Can Tsarnaev be ruled an ‘enemy combatant’?

April 21, 2013

Three major legal questions are now swirling around the Boston bombing suspect, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.  Since his dramatic capture Friday night, the public debate has already begun muddling these issues.

An overarching question is whether the United States can legally treat Tsarnaev as an enemy combatant, and if not, whether his rights as a civilian defendant can be altered because he is accused of terrorism. President Barack Obama has taken a measured, but concerning, approach on this.

The first question depends on the law – so there is a right or wrong answer. If the Justice Department tried to classify Tsarnaev as an enemy combatant without the proper legal authority, for example, the courts would reject that attempt and completely reclassify him.

Senators  John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.), as well as other elected officials, are now calling on the Obama administration to follow the enemy combatant route. Before the Justice Department considers whether that’s a good idea, however, it must determine if it is a legal possibility.

The short answer is no – unless evidence emerges that tangibly links the suspect to enemy forces, like al Qaeda, that are listed in the September 11, 2001 authorization of force. This is the main source of the administration’s war powers, and courts have only applied the enemy combatant authority to potential defendants who are in or “substantially” backing al Qaeda, the Taliban or other related forces.

Many observers now talk about how they would like Tsarnaev to be branded an enemy combatant – partially because it would reduce the rights he is afforded. The intense desire to cancel the rights of accused murderers is an old phenomenon, of course. This is one reason our system uses laws and courts, and not a flash-mob referendum, to hold the line.

But the Obama administration can’t just brand any suspect an enemy combatant. It must use the legal criteria. And based on the available information,.Tsarnaev probably does not qualify.

There are also many strong reasons why it would be bad policy – even if it were legal. Revoking the constitutional rights of American citizens, on American soil, based on a suspected crime, opens the door to a two-tiered justice system and executive abuse.

Now, as the administration continues to treat Tsarnaev as a standard criminal defendant, the second question is whether his status as an accused terrorist should somehow alter his rights or treatment.

This is where the Miranda debate arises. Under a 2011 policy, when “operational terrorists” are involved, the Obama administration aims to stretch Miranda’s public safety exception to the limit.

The standard exception enables police to push suspects for information that could prevent imminent danger – without advising them of their rights to remain silent or get a lawyer. Courts have defined imminence as a matter of minutes, not hours or days.

The administration is now trying to go much further, which could set a new precedent. (The longest public safety exception case upheld a 50-minute delay.)

The good news for the Justice Department is that if you imagined a scenario for the broadest possible public safety exception, it could look a lot like this case. The suspect is accused of a series of bombings and attacks over a period of five days, and police believe he may have plans or knowledge about future attacks.

So courts might rule in favor of the administration’s gambit. If they don’t, it would not be a major legal setback. That is because, unlike the enemy combatant decision, a negative ruling would not disrupt the defendant’s status.

When the government gathers statements in violation of Miranda rights, the judicial penalty is that these statements cannot be used at trial. Yet investigators may think they already have enough evidence, and that the suspect’s answers are more valuable for use outside the courtroom.

None of that means, however, that the administration is wise to go far down this road.

Which brings us to the third issue: Obama’s continuing effort to straddle law and security in a battle with terrorists that has evolved a great deal over the past 12 years.

The Obama White House followed an administration that had tried to evade and dilute many human-rights protections – all in pursuit of a “global war on terror.” Some of President George W. Bush’s more extreme efforts, like erecting a zone without habeas corpus at Guantanamo Bay, were flatly rejected in a string of Supreme Court decisions (Rasul, Hamdan, Boumediene).

Other experiments proved unworkable even for Bush. He ultimately dropped attempts to detain two American defendants, Jose Padilla and Yaser Hamdi, as enemy combatants.

Along the way, this approach earned a stinging rebuke from Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia – no radical leftie – who wrote that jailing an American like Hamdi for years, without due process, violated the “very core of liberty” – the “freedom from indefinite imprisonment at the will of the executive.”

