Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Back to Boston

Was the US government in contact with the Boston bombers before the event? So far, we've heard rumors to that effect -- lots of rumors, though not a lot of evidence. No serious writer has paid much attention to the claim. Now, Russ Baker steps forward (following up on a piece he did a few days ago).

Baker says that the Boston bombing is now being used in the "new Cold War" against Putin...
In our previous story, we were working from a leaked article about a forthcoming government report on the bombing—whose central message was that the bombing might have been prevented if only the Russians had not held back still more information beyond what they had provided to US intelligence. In other words, “Putin did it.”
As we previously noted, much earlier, back in 2013, the New York Times reported another leak. That leak asserted that US authorities had been in contact with the Tsarnaevs as early as January 2011. If true, this assertion would be enormously consequential, because it would mean the Tsarnaevs were known to US authorities two months before American intelligence learned from the Russians that the Tsarnaevs might be terrorists.

As far as we know, no one in the media ever followed up on this leaked assertion. When we queried the Times about it, the paper never replied. Nor has the Times ever published a correction.
Fascinating. For my part, I've long suspected that the Tsarnaev connection involved a drug ring. Tamerlan was a not-very-successful boxer, and drug importation specialists often hire guys like that.
Consider that the Tsarnaevs lived in Cambridge—home to members of a ring of Russian spies that was broken up shortly before the Tsarnaevs came under scrutiny. Remember that the US rolled up a spy ring in June of 2010—after monitoring it for a decade, and that an exchange of prisoners quickly followed. An American mole inside Russian foreign intelligence, Col. Alexander Poteyev, who was back-channeling to American intelligence while simultaneously directing the stateside ring from Russia, fled to the US before the arrests. His role was obscured by American officials; and his identity was only revealed when a Russian court later found him guilty in absentia.
A lot of people recall this spy ring as the one with Anna Chapman. Remember her? She had the movie-star figure. I wasn't all that crazy about her, personally -- she smokes -- but she was very popular in some circles.
Was the US itself monitoring the Tsarnaevs at the same time the Russians were? Of even more interest, did US authorities, as Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s defense suggests, seek to turn Tamerlan Tsarnaev into an asset?
He would certainly have been a prize catch. And this theory would explain the guy's travel budget, which otherwise seems utterly mysterious.
If the defense is half-right—that the feds pushed Tamerlan Tsarnaev to become an operative—would they simply have accepted, willingly, if he said, “No, thanks”? Intelligence and security services don’t tend to take no for an answer, and traditionally have played very rough with those who decline. So it is unlikely that a foreign national like Tamerlan Tsarnaev—whose family arrived less than a year after 9/11 and who was given “derivative asylum status”—could simply decline to cooperate.
Incredibly, even after this, when Tamerlan traveled to Russia three months later, exactly as the Russians said he would, and while on that terror watch list, US authorities did nothing.
I find this part telling. I'm reminded of Anwar al-Awlaki, who inspired similar inaction when he went traveling in and out of the country.
As the report notes, an FBI counterterrorism officer
conducted database searches, reviewed references to Tsarnaev and his family in closed FBI counterterrorism cases, performed “drive-bys” of Tsarnaev’s residence, made an on-site visit to his former college, and interviewed Tsarnaev and his parents.
The question is obvious: Why no effort to monitor the Tsarnaevs’ covertly? What about, instead of warning them that they were under suspicion, keeping a close and quiet watch on them? Isn’t that how you would proceed if you wanted to find out what a suspected terrorist was up to?
Given the tendency of spy services to play elaborate games with a long view, it is reasonable to wonder whether the Russians had more in mind than just being helpful when they notified the US that it ought to look at the Tsarnaevs.

Could the notice to the FBI have been a warning that the Russians knew the US was already in contact with the Tsarnaevs? Given the possibility that Tamerlan Tsarnaev was supposed to infiltrate anti-Russian jihadists, that essentially puts the two intelligence services on the same side in this matter. Or were the Russians worried that the Americans were playing a double game, seemingly hunting jihadists while simultaneously using those jihadists to put pressure on the Russians in their majority-Muslim, oil-bearing southern flank?

There is also the possibility that, as with the US mole in Russian intelligence, Colonel Potayev, both sides thought they were controlling the Tsarnaevs....
There's much more. The article is long and juicy. Sure, parts of it are questionable. You expect questionable bits in any lengthy article about espionage. Nevertheless, this is one of those pieces that deserves careful reading.

Incidentally, Baker's readers seem particularly hip when it comes to spy stuff. I admonish you to check out the comments...
These people have been working on the Boston Bombing for one year now. They KNOW all the pictures and images that are out there. Originally they were on Russ's site WhoWhatWhy and I pushed them to set up their own investigative site which is now bearing fruit. Russ is even trying to get some mileage when before he just did a sort of drive-by on it. I shall tweet your site to them tonight as I think you should be in touch with each other. They really know more than anyone on this.
Thanks for posting
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