NBC Host and Legal Analyst Fret Over Boston Bomber Not Getting Mirandized

On Monday's NBC Today, co-host Savannah Guthrie and legal analyst Lisa Bloom worried about Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev not yet being read his Miranda rights after being taken into custody on Friday, with Guthrie arguing: "...officials are citing what's known as the public safety exception....As time passes, does the justification for that exception grow weaker? Are they on, I guess, less strong ground?" [Listen to the audio or watch the video after the jump]

Bloom proclaimed: "Well, it sure does, because as you know, Miranda rights are a bedrock constitutional principle....The public safety exception is a very narrow exception, there has to be an imminent threat to the public. As the clock keeps ticking, hours and days pass, it certainly seems less imminent."

After Guthrie suggested that law enforcement officials "kind of undercut that argument" by reassuring the public that the danger had passed, Bloom saw material for Tsarnaev's legal defense: "Well, this is certainly an argument that's going to be handed to this defendant's defense attorney when that time comes. That there have been these contradictory statements made, that there is no public threat, there is no ticking bomb, thank goodness, apparently, based on what we know so far. So we're giving them an argument to use later."

Guthrie then turned to the debate prompted by "some national security Republicans who say we should treat this suspect not as a criminal suspect, but as an enemy combatant..." Bloom dismissed the notion: "This is an American citizen captured on American soil, an American crime. I don't see him as an enemy combatant. I don't think the courts will either."

Guthrie replied by pointing out an exception to that rule: "The American citizen may be treated as an enemy combatant, but they would have to have some connection to Al Qaeda in order to meet that classification." Despite that connection being entirely possible, Bloom dismissed that suggestion as well: "And I don't see that here."

Considering authorities just start communicating with Tsarnaev, how could Bloom have possibly reached that conclusion?

While Bloom was apprehensive when it came to questioning a terror suspect, just weeks ago she appeared on CNN and argued that President George W. Bush should be tried for war crimes because of the Iraq War.


Here is a full transcript of Guthrie's April 22 discussion with Bloom:

7:31AM ET

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: We're going to begin this half hour with some of the legal issues surrounding the arrest of the surviving Boston bomber suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. Lisa Bloom is Today's legal analyst. Lisa, good morning to you.

LISA BLOOM: Good morning.

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Prosecuting the Suspected Bomber; What Are the Legal Questions Facing the Suspect?]

GUTHRIE: So we understand that he's responding, to the extend he can in writing, and that officials are citing what's known as the public safety exception so that they don't have to read him his Miranda rights right away. As time passes, does the justification for that exception grow weaker? Are they on, I guess, less strong ground?

BLOOM: Well, it sure does, because as you know, Miranda rights are a bedrock constitutional principle. We all have the right to remain silent, to get an attorney, and to be advised of those rights. The public safety exception is a very narrow exception, there has to be an imminent threat to the public. As the clock keeps ticking, hours and days pass, it certainly seems less imminent.

GUTHRIE: And don't officials who are going out there and saying, "The terror is over, we think they acted alone," don't they kind of undercut that argument, and does it really matter in the end?

BLOOM: Well, this is certainly an argument that's going to be handed to this defendant's defense attorney when that time comes. That there have been these contradictory statements made, that there is no public threat, there is no ticking bomb, thank goodness, apparently, based on what we know so far. So we're giving them an argument to use later.

GUTHRIE: But the issue is, even under this public safety exception, the questioning that's permitted without Miranda is very narrow in scope, correct?

BLOOM: Yes. It's about what the public threat is. It's not all of the basis and the background and the motive questions.

GUTHRIE: And that's what brings me to this issue that's percolating in Washington now. There are some national security Republicans who say we should treat this suspect not as a criminal suspect, but as an enemy combatant so there could be a more wide-ranging interview.

BLOOM: And enemy combatant, as the phrase implies, arose in times of war when we capture somebody on a battlefield. Well, as the nature of war has evolved, we're now in a war on terror, some are saying that that definition should be changed. But this is an American citizen captured on American soil, an American crime. I don't see him as an enemy combatant. I don't think the courts will either.

GUTHRIE: The American citizen may be treated as an enemy combatant, but they would have to have some connection to Al Qaeda in order to meet that classification.

BLOOM: Well, that's right. And I don't see that here. Do we want this to be a creative precedent-setting case, or do we want to treat him like the hundreds of other terrorists who've been successfully tried and convicted on American soil?

GUTHRIE: Our legal analyst Lisa Bloom, great to have you here. Thank you.

BLOOM: Thank you.

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC