No basis to believe laws of war apply to Tsarnaev

The Globe got it right, editorializing that the federal criminal justice system is the right and only forum for dealing with a suspect such as Dzhokhar Tsarnaev (“Federal and state courts can capably try Tsarnaev,” April 23). Senators Kelly Ayotte, Lindsey Graham, and John McCain, on the other hand, got it wrong (“Failure to call Tsarnaev enemy combatant hampers investigation,” Op-ed, May 1).

Military detention and interrogation in this case would be both unconstitutional and unnecessary.

There is no basis to believe that the laws of war apply to Tsarnaev. Treating him as a so-called enemy combatant, as the senators propose, would violate the Constitution’s most important criminal justice safeguards and unsettle long-established understandings about the military’s limited domestic role, and would undoubtedly be challenged in court.


It is also unnecessary because law enforcement has ample experience in interrogating terrorism suspects and building evidence that has resulted in more than 400 terrorism-related prosecutions in federal courts since 9/11.

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Trying suspects in federal court, with the constitutional protections they are due, including the right to counsel, is the most effective way of seeing justice done, as well as the only way that comports with our Constitution.

Carol Rose

Executive director

ACLU of Massachusetts


Michael German

Senior policy counsel

ACLU Washington

Legislative Office