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“The evidence right now to me is ample and overwhelming to suggest that the attacks in Boston were inspired by radical jihadists and their ideology. I do not want to jeopardize any criminal defendants’ rights to a fair trial. The public defenders who will be assigned to this case should vigorously defend this young man — by doing so, you make us all safe,” Graham said.
He continued, “I asked questions that apply to what happened today. I have seen this coming for a very long time. I’ve taken the floor on multiple occasions ... to prepare our nation for this day. This day has finally arrived,” Graham said.
Graham’s office provided documents to demonstrate his interest in the subject, including an April 11 letter from the Department of Defense in response to questions from Graham about the use of enemy combatant designations.
Two response from the department’s acting general counsel are particularly on point about the possibility of using an enemy combatant designation on domestic soil. Acting General Counsel Robert S. Taylor says a U.S. citizen can be deemed an enemy combatant and, in fact, the existing authorization for use of military force could apply within the boundaries of the United States with respect to “the conflict against al-Qaeda, the Taliban and associated forces.”
During a lengthy conversation with reporters assembled Monday afternoon, Graham also opened the door to the need for new legislation to provide the FBI with new tools to keep track of individuals flagged by foreign governments, as was the case with older brother Tamerlan Tsarnaev. (He was killed in a shootout with police early on April 19.) Graham said the FBI told him the department did not hear back from the Russian government when agents tried to ask follow-up questions.
“I don’t want to live in a police state — no one does,” Graham said, while saying that the FBI should have the tools to track the websites, YouTube videos and other interactions of such individuals, while not going so far as to create problems for others, such as journalists, who may watch jihadi videos as part of the course of work.
Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin has been quick to criticize Graham’s campaign.
“I am not aware of any evidence so far that the Boston suspect is part of any organized group, let alone al Qaeda, the Taliban, or one of their affiliates — the only organizations whose members are subject to detention under the Authorization for Use of Military Force, as it has been consistently interpreted by all three branches of our government,” the Michigan Democrat said in a weekend statement.
“In the absence of such evidence I know of no legal basis for his detention as an enemy combatant,” Levin added. “To hold the suspect as an enemy combatant under these circumstances would be contrary to our laws and may even jeopardize our efforts to prosecute him for his crimes.”
Steven T. Dennis contributed to this report.