The White House has announced that the 19 year-old surviving suspect of the Boston Marathon bombings has been charged “with one count of using and conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction in the U.S. and one count of malicious destruction of property with an explosive device,” reports NBC. He won’t be tried as an enemy combatant. (Update: Read the criminal complaint here.)
The news probably comes as a disappointment to Republican hawks such as Sens. Ayotte, Graham, and McCain, who were calling for him to be designated as such. The Wall Street Journal also endorsed the idea this weekend:
The important security issue isn’t convicting Dzhokhar but finding out what he knows that might prevent a future attack or break up a terror network. This is where naming him an enemy combatant would be useful. Such a designation allows for extensive, long-term interrogation without a lawyer. Especially because President Obama has barred enhanced-interrogation techniques, such long-term psychological pressure can be crucial to learning if the brothers worked with anyone else, if they received terrorist training, and more. … The Supreme Court has ruled that even American citizens—Dkhokhar is one—can be held indefinitely as enemy combatants. If he cooperates, the combatant designation can be revoked and he can always be transferred to the criminal-justice system for prosecution.
Though much is still unknown, the decision to try the younger Tsarnaev in a civilian court seems like the right one. Though details are emerging about the brothers’ radicalization, they don’t seem to have any connection to other terrorists abroad, though some have tried to spin the elder’s trip to Chechnya and Dagestan as evidence of a link. The senators could have said they support the enemy combatant designation in the event a link to Al Qaeda was found, but as Michael Tomasky points out, that’s not what they did.
(via Ari Kohen)