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Treat Tsarnaev as an Enemy Combatant?

April 21, 2013

boston_bombing_suspects– The call for  “justice” – 
There’s a lot of folks that would like to see the man captured in the wake of the Boston bomber/terrorist attacks treated as an enemy combatant, not as a US citizen.

For the record, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev IS a US citizen. He hasn’t been one for long, but it’s late to shut that door, he is a citizen.

Whether we need to be admitting Muslims to the US who may or may not wish us harm and allowing them to become citizens is something folks could argue, but the simple fact is this guy IS a citizen. Yet some say the actions he took against our country should allow us to just say he isn’t, and treat him to a different procedure than we would a US citizen.

Precedents?
Please  recall we took no such action in the case of…

  • Tim McVeigh when he bombed a federal building
  • Unibomber (Ted Kaczinski) who committed domestic terrorism for decades
  • The DC snipers

All were domestic terrorists. All were US citizens. All were accorded the normal routine of the criminal justice system. McVeigh paid with his life, the others are still in prison.

If you don’t want to do it, you’re soft on terrorism?
Many clamoring to send Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to Gitmo point out that we should not be “soft” on this guy. I do understand their anger, but I’m not sure how a capital murder charge with the prospect of execution qualifies as “soft. Slower than I’d like, yes, but not soft.

Fix immigration policy if you want, but where Tsarnaev is concerned, the citizenship cow is already outta the gate. A US citizen should be tried as a US citizen.

Let’s all hold hands and look at the fairy rainbow
Actually my point is in no way motivated by an abstract feelgood “can’t we all just get along” attitude. I’m as interested in seeing justice in this instance as the next guy. BUT… if we try a shortcut and pretend his claim to due process evaporated when he placed the bomb, that could come back to haunt you.

Hypothetical: Result of treating him as if NOT a citizen
We all know of the DHS memo director Janet Napolitano defended naming a whole class of citizens “rightwing extremists” and thereby potential terrorists. It included people who oppose abortion, people that believe in a literal interpretation of the bible, many veterans, gun rights activists, people that oppose Obama. Look it up. It’s real.

Now, let’s say tomorrow President Obama or even his successor is unhappy that Congress didn’t pass certain gun regulations, and decides to do an ILLEGAL executive order that usurps the legislative powers and infringes on the 2nd amendment. Something like telling you this gun or that is now illegal and you must turn it in or be branded a criminal.

To make it interesting, he declares that those who do NOT comply are a danger to the nation and shall be treated as terrorists. Do you want to be on record as having given the federal government the power to decide they can unilaterally treat “terrorists” as if they are not US citizens at that point?

Conclusion
As always, good cases can be used to make very bad law. It is a simple fact that granting the government the power to just decide to deny citizens of their constitutionally guaranteed rights based on them being considered a “terrorist”  is power could be used in a VERY bad way.

There’s a saying in rural areas… Never remove a fence until you know why it’s there.

I'm Rob Jones... and I approve this message.

I’m Rob Jones… and I approve this message.

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. April 21, 2013 7:26 am

    I would go one further, Rob, and submit that you guys shouldn’t differentiate citizens and non-citizens when it comes to deciding whether or not to be fair or respect rights. That is also a slippery slope.
    Every person (citizen or not) should have the ability to defend themselves against their accusers in a fair trial with proper procedure. Gitmo is worse than the witch hunts. At least the “witches” had the opportunity to be heard at their predetermined “trials”.
    The bottom line is that all humans have certain rights, self defense being one of them. That doesn’t only apply to guns and the second amendment. It applies to accusations and a proper day in court to defend yourself against such accusations. That’s a basic right and it isn’t just for members of one country. It’s a basic right for all of us. (That is, if you believe in the idea that governments don’t grant us rights, but that we are born with them.)
    I get that there’s anger (and no shortage of it) for the people who do things like this. But if you condone the railroading of a person, then you lower yourself closer to the level of those you would punish AND you deserve to have the same come back to bite you later.
    Some freedoms are too important to be yielded in ANY circumstance. All too often, it will come back to haunt you later.
    Give this guy (and all future slime) his day in court, citizen or not. Crucify him in court with facts. Be sure that you got the right guy and got all of the perpetrators. And then walk away from the closed case, proud that you did the right thing, even in the face of overwhelming pressure and desire to do the wrong thing. We will all be better off for it.

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  2. April 21, 2013 8:14 am

    If some non-citizen crossed the border from a foreign country in the dead of night and planted bombs… I can see a case for treating them as an enemy combatant and giving them the same treatment we’d accord foreign troops that parachuted into DC with guns blazing. That’s not a criminal act, it is an an act of war.

    In the case of Tsaernov we have a different situation. An argument can be made that granting him citizenship might have been a poor choice, but there is zero legal grounds to argue that his actions allow us to simply pretend the bill of rights does not apply to him.

    How our government treats actual enemy combatants is an entirely separate subject, and open to argument. How the government is required to act with respect to US citizens is not. If you take an oath to uphold the constitution, then you are required by that oath to recognize that as a US citizen, the bill of rights applies to Tsarnov just as it does to other citizens.

    Using emotional argument to deny him the rights of a citizen hands the government a hammer that would most likely reappear later to nail the very people that argued loudest to hand it to them. There appears to be ample evidence he did the deed… so give him a fair trial and then hang him, but don’t skirt the justice system in the name of justice. Bad idea.

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    • zapzapzap permalink
      April 21, 2013 8:38 am

      Still a slippery slope, IMO.
      A person who would plant bombs is certainly an enemy and a combatant, regardless of what passport they hold.
      The United States is officially a battleground in the “war on terror” so the pretext is there.
      Leave that door open, and the government will use language to treat everyone how they wish, citizen or not.
      Just my 2 cents.

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  3. April 21, 2013 8:53 am

    RE: “The United States is officially a battleground in the “war on terror” so the pretext is there.”

    Clearly you must not have gotten the memo. We won the war on terror. Osama bin Laden is dead and Al Qaida is on the run. Didn’t you watch the DNC speeches last fall?

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  4. April 21, 2013 5:37 pm

    While I can partly understand where Zap is coming from, I disagree with the idea that an enemy is an enemy, regardless of their citizenship. I think a good case might be made that this kid is guilty of treason (there have been ample cases of prosecution for treason of people outside of government service).

    From my point of view, the Constitution either applies to US citizens or it doesn’t, plain and simple. I damned sure don’ care to trust my government’s “judgment” when any leeway is given. They play it loose enough as it is, without giving them license.

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  5. April 21, 2013 6:42 pm

    RE: ” I damned sure don’ care to trust my government’s “judgment” when any leeway is given.”

    I wouldn’t trust them to guard my fries while I went to the bathroom. The constitution is the law of the land, not a strong recommendation. Hence the reason we have them swear an oath.

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