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Members of Congress swear an oath to defend the Constitution of the United States, but that doesn't mean they understand it. Over the past week, several Republican lawmakers have expressed outrage over the fact that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the surviving suspect in the Boston marathon bombings, was read his rights and reportedly stopped talking to interrogators. These GOPers have accused President Barack Obama of making a grave error by recognizing the constitutional rights of a suspected terrorist.
The Obama administration, however, didn't have a choice in the matter. Tsarnaev was read his rights by a magistrate judge during an initial appearance that was required by the federal rules of criminal procedure, which are rooted in the constitutional right to due process under the law. The Supreme Court has held that, barring exigent circumstances, a criminal suspect has to be brought before a judicial officer within 48 hours, give or take, at which point the suspect is informed of his rights no matter what.
The interrogation priorities of law enforcement officials don't count as exigent circumstances, because the point of the rule is to prevent secret detention and to inform suspects of the charges against them. The public safety exception to reading suspects their rights affects whether suspects' statements can be used in court. It does not affect the requirement that a suspect see a judge within 48 hours. These Republicans don't seem to understand that distinction.
Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) has gone a different route and argued that Tsarnaev should have been held in military detention as an "enemy combatant." But federal law specifically defines those who can be detained militarily as individuals who are play an operation role in foreign terrorist groups like Al Qaeda, and so far the evidence indicates the Tsarnaevs acted alone. It's also possible that holding an American citizen like Tsarnaev in military detention after apprehending him on US soil would be unconstitutional even if some tie to foreign terrorist organizations were discovered.
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is accused of doing horrible things. But he is an American citizen who is entitled to all the rights due him under the Constitution, none of which would mean anything if the government could pick and choose when they apply. Then they wouldn't be rights at all.