The Tsarnaev Brothers: Blame and Bureaucracy

On April 15, the Boston marathon bombing captured the nation’s attention as the most recent terrorist attack within the US.  A celebration of competition and athletic prowess quickly turned into a horrific and deadly tragedy as two bombs exploded 12 seconds apart near the marathon’s finish line.  The “pressure cooker” explosives caused extensive damage, killing three and wounded more than 250.  Many experienced serious and life-threatening injuries, since the bombs were filled with small pieces of metal intended to inflict maximum harm.  At least 13 survivors lost limbs as a result of the blast.

When tragedy strikes, people want answers.  Following the marathon bombings, the concerted effort of federal investigators, Boston law enforcement, and local residents to track down those responsible for the bombing was remarkably effective and swift.  Using footage from security cameras and eye-witness accounts from individuals at the marathon, the FBI announced two suspects within a matter of days.  Law enforcement sought the two individuals – Dzokhar (19) and Tamerlan (26) Tsarnaev, brothers from the Russian republic of Chechnya – in an extensive manhunt that effectively shut down Boston for days.

Tamerlan, the elder brother, was killed in a shootout with police.  Dzokhar was taken into custody after sustaining severe injuries while hiding in a boat in the Boston harbor.  Some individuals and news outlets, including Fox News, suggested that Dzokhar should be treated as an enemy combatant, which would mean he could be questioned without being informed of his Miranda rights.  His rights weren’t read immediately, however, with sixteen hours of questioning occurring before he was informed of his right to remain silent and have an attorney present.  The decision to award Dzokhar his civil rights was well-received by civil liberty advocacy groups, but also mean that he immediately stopped responding to questions from interrogators. 

The information gathered during those sixteen hours suggests that the brothers were upset about the US wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and the killing of Muslims there.  As investigators begin to piece together the brothers’ motives for the attack, they became aware of Tamerlan’s potential adherence to radical Islamic beliefs.  They are currently looking into Tamerlan’s 6-month trip to Russia this past year as they hope to gather evidence to understand the brothers’ motives.

It seems increasingly clear that the brothers were acting independently of any established organization, with Tamerlan performing his own research and training via the Internet and Dzokhar playing the role of junior partner.  No one knew of their plan, not even those closest to them; their mother and father are clearly shell-shocked at the news, and Tamerlan’s wife Katherine Russell claimed that she only learned of the plot from TV following the bombings.

US officials report that Tamerlan frequently looked at extremist websites. These sites included Inspire magazine, an online publication affiliated with Al Qaeda. Family members report that he was heavily influenced by a friend known as Misha, who was a Muslim convert.  After the two became friends, Tamerlan gave up boxing and began actively opposing the US wars.  Tamerlan’s YouTube account shows an interest in Islamic theology, with interest in sermons espousing Islamic doctrine.  None of the media linked to his account deal explicitly with terrorism, however.  His web activity also points to an interest in Chechen nationalism and the abuses committed by Russia in the republic, likely equating these instances with US operations in Afghanistan. 

Tamerlan became more active in his local mosque in Boston. Fellow members recall several outbreaks in which he became angry at the preacher’s honoring of Martin Luther King; however, these incidents were isolated, and after being reprimanded and instructed to not interrupt, they were not repeated.

Even as Tamerlan’s increasingly intense religious beliefs developed, investigators are still unclear on the connection between religious devotion and violent action.  They observe that isolated radicals, acting outside of organized groups, are much more difficult to identify and intercept. 

Angie Picardo is a staff writer for NerdWallet. Her mission is to help consumers stay financially savvy, and save some money with the best CD rates.

Source/Submitted by: Angie Picardo

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