The Obama administration delayed giving Dzhokhar Tsarnaev his Miranda warning, and that is the only defensible concession to the defendant, given the attacks he and his brother carried out. There is no reason to declare Tsarnaev an “enemy combatant,” and the White House was correct Monday to not do so.
Those making that demand include Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham. Their reluctance to use U.S. courts in terrorism cases is a symbolic mistake. It gives killers and would-be killers a special status they do not deserve, and makes U.S. courts seem incapable of justice.
The delay in giving Tsarnaev his Miranda warning theoretically enabled law enforcement to grill him about imminent threats, although Tsarnaev apparently has been unable to speak. Courts have upheld the delay, and in an abundance of caution it made sense in this case. As a practical matter, it also is not likely to cause a problem. There is enough evidence to convict independent of anything he says.
The push to label him an enemy combatant is political: Look tougher on terrorists. Massachusetts has no death penalty. That alone would move the case to federal court, where prosecutors can seek the death penalty. The feds also have more investigative resources.
It already is apparent that second-guessing aspects of the case could become political. The FBI confirms that in 2011 it questioned Tamerlan Tsarnaev — the older brother killed during a shootout — at the request of Russian officials. Tamerlan Tsarnaev had visited areas of Russia where Islamist violence is a problem. It will be important to investigate whether the FBI properly followed up. But no one should presume at this point that the FBI missed signs that Tamerlan Tsarnaev was a nascent terrorist.
The decision to release photos of the suspects last Thursday also could be second-guessed. Did that decision lead to the shootouts in which a campus police officer was killed and a transit officer was badly wounded? Perhaps, but the priority was catching the suspects, especially if they planned other attacks.
President Barack Obama yielded to pressure and allowed special tribunals for terror suspects held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The difficulty of providing security for trials in major American cities was one excuse. But we cannot let terrorists appear to frighten Americans away from pursuing justice.
Sen. Graham has suggested that Tsarnaev could be tried in civilian court and as an enemy combatant. Why complicate things and single him out? Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is a naturalized American citizen accused of terrorism on American soil that killed Americans. He should face justice in an American court on American soil.
Jac Wilder VerSteeg
for The Post Editorial Board