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Boston Bombings

Did the Wife Help?

Maybe a sales clerk who sold the pressure cooker left female DNA on what would become a Boston bomb. Or could Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s wife have been involved? Plus, the Canadian boxer connection.

When it received the bomb fragments from the attack on the Boston Marathon, the Terrorist Explosive Devices Analytical Center had processed more than 80,000 IEDs from the overseas war on terror.

Boston Marathon Congress,Boston Marathon Wife

Katherine Russell, right, wife of Boston Marathon bomber suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev, leaves the law office of DeLuca and Weizenbaum with Amato DeLuca, left, on April 29, 2013, in Providence, R.I. (Stew Milne/AP)

As they so often had with IED pieces recovered in Iraq and Afghanistan, the TEDAC technicians subjected the fragments from this domestic bombing to a series of forensic tests that included DNA.

The surprise, first reported by The Wall Street Journal, came when TEDAC discovered female DNA on a fragment of a device that supposedly had been assembled and planted by the Tsarnaev brothers and nobody else.


Giving Boston What It Deserves

In the past, other victims of tragedies never saw the money given on their behalf. That’s why The One Fund is such a good idea, say families of the victims of the worst mass murders in U.S. history.

In times of tragedy, the American people open their wallets and give generously to help those who are suffering the most—the victims and their families. In almost every instance, an established nonprofit then swoops in, sets itself up as the go-to trusted fund, and starts collecting those donations. And the public feels good, believing that the nonprofit will make sure these donations reach the victims.

Memorial on Boylston Street

A boy visits a makeshift memorial on Boylston Street on April 20, 2013, near the scene of Boston Marathon explosions. (Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty)

Sadly, the victims rarely see any of the multimillions of dollars raised. Unless a donor specifically says the money is for the victims, the nonprofits siphon off what they call “undesignated funds” for future disasters, overhead, and salaries, or they give it to other nonprofits for the “long-term needs of the community.”

But in Boston, for the first time ever, it’s different.


Is the FBI a Threat to NYC?

The feds allegedly failed to tell officials in New York that the Boston Marathon bombers meant to target Times Square, reports Christopher Dickey. The threat may have passed, but the tensions haven’t.

New York City was supposed to be the next big show for the Boston Marathon bombers, a sort of blood ballet in Times Square planned spontaneously by the two crazy guys from the Caucasus when they were on the run and out of luck like the hapless homicidal characters in some Quentin Tarantino movie.

Times Square

Policemen take position during a shift change in Times Square on April 25, 2013, in New York. (Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty)

That they’d put the Big Apple in their sights was no surprise for the New York City Police Department or New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. "When you catch a terrorist and look at a map in his or her pocket," Bloomberg has said for years, "it is always a map of New York."

What did surprise Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, according to well informed sources, was the delay of more than 48 hours from the time the Federal Bureau of Investigation first had this information confirmed to the time word reached responsible officials in Gotham. According to these same sources, not only was the NYPD kept out of the loop, so was the Joint Terrorism Task Force in New York, which includes NYPD detectives but is run by the FBI.

Ticking Time Bomb

Why Do People Become Terrorists?

Terrorism expert Bruce Hoffman unpacks what we know about how homegrown bombers get radicalized.

From the bombers of 9/11 to the Tsarnaev brothers, everyone asks the question: why? Why would these men kill? Why would these men aim for such destruction? We know there is no one path to radicalization.  The reasons why someone picks up a gun or blows themselves up are ineluctably personal, born variously of grievance and frustration; religious piety or the desire for systemic socio-economic change; irredentist conviction or commitment to revolution. And yet, though there is no universal terrorist personality, nor has a single, broadly applicable profile ever been produced, there are things we do know. Terrorists are generally motivated by a profound sense of (albeit, misguided) altruism; deep feelings of self-defense; and, if they are religiously observant or devout, an abiding, even unswerving, commitment to their faith and the conviction that their violence is not only theologically justified, but divinely commanded.

