Sen. Levin considers new hearings after Boston attack

The issue of enemy combatants and military detention has sparked a new political fight in the wake of the Boston attack, with Republicans calling for the Obama administration to hold 19-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev as an enemy combatant.

Levin has disagreed with that approach, saying that Tsarnaev should not be held in military custody because he has no connection with al Qaeda or its associated forces.

The White House said Monday that Tsarnaev would not be treated as an enemy combatant, and he was read his Miranda rights Monday afternoon.

Republican foreign policy hawks have warned that keeping Tsarnaev in the federal system risks losing intelligence from him because he is entitled to a lawyer, while Democrats say that federal investigators are as effective at gathering intelligence to break up terror plots.

The U.S. policy for prosecuting terrorists who attack on U.S. soil is muddied due to several conflicting court opinions — and many Democrats and Republicans disagree on what the current laws say about the military detention of U.S. citizens.

There was a contentious fight in 2011 when Republicans tried to clarify the scope of who could be detained as an enemy combatant in the defense authorization bill.

In that fight, Levin joined Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) against the White House to defend the law.

The legislation included a watered-down compromise — which said that the legislation did not change terrorism policy with regards to U.S. citizens — leaving the issue still unresolved.

Levin said that detention policy is just one of a number of difficult questions he is looking at when it comes to the AUMF.

Another issue he noted is simply how long the current authorization lasts because there is no distinct end to the war on terror.

“With traditional wars, the wars end, a peace treaty or truce is signed, and then prisoners are released. But we can’t release some of these guys,” he said.