Thursday, April 25, 2013

WMDs in Boston -- or: Who killed Sean Collier? (Updated)

Murdered MIT police officer Sean Collier has been laid to rest, with Joe Biden speaking at the ceremony. This NYT story offers represents the first attempt to present an account of just what happened to him that night.
Officer Sean A. Collier was 27, not much older than the Massachusetts Institute of Technology students he watched over as a campus police officer, and he sometimes joined them in a game of darts or Xbox. So when an ambulance staffed by students rolled past his parked patrol car last Thursday night, he flashed his blue lights to say hello. The students answered with their red lights.

It was just a little after that routine interaction, the police said, that a pair of men approached Officer Collier’s squad car from behind and shot him to death, in what some law enforcement officials said appeared to have been a failed attempt to steal his gun. In the anguished scene that followed, the student emergency medical technicians were called back to the patrol car they had just passed, where they tried in vain to save Officer Collier’s life.
Yeah, but: Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has not been charged with that crime -- in fact, the complaint against him does not mention the Collier killing. Previously, many news reports informed us that the Tsarnaevs had spoken of the killing to the man whose car they stole, but the complaint mentions no such confession.

The suggestion that gun theft motivated the murder makes no sense: The brothers already had plenty of weaponry, according to a number of reports. Or are we now supposed to rewrite those news accounts as well? (Update: Apparently, we are. See the final section of this post.)

We've recently learned that the brothers also already had a car -- a nice, nondescript Honda Civic. If they needed a getaway vehicle, a Honda would have sufficed. So what motivated the theft of a Mercedes SUV? And why have we not heard from the driver, who goes strangely unnamed in the aforementioned complaint? (Update: Okay, turns out we have heard from the driver.)

We know that the brothers either owned or had access to another Mercedes, which was in the shop on the night all of this activity occurred. Dzhokhar told the mechanic that the car belonged to a friend. When the mechanic did not have repairs finished on time, Dzhokhar became enraged and upset. Why? Odd thought: Did whatever they had planned somehow require the use of a Mercedes?

Several new accounts tell us that Dzhokhar had no firearm while holed up in that boat. He posed no threat. The cops simply showed up and opened fire. Why? And why did so many earlier news accounts paint a different picture?

So far, the only explanation for that initial barrage of gunfire is "the fog of war." That's not good enough.

I'm not normally a cop-basher. I have great respect for people who do a tough and dangerous job. But in this case, it seems clear that the police have issued misleading statements to the press in order to cover up unprofessional work.

WMDs. I've been bugged by the decision to charge Dzhokhar with possession of weapons of mass destruction, a term once reserved for nukes and CBW. If we redefine the term so loosely, aren't we giving ourselves permission to invade any country on earth?

Maybe we should take out the government of Lichtenstein. They possess weapons of mass destruction!

Reader D made the same point in a letter I'd like to share with readers...
However, what I find far more troubling than all the drama over Miranda is the way the Feds are labeling these two comparatively small homemade antipersonnel bombs as “Weapons of Mass Destruction”. Incredibly, they have indicted Tsarnaev on charges of employing weapons of mass destruction.

Has anybody raised a peep of protest about this gross misrepresentation of what were essentially nothing better than a couple of jumbo garden-variety pipe-bombs? Basically they were roughly the equivalent of large grenades, or if you prefer a couple of normal size anti-personnel mines, like a Claymore. Who in their right mind would describe a big pipe-bomb or a Claymore as a weapon of mass-destruction?

This also disgracefully trivializes what a genuine weapon of mass destruction truly is. That was definitely no pipe-bomb on board the Enola Gay.

Doesn’t it strike you Joe as a sinister Orwellian distortion of what the meaning of “weapon of MASS destruction” is actually intended to convey? I always thought the “mass” part of the term was the defining distinction, meant to connote a great many individuals as in mass-transit, mass-communication, mass-extinction or mass-hysteria.

If simply amassing a measure of destruction of life and limb is the operative concern, then Seung-Hui Cho at Virginia Tech using a most pedestrian 9mm pistol, racked up more than ten times the number of kills than the Tsarnaevs. Does that mean an ordinary handgun deserves to be labeled a weapon of mass destruction? If so, then surely that designation ought to apply as well to the common kitchen knife. In 2001, in a cafeteria in Osaka, Mamoru Takuma conclusively demonstrated how an unremarkable kitchen knife could, in a matter of moments, separate the souls from the bodies of seven people and severely wound thirteen others. Then, we have the occasional deranged individual who intentionally plows his automobile into a packed crowd, killing and wounding a whole slew of innocent folks. Is a Buick to be classified as a weapon of mass destruction too? Something is horribly cockeyed here.

