When it comes to Boston Marathon suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, Republican Rep. Peter King clearly wants to play bad cop.
King—who over the weekend urged authorities to beef up their surveillance of Muslims in the U.S. following the attack—said on Monday that Tsarnaev shouldn’t have the option on whether or not he’ll cooperate with authorities.
The GOPer, on The Daily Rundown, praised authorities’ decision to not read the 19-year-old his Miranda Rights, which protects suspects from coercive questions out of fear there is an existing danger to the public.
Host Chuck Todd, however, pointed out that two high-profile terror suspects in the past five years—Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab (the so-called underwear bomber) and Faisal Shahzad (who attempted the Times Square car bombing)—were given their Miranda Rights and still both spoke to authorities.
King acknowledged that once Shahzad started talking “he didn’t stop,” but added, “I don’t want to give this younger brother, a terrorist–I don’t want to give him the option to decide whether or not he’s going to cooperate or not cooperate.”
The Republican, who chairs the House subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence, is spearheading an initiative with Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, John McCain of Arizona and Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire urging President Obama to treat Dzhokhar as an “enemy combatant,” so he can be held and questioned instead of immediately being tried in a criminal court.
“By declaring him an enemy combatant, there would be by virtue at least for 30 days of unlimited interrogation,” said King, insisting once the interrogation is over Tsarnaev would be tried in a civilian court. “This is solely for the purpose of interrogation to find intelligence.”
The Republicans’ request has created a backlash among Democrats.
“This is not a foreign national caught on an enemy battlefield, but an American citizen arrested on American soil,” California Rep. Adam Schiff said in a statement. “The Justice Department has demonstrated a far greater ability to successfully prosecute suspected terrorists in federal courts than the military commissions have thus far been able to show. Nothing must be done to compromise the public safety, the ability of prosecutors to seek justice for the victims or our constitutional principles.”
California Sen. Dianne Feinstein said declaring Tsarnaev an enemy combatant would be unconstitutional.
“I do not believe under the military commission law that he is eligible for that. It would be unconstitutional to do that,” she told Fox News Sunday.
“One of the great things about America is that we come together at times of trial,” she continued. “I very much regret the fact that there are those that want to precipitate a debate over whether he’s an enemy combatant or whether he is a terrorist, a murderer, et cetera.”
Feinstein, who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee, added, “There is time to do the investigation, to make a clear assessment and to move from there. I really regret all of this discussion, which is creating a conflict that need not be there. The administration is ready for this.”
Tsarnaev is suspected, alongside his brother (who was killed during a shootout with police last week), of planting bombs near the end of the Boston Marathon finish line, killing three and injuring more than 170. Tsarnaev, who was found hiding in a boat in Watertown, Mass., after a dramatic, day-long manhunt on Friday, could be charged as early as Monday.
UPDATE, 1:30 p.m.: The Justice Department announced Tsarnaev was charged with conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction resulting in death, and malicious destruction of property. Read more here.