WASHINGTON – President Obama believes the civilian justice system can handle cases of domestic terrorism and supports the decision to try the Boston Marathon bombing suspect in federal court, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Monday.
“The effective use of the criminal justice system has resulted in the interrogation, conviction and detention of both U.S. citizens and noncitizens for acts of terrorism committed inside the United States and around the world,” Carney said. “The system has repeatedly proven that it can successfully handle the threat that we continue to face.”
He also noted that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev does not qualify for trial by military commission because he is a U.S. citizen. The 19-year-old immigrant from Russia became a citizen on Sept. 11, 2012.
The explanation came during Carney’s regular briefing, his first since Tsarnaev was arrested in connection with a Boston plot that resulted in the deaths of three people and the injury of nearly 180. An MIT police officer was later shot to death, allegedly by the two bombing suspects.
Carney made his comments as news broke that Tsarnaev was being charged with use of a weapon of mass destruction and malicious destruction of property resulting in death. Carney was unaware that Tsarnaev had been charged and did not know whether he had been informed of his rights to remain silent and to have a lawyer present.
Over the weekend, Republicans in Congress had suggested that Tsarnaev should be tried as an enemy combatant engaged in an act of war against the U.S. Among other things, the designation would allow him to be questioned without a lawyer.
But Carney said that would be illegal because of Tsarnaev’s status as a U.S. citizen. “Under U.S. law, United States citizens cannot be tried in military commissions,” he said.
Besides that, the president believes the federal court system has proved itself up to the task of handling terrorism cases, advisors said.
The Times Square bomber pleaded guilty and was sentenced to life in prison. The so-called underwear bomber was sentenced to life in prison. A Somali national associated with Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula is currently in the U.S. justice system.
“We have acquired valuable intelligence from him through the process that is allowed in this system,” Carney said. “So this is absolutely the right way to go and the appropriate way to go.”