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Surviving Bombing Suspect Could Face Death Penalty


On a Tuesday, this is MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. I'm David Greene.


And I'm Steve Inskeep. Good morning.

The surviving suspect in the Boston Marathon bombing is in no condition to say much, but federal investigators say they're still learning a lot about him.

GREENE: Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is being treated for possible gunshot wounds to the head, neck, legs and hand. This is why a federal magistrate came to his bedside to formally charge him yesterday.

INSKEEP: It's a bedside where federal investigators have already spent a lot of time over the last several days, and NPR counterterrorism correspondent Dina Temple-Raston has been trying to learn what those conversations have been about.

Hi, Dina.


INSKEEP: So how are they communicating? Because this guy is not well.

TEMPLE-RASTON: He's not well. They're mostly communicating through writing, and he's doing some nodding. He uttered, apparently, barely audibly, one word, which was no, when he was asked whether or not he could afford an attorney.

INSKEEP: Oh, that was during the charging with the magistrate.

TEMPLE-RASTON: This was the bedside scene, yes.

INSKEEP: But in addition to that formal court proceeding, federal investigators had been passing notes back and forth with him. And what, if anything, have they learned?

TEMPLE-RASTON: Well, on Sunday, they basically invoked the so-called public safety exception to the Miranda rights. In other words, they didn't Mirandize him - inform him of his rights, but...

INSKEEP: Didn't say you have a right to an attorney and...

TEMPLE-RASTON: ...or - and right to remain silent, and basically wanted to find out whether or not there were other bombs out there, other co-conspirators, and whether he and his brother worked alone. And once they had established that, they Mirandized him and read him his rights.

INSKEEP: And so they charged him in a civilian court, and I guess that answers another question for us, right? Because there was talk of labeling Tsarnaev an enemy combatant and maybe treating him in a military tribunal in some way.

TEMPLE-RASTON: Yes. That was very brief talk. I don't think they every really considered doing that. The Justice Department would much rather put these people in a civilian court and not add to the people who are down in Guantanamo.

INSKEEP: Although the brief discussion of labeling him an enemy combatant leads to another subject that has been a really broad and important question for years now, which is what we're going to discuss for the next several minutes.

GREENE: Yeah, we've been talking about it here, actually. I was at an event over the weekend in Illinois, and a woman said me what seems like a simple question: Was this incident in Boston an act of domestic terrorism, or international terrorism? And I, you know, I couldn't answer it, Dina. And I wonder - I mean, is - what is the distinction, and is it important, here?

TEMPLE-RASTON: Well, I think they're still trying to determine, in this case, what exactly it was. But what it seems to be is a little bit like the Fort Hood case. So this was a homegrown terrorism, with a sort of international flavor.

GREENE: Oh, interesting. That's an interesting way to put it.

INSKEEP: Because when we first heard about these guys being Chechens, we thought of people being driven from overseas. But when you say homegrown, you mean - why? Because they've lived in the U.S. a long time?

TEMPLE-RASTON: They've been here for a decade. And it appears that the older brother, Tamerlan, got increasingly devout over the last, sort of, couple of years, and began going on jihadi websites. This is all the stuff that they're trying to get from his brother now, to understand what the progression was.

International terrorism, the definition for - as a general matter, is we think of a group sending someone here to attack. And while they're still investigating it, it's still early days...

INSKEEP: Could be true. We could find out that was the case. But...

TEMPLE-RASTON: But the older brother spent a lot of time going back and forth to Russia. And the younger brother, the one who is in the hospital now, he never went back. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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