Thursday, April 25, 2013

More Links to US Intel on the Boston Bombing

Less than two weeks after the bombing of the Boston Marathon, details are still emerging about whether US intell agencies, specifically the FBI, were on the job and whether Tamerlan Tsarnaev slipped through an inefficient web of overlapping and confusing jurisdictions - despite billions of US dollars funding multiple intel organizations and a significant erosion of the country’s once cherished Bill of Rights.

According to the President’s 2013 budget request, $52.6 billion will fund the National Intelligence Program  which will be spread to include intel programs at the CIA, FBI, Pentagon and Departments of Homeland Security, State and Justice.  This is not to say that those agencies will not receive additional funding directly through its own budget process with, for instance, the Department of Homeland Security receiving $68.9 billion in 2013 which will trickle $4 billion down to the FBI for its domestic counterterror efforts.
So which agencies knew what and when did they know it?   Here’s where it gets really thought-provoking:  
·         For starters, with a House Homeland Security Committee hearing pending, the public might be interested to know how a wounded 19 year old with no real resources at his disposal eluded the world’s greatest military arsenal and an estimated force of 9,000 law enforcement officers for almost 24 hours, much of it in broad daylight.   The Associated Press quoted two unnamed officials that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was unarmed when he was apprehended thereby removing the need for armed Swat team house-to-house searches.  

·         Almost immediately, the Senate Intelligence Committee held a closed door  hearing with the FBI after which Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) emerged stating that the FBI confirmed ‘multiple’ contacts with Tamerlan Tsarnaev.    After denying that they knew Tamerlan, the FBI is still standing by its story that it interviewed the older brother only once, prior to his 2012 trip to Russia.  Sen. Burr’s comments lend some credence to what the Zubeidat Tsarnaev, the mother of Tamerlan and Dzhokhar, has been saying for days - that the FBI visited her oldest son  on multiple occasions and even visited her.   NBC is now reporting that the FBI also visited Tamerlan and “members of the Tsarnaev ‘family’ in 2012.
·         On April 18th, the FBI released a video of two young men whose identity remained a mystery.  The FBI said they needed the public’s help in identifying the two men in question yet we now know that the FBI knew at least Tamerlan, the older son from interview(s) in March, 2011 and again in November, 2012.   How is it that no one at the FBI, presumably the agents who conducted the interview(s) trained to be more observant than the average citizen, did not recognize Tamerlan? 

·         CBS is now reporting that in September, 2011, the CIA requested the addition of Tamerlan’s name to the TIDE database after being contacted by Russian authorities (who had earlier contacted the FBI) due to his alleged association with Chechen terrorists.  The elder Tsarnaev’s name was added to the classified “Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment” list of “suspected terrorists” which includes approximately half a million Americans.   

·         Despite earlier denials by the FBI that they did not know the Tsarnaev brothers and then later confirming that they had interviewed Tamerlan in 2011 without any follow-up and that they did not catch his trip to Russia in 2012 because his name was misspelled yet Janet Napolitano testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee on April 23rd that the Homeland Security system ‘pinged’ when Tamerlan left for Russia in January, 2012.     The misspelling of Tamerlan’s name may be indicative of competing data bases since presumably once a name is in the system, it is in the system or perhaps the relevant agencies have not integrated their procedures.
Meanwhile, a New York Times editorial of August 22  entitled “How to Handle a Terrorism Case” cited the “superb civilian police work” that led to the capture of Defendant Tsarnaev – but failed to mention one word about the Boston Lockdown or violations of the Fourth Amendment by the house-to-house searches as if they had never occurred.  The editorial goes on to warn of allowing ‘raw emotions associated with a terrorism case to trample on the American system of justice."   
During the FBI’s ‘public safety’ interrogation before Miranda rights were read, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev clearly identified the reason for their attack at the Marathon.  It came as no surprise that their opposition to US foreign policy in Afghanistan and Iraq and its brutal assaults on Islam would be motivating factors. 
As the corporate media and its indentured politicians continue their simplistic thinking and bombastic rhetoric to divert attention from the root cause of terrorism, Vice President Biden’s recent speech at a memorial service in Boston did little to encourage healing or bring comfort to a traumatized community.  Instead the Vice President chose to inflame the passions of hate, vengeance and misunderstanding as if to throw down the gauntlet when he suggested:
They can never defeat us.  They can never overthrow us   They can never occupy us.   So why,  why, whether its al qaeda central out of the Fatah or two twisted, perverted cowardly, knock-off jihadists here in Boston…  why do they do what they do?   I’ve thought about it a lot because I deal with it a lot and I’ve come to the conclusion …they do it to instill fair…fear.  To have us, in the name of our safety and security, jettison what we value most in the world,  our open society, our system of justice that guarantees freedom, the access of all Americans to opportunity, the free flow of information and people across this country, our transparency.  That’s their target.”
Let’s hope al qaeda and the Taliban were not listening…

Monday, April 22, 2013

Boston Manhunt Challenges Constitutional Principles

It was with great relief when the manhunt and apprehension for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev brought one chapter of the Boston Marathon bombing to a conclusion – even as that manhunt raised important legal, constitutional questions.   Friday was obviously a terrifying experience for the citizens of Boston and especially Watertown –  it was a surreal and disturbing event even for a distant viewer glued to the television as I was that day.

