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Republicans Urge Obama To Treat Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, Boston Suspect, As 'Enemy Combatant'

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Republican lawmakers issued a statement Saturday urging President Barack Obama to treat Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings, as an "enemy combatant."

Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) and Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) said Tsarnaev "clearly is a good candidate for enemy combatant status" in a statement posted to Graham's website.

"We do not want this suspect to remain silent," the lawmakers said in their statement.

After Tsarnaev was captured Friday night, the AP reported a Justice Department official said he would not be read his Miranda rights because the government is invoking a public safety exception. Graham, McCain, Ayotte and King praised that decision in their statement.

"A decision to not read Miranda rights to the suspect was sound and in our national security interests," the lawmakers said.

The term "enemy combatant" refers to those individuals that the U.S. believes it is able to hold under the laws of war until the war comes to an end, which could be a long time off in the case of the so-called "war on terror." After Obama took office, his Obama administration developed a new standard for holding detainees in Guantanamo Bay, which did not use the term "enemy combatant" but rather relied upon the Authorization for the Use of Military Force passed by Congress in September 2001.

Graham first suggested Tsarnaev be labeled an "enemy combatant" on Friday in a series of tweets.

"If the #Boston suspect has ties to overseas terror organizations he could be treasure trove of information," one tweet said.

"The last thing we may want to do is read Boston suspect Miranda Rights telling him to 'remain silent,'" said another.

He reiterated his point in a Facebook post Saturday morning.

"Now that the suspect is in custody, the last thing we should want is for him to remain silent. It is absolutely vital the suspect be questioned for intelligence gathering purposes," Graham wrote. "We need to know about any possible future attacks which could take additional American lives. The least of our worries is a criminal trial which will likely be held years from now."

These four Republicans aren't the only ones making this request. Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) also urged Obama to "do the right thing" by labeling the suspect an "enemy combatant."

"This is not an ordinary criminal case, and a brief interrogation under that exception is wholly insufficient. Our courts, including the Supreme Court, allow detaining and interrogating terrorism suspects as enemy combatants, regardless of citizenship, and there is no reason to not follow that precedent here," Chambliss said. "I urge this administration to do the right thing and deem this suspect as an enemy combatant so that we get as much intelligence as legally possible before the suspect is mirandized."

Read the lawmakers' full statement below:

The suspect, based upon his actions, clearly is a good candidate for enemy combatant status. We do not want this suspect to remain silent.

We are encouraged our High value detainee interrogation team (HIG) is now involved and working to gather intelligence about how these terrible acts were committed and possibility of future attacks.

A decision to not read Miranda rights to the suspect was sound and in our national security interests.

However, we have concerns that limiting this investigation to 48 hours and exclusively relying on the public safety exception to Miranda, could very well be a national security mistake. It could severely limit our ability to gather critical information about future attacks from this suspect.

We should be focused on gathering intelligence from this suspect right now that can help our nation understand how this attack occurred and what may follow in the future. That should be our focus, not a future domestic criminal trial that may take years to complete.

The public safety exception is a domestic criminal law doctrine that allows questioning of a criminal suspect without Miranda warnings for a limited time and purpose.

We hope the Obama Administration will consider the enemy combatant option because it is allowed by national security statutes and U.S. Supreme Court decisions.

We continue to face threats from radical Islamists in small cells and large groups throughout the world. They have, as their primary focus, killing as many Americans as possible, preferably within the United States. We must never lose sight of this fact and act appropriately within our laws and values.

This post has been updated to clarify the meaning of "enemy combatant."

Ryan J. Reilly contributed to this report.

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