Scalia reminded the president that “where the government accuses a citizen of waging war against it, our constitutional tradition has been to prosecute him in federal court.”  (There are legal exceptions to that, Scalia pointed out, but Bush had failed to meet them.)

Obama has shown more concern for law and precedent than his predecessor. And he has the judicial record to prove it.

While Bush’s counterterror policy faced repeated rejections from the courts – though 60 percent of federal judges were from his party and national security decisions are usually treated deferentially, Obama’s largest judicial challenges have been limited to drone secrecy and an indefinite detention statute. He lost two lower court cases which are now pending, American Civil Liberties Union v. CIA and Hedges v. Obama.

On many security dilemmas – with the important exception of drone killings – Obama’s tack has been to methodically test executive authority without deliberately overreaching. That will come as no surprise to observers of his temperament.

The risk, however, is that the administration’s careful approach will still normalize a compromised set of rights for accused terrorists.

People with little regard for human rights, of course, have little regard for this concern. They can blithely demean the role of the particular right in play (“Who cares about the right to remain silent when bombs are going off?”), or resort to the lazy shibboleth that some enemies are beneath human rights (“Who cares what happens to accused terrorists?”). The same logic can justify torture, or extrajudicial executions, and a host of conduct that we associate more with our enemies than our constitutional system.

In this case, it is too early to be certain whether the administration is pushing legal limits to the maximum in a good faith pursuit of information – which it has the right to do – or using that cover to make a mockery of Miranda rights.

A great weight of evidence shows that programs which unilaterally revoke the rights of a class of citizen, or suspect, rarely remain very limited. As Yale law professor Jack Balkin has documented, when governments erect a parallel track of reduced rights to combat terrorism, the conventional law enforcement system faces a huge temptation to “increasingly [follow] the parallel track.” It’s not only the “bad guys” that have to worry about the government’s powers. In the areas of indefinite detention, drone targeting and Miranda, the administration is uncorking temptations that require a much deeper public debate.

There is one final wrinkle in the external constraints at work here. Bush set the bar so low, many influential political analysts have suggested his successor deserves praise simply for not breaking the law, for not operating black sites and not torturing people.

This is as absurd as it is depressing. Obeying the Constitution is a prerequisite for every president. Not a metric on which to be scored.


PHOTO (Top): Police keep a close watch on a blocked-off street as they move towards a police assault on a house on Franklin Street in Watertown, Massachusetts April 19, 2013. REUTERS/John Taggart

PHOTO (Insert  A); Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, suspect #2 in the Boston Marathon explosion is pictured in this undated FBI handout photo of April 19,2013. REUTERS/FBI/Handout

PHOTO (Insert B): Supreme Court in Washington.  REUTERS

PHOTO (Insert C): Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia testifies before a House judiciary subcommittee hearing  on Capitol Hill in Washington May 20, 2010. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque



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Superb article. Thanks

Posted by garydchanceG | Report as abusive

I’m not a lawyer but, as a citizen, it seems odd to have an individual or group decide what basic rights people possess. Either the right to a jury trial is inalienable, a fact of human existence, or these rights exist at the whim of politicians and judges. That doesn’t sound democratic. It doesn’t sound like part of the American tradition (or any other democratic tradition). I’d suggest the US legal system has lost its way on the difference between rights we possess independent of any government and rights we enjoy from a government.

I also feel sorry for Lindsey Graham. Thank God he did not live through WW II. His head would have exploded with fear. There is a vast unbridgeable gap between what happened in WWI and WWII and what we’re dealing with today. Too bad he doesn’t realize it. Too bad the media doesn’t call him on it. We should worry about terrorism, absolutely. But we should not treat it as an existential threat to society.

Posted by FredFlintstone | Report as abusive

The USA is no country of laws, but a country of “rulers”. Whatever our “rulers” decide is the law. They do as they please and, for appearance sake, “redefine” any language they like to fit their desires. It all depends on “what the meaning of ‘is’ is”.

A right is something that cannot be taken away or suspended.

