Rep. Schiff defends reading Boston attack suspect Miranda rights

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) on Sunday defended the decision to read the Boston bombings suspect his Miranda rights, saying that there was no basis for law enforcement to continue questioning him under the public safety exemption.

Schiff, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, backed the administration against criticism from Republicans, who have argued the federal government lost valuable intelligence when lone surviving suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev stopped talking after he was read his Miranda rights.

Schiff said on CNN’s “State of the Union” that the FBI couldn’t keep holding him because there was no immediate threat to the public.

“The FBI always wants to interview as long as it possibly can, to find out what happened overseas, but the public safety exception only really goes toward protecting the public,” Schiff said. “Once they’ve got that,” he said, the exception can’t continue.

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Tsarnaev, 19, was read his Miranda rights by a magistrate judge from the hospital when he was charged, two days after he was taken into custody.

Tsarnaev and his older brother appeared to have carried out the Boston Marathon bombing on their own, but some, including House Intelligence Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), say that they might be part of something larger.

Sen. Dan Coats (R-Ind.), who appeared with Schiff on “State of the Union,” said he was “surprised” the Miranda process moved as quickly as it did.

Coats said that because he was wounded when he was apprehended, FBI interrogators had very little time to talk with Tsarnaev.

“The Attorney General should have sent a signal saying, 'We’re within our legal bounds of doing this with the public safety exemption,'” Coats said. “It would have been worth the effort to hold out a few more hours.”

A group of Republicans had argued that Tsarnaev should have been held as an “enemy combatant,” a designation under the law of war that would have denied him access to an attorney.

Democrats and the Obama administration said this was not a legal option because he was an American citizen and unconnected to al Qaeda or its associated forces.