WASHINGON – Sen. Dan Coats, R-Ind., a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, joined George Stephanopoulos on ABC’s This Week on Sunday to discuss the April 15 Boston Marathon bombings and Friday’s arrest of suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.
Here are excerpts from the interview, which was broadcast Sunday morning.
Stephanopoulos: Senator, let me begin with you, on these immediate questions of whether or not the subject should be read his Miranda rights and treated as an enemy combatant?
Coats: I think we should stay with enemy combatant until we find out for sure whether or not there was a link to foreign terrorist organizations.
Stephanopoulos: Even though he is a citizen.
Coats: Even though he is a citizen, there have been exceptions to this before with the public safety issue on Miranda rights. But also, his travel back to his hometown, that was a Muslim area, could have been radicalized.
Stephanopoulos: That was his brother.
Coats: That was his brother, though, that’s correct. We’re talking about the two of them together, as to what happened and why it happened. And I think, we’ve got to keep that option open until we find out whether or not there was a connection to a terrorist organization.
Stephanopoulos: Do you have any information on his wounds?
Coats: Information we have is that there was a shot to the throat and it’s questionable as to when and whether he’ll be able to talk again. Doesn’t mean he can’t communicate, but right now he’s in a condition where we can’t get any information from him at all.
Stephanopoulos: Have you been able to develop any information that gives you a sense of when this radicalization occurred?
Coats: Well, that’s what’s being investigated right now and as thoroughly as possible, everything is being searched. All of the intelligence agencies are playing into this, along with the FBI, trying to find out whether there’s a connection. It’s a really important step that needs to be made. If there is a connection, whether there is or there isn’t, I think what has happened here is that a signal has been sent to those who want to harm Americans. It is that we’ll do everything that we can to prevent this from happening, and if you take on America, America is going to take you on. It’s not just the intelligence agencies and the law enforcement, and I commend the coordination that pulled this thing together. But, it’s Americans, the runners in the race ran to help the victims, Boston’s response was extraordinary, like New York post-9/11. The signal is don’t mess with us, or we’ll chase you to the ends of earth if we have to.
Stephanopoulos: Senator, you were talking about the effect on legislation. One of the suggestions from one of your colleagues, Senator Chuck Grassley from Iowa, is that we should put the immigration reform effort on hold until we know a lot more.
Coats: I agree with Senator Grassley.
Coats: You usually end up with bad policy if you do it in an emotional way or with an emotional reaction. We saw some things post-9/11 that were enacted, if we had more rational time to think this through, we would haven’t had some of the pushback on it. More importantly, immigration is an issue that has a dramatic economic effect on Americans. It has national security implications. I think stepping back a little bit and putting it on hold, we have a bigger issue on immigration in front of us and that’s our debt and deficit and it has to be solved. We have a broken immigration system that needs to be reformed. I’m afraid we’ll rush through some judgments related to immigration and how it’s processed.
Stephanopoulos: Last word?
Coats: Just push it back a month or two, let the emotions settle down. Let us do it in a rational way, make good judgments not based on the urgency of the moment. Congress has a way of rushing to judgments without thinking it through carefully. We’re talking months here, a few weeks, not years. It needs to be done.