How bad are things when former Rep. Jane Harman is sounding like the voice of reason when it comes to our treatment of terrorism suspects? From this week's Fox News Sunday, she and Bloody Bill Kristol sparred over whether the suspect in the Boston Marathon bombing should be treated as an enemy combatant or read his rights and tried in civilian court.
April 21, 2013

How bad are things when former Rep. Jane Harman is sounding like the voice of reason when it comes to our treatment of terrorism suspects? From this week's Fox News Sunday, she and Bloody Bill Kristol sparred over whether the suspect in the Boston Marathon bombing should be treated as an enemy combatant or read his rights and tried in civilian court.

I'm not sure what good Kristol thinks it's going to do to try to interrogate someone who apparently has been shot in the throat and can't communicate right now if they wanted to, but the right does seem to love stomping all over our Constitutional rights (unless it's guns, of course) at every given opportunity.

Steve Benen made some of the same points as Harman during her back and forth with Kristol in a post he wrote yesterday which described what a dangerous game these Republicans are playing: The legal process ahead for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev:

The broader question -- I'm reluctant to call it a "debate" since the path seems so obvious -- is what happens after that. Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) have some thoughts on the matter.

Two powerful GOP senators are calling on the Obama administration to treat the captured suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings as an "enemy combatant" and deny him counsel even though he is reportedly an American citizen. [...]

Regardless his citizenship status, McCain and Graham say Dzhokhar Tsarnaev gave up his rights to a criminal trial when he allegedly participated in the bombings.

"Under the Law of War we can hold this suspect as a potential enemy combatant not entitled to Miranda warnings or the appointment of counsel," McCain and Graham said.

McCain and Graham are playing a dangerous game here. In case anyone's forgotten, we're talking about an American citizen, captured on American soil, accused of committing a crime in America. These Republican senators are arguing, in effect, that none of this matters anymore.

The same week in which Senate Republicans insisted that the Second Amendment is sacrosanct, McCain and Graham are arguing that the Fourth Amendment is a nicety that the nation must no longer take seriously.

By all accounts, the Obama administration is prepared to ignore the senators' suggestion. [...]

That's encouraging. Even for those on the right who are indifferent to civil liberties, the fact remains that civilian trials for terrorist suspects have proven to be an effective method of trying, convicting, and sentencing criminals, including accused terrorists. Military commissions, meanwhile, have proven to be an ineffective method.

When it comes to national security, foreign policy, and counter-terrorism, McCain and Graham have a track record of being remarkably wrong with incredible consistency. The more the Obama administration ignores their advice, the better.

Double that for Bill Kristol. And note to Chris Wallace in regard to the clip above, please quit calling the United States "the homeland." It's creeping me out.

Transcript via Fox below the fold.

WALLACE: But we also have to protect our homeland, Bill, and the question becomes, is there an intelligence connection? Or are there other people involved? Do we have enemies planning other plots? So, how do you balance, on the one hand, constitutional protection, he is an American citizen with the need to get all the intelligence out of this guy you can?

KRISTOL: Well, are we at war with a global jihadist threat or not? And Senator Feinstein's law enforcement model is working just fine. That was a very good debate between Congressman King and Senator Feinstein. One has the law enforcement model that's working well. The FBI is doing a good job, we captured these people. They killed another policeman, of course, but that's what happens sometimes. But everything is fine. And, you know, we'll see what happens with these foreign connections. But let's not obsess about that.

The other model is the guy spent six months abroad just a year ago. If you don't use enemy combatant for him, when are we going to use it? Don't we at least want to know more about what connections he has with very well-established jihadist groups, Al Qaeda connected jihadist groups in the Caucasus, in Dagestan and elsewhere down there. I bet we will know - and we'll see. We'll look at his emails, we'll look at his phone records, but it would be good to actually, Bill, to interrogate him in case there are other people that ...


WALLACE: -- you look like you're coming out of your seat.

HARMAN: I am coming out of my chair. I just don't think that's how the model works. These high value interrogation teams are going to get a lot of information. And there's an intel piece to those teams. And that 48-hour thing is not an absolute fixed time period. And, oh, by the way, even in military commissions, which have not secured any convictions, really, against anyone since 9/11, there is a right to counsel, and there are procedures too, all of which keep getting tested and tested and don't work.

WALLACE: Enemy combatants have nothing to do with military commissions.

HARMAN: But Bill ...

KRISTOL: You treat him as an enemy combatant, which means you cannot use what he says to convict him. Do we need a single thing he says to convict him? No.

HARMAN: Probably not.

KRISTOL: Exactly, so why not interrogate him for a week?

HARMAN: But not convict him, then why we need the federal ...

KRISTOL: No, that's not convict him. Let's find out ...

HARMAN: The military commissions don't work.

KRISTOL: I'm not supporting military commissions. I am for treating him as an enemy combatant, which is a totally different thing. If you are happy that we have enough interrogations, nothing can be learned from interrogating him, just going by to the ...

HARMAN: I think something can be learned. Of course we can. Being, I think we'll learn it under the federal process, and we'll also prove to the world that we apply the rule of law to everyone, especially American citizens.

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