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Boston: A Whole New Ballgame?

April 29, 2013

A couple days ago, in a post about the tragedy in Boston and the “meaning” of the Tsarnayev brothers, I indicated that, so far, I thought this was not probably about a failure of intelligence, rather something bigger in terms of policy.

To quote myself: “Federal law enforcement and intelligence didn’t exactly cover themselves in glory pre-bombing with this one, but neither do I (yet) see much evidence of what the pundits love to term an ‘intelligence failure’.”

That’s still a terrible cliche, but I might need to walk the cat back a bit here. Since the mask may have just fallen.

Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY), a pretty informed guy, yesterday said something pretty revealing, which needs to be examined closely, regarding the FBI and the case: “They may have messed up, because Russia did call and say they have doubts about Tsarnaev. The FBI interviewed him, but then he went to Russia. And when he came back, he immediately started placing on his website very inflammatory items about jihad.”

Got that? Sen. Schumer is admitting what I, among others, had suspected, when this case broke. Having gotten a tip from the FSB, our frenemies in Moscow, the FBI had a chat with young Tamerlan. That’s always a risky move, since it rolls the dice on further radicalization, since there are only three possible outcomes from that talk:

1. Gosh, wow, I really love America, I’ll back off. My bad, bro.

2. Ummmm (sound of urinating one’s own pants)… Can I get out of this jam by cooperating?

3. See you in hell, infidel!

From the look of things, the FBI got Door No. 3 here, and Tamerlan promptly went off to a half-year in Dagestan where I’m sure we’ll eventually find out he was hanging with some unpleasant guys with jihad and mass murder on their minds. There is no doubt that Tamerlan came back from Dagestan a different, far more dangerous person. Did the FBI’s leaning on him help bring that about?

If it did – and at this point an ‘if’ is necessary, although Sen. Schumer’s leading comment is the giveaway, folks – then the FBI’s not keeping Tamerlan under surveillance upon his return from Dagestan isn’t just a fail, it’s an epic fail.

This has all happened before, many times. Most recently, Mohammed Merah, who went self-starting-jihad in southern France last year, was leaned on by French domestic intelligence (DCRI), which failed utterly, and instead induced further radicalization, including a trip to Pakistan and eventually mass murder at home. They, too, failed to keep a dangerous young man under surveillance.

Did the same thing happen with Tamerlan Tsarnayev? It’s looking increasingly like it might have. The other day I encouraged the Bureau to get to the bottom of this case, fast, and not bungle it like the Oklahoma City 1995 investigation (AKA OKBOMB). This time, if the FBI seems to be dragging its feet and doesn’t appear eager to answer the obvious questions …. well, we’ll know why.

[The opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, and not those of any of his employers, past or present.]

 

2 Comments
  1. J. Moye permalink

    Seems like the FBI is dammed no matter what. Either it didn’t hound Tsarnayev enough, or it hounded him too much.

    If I were in the spook trade, I’d wonder if the FSB was telling me about Tsanayev to head off potential trouble, or was trying to start it. The Russians take a dim view of Chechens generally, those who wind up as refugees in Western countries might seem even more nettlesome. Getting them rousted by government operatives of their host countries could serve many purposes.

    • I have more than a little sympathy with the Bureau on this one. It’s always a guessing game. That said, approaching Tamerlan without doing a thorough look into him first, ie without putting him under surveillance etc, as seems to have been the case here, was a real risk. One that went south, badly.

      The Russians excel at provokatsiya, they invented it. But just because they use every possible issue to discredit the Chechen resistance doesn’t mean FSB information about radicals is ipso facto false.

      In an not unrelated vein, Israeli intelligence paints a similarly sky-is-falling picture of Palestinian resistance, portraying all activists as terrorists … but there really are a lot of HAMAS and Fatah terrorists, that’s no figment of MOSSAD and SHABAK imagination.

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