McCain Falsely Claims Authorities Can No Longer Question Boston Bombing Suspect

John McCain

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) claimed on Tuesday that the Obama administration, by making the decision to read Boston bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev his Miranda rights, threw away any chance to interrogate him and glean information about potential future plots, the Hill reports:


McCain, [Sen. Kelly] Ayotte [R-NH] and [Sen. Lindsey] Graham [R-SC] called for the living suspect to be treated as an enemy combatant and to allow law enforcement to interrogate him before he was Mirandized. They criticized the Obama administration for doing just that, but for only two days.

“Soon after questioning him this way, the administration quickly reversed itself and read the suspect his Miranda rights … They gave up the right to question him about future terrorist plots,” McCain said. “Does anyone truly believe that our national security personnel gathered all the intelligence they could from a suspect that couldn’t talk in just two days?”

McCain doesn’t understand how Mirandizing a suspect works.

The FBI did not read Tsarnaev his Miranda rights soon after his capture on Friday night, invoking the so-called “public safety exception.” A federal judge read the bombing suspect his rights on Monday, but that doesn’t mean the Obama administration gave up the right to ask Tsarnaev questions. The Constitution requires law enforcement to inform suspects of their right to remain silent and to have an attorney present during questioning, and to honor these rights during interrogations. If these rights are not honored, however, the sole consequence is that statements made by the suspect in violation of their Miranda rights cannot be used as evidence against them in a criminal trial. These statements can still be used for other purposes, such as gathering intelligence.

The FBI can ask Tsarnaev about future terror plots before and after he’s read his rights, and likewise, Tsarnaev can choose to tell or not tell the FBI about any plots. Reading him his rights has nothing to do with either of those decisions.