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‘Disgraceful’ decision to end Boston suspect’s interrogation, GOP lawmaker says

Dzhokar Tsarnaev (CBS/NDN)

(CNN) — The decision to read Miranda rights to Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev in the midst of an interrogation was called “disgraceful” Sunday by a leading Republican, who took aim at U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder for not opposing the decision.

U.S. Rep. Peter King, R-New York, told CNN he “totally disagreed” with the decision of a magistrate judge to administer the rights during a hearing last Monday, more than two days after Tsarnaev was captured in Watertown, Massachusetts. On Saturday, Holder told CNN the move was “totally consistent” and appropriate.

“This was not required by American law,” King said. “The fact is the FBI was only 16 hours into an interrogation. They had already gotten some significant information, but much more was still not there. Who else was involved? What was his mother’s role? Did his father have any role? Where did the radicalization start? How did it start? Are there any other conspirators out there? Who was part of it? Who assisted him in any way?”

When he was first captured, Tsarnaev wasn’t immediately read his Miranda warnings, which advise criminal suspects of their constitutional rights of remaining silent, access to an attorney regardless of financial circumstances, and the warning that any statements can be used to aid their prosecution.

The government was able to delay the reading by using the “public safety” exception, which allows for limited questioning by law enforcement of a suspect to determine if there as imminent danger to the public of attack.

The weekend interrogation period from Saturday evening into Monday morning was 16 hours, but questioning was off and on because of the suspect’s medical condition, according to a government source.

Since being read his rights, which came the day after charges were formally filed against him, Tsarnaev has not answered “substantive” questions from investigators about his alleged operational role in the attack, sources have indicated.

King said the silence following the reading of the Miranda rights was a major problem.

“It is the matter of life and death. I don’t know of any case law which says that magistrate has a right to come in to a hospital room and stop an interrogation,” King said. “And I don’t know why the attorney general of the United States consented to that.”

When asked about the timing of the Miranda rights, Holder told CNN’s Brianna Keilar on Saturday night that the decision, made by the magistrate, was “totally consistent with the laws that we have.”

“We have a two-day period to question him under the ‘public safety’ exception. So I think everything was done appropriately, and we got good leads,” he said.

Holder has been asked to explain the decision to allow a magistrate judge into the hospital room by Rep. Mike Rogers, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.

“Specifically, I would like more information as to who determined that the proceedings would occur at that specific time and place while questioning was still ongoing,” Rogers wrote in a letter dated April 24.

On Sunday, another Republican, Sen. Dan Coats of Indiana, argued the public safety exception should have been prolonged to gather more information from the suspect.

“I was very surprised that they moved as quickly as they did,” Coats, a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, told CNN’s Candy Crowley on “State of the Union.” “We had, I think, legal reasons and follow-up investigative reasons to drag this out a little bit longer. We could have done that.”

CNN’s Bill Mears, Nunu Japaridze and Kevin Liptak contributed to this report.