(BOSTON) — A federal magistrate judge has set off a firestorm of criticism for ending the interrogation of the surviving Boston Marathon bombing suspect before, lawmakers contend, law enforcement officials had concluded their initial interview.
On Monday morning, Magistrate Judge Marianne B. Bowler visited Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s hospital bedside to preside over his first court appearance, reading him his Miranda rights and informing him of his right to remain silent. That ended the suspect’s cooperation in questioning that the Department of Justice’s High-Value Interrogation Group had begun under a public safety exception to Miranda, when it can legally question a suspect without a lawyer present.
Tsarnaev, a naturalized U.S. citizen, had only just begun answering questions in writing.
“He stopped cooperating,” Rep. Mike Rogers, chairman of the House Intelligence committee, said Thursday. “The FBI will tell you, they don’t believe that they got the information, all the information that they would have liked about the public safety factor in the interrogation.”
Following a classified briefing Wednesday evening, Rogers, a former FBI special agent, sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder seeking an explanation into Bowler’s actions, which he suggested may have been “sua sponte” — of one’s own will – and not fully coordinated with law enforcement officials conducting the interrogation.
“We have to piece together, were there other people involved,” Rogers, R-Mich., told ABC News Thursday. “We were in an interview trying to develop that rapport with this individual so that they would tell us if there is a public safety concern here with other bombs and other individuals. Now we just won’t know.”
Rep. Pete King, who also sits on the Intelligence committee, pointed to a slate of questions the FBI was unable to ask, including whether there were additional co-conspirators, other explosives or whether there was any foreign connection or training.
“The interrogation ended, and yet my understanding is that the FBI wanted to continue doing it,” said King, R-N.Y. “This certainly was cut short and why it was done by the attorney general and why the FBI wasn’t notified about it in advance, why it wasn’t discussed, I just don’t have the answer.”
DOJ officials maintain that the surviving suspect’s silence has not impacted their ability to prosecute the suspect, and they contend nothing precludes the suspect from agreeing to take more questions in the future.
“Consistent with the Rules of Criminal Procedure, following the filing of the criminal complaint in this matter on Sunday, the Court, that evening, scheduled an initial appearance for Monday, which it then coordinated with the prosecutors, federal defender, court reporter, U.S. Marshal Service and the hospital,” DOJ spokesperson Dean Boyd said. “The Rules of Criminal Procedure require the Court to advise the defendant of his right to silence and his right to counsel during the Initial Appearance. The prosecutors and FBI agents in Boston were advised of the scheduled initial appearance in advance of its occurrence.”
King also criticized the FBI for not notifying New York officials until Wednesday night that the brothers had intended to continue their carnage in Times Square.
“If the ultimate target was to hit New York, New York should have been warned, should have been on notice and should have been ready to take whatever action they had to,” King said. “We have to find out why the FBI did not notify N.Y.C. immediately as soon as they heard that there was a possible attack against Times Square.”
“For us not to be told immediately, once there was even a hint of a threat against Times Square and against Manhattan, again we need a real explanation on this, what went wrong,” he continued. “I thought in a post-9/11 world, there would be instant communication, instant sharing of information.”
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