Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) has called for NYC bombing suspect to be placed into indefinite military custody and classified as an “enemy combatant” instead of being held as a civilian criminal suspect. Graham claims that it is a matter of national security to determine whether NYC bomber Ahmad Khan Rahami was working alone or in conjunction with other terrorist organizations.
Classifying Rahami as an enemy combatant will waive his Miranda rights and revoke his right to remain silent. An enemy combatant can be questioned without a lawyer, a tactic that could speed up the interrogation process in time-sensitive situations. Graham explained his reasoning in a statement
“Holding Rahami as an enemy combatant to determine whether he has ties to terrorist groups, whether he was working for or funded by them, and whether there are co-conspirators, and then trying him in our civilian system for his terrorist acts is the best way to protect our country first, and then achieve justice,”
Graham has made similar requests in the past. He advocated for the Tsarnaev brothers to be classified as enemy combatants in 2013 after the Boston Marathon bombing. The brothers were not charged as enemy combatants.
Graham has faced intense backlash from the media for his statements. Many opponents of the suggested measure claim that it is unconstitutional to strip a citizen of their rights based on the context of their crime. In some cases, the classification would be accurate. If there was sufficient evidence that Rahami was an active member of al-Qaeda he could be held as an enemy combatant because the United States is currently in an armed conflict with the terrorist group. In order for someone to be held in wartime detention as an enemy combatant they must be part of the armed conflict.
Despite the caveat the Obama administration has decided that civilian law enforcement agencies will exclusively handle domestic terrorism matters. Rahami will be prosecuted before a civilian court, rather than a military commission, as suggest by Senator Graham.