Surviving Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzokhar Tsarnaev was formally charged with two crimes in connection with last week's terrorist attacks that left three people dead and more than 180 injured. If convicted, Tsarnaev could face the death penalty.
According to the Justice Department, Tsarnaev was arraigned in his hospital room on one count of using and conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction resulting in death and one count of malicious destruction of property by means of an explosive device resulting in death.
The charges come as no surprise, but the timing is a bit odd, according to Andrew C. McCarthy, the lead U.S. prosecutor in the case against Omar Abdel Rahman and his collaborators in connection with the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center.
"It would have been good to keep him out of the criminal justice system for as long as they could have," McCarthy told WND. "There was no question he was going into the civilian criminal justice system. I would have held him out for as long as it took to get effective intelligence, an effective interrogation of him. I have no way of knowing what information they actually got from him. I wouldn't have been in a rush to bring him into the system, but I don't think there was any question that he was going to be in the system."
McCarthy also rejected calls for Tsarnaev to be quickly labeled as an enemy combatant. He says it's not a clear case, given the definition of that term dictated by Congress in the wake of 9/11. But McCarthy is puzzled by all of the hand-wringing over whether Tsarnaev was read his Miranda rights, something he assumes happened at Monday's arraignment so long as the accused was lucid enough to understand those rights.
"I think the people in the public debate are a lot more concerned about Miranda in this instance than I am," McCarthy said. "I really don't think that they need a statement for him, and as (former) Attorney General (Michael) Mukasey has pointed out publicly, if they wanted to question him they could question him for national security reasons whether he's got a lawyer or not."
McCarthy said the apparent mountain of evidence against Tsarnaev makes the Miranda debate even more inconsequential since prosecutors likely won't need his own statements to obtain a conviction. Nonetheless, he said government prosecutors will be very diligent in making sure they have the strongest possible case in such a high-profile matter.
Boston Mayor Thomas Menino has publicly declared that the plot does not extend any further than the Tsarnaev brothers. Other observers are convinced that radical elements in Chechnya are involved, and some insist the Saudi national questioned shortly after the bombing was highly involved. McCarthy urged everyone to let the course play out on this.
"All pronouncements about who's involved and who's not involved that are made within days of the event have almost always been wrong. People who have been through this kind of a process before know that you have to roll up your sleeves and start doing real, comprehensive investigative work. Remember, we didn't even know who these guys were. We didn't know their names until Friday," he said.
The Boston case is also reverberating in the immigration debate as well, with both sides claiming the details prove their side is right. Members of the Gang of Eight contend this story is proof that the system is broken and needs reform. Critics of the Senate bill argue that giving legal status to those who slipped in the country and may wish to harm us only makes us more vulnerable. So does McCarthy see one side having a much stronger argument than the other?
"Yeah, the people who think reform is crazy, who were right the day before yesterday and are right today. The Gang of Eight, it's kind of dizzying to listen to their argument because up until five minutes ago, it seems, they were saying the system is broken. Now, after this massacre that we had last week, they're saying the system worked this time and they have provisions in there to make sure it continues to work. I can't understand where there coming from, whether it works or it doesn't work," McCarthy said.
"What doesn't work about it is that we don't enforce the law. You don't need a comprehensive reform to do that. You can start enforcing the law. I know that's a radical idea, but maybe they want to try it," he said.
"The other thing that I think is clear is that before you even think about 12-20 million illegal aliens, as John Fonte from the Hudson Institute argues in an important new research paper, our patriotic assimilation system is broken even for legal aliens. That's obviously a problem that needs to be addressed before you start talking about increasing the legal alien population by 10 or 12 million people," McCarthy said.
The FBI is coming under scrutiny following reports that Russia tipped off the U.S. about Tsarnaev. The bureau did investigate the elder brother but closed the case after finding nothing overly alarming. McCarthy said some changes definitely need to be made on that front.
"We really need a major rethinking of the FBI's protocols that say we're not going to take any notice of the straight-line nexus between Islamic supremacist ideology and terrorism committed by Muslims, which is a terrible mistake. They basically take the position that unless you've gone from radical ideology to radical activity, they don't have any right to continue investigating you," he said.