Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the 19-year-old naturalized U.S. citizen suspected of planting bombs at the Boston Marathon, was charged Monday with using a "weapon of mass destruction" against people and property, and he faces an aggressive prosecution and the possibility of the death penalty.
But that's not good enough for Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.). Because Tsarnaev and his brother, Tamerlan, "were not common criminals … but terrorists trying to injure, maim and kill innocent Americans," the two senators would rather see Tsarnaev plucked from the judicial system, classified as an enemy combatant, deprived of a lawyer and placed in military detention.
To its credit, the Obama administration rejected the senators' counsel. That position is consistent with the president's long-standing promise not to authorize the indefinite military detention without trial of American citizens. Yet in one sense the administration is splitting the difference between its approach and that of its critics.
On Friday, the U.S. attorney in Boston said the Justice Department was invoking a "public safety exception" to the Miranda rule that in most cases requires police to advise suspects in custody of their right to remain silent and their right to an attorney. Under the exception, announced in a 1984 Supreme Court decision, police may forgo reading a suspect his rights in the interests of public safety — and if the suspect then makes an incriminating statement, it can be used at trial.