The alleged Boston bomber is talking. So far, both what he’s saying and the fact he’s saying it underscore that the government made the right decision in charging him as a criminal in a U.S. federal court, rather than designating him an “enemy combatant” in military custody.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has been charged with using weapons of mass destruction, a charge that could land him the death penalty. He’s reportedly told investigators that he and his brother acted on their own, without any instructions from al Qaeda, and that the attack was motivated by a desire to “defend Islam.”

The strength of the evidence (he was caught on video laying his backpack down at the site of the bombing) and the severity of the potential penalty haven’t stopped critics of the Obama administration from claiming he should have been designated and detained as an enemy combatant, though. That’s because according to Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) the United States is engaged in a war that reaches from the highlands of Afghanistan to the streets of downtown Boston. Therefore we ought to be treating our self-proclaimed enemies accordingly.

Even if one could concoct a legal justification for treating Tsarnaev as an “enemy combatant,” as Graham and others insist is proper, as a practical matter it is a terrible idea.

There is no evidence so far suggesting Tsarnaev and his brother were working with al Qaeda, the Taliban or any of the “associated forces” that Washington says we’re at war with. So there’s no legal basis for treating him as an enemy combatant. That status is reserved for members of armed groups with which we’re actually at war. Proclaiming oneself at war with the United States based on some twisted ideology and imagined battleground doesn’t legally qualify.