The hysteria level is not only getting out of hand, it seems that wild and unreasonable fears are being purposely exploited to get the public to accept a continued shift away from traditional liberal American law-enforcement policies, and towards embracing outright police-state methods, along with the continuing militarization of law-enforcement in general.
Update: Alex Seitz-Wald of Salon has an excellent run-down of the changes in the official story. Some readers of that piece have argued -- not unreasonably -- that there will always be a few muddled facts during the early stages of reporting on an unfolding story. I agree, but only to a point. This story zoomed past that point two or three days ago.

To mention just one example: At first the cops told us that the brothers had a massive arsenal, including a BB gun(!) -- but now we learn that the Tsarnaevs had but one 9mm pistol between them. Cah-MON. You can't change the narrative so drastically while offering the public no better explanation than "Oops"!

So who deserves the blame for these mutating facts? A lot of people would point to the journalists covering this story, but I think that reporters have simply repeated what they've been told by police and government sources. One thing is for sure: We've reached a point where no-one can say that this story is in its early stages -- yet you don't have to be a conspiracy buff to see that we still have eight or nine genuine mysteries here.

Half of those mysteries become clearer if we posit that the cops told fibs to hide their screw-ups.
There is an equivication on the term "weapons of mass destruction." There is a military use of the term and a criminal use of the term. Tsarnaev was charged with the criminal whereas Iraq was charged, wrongly, with the military.
Explosives placed in a pot or pipe and used to accelerate nails which kills two people is called a weapon of mass destruction. While the same explosives and nails placed in gun and used to kill 20 people is just a toy for kids. Thank you NRA.
I know you slammed my characterization of the police last time around, but the whole point is accountability. I'm all for law enforcement and am willing to cut them some slack. It is indeed a thankless, dangerous job. However, response should be proportional. I'm even willing to accept 50 rounds fired in exchange for 1 fired *at* the cops. But we can't continue to give them a blank check. It has to pass the smell test, and this doesn't.

Lichtenstein does not have MILITARY weapons of mass destruction. I understand that the terms are confusing, maybe we should say criminal wmd and military wmd. You'll notice I haven't commented for a while. That is because, other than your criticism of Baltimore, I have generally agreed with you. It seems to me that having people tell you that you are right doesn't make you any smarter.
"It seems to me that having people tell you that you are right doesn't make you any smarter."

Then THAT's the explanation for my brilliance: My mom, my stepfather, my college friends, and my ex all assured me that I could not possibly be right about anything.

And that's quite enough "education" for one lifetime, thank you very much.
By the way, about the military/civilian distinction -- the English language is pretty damned big, biggest there is. Surely we can come up with a separate, better term.
Mr. Cannon,

I absolutely agree. And Spencer Ackerman discussed that at length in the article I noted. Also, your significant other staying with should be pretty good assurance. It is for me. Finally, if you want to trade mothers, give me a call.

The whole thing stinks just as McVeigh being the lone bomber in OK with all the discrepancies Gore Vidal pointed out. Locking down an entire city to catch someone? IDK. And all the misinformation? They may have done it but I cannot believe anything the legal people say anymore. I don't trust them to tell the truth or to act with integrity. I remember the Chicago police in 1968 at the Dem National Convention.
An interactive map posted at:
has a pushpin located at Spruce St and Lincoln St tagged "Rifle found."

The shot-up SUV was also found on Spruce St according to a scanner transcript, and both are on a direct escape path from the shootout to the boat where Dzhokhar was found unarmed.
MIT News said Sean Collier was murdered between the Stata Ctr. & The Koch Cancer research building. Where is the video? CAMERAS are everywhere at MIT! Where is the video of the Chinaman running away at the Gas Station. CAMERAS are everywhere at these places. No footage of the hijacking either.
The only reason the younger UNARMED brother is alive is because the 21 foot Sea Hawk was an INBOARD. He hid behind the engine which blocked the bullets. Outboard with 2 Mercury engines..he'd be dead..which is what they wanted to happen. He's one lucky patsy. The whole story is flawed. Cambridge & Watertown Police should be outraged.
Hmmm the triple Waltham slayings - connection wai kru gym. The boston bombers - connection wai kru gym. The murdered by the FBI Ibrahim todashev - connection wai kru gym. Sean collier policeman murdered - connection wai kru gym.

Anyone begin to see a connection here????
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