Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said Tuesday that Boston bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's "ties to radical Islamic thought" and his Chechen heritage should justify holding Tsarnaev, an American citizen captured on U.S. soil, as an enemy combatant.
"Here's what we're suggesting, that the surviving suspect -- due to the ties that these two have to radical Islamic thought and the ties to Chechnya, one of most radical countries in the world -- that the president declare preliminarily that the evidence suggests that this man should be treated as an enemy combatant," Graham said on the Senate floor.
"We could hold him for a period of time, we could question him without a lawyer, and none of the evidence could be used against him in the criminal proceeding," Graham said. "But that's the best way to gather intelligence."
The Obama administration has already Mirandized Tsarnaev and will put him on trial in federal court. Graham agreed that he would have to be tried in civilian court, but said the president had the ability to hold Tsarnaev as an enemy combatant to see if he had any useful intelligence.
The Supreme Court has never ruled on whether the Constitution would allow the government to hold a U.S. citizen arrested on American soil as an enemy combatant. Under the law, Tsarnaev could only be theoretically held as an enemy combatant if there were evidence showing he was part of Al Qaeda, the Taliban or one of their affiliates. Graham previously "acknowledged that if no evidence were to emerge linking Mr. Tsarnaev to Al Qaeda, then he should not continue to be held as an enemy combatant," according to The New York Times.
Graham said Tuesday that the U.S. had "gathered so much good intelligence from enemy combatants at Guantanamo Bay," but stopped short of suggesting Tsarnaev be sent there. "You won't send him to Guantanamo Bay, but during the last decade, we've exploited intelligence from enemy combatants, people who've joined the other side, and it's helped us figure out how to defend ourselves and find bin Laden," he said.