Richard Reid

Richard Reid, the so-called “shoe bomber,” who attempted to blow up an American Airlines flight en route from Paris to Miami in December 2001 was a career criminal who dropped out of high school and converted to Islam while in prison before he was recruited to al Qaeda. (AP)

All terrorists fundamentally see themselves as altruists: incontestably believing that they are serving a “good” cause designed to achieve a greater good for a wider constituency—whether real or imagined—which the terrorist and his organization or cell purport to represent.  Indeed, it is precisely this sense of self-righteous commitment and self-sacrifice that that draws people into terrorist groups. It all helps them justify the violence they commit. It gives them collective meaning. It gives them cumulative power. The terrorist virtually always sees himself as a reluctant warrior: cast perpetually on the defensive and forced to take up arms to protect himself and his community. They see themselves as driven by desperation——and lacking any viable alternative—to violence against a repressive state, a predatory rival ethnic or nationalist group, or an unresponsive international order.

Religion only serves as one more justification—particularly in the case of suicide terrorism. Theological arguments are invoked both by the organizations responsible for the attacks and by the communities from which the terrorists are recruited. In the case of Muslims, although the Quran forbids both suicide and the infliction of wanton violence, pronouncements have also been made by radical Muslim clerics, and in some instances have been promulgated as fatwas (Islamic religious edicts), affirming the legitimacy of violence in defense of defenseless peoples and to resist the invasion of Muslim lands.  Among the most prominent was the declaration by the Ayatollah Khomeini who once declared (in the context of the Shi’a interpretation of Islam) that he knew of no command “more binding to the Muslim than the command to sacrifice life and property to defend and bolster Islam.”  Radical Islamist terrorist movements have thus created a recruitment and support mechanism of compelling theological incentives that sustains their violent campaigns.


Jahar’s Community College Prison

The specialized federal prison has floor hockey games, continuing-ed classes, celebrity inmates like Raj Rajaratnam—and mental-health treatment.

As of Friday, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has a new home: the Federal Medical Center at Devens, a federal prison about 40 miles west of where he allegedly planted the bombs that killed three and injured hundreds, at the finish line of the Boston Marathon. The prison is for men requiring specialized or long-term medical or mental-health care.

Boston Marathon Explosions

This April 26, 2013, photo shows the entrance of the Devens Federal Medical Center in Devens, Massachusetts. (Elise Amendola/AP (Devens), via AP (inset))

If convicted (and depending on his health and the sentence), Tsarnaev could spend the rest of his days at Devens, or even await his execution there—so he may as well get comfortable.

A spokesman for the Federal Bureau of Prisons said there’s no special protocol at Devens for Tsarnaev at this time. The administrative-level facility can deal with inmates requiring minimum lockdown and all the way up to maximum security.

The Boston Bombing

Did the Terror List Fail?

Tamerlan Tsarnaev was on the list, but so are 700,000 other names. Daniel Klaidman on what the terror list can and can’t do.

It was meant as a post-9/11 reform. The TIDE terror list was established to be the federal government’s central repository for information about suspected or actual terrorists who could pose a threat to the United States. TIDE, an acronym for the clumsily named Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment, was part of a government overhaul to end the kind of bureaucratic stovepiping and communications failures that became evident after the attacks. At the time, there were as many as a dozen separate watch lists strewn across the government, many of which were not accessible to the very federal agencies charged with defending the country against terrorism. Consolidating the data into a master list, officials argued, would minimize the chances that potential terrorists could slip through the cracks.

Boston Marathon Photographer

Tamerlan Tsarnaev, center, and Dzhokhar A. Tsarnaev, second from left, are show at the site of the bombing at the Boston Marathon on April 15, 2013, approximately 10-20 minutes before the blast. (Bob Leonard/AP)

But the Boston Marathon case illustrates the limitations of terror watch lists in a democracy where keeping tabs on potential terrorists must be balanced against the civil liberties of citizens. Moreover, in some ways the establishment of the massive, unwieldy list has created other problems that work at cross purposes with its original objective.

Reuters has reported that Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the older of the two brothers implicated in last week’s bombings, had been listed in the TIDE system as far back as 2011. Initially, Russian authorities asked the FBI to look into him. They suspected he’d become a radicalized Islamist and feared he might turn to violence in Russia. But an FBI investigation, including interviews with Tamerlan and some of his relatives, turned up nothing to support the Russians’ claim. On multiple occasions after that, the FBI sought additional information from the Russians but never heard back. Absent more evidence, officials say, agents were barred from using more intrusive investigative techniques like wiretaps or undercover informants. Then, in August 2011, the FSB, Russia’s state security service, made a nearly identical request of the CIA, which ran its traps on Tamerlan but also came up empty. The brief episode prompted the agency to “nominate” Tamerlan for inclusion on the TIDE list. His inclusion in the database, which is overseen by the National Counter-Terrorism Center, is prompting questions about whether he should have been more prominent on the FBI’s radar screen—especially after returning from a six-month trip to his native Russia in 2012.