Posted by usagadfly | Report as abusive

Wait the OP does not understand the Miranda rights ruling? Does the OP even read legal opinions? red Volokh Conspiracy or any other LawBlogs?

“if law enforcement officials decline to offer a Miranda warning to an individual in their custody, they may interrogate that person and act upon the knowledge gained, but may not use that person’s statements to incriminate him or her in a criminal trial.”

/if you don’t mirandize a suspect, then no statement gathered may be used in a court. in this case, none are needed, they already have two sets of evidence that warrant the death penalty for this terrorist. Tsarnaev can only make statements in his defense to try to lessen his punishment, none of his statements are needed by the prosecutor.
//IANAL- I just talk to those who argue appeals.

Posted by VultureTX | Report as abusive

Bush and the USA Congress in 2001 set the bar very low with the AUMF….authorizing an internationally illegal invasion of Iraq….and domestically very constitutionally questionable USA military war on any and all… foreign or domestic…. potential members of al Qaeda, the Taliban or other related forces.
This is a great piece by Mr. Melber. Thank you Reuters.
Let me add:
Federal gun controls fails and will probably continue to fail until the federal government repeals the AUMF? The federal government cannot manage sanely and legally the USA military guns so how can the USA federal government ask the USA public to sanely and legally manage their private guns? How can the USA president be trusted with guns and the USA Constitution and Bill of Rights after he has embraced the NDAA? Leader must lead by example. So first, the USA federal governsment needs to stop the illegal war and mental illness of the violent, murderous, torturing BUSH/CHENEY presidency. Perhaps what Congress fears most is not the NRA….but backround checks on themselves and their own actions in Iraq, also Syria, Latin America?

Posted by C.Tootle | Report as abusive

There is no imminence requirement for the public safety exception. Please read the case law before writing these kinds of articles for the AP.

Posted by mec287 | Report as abusive

I think most Americans can see that many of our treasured rights and freedoms are under increasing assault today.

The once ubiquitous “freedom to smoke” anywhere and everywhere has disappeared from airplanes, restaurants, public buildings, etc. because smoking is now known to constitute a public hazard to health to non-smokers. Our right to hop on a plane without intrusive inspection and personal inconvenience went away because terrorists have used civilian transport aircraft to wage war against Americans on American soil.

When American citizens go abroad and commit acts to treason that have the effect of injury or death to Americans (or the probability of either) it is in order to protect to other Americans that such “enemy combatants” are now “neutralized” by drones or other means in places it is not militarily/economically feasible to capture and “bring them to justice”.

It has long been known that there is an increasing threat to America and Americans from “home-grown” terrorists and the checks and balances afforded Americans is ponderous, expensive and imperfect. My personal opinion is that those who would “wage war” on the basis of religious belief in the modern world are insane, and I am concerned that those in our society more concerned with perpetrators’ rights” over “society’s rights” might find success in some courts with an “insanity defense” of people like these.

For that reason, I would like to see an “alternate legal track” for American citizens who conduct war, declared or undeclared, on these United States and citizens thereof, anywhere and everywhere that is as swift, sure and just as a military court. As to which “track” is appropriate for a given situation I would rather that decision be made by a special national “Grand Jury” convened for such specific purpose whenever and wherever required, than putting such power in the hands of ANY single individual.

New processes are necessitated by new threats.

Posted by OneOfTheSheep | Report as abusive

“New processes are necessitated by new threats.”

Yikes. Does “McCarthy” ring a bell?

Posted by LoveJoyOne | Report as abusive

Facilitating Terror: American Academics Assist in the Boston Terrorist Attack, Yet See No Complicity On Their Part.
By Chris Farrell

Professor at UMass Dartmouth (the town of Dartmouth in Massachusetts, not the famous Ivy League University) Dr. Brian Glyn Williams expressed his fear that he may have inadvertently inspired his student, Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, unto committing his terrorist attack in a phone call to the terrorist’s former teacher Steve Matteo in the article by writer Steve Urbon, ‘UMass Dartmouth professor: ‘I hope I didn’t contribute’ on, April 19, 2013.

