymmetrical warfare. You don’t have a nation sending you. The most “legitimacy” you can muster, usually, is that you’re associated with a terrorist group someone has heard of.

      I think you sort of need that at least that before being called an “enemy combatant.”

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      I think I saw something about that on thestate.com during a stop while driving to Memphis Friday. (We drove back Sunday.) But the tiny amount of time I had to really pay attention to news that day, I was sort of busy following this

  4. bud

    As others have pointed out it does our American values and respect for the constitution a great deal of harm when we give creedance to the continue calls by Graham and others to treat every radical act that arises as an act of war. Once we give in to those urges we weaken ourselves as a nation and we ultimately lose our unique freedoms that we hold so dear. In effect the terrorists score a victory whenever we brand a criminal act as part of the “War on Terror”. We elevate these two-bit criminals to the status of “war criminal” by the misguided rants of Lindsey Graham and others. This is not what we are as a nation. We’re better than that. Lindsey by his continued yammerings becomes a much smaller man and sullies the office of United States senator by his misguided statements. I for one would love to see a challenger rise up and successfully defeat Lindsey Graham next year. Now that would be a victory in the “War on Terror”.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Really? So you’d rather have Lee Bright, or Tom Davis? Both champions of nullification? Because that’s the sort of challenger likely to take him on…

  5. Silence

    I’d like to get the maximum utility out of the captured Boston bomber – to acertain if he’s part of a larger cell and to be able to root out any of his evil associates. Hopefully that would help head off any future harm or thwart any other current plots. That being said, I think it’s VERY important not to start treating domestic terrorists (no matter how violent) as enemy combatants. They are murderers, violent, awful people, but should be afforded the same rights and protections as other domestic criminals. The Obama administration is making the right choice to prosecute Tsarnaev through the civilian justice system.

  6. Brad Warthen Post author

    Speaking of what Democrats and Republicans like to call things…

    Everybody went on and on about Obama initially not using the word “terror,” and later using it.

    Me, I was more impressed by another word he used:

    So if you want to know who we are, what America is, how we respond to evil, that’s it. Selflessly. Compassionately. Unafraid.

    “Evil,” of course, being a word out of the George W. Bush lexicon. Allegedly, liberals don’t hold with that word, suggestive as it is of moral absolutes…

  7. die deutsche Flußgabelung

    Why should the younger Tsarnaev be considered an “enemy combatant” but not Timothy McVeigh? McVeigh killed far more people than the Tsarnaev brothers did. Or why not Eric Robert Rudolph too? Or Ted Kaczynski? I think Tsarnaev deserves the same treatment as those terrorists.

  8. Mark Stewart

    So we all agree; Lindsey Graham did not have his thinking cap on with the “enemy combatants” confusion. Maybe this is another clear example of why we have made sure that our military forces are subserviant to our political structure? Graham seems to be stuck in his Air Force mentality on this issue. His position would be a strategic failure.

    Whether these cretons had a political point in mind or not, any “war” is wholly imagined – and it is beneath us to reward their terror and give it some kind of credibility. I could not believe I heard Graham be so ignorant Friday evening. But he continues with the theme and that is disconcerting.

    Anyway, Steven is right; the real story is Steve Gantt, Chief Scott and the blatant manipulation of the state pension system. Talk about an erosion of American values and ethics…

    1. Silence

      Did you mean “cretons” as in: “a spread of shredded pork cooked with onions in pork fat”
      or “cretins” as in “stupid, obtuse, or mentally defective people”?
      Perhaps you meant “cretonne” a “heavy cotton material in colorfully printed designs, used especially for drapery and slipcovers”?

      I prefer “croutons” as in “pieces of sautéed or rebaked bread, often cubed and seasoned, that are used to add texture and flavor to salads”

      mmm, good!

      1. Mark Stewart


        I was looking for a word that sums up these brothers and their actions and I am having trouble naming what they are. Nothing seems to sink to their level of depravity. Nothing I want to think of anyway.

        Sorry I failed; I didn’t mean to insult the mentally deficient with a connection to these two.

    2. Steven Davis II

      FitsNews is reporting that Scott just resigned.

      I wonder how long he’ll stay away this time? Came back for two months and took a month paid vacation. Not bad for a new job, 50% vacation pay.

      1. die deutsche Flußgabelung

        Won’t that be a 33% vacation pay? Seeing as 1:3 months is 33% not 50%.

        1. Steven Davis II

          Well yes, but I was thinking more along the line Work two months, Vacation one month.

  9. Scout

    This may be a stupid question – but does he not have the right to remain silent even if they don’t say that to him?

    I understand that they can’t use anything he says as evidence in his trial until he has been informed of his rights – but doesn’t he still have them anyway. Even if they don’t tell. or no?

    1. Silence

      Yes, Yes but it’s called Miranda rights after a supreme court case, Miranda v. California. Generally not issuing the warning would violate the suspect’s right to counsel. It doesn’t mean he doesn’t have the rights though. If the FBI doesn’t need his testimony, it’s a moot point anyhow.

Comments are closed.