Marathon Bombing

Can Tamerlan Get a Muslim Burial?

In Cambridge, mosque leaders are divided about how to handle the final rites for the bombing suspect—or if Islam means disavowing him altogether.

Even Osama bin Laden was accorded the final rites prescribed by his avowed religion, courtesy of the U.S. government.


(L-R) Imam Talal Eid, Bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev, and Imam Subaib Webb. (Getty (2); AP (1))

“Traditional procedure for Islamic burial was followed,” Rear Adm. Charles Gaouertte emailed regarding the 50-minute ceremony aboard the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson that ended with burial at sea. “The deceased’s body was washed (ablution) then placed in a white sheet … A military officer read prepared religious remarks, which were translated into Arabic by a native speaker.”

So, it was surprising when NBC reported that one of Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s aunts said the Boston Marathon bombing suspect had been denied a traditional burial by a local mosque. One of Tamerlan’s uncles requested the rite for his nephew, only to be refused, she said.

His Idea

Did Tamerlan ‘Self-Radicalize’?

If the Tsarnaev brothers in fact trained themselves in terror, it would put them in an extremely rare breed of extremists. Al Qaeda expert Richard Barrett explains why.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev reportedly told interrogators from his hospital bed that he and his brother Tamerlan were driven to bomb the Boston Marathon by hardline Islamist views and anger over the United States wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. He also allegedly said they were self-trained and self-indoctrinated.

Tsarnaev Brothers

This photo provided by Bob Leonard shows (second from left) Tamerlan Tsarnaev, dubbed Suspect No. 1, and (third from left) Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, dubbed Suspect No. 2, at the Boston Marathon on April 15. (Bob Leonard/AP)

If that’s true, then the Tsarnaev brothers are part of a very small group of terrorists who have become radicalized to the point of violence solely through the Internet. In almost all recent terrorist cases, the perpetrator has had face-to-face contact with someone who has shared and encouraged his radical views before he took action. (It’s possible Tamerlan was that person for his brother, which would mean Dzhokhar fell into this category.)

In the 15 years that I have been dealing with terrorism, first with the British government and then with the United Nations, I can think of only four examples of individuals who committed or tried to commit a terrorist act without significant real-life contact with another extremist. Two of them were in the United Kingdom. Nicky Reilly tried to blow up a restaurant in May 2008, after being inspired by Islamist radicals in Pakistan, and Roshonara Choudhry attempted to murder a member of Parliament in May 2010 after listening to the online sermons of Anwar al-Awlaki, an imam and senior al Qaeda official who was killed by a U.S. drone strike in 2011. In the U.S., Nidal Hasan, charged with the murder or attempted murder of 45 people at Fort Hood in November 2009, was also an al-Awlaki fan and had contacted him by email. And in Norway, Anders Behring Breivik, who set off a bomb in Oslo before killing another 69 people in a shooting spree in July 2011, was inspired by a mishmash of right-wing, anti-Islam Internet postings which he cut and pasted into his own 1,500-page manifesto.


The ‘False Flag’ Crazies

All the reality-based evidence in the world wasn’t enough to suppress the flood of conspiracy theories about the Boston blasts, from Michelle Obama’s Saudi visit to a naked Tamerlan Tsarnaev. Professor Stephan Lewandowsky tells Lloyd Grove where it’s all coming from.

The night of the Boston Marathon bombing, Slate political reporter David Weigel posted an essay arguing that unlike other tragedies and major crimes that have fired the imaginations of conspiracymongers, this one boasted too much reality-based evidence, especially photographic and video evidence, to give much encouragement to nutballs and magical thinkers.