Reported in the article is the astonishing fact that Boston Bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s teacher at Cambridge Rindge and Latin High School Steve Matteo readily admits to having referred Tsarnaev to Dr. Brian Glyn Williams of UMass.

Dr. Williams of UMASS e-mailed Mr. Matteo the Friday following the bombings, the 19th of April, once he had learned that his former student was a suspect, and when Mr. Matteo responded with a phone call to the doctor, Dr. Willaims said over the phone, “I hope I didn’t contribute to it. That kid and his brother identified with the Chechen struggle.” “He was learning his Chechen identity, identifying with the diaspora and identifying with his homeland,” he said.

“He wanted to learn more about Chechnya, who the fighters were, who the commanders were. I sort of gave him background.”

Demonstrating how dangerous Liberal denial can actually be in a free society, journalist Steve Urbon reports as if perfectly rational teacher Steve Matteo’s putting a Chechen Muslim studying in America who was demonstrating nationalistic loyalties towards his Muslim Chechen heritage in touch with a jihadist-sympathetic professor within the Liberal-socialist indoctrination camp of the University of Massachusetts such as Dr. Williams as “…a perfectly logical thing to do. English teacher Steve Matteo at Cambridge Rindge and Latin High School put his Chechen-born student in touch with a friend who happens to be one of the top experts on Chechnya, UMass Dartmouth’s Dr. Brian Glyn Williams.”

Dr. Williams is quoted in the article making an audacious attempt at denying any link between Boston Marathon terrorist Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and Al Qaeda despite long established intelligence that Saudi elements of Al Qaeda have co-opted command and control of Chechen Muslim Jihadist operations.

“In Williams’ view, Chechnya has an undeserved reputation as a hatchery of terrorists, including Al Qaeda and the Taliban.

“Foreign fighters did come in and radicalized people,” Williams said. For some, “they transformed the form of war from a national one to a full-blown terrorist jihad.”

Take careful note of the last two statements by Dr. Williams: They are antithetical to one another. He uses classic Jihadist double-speak denying and affirming the reality of the Al Qaeda co-opting of command and control of Chechen Muslim zealots, jihadists, in the same breath.

On the one hand Dr. Williams maintains that “…Chechnya has an undeserved reputation as a hatchery of terrorists, including Al Qaeda and the Taliban.” While on the other hand asserting that “Foreign fighters did come in and radicalize people,” that “For some, “they transformed the form of war from a national one to a full-blown terrorist jihad.””

Dr Williams “…charges there is no basis for an Al Qaeda link, or even a Taliban link, for that matter. But years of Russian disinformation, 9/11, and a sloppy American media worsened Chechnya’s reputation.

In a book to be published next year, “Inferno in the Caucus: The Chechen insurgency and the Mirage of Al Qaeda,” he says that no matter what the Chechens are, “they are not Al Qaeda. Repeat: They are not Al Qaeda.””

Dr. Williams has already begun an informational jihadist’s defense of the reputation of Chechnya’s militant Muslim jihadist’s existential reality and the reality of Al Qaeda’s having long ago co-opted the command and control of said Islamist terrorists.

Dr. Williams has adopted the classic dis-informational jihadist stance of denial, denial, denial.

Keep in mind that this denial is coming from a man who by his own admission may have directly contributed to the inspiration of the attack at the Boston Marathon.

Does no one in Massachusetts recall how to administer tar and feathers anymore?

No doubt an investigation into the doctor’s affiliation will demonstrate his Liberal Leftist support for Islam, jihad, and a ‘Palestinian’ state to be carved out of Israel. Following the money, it would not be surprising to find that the doctor receives copious funding from Islamic front organizations.

Lorenzo Vidino, who was at the time of the writing of his article Deputy Director at the Investigative Project, a Washington D.C. based counterterrorism research institute, exposes the Al Qaeda co-opting of the Islamic jihad in Chechnya in his article ‘How Chechnya Became a Breeding Ground for Terror.’ Middle East Quarterly, Summer 2005, Vol. XII, Number 3.

