People watch as SWAT team members search for 19-year-old bombing suspect Dzhokhar A. Tsarnaev on April 19, 2013 in Watertown, Mass. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)
BOSTON -- The arrest of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev ended the manhunt for the Boston
Marathon bombers, but it set in motion an equally intense phase of the
case that will begin with the grilling of the man who -- for now at least
-- is the only surviving suspect.
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An indication of the complex investigation ahead came Friday
night, when an Obama administration official told NBC News that Tsarnaev
would not be given a Miranda warning when he is physically able to be
interrogated after receiving medical treatment.
official said, the government will invoke a legal rule known as the
"public safety exception," which will enable investigators to question
Tsarnaev without first advising him of his right to remain silent and to
be afforded legal counsel.
The exemption can be invoked when information is needed to protect
public safety. In this instance, the government believes it's vital to
find out if Tsarnaev planted any other explosives before his capture or
whether others might have plotted with him to do so, said the official,
speaking on condition of anonymity.
Tsarnaev's older brother, Tamerlan, was killed in a shootout with
police early Friday, and it was not clear until late Friday that
authorities would be able to question their remaining prime suspect.
shortly before his capture around 8:45 p.m. ET, the wounded and
bleeding Tsarnaev exchanged gunfire with authorities in Watertown,
Mass., while sheltering in a plastic-wrapped pleasure boat.
Officers on the scene and the brass in the command center were both clearly elated by the outcome.
always want to take someone alive so we can find out what happened,"
Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis said at a media briefing an hour
later, "and we can hold them to justice."
High Value Detainee Interrogation Group
rule waiving the Miranda warning does not set a precise limit on how
long a suspect can be interrogated before being advised of his rights,
but it likely buys authorities no more than 48 hours.
During that time
Tsarnaev, 19, will be questioned by a federal government team called the
High Value Detainee Interrogation Group, consisting of officials of the
FBI, CIA and Defense Department. Though he will not have a lawyer
present, any statements he makes during the questioning will be
admissible in court.
Among the questions investigators are certain
to focus on is whether he and his brother had help in plotting or
carrying out the terrorist attack at the finish line of the marathon.
The dual blasts from pressure cookers packed with explosives and
shrapnel killed three people and injured 176.
That question took
on more urgency when police in New Bedford, Mass., south of Boston,
announced Friday evening that three people there had been taken into
custody as part of the bombing investigation.
In addition to
possible co-conspirators in the U.S., the interrogators also will want
to know whether the brothers, both ethnic Chechens, received any
assistance from overseas.
Travel records obtained by NBC New York
showed that Tamerlan Tsarnaev left the country for six months in 2012,
flying to Moscow on Jan. 12 and returning on July 17. Where he went and
what he did after his arrival in Russia could expand what so far has
been a domestic manhunt into a global one.
that the elder brother could have received terrorist training or
support abroad were heightened Friday, when an official familiar with
the matter told NBC News that a foreign government had expressed concern
in 2011 that Tamerlan Tsarnaev could have ties to terrorism. The
official said the FBI investigated, but found no such links and reported
the findings back to the foreign government.
Even if authorities
determine that the Tsarnaevs received support from an overseas terrorist
organization, the Obama administration official said the government
will not seek to declare him an enemy combatant and try him before a
military commission, as it has done with senior al Qaeda officials
captured overseas and imprisoned at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp.
Administration officials see that scenario as a non-starter, the
official said, particularly given the fact that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is an
American citizen, naturalized last September.
Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and John McCain of
Arizona issued a statement late Friday urging that the administration
hold Tsarnaev as an enemy combatant.
"It is absolutely vital the suspect be questioned for intelligence
gathering purposes. We need to know about any possible future attacks
which could take additional American lives," said the statement, posted on Graham's Facebook. "The least of our worries is a criminal trial which will likely be held years from now."
Mass of evidence
At the same time they are seeking to uncover the bombing suspects' motives and determine
whether they had a support network, investigators will continue to
collect and analyze vast amounts of forensic evidence from crime scenes
stretching across three cities.
In addition to processing evidence from the bombings, FBI technicians
will analyze hundreds of hours of video camera recordings from private
and public surveillance and traffic cameras as they attempt to trace the
brothers' movements - both after the attack and before it.
also will obtain and assess phone records, seeing who the brothers were
in contact with in the weeks and months leading up to the attacks.
when they have scrutinized every bit of data, and explored every lead,
will they turn over the mountain of evidence they have assembled to
prosecutors. It will be up to them to decide what charges the younger
Tsarnaev should face and whether to seek the federal death penalty in a
state where life in prison is the maximum sentence that can be imposed.
despite such a massive expenditure of time and technological know-how,
they may never answer the most haunting question surrounding the case,
as President Barack Obama noted.
"Why," he asked during a brief
statement on Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's arrest late Friday, "did young men who
grew up and studied here as part of our communities and country resort
to such violence?"