American flags fly in remembrance of victims of the bombings of the Boston Marathon at a roadblock at the end of Boylston Street manned by National Guardsmen on April 16. (Melanie Stetson Freeman/The Christian Science Monitor via Getty )

“Why the Conspiracy Theorists Will Have a Tough Time With Boston,” the piece was headlined. It advanced a host of compelling reasons—notably that too many hard facts and high-def images were widely available on the Internet, that social media would quickly debunk bogus rumors and bad info, and that politicians wouldn’t be able to exploit the carnage to their advantage—to explain why crazy-paranoid conspiracy scenarios would rapidly fizzle.

Weigel’s prediction was overly optimistic.

Radical Influence?

The Bombings’ Mystery Man

Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s mother, Zubeidat Tsarnaeva, tells Anna Nemtsova that Russian and U.S. investigators are asking her about Misha, the Armenian convert to Islam who influenced Tamerlan.

Misha. A new name has emerged in the Boston Marathon bombing case—one familiar to the family of the two young men accused of the atrocity and apparently of interest to the Russian and American security services as well. An uncle of the alleged bombers claims that Misha, an Armenian convert to Islam, had a huge influence on the elder brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev: “Somehow he just took his brain.” Under Misha’s influence, Tamerlan gave up boxing and music and withdrew into himself—classic signs of radicalization.

Russia Boston Suspects

Zubeidat Tsarnaeva, the mother of Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, is besieged by reporters as she walks with an unidentified man near her home in Makhachkala, Dagestan, on April 23. (Ilkham Katsuyev/AP)

Tamerlan Tsarnaev was killed last week in a shootout with police. His 19-year-old brother and alleged accomplice, Dzhokhar, lies in a Boston hospital with multiple bullet wounds. Misha’s whereabouts are unknown.

On Wednesday both Russian and American officials spent seven hours grilling Zubeidat Tsarnaeva, the alleged bombers’ mother, in the headquarters of the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) in Makhachkala, the capital of Dagestan.

Tsarnaev Photos

Why Wasn’t He Recognized?

Maybe the FBI can’t be blamed for letting Tamerlan Tsarnaev go after his 2011 interview. But why didn’t his interviewers identify him before his picture was released to the public?

As 8-year-old Martin Richard was laid to rest on Tuesday, the FBI seemed only right to insist it could not be fairly blamed for failing to prevent his death and the death of two other innocents who perished in the Boston Marathon bombing.

Police Converge Mass

An FBI agent goes door-to-door evacuating residents of Norfolk Street as investigators search for a suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings, in Cambridge, Massachusetts., April 19, 2013. (Michael Dwyer/AP)

The FBI did not ignore the vague inquiry from the Russian government about Tamerlan Tsarnaev. Agents duly interviewed him and ran his particulars through the available databases. They seem to have been correct in determining that he did not have any connections with organized terror groups.

But the very fact that the FBI had interviewed Tamerlan back in 2011 presents the possibility, however slight, that the death of another person who was buried Tuesday really might have been prevented.

Awfully Worded

The Terms of Terror

We tossed around a lot of words last week after the Boston Marathon bombing and the manhunt for the Tsarnaev brothers. But William Giraldi asks: what do we really mean by them?

Senseless. The president said it during his addresses to the nation; newscasters said it at the scene; people on the streets of Boston could be heard crying it into cell phones: a senseless act of terror. But the sadism on Boylston Street at the Boston Marathon was the opposite of senseless—in fact it made great swaths of sense to the two sadists who inflicted it upon us. It might appear senseless but that is appearance only, our bafflement before such barbarity. The terrorist is among the most sensible of killers because he comprehends the difference between correlation and causation: dismember civilians in a city of liberty and watch whole quadrants of that city shut down. This is where the terrorist parts paths with a mass shooter like Adam Lanza: he is no hair-trigger madman, no psychopath—madness and psychopathy would render him unknowing of his crimes. In his methodic preparations and clandestine deployments he knows precisely what carnage he aims to create.