Almost immediately, the overwhelming presence of heavily attired swat teams with assault weapons, armored tanks with machine guns, Blackhawk helicopters circling, and empty neighborhood streets created a frightening futuristic vision of a police state with civilians locked inside.  Not to minimize the injuries and trauma inflicted by the dastardly deed, the simultaneous explosion of a fertilizer plant in Texas killed and injured more people and did considerably more damage but what was happening on the streets of Boston, the cradle of the American Revolution, was the equivalent of martial law with precedent-setting warrantless house to house searches by heavily armed civil law enforcement tactical teams that had morphed into a military presence.
The Fourth Amendment was adopted to protect Americans privacy from ‘unreasonable search and seizures’ from an intrusive government but allows access ‘upon probable cause’.  Obviously in this situation of ‘extraordinary circumstances’, Bostonians cannot be faulted for opening their doors with little hesitation but here’s the conundrum:  did law enforcement believe that a wounded 19 year old was sufficiently dangerous and that a reasonable threat existed to demand entry in what can only be considered a gross violation of the 4th Amendment?
Given the challenge to Constitutional principles, the public interest would benefit from straightforward answers to the following:              
Was Attorney General Holder consulted and was there a house-to-house search game-plan already in place?  Was there any suggestion that a knock on the door might have been sufficient?   Was the possibility that Bostonians had the option to resist armed entry ever considered?  What was the deliberative process and who made the final decision to conduct a house-to-house search? What consideration was given to establishing a dangerous Constitutional precedent?

While many Americans appear blissfully unaware of the Fourth Amendment, if the Bill of Rights is allowed to continue to erode as it has since 911, the fragile state of our democracy as well as the quality of life for all Americans will continue to rapidly diminish  - even as a majority of the public fails to recognize the threat from within.
By late afternoon on Friday, MSNBC’s Alex Witt and Michael Isikoff were reporting that the FBI had interviewed Tamerlan at least once in 2011 and that his application for citizenship had been stalled by Homeland Security based on that interview.   The FBI has since responded that the result of their interview “did not find any terrorism activity, domestic or foreign.”   However  the distraught mother of the Tsarnaev brothers has claimed that the FBI  made repeated visits to Tamerlan.   She told RT News that  “..he was controlled by FBI for 3-5 years.  They knew what my son was doing, they knew what actions, what sites on the internet he was going. They used to come home, come  talk to me…they were telling me that he was really a serious leader and  they are afraid of him.  They told me whatever country, whatever information he is getting, they are controlling him.” 
As the New York Times revealed in 2012,  FBI agents have  been known to pose as terrorists, provide necessary resources to conduct  illegal activities and then ‘entrap’ those people enticed into committing acts of ‘terrorism’.  Hopefully, the ACLU or Center for Constitutional Rights will file a Freedom of Information request for the FBI’s entire file on their contact with Tamerlan Tsarvnaev.
During law enforcement’s press conference immediately after the capture of the younger brother who had eluded a massive dragnet for almost 24 hours, US Attorney Carmen Ortiz announced that the suspect would not be read his Miranda rights and that a ‘public safety exemption’ would be invoked.   While the special exemption dates back to 1984, according to the FBI’s Law Enforcement Bulletin, the Supreme Court interpreted that “the exemption would be triggered …. to protect the police or public from immediate danger.”  The exemption has not been widely used until the Obama Administration secretly expanded its authority in 2011. 
While on one hand, U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz was announcing at the Friday night press conference that the ‘public safety’ exemption would be invoked yet on the other offered the assurance that no immediate threat existed stating that "Tonight we feel a tremendous sense of gratitude and relief." "Tonight we can sleep a little bit easier.”
The Sunday morning news show Reliable Sources included a lengthy hashing out of numerous media missteps that occurred on the day of the manhunt  - misstatements that were understandable since the media were precluded by law enforcement from their role of providing the public with immediate, on-the-scene reporting.  During the early part of that day, CNN’s Chris Cuomo announced the unsettling news that the media had been asked to not ‘interfere’ with law enforcement efforts.  
Viewers watched as reporters and photographers were pushed into a ‘safe zone’ out of the ‘line of fire” as the national networks filled time with an array of expert commentators.  Cuomo went on to inform the public that CNN was airing on a five second delay and would only broadcast feeds that ‘police are comfortable with.”  Presumably, Fox and NBC followed suit. The net effect of an almost total media blackout left reporters dependent on law enforcement for vital information, compromising the public’s right to know.   While the word censorship was never uttered, Cuomo explained that “we don’t know what we can’t control.’   Videos that have surfaced of the Thursday morning shootout and the capture of the suspect on Friday evening were taken by neighbors who live in the area. 
Part of the TV coverage on Friday included persistent questioning about why this heartbreaking tragedy had occurred, conjecture on the motive and whether the Tsarnaev brothers were lone wolves or part of a larger conspiracy.  One after another authority speculated about what could have radicalized either brother  - was it al qaeda, could it have been an inability to integrate into American society or perhaps they were just a couple of evil, wicked terrorists who hated America and certainly Tamerlan’s visit last year to Chechnya was proof-positive.  
Perhaps the most credible and informed commentator was Phillip Mudd, former Deputy Director of the CIA’s Office of Counterterrorism Analysis who responded to the Why question that “they believe the US is intervening in places where they shouldn’t be intervening, raping women and killing children.” Mudd  later suggested that the bombing was ‘very basic’ and that these are ‘not the guys I watched for twenty years.”  On Fareed Zakaria’s Global Public Square on Sunday, Mudd, now a senior research fellow with the Counterterrorism Initiative at the New America Foundation, said that the attack was more reminiscent of Columbine than al Qaeda since the brothers failed to obscure their faces, had no after-action plan and that he saw no evidence to hold Dzhokhar as an ‘enemy combatant.”

