In Boston, The Search For Answers Begins

Apr 20, 2013
Originally published on April 20, 2013 12:57 pm
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And following the capture, President Obama spoke at the White House. He praised the people of Boston, and thanked law-enforcement agencies for their work. And then he posed key questions that need, now, to be answered.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Why did young men who grew up and studied here, as part of our communities and our country, resort to such violence? How did they plan and carry out these attacks, and did they receive any help? The families of those killed so senselessly, deserve answers. The wounded, some of whom now have to learn how to stand and walk and live again, deserve answers.

SIMON: Joining us now is NPR's Tom Gjelten. Tom, thanks very much for being with us.

TOM GJELTEN, BYLINE: You bet, Scott.

SIMON: Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, as we know, is in the hospital. How do they intend to get him to talk?

GJELTEN: Well, first, he has to recover. He was in no shape last night to answer any questions. But as soon as he can, he will be interrogated. You know, the big issue here, Scott, is his so-called Miranda rights; that he can remain silent, that anything he says can be held against him, that he has the right to a lawyer. And normally, he'd have to be informed of those rights right way. But there is what's called a public-safety exception. Police facing situations that create a danger to themselves, or others, may ask questions designed to neutralize that threat without giving that warning first. That's from the Supreme Court's ruling.

And our Justice Department correspondent, Carrie Johnson, has confirmed the administration will invoke that exception in order to question Dzhokhar about other, potential bombs or accomplices, and gain critical intelligence.

SIMON: But I wonder - on the one hand, you have local authorities who are saying there's no danger to the populace. How can you, then - how can the federal government, in the other direction, say, but we can't have him invoke Miranda rights...

GJELTEN: ...because there are other, potential bombs.

SIMON: Exactly.

GJELTEN: It's an interesting question. The only way to square it is, that declaration of safety was very limited; that the threat raised by the Tsarnaev brothers had been taken care of. More broadly, it's hard to see how they can make that assurance. They don't know, for sure, whether there might be some kind of terrorist network behind these guys.

SIMON: If the bombings wind up being treated as a case of terrorism, legally, what kind of issues get raised?

GJELTEN: This is the issue we've been fighting since 9/11. What's the difference between crime and terrorism? You know, Republican senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham last night put out a statement. They think Dzhokhar Tsarnaev should be held and tried as an enemy combatant, not as a normal defendant. But the Obama administration has already signaled it does not intend to follow that route. U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz last night said the U.S. will file formal charges against Tsarnaev. That means he'll be tried in a civilian court under civilian rules.

SIMON: And does that possibility present any kind of limitation to intelligence gathering?

GJELTEN: Conceivably. Now, intelligence gathering and prosecution normally would be on two tracks, especially to the extent that intelligence around a case like this is gathered overseas. It's really quite separate from the prosecution. Domestically, it possibly could be more challenging and, of course, Dzhokhar can't be forced to provide information against his will. Even if it would be useful for intelligence, he can't be tortured.

SIMON: Yeah. NPR's Tom Gjelten, thanks very much for being with us.

GJELTEN: You bet. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.