“Boston police and state police and local police across the commonwealth of Massachusetts responded with professionalism and bravery over five long days,” the president said at the White House. “And tonight because of their determined efforts, we’ve closed an important chapter in this tragedy.”
It’s a rare day when you’ll read this sentence here, but Obama is correct on two different and equally important points. First of all, hearty congratulations are due to the law enforcement officials at all levels who were involved in this massive mission for bringing it to a close (perhaps) in relatively short order. For the collective hive mind of idiots out there who were asking why it was taking so long to catch them, I really have nothing to say to you.
The second portion to consider, even amidst all the well deserved partying and celebrations going on in Beantown and across the country, is that this is certainly only “one chapter” of a longer story. Possibly a much, much longer story. AP did a roundup of many of the questions which the government will face in the days and months to come, and you’ve been debating it all night long. But even for all of that, it’s still unclear where we go from here.
The end of this rocky road seems fairly clear, at least to me. With apologies to all of you who oppose capital punishment on moral grounds, this guy has to wind up cooling to room temperature. Maybe he was a co-mastermind of this mayhem and maybe he was just a follower, with big bro being the real Boris Badenov of the story. But even if so, he did follow. The maimed and the dead, from spectators watching the marathon to police trying to keep us safe deserve nothing less.
But how do we get from here to there? Some of our leaders, such as Graham and McCain, were out of the gate early calling for
Tamerlan Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to be treated as an enemy combatant. I’m not ruling that out entirely, and we certainly need to get all of the information we can from him and any theoretical accomplices of his who may be out there. But there’s a sticky detail to be kept in mind here: Tsarnaev is a United States citizen. And it doesn’t matter whether you were born and raised in the heartland or you just got off the boat from eastern Europe and took your naturalization oath yesterday, we treat all of you equally under the law. I remain extremely skeptical about the idea of taking a citizen who is on American soil – no matter how heinous their actions – and suddenly reclassifying them as somehow having less rights than anyone else. That path leads to people showing up at your door and removing some of your other rights.
I’m hearing concerns from some corners that the fact that Tsarnaev wasn’t read his Miranda rights means we no longer have any choice but to head for a military tribunal. But most legal experts coming forward this week seem to agree that the Public Safety Clause is in full effect, and at most we would lose the ability to use some of his early statements in detention at trial. To be clear… this was an act of terrorism. There’s no question about that. But terrorism is illegal at home too, and you can be prosecuted for it. Maybe there’s a link to other groups and we’ll find that out going forward. Maybe these two chuckleheads were just losers, as their uncle opined. But I can’t help but believe there’s a constitutionally viable way to soak all the information possible out of this guy, then give him a trial and put him in the ground.
UPDATE: (Jazz) My apologies. Mixed up my Tsarnaevs there. It’s Dzhokhar. Fixed above.