The authorities have preliminarily concluded that the brothers Tsarnaev acted alone, and were self-taught terrorists who were angered by U.S. conduct in Afghanistan and Iraq. If you believe that, you believe in the tooth fairy.
As more and more facts come out concerning the investigation of the Boston massacre, however, we see a record riddled with inconsistencies.
Early police reports stated that Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the older brother, perished when his younger brother, Dzhokhar, ran over him in an SUV. But later reports suggest that the Watertown police shot and killed Tamerlan, who died of multiple bullet wounds.
Early police reports suggested that Dzhokhar shot himself in the neck, but now the police say he had no gun when he was arrested in the boat. If no gun, how did he shoot himself?
And, if Dzhokhar had no gun, how did he shoot at the police as they surrounded the boat? And why did the police pump the boat with bullets without a positive identification of who was hiding inside, and without any gunfire directed towards them?
Early police reports were that the brothers Tsarnaev carjacked the SUV to travel to New York to "party." Now, the FBI says that they planned to use their remaining explosives, five pipe bombs and a "pressure-cooker bomb" -- the latter similar to the bombs used in the Boston blasts --which they had with them in the SUV, to stage a bombing attack in Times Square. As Alice said, the case becomes "curiouser and curiouser."
With the brothers Tsarnaev positively identified by the seemingly irrefutable evidence of electronic surveillance as the perpetrators of the Boston massacre, the key question becomes what was their evil motivation. The evidence should be out there, and the sure way to find it is to follow the money.
We know that the brothers were Muslim Chechens. Chechens are a tortured people of the Caucasus with a score to settle with Russia. Chechens have been identified with terror in the past. Chechens were responsible for the Beslan school attack in Russia in early September 2004, which involved the capture of over 1,100 hostages (including 777 children), and ended with the death of over 380 people. Chechens were implicated in the 2002 siege of a Moscow theater, which left 130 hostages dead, as well as the 2004 and 2010 bombings of the Moscow subway. All this might indicate some animus against the Russians, but what was their gripe against the United States?
The elder brother Tsarnaev, Tamerlan, was named for the fourteenth century Muslim general, Tamerlane. A terrorist, Tamerlane savaged whole cities and constructed pyramids out of the skulls of his enemies. Dzhokhar was named after Dzokhar Dudayev, who was the first Chechen to become a general in the Soviet Air Force before he became principal founder and first president of the Chechen republic. The Russians assassinated Dudayev in 1996, using a laser-guided missile
The case is riddled with unanswered questions about which we might speculate. Were the brothers two crazies acting alone or were they pawns in a great Islamist game? Who are the others who may be involved, whether inciters, trainers or command and control? Was it the brothers, who chose particularly to bomb the Boston Marathon or was it someone else? Where did they learn to make the crude bombs from pressure cookers and detonate them so effectively? Whom were they planning to see in New York? More importantly, where were they planning to stay? Were they members of a larger terror conspiracy? Is there an al Qaeda component? Is the Internet to blame? Could anyone going on the Internet construct a bomb and detonate it in a crowd of people without training or testing? Did they? The CIA says the bombs were too sophisticated to have been thrown together from an Internet recipe. Former Attorney General Michael Mukasey in a trenchant Wall Street Journal op-ed has suggested that the attack was part of an Islamist Jihad. Is he right?
President Obama has cautioned us to withhold our judgment until the facts have been developed, and this is wise counsel, particularly when there are so many unanswered questions, and the facts seem to spill all over the place as if they were quicksilver.
There is little privacy left in American life, and perhaps under the circumstances, this is a good thing. Cell phone and credit card records may show where the brothers were at relevant times, whom they contacted, and who contacted them.
The Internet may be relevant in all this. The Net is simply a tool for good or evil, like a pressure cooker, a ball bearing or a nail. So the hard drives of the Tsarnaev computers may show what websites they visited, what items they bought, what are their finances, whom they emailed and what bloggers they read. These may be the clues to their radicalization, whether others were involved, and how the incitement went operational. It all may be recorded on a cloud in cyberspace.
The most promising investigative tool is to follow the money. And there should be a harvest of information out there. The brothers had no visible means of support since Tamerlan, the elder, turned more seriously to Islam about five years ago. Yet, there was enough money there to finance, among other things, an apartment they shared, which was the apparent bomb factory, boxing training for Tamerlan at the Camp Get Right Boxing gym in Worcester, enough money to purchase an extravagant wardrobe, and a six-month trip to Russia last year. The trip attracted the attention of Russian security officers, who advised the FBI, who, some say, missed it once again in a pattern of incompetence, which is frightening. There was enough money to purchase what police described as a "small arsenal of guns and ammunition," more than enough to attack the Marathon, and even launch future attacks, which the pair intended to accomplish. There was enough money for the illegal handguns, an M-4 carbine rifle, at least 80 rounds of ammunition fired at police officers, and the weapons of mass destruction used in the attack, as well as the pipe bombs thrown at the pursuing Watertown police.
The brothers apparently had credit cards. What do the credit card applications show? How did two unemployed young men convince the credit card companies that they had the wherewithal to make payment? Did they have bank accounts? What do the bank records show? Did they have credit with local merchants? How did they satisfy creditors as to their financial capacity? Tamerlan's wife and child had obvious medical expenses? How did they pay the bills? What do insurance records show?
All these things cost money, and the money trail may lead to some fascinating conclusions, and shed further light on motivation.
Meanwhile Tamerlan is dead, and Dzhokhar is charged with a terrorist act, using a weapon of mass destruction, leaving three dead and hundreds more maimed or injured, not to mention MIT Police officer Sean Collier, whom they allegedly shot dead with an illegal handgun. The brothers are reported to have killed Officer Collier to get his gun, but then it is said that they failed in this attempt. If they had a gun to kill Collier, and to shoot at the police, as well as an M-4 rifle and a shotgun, why did they need another gun?
Dzhokhar will be appropriately tried in a federal court where prosecutors may seek the death penalty. Why the brothers did it, and whether others were involved remain to be seen. Of two things we can be sure. There is more to come out of this investigation; and we have not seen the end of Islamist terrorism.