Most significantly as it is relative to the Boston Bombing is the revelation of the employment of ricin in attacks by Chechen jihadists under the command and control of Al Qaeda (read Saudi) elements. Two ricin attacks took place immediately in the wake of the two bombs in Boston. The person charged with the attacks maintains he had nothing to do with it.

The capture of a Saudi suspect who was so close to the operation that he purportedly received injuries in the blast of one of the bombs; an individual who comes from the Al Harbi clan of Al Qaeda affiliated Wahhabi jihadists must not be swept aside as unrelated. To do so would be an immense, treasonous miscarriage of justice.

Mister Obama’s highly unusual meeting with a Saudi Minister immediately prior to a decision having been made to deport the Saudi suspect for national security reasons cannot be viewed as anything less than treasonous complicity in pushing forth a false narrative that the Al Harbi clan member had nothing to do with the Boston Massacre.

A ricin attack on the heels of a terrorist attack by two Chechen Muslims should have been identified as a red flag indicating nothing less than the very signature of the command and control of the attack as being Al Qaeda led from within the Chechen theater of Islamic jihad operations.

In view of the fact that Saudi command and control of Chechen jihadists has been established long ago, and the fact that RICIN is a reality within the Chechen theater of operations in the war in which Islam is engaged against all non-Islamic societies, the failure on the part of American national security intelligence agencies to connect the likelihood of the terrorists responsible for the Boston Marathon bombing as originating from the Chechen stage—Chechen executed and Saudi commanded—is inexcusable.

“Over the last decade, Islamist terrorists have co-opted the Chechen cause as part of a global jihad. Umar Ibn al-Khattab, a Saudi native who became the leader of the foreign mujahideen in Chechnya, said, “This case is not just a Chechen matter but an Islamic matter, like Afghanistan.[4].””

“The global reach of Al-Qaeda’s Chechen cells was demonstrated by the fact that the ricin’s manufacture was consistent with descriptions in Al-Qaeda manuals and in a notebook found by Russian Special Forces during a raid of a Chechen rebel base.[63] According to the Kremlin’s spokesman for Chechen issues, Sergei Yastrzhembsky, the ricin investigation showed that Chechnya had become part of a “network of international terrorist organizations.”[64]””

“As Islamism supplanted nationalism as the motivating factor of the Chechen cause, hundreds of Muslim youths from the Middle East and Europe flocked to Chechnya. Aukai Collins, a Hawaiian convert to Islam, published an account of fighting in Chechnya.[16] Turkey and Jordan, both home to large ethnic Chechen populations, saw an intense movement of fighters.[17]

Ibn al-Khattab remained the key figure in the spread of international jihad to Chechnya, though. Knowledge of his past is the key to understanding the depth of Al-Qaeda’s involvement in Chechnya.”

[4] Life and Times of Ibn ul Khattab, a documentary released by Ansaar News Agency, London, 2002, containing footage of Khattab between 1992 and 2002.
[16] Aukai Collins, My Jihad: One American’s Journey through the World of Usama bin Laden—as a Covert Operative for the American Government (New York: Pocket Books, 2002).
[17] Author’s interview with a former Russian official, Toronto, Apr. 2004.
[63] Los Angeles Times, Jan. 18, 2003.
[64] Financial Times, Dec. 21, 2002.

“Years before these Chechen terrorists carried out the Boston Marathon bombings Judicial Watch uncovered critical intelligence documents detailing al Qaeda’s activities in Chechnya, including the creation of a 1995 camp—ordered by Osama bin Laden—to train “international terrorists” to carry out plots against Americans and westerners.

The goal, according to the once-classified documents obtained by JW in 2011, was to “establish a worldwide Islamic state capable of directly challenging the U.S., China, Russia, and what it views as Judeo-Christian and Confucian domination.” Further, radical Islamic regimes were to be established and supported everywhere possible, from “sea to sea,” including Chechnya. “Terrorist activities are to be conducted against Americans and westerners…” according to the report issued by the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA).