The scene at Exeter and Boylston Streets after two explosions went off near the finish line of the 117th Boston Marathon on April 15, 2013. (Aaron Tang/The Boston Globe via Getty )

The word we mean is useless. The slaughter is useless, for everyone involved, including the terrorist, and this is what makes his sense, his sensibility, so fearsome. Here the terrorist is aligned with the tantrum-throwing toddler: he doesn’t seem able to learn from history, to understand that, whatever his socio-political grievance or fanatical religious gripe, dismembering people on a city street won’t ease those grievances, won’t actually earn him what he wants, and every terrorist wants something other and higher than the mere dissemination of terror or the inconvenience caused us by bag checks. Some terrorists might be anarchists but no terrorist is a genuine nihilist. His act remains all means—havoc and death—and no ends. It remains sheer uselessness and waste because nothing changes; he is no closer to whatever debauched vision of utopia dances in his mind. For as long as the terror lasts, we are all rapt. In his novel Slouching Towards Kalamazoo, Peter DeVries wrote, “There is nothing like calamity to make us forget our troubles.” But the calamity passes and we all eventually return to the normal—or to the post-9/11 “new normal”—to the anxiety of the quotidian. Except the dead and maimed and their families: they are altered irrevocably.

Evil. It has no measureable weight in the world and yet, like its opposite, love, we know it when we see it, when we feel it. The term remains a handy tag we stick on deeds which in our beguilement or cowardice we cannot or will not confront. As a noun, in our society of science and medicine so far from the rabid superstitions of ages past, it is mostly dead except on days such as the bombing in Boston. Commentators everywhere resorted to the word, and also to its twin, tragedy, although the Athenian innovators of tragedy had a very different, much loftier notion of what constituted the tragic: the reversal of fortune brought on by a concussion of the accidental and the ordained.  Aeschylus would not understand our daily, haphazard tossing around of the term whenever something unhappy occurs, and he’d probably wince at the widespread popular redundancy terrible tragedy.


Shocking Shoot-out Photos

For the first time, see images of the Tsarnaev brothers trading fire with Watertown police.

‘She Knew Nothing’

Raising the Bomber’s Daughter

Katherine ‘Katy’ Russell shocked her Rhode Island hometown when she returned from college in full Muslim gear with a husband and baby in tow. Lizzie Crocker visits the Christian community where Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s widow is left to raise their 3-year-old daughter alone.

Neighbors of Katherine Russell, the young wife of deceased Boston bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev, were mystified when the Christian-raised high school student returned home from college one day in full Muslim garb with a husband and baby in tow.

Katherine Russell

The wife of marathon bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev, Katherine Russell, is seen leaving the house where he lived in Cambridge on April 20, 2013, the day after Tsarnaev was killed in a shootout with police. (William Farrington/Polaris)

“She was always very nice, but she looked completely different when she came back from college,” Avery Gillette, 16, told The Daily Beast, standing on the corner of a quiet, cul-de-sac community in the suburban town of North Kingstown, Rhode Island, where Russell grew up.

Avery and her mother, Paula Gillette, said they didn’t know Russell very well but saw more of her when she was a promising student at North Kingstown High School. After she went away to college at Suffolk University in Massachusetts, she and Tsarnaev came home with their daughter only occasionally on weekends to visit her parents and two younger sisters, according to Paula. But the Gillettes said they hadn’t seen Katherine in recent months until Friday, when the FBI knocked on her parents’ door across the street.


Anatomy of a Bombing

The criminal complaint filed against Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is the fullest official description yet of how the marathon attacks unfolded. Here’s what we’ve learned from the new information.

Uncle: 'Turn Yourself In'

Adrenalized, impassioned, and unforgiving, an uncle of the Boston Marathon bombing suspects, Ruslan Tsarni, appealed to his fugitive nephew Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to surrender to authorities. 'He put a shame on our family' and 'the entire Chechen ethnicity,' said Tsarni.

FBI: Two Suspects In Boston Bombing

In a press briefing Thursday afternoon, the FBI announced two unidentified suspects in the Boston Marathon bombing, revealing pictures and video of the men and asking the public for help. "Identifying and locating those responsible is now our highest priority,' said DesLauriers.

Boston's Everyday Heroes

From the man in the cowboy hat to a baseball player who wrote 'Pray for Boston' on his glove, heroes big and small emerged in the wake of the Boston marathon bombing.

Obama: Everything Is Speculation

Speaking from the White House Tuesday, President Obama said the Boston bombing was being investigated by the FBI as an act of terrorism, but clarified that little else is known about who carried out the attack, or why.

Boston Marathon Explosion

Watch video of one of the explosions that rocked the Boston Marathon and the country.