WASHINGTON -- House Homeland Security Chairman Michael McCaul (R-Texas) said Friday the "rush" to read Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev his Miranda Rights cost the U.S. government valuable intelligence. He suggested changing the law so American citizens accused of terrorist activity can be questioned for at least 48 hours.
"Having been a federal prosecutor, I think this rush to Mirandize cost us valuable intelligence in terms of other plots that may be out there," McCaul told reporters on Capitol Hill. "Remember that before he's Mirandized, he does discuss the fact that he's going to Times Square to detonate these other IEDs that were found in his older brother's apartment.
"The only other avenue we had to get this intelligence is through this emergency exception to the Miranda warnings," McCaul added. "But in my judgment, the FBI was cut short in their interrogations when the magistrate judge decided to Mirandize him within 16 hours, particularly given this condition of health that the defendant [is] in, and so I think that cost us dearly in terms of valuable intelligence."
Tsarnaev, 19, a U.S. citizen of Chechan descent, was read his Miranda rights at his hospital bedside on Monday. The Justice Department had initially invoked the law's public safety exception after Dzhokhar was captured on April 19. Authorities said Tsarnaev confessed to his involvement in the Boston bombings during the 16-hour interrogation period before he was Mirandized. Once he was read his rights, Dzhokhar stopped talking, authorities said.
McCaul said the FBI's criminal complaint against Dzhokhar should have been delayed. He criticized U.S. officials for so quickly accepting the suspect's statement that he and his brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, acted alone -- especially since authorities disclosed the two planned to set off the rest of their explosives in New York's Times Square.
"I don't understand the narrative to immediately say there's no foreign connection and it's just a homegrown, isolated two kids throwing bombs, when the fact is it could be a wider net here and a wider conspiracy and could lead to overseas," McCaul said.
He raised the issue of changing the Miranda law to explicitly define the time period for a public safety exception. There is no precise limit on how long a suspect can be interrogated before receiving his or her rights. McCaul suggested that time frame should be defined to at least 48 hours.
Some of these issues might be raised during hearings McCaul plans before the House Committee on Homeland Security. He said he also wants to address how U.S. authorities monitor websites pertaining to "radical Islam."
"We need to monitor these websites a little more closely and see who's on these websites, because that's clearly the first step toward radicalization," McCaul said. "At what point do you cross a line toward advocating violence in the United States, and that's a legal question I'll have in these hearings."
Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the older brother killed in a shootout with police, shifted toward more radical beliefs in recent years. His beliefs have been a focus of the hunt for a motive in the attack. McCaul suggested the brothers' mother, Zubeidat Tsarnaev, may have "had a role in his radicalization process in terms of her influence over him, with this more fundamentalist and radical view of Islam."
McCaul called for more questioning of Katherine Russell, Tamerlan Tsarnaev's wife, who has said she knew nothing about her husband's plans or activities.
"Remember, she's living in this apartment where he's got all these bombs. What does she know?" McCaul said. "That's a common sense question to ask."
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