In other words, it was only a matter of time before terrorists from the
predominantly radical Islamic republic carried out an attack on U.S. soil.

Chechnya declared independence from Russia in 1991 and Chechen militants are quite the savvy terrorists because they’ve successfully targeted Moscow with bombings and hostage plots for more than two decades.”

“There’s no telling how many of these Chechen terrorists have infiltrated the United States or how many opportunities the government has missed to protect the country by deporting them. Osama bin Laden specifically chose Chechnya as a terrorist training camp because it’s an “area unreachable by strikes from the west,” according to the intelligence report obtained by JW years ago.” (

Adding insult to injury, the illegitimate ‘First Lady’ of the United States of America—for in truth America currently has no legal sitting president as Mister Obama fraudulently represented himself as constitutionally eligible to be president when he was illegally elected—visited the Saudi suspect at the hospital where he is located in Boston, yet did not bother to visit Jeff Bauman, the heroic athlete who lost both of his legs in the bombing and who provided the description of the bombers to investigators.

One can only imagine the message Michelle Obama was tasked with relaying to the Al Harbi family. Then again, one needs not imagine—to be sure Michelle Obama relayed to the terrorist clan in Saudi Arabia her innermost, heart-felt feelings concerning the Boston Massacre and screamed: “AALLLLAAAAHHUUUAAAAHHHKKBBBAAARRRR!

Posted by ChrisFarrell | Report as abusive

Are citizens allowed to shoot at the police?
Of course not….If they were innocent that would have been enough to prove them right….another words they wouldnt have returned fire to begin with.


Posted by covertice | Report as abusive

Are citizens allowed to shoot at the police?
Of course not….If they were innocent that would have been enough to prove them right….another words they wouldnt have returned fire to begin with.


Posted by covertice | Report as abusive


The answer to question as to whether our society is “governed by law” or “governed by men” (with all the potential for injustice that carries as baggage) has never, to my knowledge, been definitively decided.

To a great extent, it depends upon where you live more than “who you are”. It can change as rapidly as elected/appointed officials change. It is my personal opinion that the overwhelming number of lawyers as “representatives of the people” is unhealthy, in that their collective perspective and economic interests are contrary to what is good for most Americans and/or for this country and all too often prevelant.

To put it bluntly, were America a nation of laws, time would steadily reduce ambiguities in every law, regulation, etc. There would be progressively less need for a court of competent jurisdiction to interpret or clarify. It seems to me that attorneys, already FAR too many in our society, directly benefit from the additional “need” for their services created by public confusion and reversal of established and accepted legal precedent.

This would not be so much of a problem were it not that, as these people advance in their profession to become judges, they carry with them this perspective. The result is that the appeals level and even the supreme level of the judiciary is today creating more chaos than clarity to the “system”. I think this development is to the distinct legal and economic disadvantage of the average American and to our society itself.

If anyone has an idea how to even the playing field again between the legal profession and “we, the people”, now’s the time.

Posted by OneOfTheSheep | Report as abusive

They being the brothers

Posted by covertice | Report as abusive

What’s wrong with simply treating this as treason?

Posted by markhahn | Report as abusive

When trials are held in civilian courts, with the rights guaranteed under the Constitution, convictions have been obtained in virtually all cases. With GITMO, a massive blot on America, but one that Republicans seem to love. Even though convictions are not obtained.

This says it is all about politics, and not justice.

Posted by pavoter1946 | Report as abusive

Why do we need to try him as an “enemy combatant”? I don’t get the reasoning behind this AT ALL. We tried Timothy McVeigh and he got sentenced. It isn’t like there isn’t enough evidence out there to convict him. He’s gonna get at least life if found guilty. C’mon…where’s the need?

