John Walker Lindh, who was captured in Afghanistan around the same time as Hamdi, was never taken to Guantánamo, never held in the U.S. as an enemy combatant. Instead, he faced federal trial in Virginia, pleaded guilty to aiding the Taliban in exchange for a 20-year sentence.
On Sunday, a Justice Department official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the case publicly, said the White House was not considering enemy combatant status for Tsarnaev, whose elder brother was killed in a shootout with police. The official called the younger, surviving suspect “a naturalized American.” Reports said he became a citizen on Sept. 11, 2012.
While the Bush administration chose to process certain U.S. citizens as enemy combatants, the official said, Obama has “made clear that this administration, as a matter of policy, will not authorize the indefinite military detention without trial of American citizens, regardless of their place of capture.”
Federal officials invoked a “public safety exception” to postpone Tsarnaev’s right to an attorney. The exception, the Justice Department official said, “allows for law enforcement to quickly interrogate a suspected terrorist without giving Miranda warnings under certain circumstances to gain critical intelligence and national security information.”
Federal officials invoked the exception almost immediately after the alleged terrorist’s capture. The process to categorize a U.S. citizen as an enemy combatant “would take considerable time,” the Justice official said.
McCain spokesman Brian Rogers said Sunday that the senator agreed with Graham on the way forward and that news reports Sunday had “mischaracterized” McCain’s desire to send Tsarnaev to Guantánamo. The offices of Ayotte and New York Rep. Peter King, who appeared to support making Tsarnaev a military prisoner, did not respond to emailed requests for clarification.
Graham invoked his 30 years of experience as a military lawyer to essentially confront the White House in broadcast comments.
“He’s not entitled to Miranda Rights if he’s a terrorist who’s associated himself with enemies of the nation,” he said on Fox TV Saturday night. “No American citizen is immune from having the law of war applied to them if they collaborate with the enemy.”
Designating him as an enemy combatant would keep him away from a lawyer and give the FBI and CIA time to interrogate him, Graham said. “I want to find out if he was in fact involved with al-Qaida and other terrorist groups. Clearly he is a prime candidate for that designation.”
Politicians debated what they want Boston law enforcement to do in the marathon bombing case on the day the military at Guantánamo reported that more than half the captives there were on hunger strike in a several months old protest over their indefinite detention.
A total of 84 Guantánamo prisoners were classified as hunger strikers at the U.S. military base in Cuba, Army Lt. Col. Samuel House said Sunday. The prison’s population is 166.
House added by email that 16 of the 84 prisoners were being force-fed Sunday, and said he erred a day earlier in describing 17 detainees as getting nutritional supplements by tubes snaked up a nostril, down the back of each captive’s throat until it reached his stomach.
Five of the 84 were in the hospital, House said, none with life-threatening conditions.
Reporters Michael Doyle and Jonathan Landay of the McClatchy Washington Bureau contributed to this report.