By Monday evening, after Defendant Tsarnaev was questioned by the FBI, he was informed of his Miranda right to remain silent, a Public Defender was appointed and it was announced that he will be prosecuted through the civil legal system.


Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Boston Bombing and Failure of the Military/Intelligence Complex

In the aftermath of the bombing at the finish line of the 117th Boston Marathon, much of the American public, mainstream media and politicians have  responded with a level of shock as if the sovereignty of the United States, Our Homeland, would be so honored and respected that such a horrific event, premeditated and cold-blooded, could not have occurred.   

Exhibiting the indignation of a leader who would never consider such a nefarious act on noncombatants, President Obama appeared unaware of the irony when he suggested that “any time bombs are used to target civilians, it is an act of terror.”   In pledging that the “American people refuse to be terrorized’ the President raises the disturbing possibility in its insinuation of future vengeance to be wrecked upon the presumed perpetrator(s).

Responsible for three fatalities and injury to an estimated 170 people including the loss of limbs to perhaps dozens of individuals, the FBI has determined that the detonation was caused by two shrapnel studded ”pressure cooker” type bombs previously seen in Afghanistan and Pakistan and were traced to two black duffel bags.  

Not to diminish the pain and suffering and fear experienced by the citizens of Boston, the American public deserves to know why the US military-intelligence complex, with unlimited resources at their disposal, was caught by surprise?   What has been absent from the early reaction has been any inquiry as to why the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI, the CIA, the NSA and who knows how many other national security agencies that cost the American taxpayer billions and billions of dollars each year failed in their responsibility to identify, to predict or to otherwise anticipate a possible attack.
According to the Homeland Security Department’s mission, its ‘founding principle and highest priority is to protect the American people from terrorist threats.”  Created by a pusillanimous Congress intent on satisfying public panic after 911,  the Homeland Security Act of 2002 was adopted by a bi-partisan Congress with a 295 – 132 vote in the House of Representatives and a  Senate 90 - 9 vote initiating the largest reorganization of the federal government since the National Security Act of 1947 combining 22 separate agencies into a single entity.
As if the catastrophe at Boston was  not enough to question the Department’s effectiveness, the Congressional Budget Office analysis of the DHS 2013 budget identified the Department’s expenditures at “more than a half a trillion dollars” since 911 with another $68.9 billion in funding for 2013 (1.3% over 2012).  Clearly, throwing money at a problem does not necessarily bring the desired result.
Also essential to public understanding is that the Patriot Act, the National Defense Authorization Act, the Authorization for Use of Military Force, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and the daily intrusive degradations at every airport across the country have been, largely, for naught.  The justification that legislative assaults on the Constitution that seriously eroded the First, Fourth and Fifth Amendments were necessary to prevent another 911 are now revealed to be as fictitious as any imaginary fairytale. 
While the foregoing queries would make for an enlightening Congressional oversight hearing with Janet Napolitano and John Brennan providing public explanations as to why the military-intelligence agencies disastrously botched their assignment - despite an investment of hundreds of billions of public dollars, thousands of employees provided with the latest technological advancements – but don’t count on it.
The ‘Why” of this tragedy may be found in one obvious fact:  that violence begets violence and we are a violent society - not just domestically but from decades of a foreign policy that has, in the name of democracy, spread American violence around the planet.