I get the “enemy combatant” in a warzone, where evidence might be obliterated or things are confusing, or extra-nationals are waging a separate action in theater or something. Boston isn’t a warzone, it’s a city. Yes the acts are heinous, no question, but are serial killers any less heinous? We try them with the regular laws all the time. They get punished.

Honestly, the whole idea of using these arcane and frankly unconstitutional means when the normal laws will serve perfectly well is beyond me.

Posted by LAN8 | Report as abusive

I’m not even gonna read this drivel because the premise itself is flawed. They committed a crime in an American jurisdiction, they will be prosecuted in that jurisdiction (well, not they since one is dead and the other probably soon to be). Whoever speaks otherwise is just not someone worth trusting or listening too. The 20th 9/11 guy was tried in NY Superior court, the Oklahoma City guys and even the 93 Trade Center bombers were all held accountable in civilian court. Wanting to ‘disappear’ the surviving bomber in this case is really even more despicable than the act itself.

Posted by CDN_Rebel | Report as abusive

It seems to me from outside the US that they will be prosecuted under your federal laws, and as such may receive the death penalty. However civilised Boston was the target of this and they do not have the death penalty. Also who is asking the victims whether they wouldn’t want the guy to rot in jail and finally grow up enough to concede what he did was wrong and to have feelings for the victims and show remorse?? Ironically he seems to have achieved what was wanted up to a point. Clearly the thing was instigated by the trip his brother made to Dagestan in the last couple of years, when people started noticing changed behavior, and neither have ever been to Chechnya. They have been coaxed into a cause that has nothing to do with their life in America, or in fact, nothing to do with the US at all! But they have succeeded in overturning the civilised approach of Bostonians to the death penalty and other issues such as rights.
Obama is a lawyer, and so I guess he naturally proceeds with caution in overturning laws, or modifying them.
The problem seems to be the different ways that the law is implemented in the different states.
In Australia thankfully we have no death penalty, and the states necessarily concur. That is straightforward, until something like terrorism comes along.
Do you not get rid of mass murderers, including national ones such as Hitler or Pol Pot, but let them rot in jail at taxpayers expense? And terrorists who kill thousands of innocent people, can they be rehabilitated in a jail? And if you do decide on the death penalty for these types, where is the line drawn, is 5 people mass murder or terrorism, killing 10 is, or is intent to kill as in this case, but only killing 3??
These are not questions that is seems to me have instant answers. It may be simpler if less satisfactory in some cases to let them rot in jail. At some point I would probably apply a “human” test. That is, could Pol Pot be considered human any longer? What about your common garden variety serial killer who gets rid of 30 people? I don’t think there is much point in keeping them alive.
But this one is a young teenager who has been led along by his brother who has in turn been brainwashed. Let him rot in jail with his guilt.

Posted by cc_ctc | Report as abusive

The issue about so-called “law” and “rights” has to do with the source of the authority of the powerful.

The US establishment wears the term “law” like a fig leaf over a rather forceful unpleasant truth. In effect, the only restraint on Government is itself. If it constantly grants itself, and its most powerful private backers, “exceptions” to the rule of law, then law is only a set of guidelines for the weak rather than socially global principle. Almost all Governments are like this to one extent or another.

We have declined into a situation where we “pretend” to “obey the law” as a protection from consequence. Thus, law has no more legitimate hold on anyone than a drug gang with guns. Do as you are told or be punished. It is always very dangerous to disagree with authority, and is even more so when self-restraint on the part of Government is clearly only cosmetic.

Posted by usagadfly | Report as abusive

Freedom to smoke? Was that protected under the constitution?

Posted by Crash866 | Report as abusive

Lets see they placed bombs in a US street with the intention of killing and injuring as many American as possible. What do you think?

Posted by Crash866 | Report as abusive

“Wanting to ‘disappear’ the surviving bomber in this case is really even more despicable than the act itself.”

Really…explain. Also if they wanted to charge any of the others you mentioned as an enemy combantant they could have. They chose not too and tried them in civilian court. As they will more than likely do in this case.

Posted by Crash866 | Report as abusive