Terrorism

The Path From Citizenship

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Memo to Lindsay Graham and most everyone else: YOU ARE DUMB, AS EXPECTED.

Well, now that we've all spent the weekend happy they caught Dzhokar Tsarnaev, it's time to take a look at the sucky part about them catching Dzhokar Tsarnaev. Including the fact that I'm going to have to spend the next dozen paragraphs spelling Dzhokar Tsarnaev.

If Tsarnaev had died during capture, we'd have lost the opportunity to show that, even in the post-9/11 era, we can trust our judicial system to handle American citizens who commit acts of violence, regardless of their motivations. Since he was captured alive, instead of losing the opportunity, we'll probably just squander it.

Already, the right has called for Tsarnaev, who is a naturalized American citizen, to be treated as an enemy combatant and stripped of his due process rights. Already, the Obama administration has invoked a public safety exemption to the reading of the Miranda rights, that is, in terms of both its newness and its practice, barely legal.

The chief offender has been Senator LIndsay Graham, who took to Twitter shortly after the arrests to insist that Tsarnaev should be stripped of his rights as a citizen.

“If captured, I hope Administration will at least consider holding the Boston suspect as enemy combatant for intelligence gathering purposes... The last thing we may want to do is read Boston suspect Miranda Rights telling him to ‘remain silent.’”

The list of problems with these two tweets is endless, sad, and all too predictable. The right has spent a great deal of time demonizing Miranda rights as something criminals and terrorists don't deserve, and people believe them because they're stupid and don't know what Miranda rights are.

The Miranda court ruling does not actually grant rights to criminals. It just informs them of their rights under the Constitution. This is so the police can't take advantage of ignorant or stupid criminals who haven't passed a civics class. If criminals don't know they have the right to not incriminate themselves, then the police can get them to incriminate themselves.

Tsarnaev became a naturalized American citizen just seven months ago. My understanding is that part of the naturalization process involves a basic familiarity with the Constitution and Bill of Rights, something we don't actually require of our native citizens. Which means that Tsarnaev already knows he has the right to remain silent. Unlike Lindsay Graham, the Boston bomber doesn't need this explained to him.

A decade or so ago, we abandoned due process, rounded up a bunch of foreigners, tortured them in secret prisons, used the information gleaned from that torture to somehow invade at least one wrong country, then locked them all up in Cuba, including dozens we later found out were innocent but that we still imprison to this day.

Now, after all this, over 80 of them are on a hunger strike to protest the conditions at the prison and a new hardass prison camp commander (since replaced). You don't hear much about it from the news because of a mix of about 10% shame and 90% the normalization of the idea that everyone in Gitmo is an evil mass murderer, and they deserve whatever happens to them.

You haven't heard much about it here because, well, there's nothing even remotely funny about it. But it's the direct result of the attitudes and policies instituted by conservatives and moderate Democrats as part of the Great War on Terror. Attitudes and policies they want to continue with Tsarnaev, who, like him or not, is an American citizen.

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