The headline on this afternoon’s Drudge Report proclaims “Lawyer up!” – suggesting that the Dzhokhar A. Tsarnaev, the Boston Marathon bombing suspect, will be protected by American lawyers now that he has been charged as a criminal to be judged in American courts rather than as an enemy combatant. There is an emotional case to be made that the alleged bomber in custody should be tried as a wartime enemy so that he faces the harshest possible treatment. After all, what we know about Guantanamo suggests that just being there is punitive, and he deserves it. The harsher the better. Right?
Also, conservative Republicans like to defer to the military. So the idea of turning Tsarnaev over to the military to face questioning, a trial in a military court and punishment according to military rules is more appealing than handing him over to the ACLU or some other group of do-gooder, coddling lawyers.
But seriously, either we have the rule of law or we don’t. The terrorist suspect is a U.S. citizen who committed crimes in the United States. What other option does President Obama have in this case? We always rant when Obama calls an audible and ignores or adjusts the Constitution to his liking, so how can we expect him to ignore Tsarnaev’s citizenship or the bothersome applicable laws that the president is sworn to uphold? If we need new laws to deal with U.S. terrorists in the United States in the future, Congress should write them. This isn’t the last attack the United States will suffer at the hands of other Americans. Congress should decide what is needed to better deal with home-grown terrorists in the future, and Republicans should lead the charge if we need to strengthen our legal defenses.
And by the way, it suits me if Tsarnaev ends up spending the rest of his life in an American county jail or some state prison, rather than hermetically sealed in a tidy federal facility getting visits and care packages from the International Red Cross.