"He will not be treated as an enemy combatant. We will prosecute this terrorist through our civilian system of justice," Carney told reporters at his daily briefing.
Carney pointed to the convictions and life sentences handed down in other high-profile terror cases like the so-called Times Square Bomber, Faisal Shahzad, and the so-called Underwear Bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab. "The system has repeatedly proved that it can successfully handle the threat that we continue to face," Carney said.
Carney said the decision fell to the Department of Justice and especially Attorney General Eric Holder, but stressed that “the whole national security team supports this decision.”
Tsarnaev is a a U.S. citizen of Chechen heritage.
Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina has led calls for the government to hold the suspect as an enemy combatant in order to question him unhindered. Graham and other lawmakers argue that failing to do so could hamper investigators' ability to detect and disrupt potential threats that Tsarnaev might know about.
But Carney said doing so would be illegal.