Alex Witt   |  April 21, 2013

Lawmakers call suspect 'enemy combatant'

NBC's Peter Alexander reports from Washington, D.C., where some members of the Senate are calling for authorities to treat Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev as an enemy combatant.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> with the prime suspect still in serious condition, there's new political reaction about whether he should be treated as an enemy of the state .

>> this man, in my view, should be designated as potential enemy combatant and we should be allowed to question him for intelligence gathering purposes to find out about future attacks and terrorist organizations that may exist that he has knowledge of, and that evidence cannot be used against him in trial. that evidence is used to protect us as a nation.

>> let's go now to nbc news white house correspondent peter alexander . with a hello to you, peter, this has certainly been a hot button topic on the talk shows. so let's get to what the other side is saying and where is the white house position on this?

>> well, the white house is certainly -- specifically, the administration, has a policy position on this, which is that he will not be treated as an enemy combatant . they couldn't do that to an american citizen . i think it's the -- make sure i get it right, the national defense authorization act of 2012 that says a sudden can't be tried as an enemy combatant unless there are tangible links that connect them to enemy forces among them, al qaeda at this time. there is no evidence of that. the people who as you have heard just moments before say he should be at least at this time treated like an enemy combatant are those republicans, among them john mccain and lindsey graham . but there's others, they say basically he should be treated as an enemy combatant for now and then handed over to civilian authorities. the information we're learning about his inability to communicate right now throws a wrench into a lot of that. but on the other side, we heard today from the chairman of the intelligence committee of the house, mike rogers , and here is his perspective on why he should not be treated like an enemy combatant .

>> he's a citizen of the united states . i think that brings all of the protections of the u.s. constitution . under the public safety exception, however, i do believe that the fbi has a period of time to try to determine what threats are there today. we don't know if there's other devices. we don't know if there's other people. i think mirandizing him up front would be a horrible idea.

>> so there are really a series of questions there. first, should he be treated as a criminal -- excuse me, as a -- i want to make sure i get it right, as an enemy combatant . that question we know the answer to at this point. the administration says no. should he be treated as a standard criminal defendant ? that's the second question. that's issue of the miranda rights . to give you a better understanding on that, that's whether or not they should invoke this public safety exception that they are in the process of doing. but it doesn't help you very much if he can't communicate. while we'll make sure that this doesn't change the circumstances, it is expected that he would be mirandized as early as tomorrow.

>> and then that would go into civilian court. okay. peter alexander at the white house . thank you very much for ironing all that out for us.