The official story of the Boston Marathon attacks seems to change as much as is necessary for its promoters to maintain some credibility with the majority of the population, while at the same time keeping the essential narrative in place. Initially the government claimed to have no awareness of the suspects, but after it was reported that the FBI had met with the older Tsarnaev brother long before the attacks, the government’s relationship status with the two men quickly changed to- It’s complicated. For those growing wise to the ways of the FBI, this was to be expected because, more often than not, the agency is revealed to have had some behind the scenes role in modern US terrorism cases. Persistent claims of foreknowledge, among many other problems with the official story, seem to indicate that this case is no different and that the Tsarnaev brothers may have been manipulated by some factions within the national security apparatus.
Local Police Still Insist FBI Had Foreknowledge of Boston Terror Suspects Before Shootout
The FBI has fought allegations of foreknowledge related to the Boston Marathon bombing and the surrounding events from the very beginning. Early on, it was claimed that they knew the identity of the bombing suspects days before the chaos unfolded in Watertown and Cambridge. The Tsarnaev family said the FBI had contacted Tamerlan about the bombing days before the shootout. The FBI disputed that claim, but the issue didn’t end there. Local police have also been telling a story about the events following the Marathon attack that contradicts the FBI’s account of what they knew about the Tsarnaev brothers and when they knew it.
The FBI’s official position is that they did not know who the suspects were until after Tamerlan’s dead body was fingerprinted Friday morning sometime after 1:00 AM on April 19th. But local law enforcement have been reaching out to journalists and politicians saying that the FBI knew the identities of the suspects before that time and didn’t share the information with them or their Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) affiliates. While most of them remain anonymous, their concerns have been expressed through journalists from Boston’s local media outlet FOX 25 News, and through the office of Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa.
Grassley–who is a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee–had been asking the FBI questions, concerning their activities prior to the attacks, since June of last year with no answers. Frustrated by the their lack of cooperation, he repeated the questions along with new ones in a letter to the Director of the FBI in October. The letter revealed that sources had informed his office that local law enforcement had “encountered multiple teams of FBI employees” operating in Cambridge well before the MIT officer, Sean Collier, was killed. The sources also informed Grassley that “the Cambridge Police Department, including its representation at the JTTF, [had not been] previously made aware of the FBI’s activity in Cambridge.”
FOX 25 obtained a copy of Grassley’s letter and featured it in an article and multiple news segments. In one interview, journalist Maria Stephanos tells her FOX 25 colleague Mike Beaudet:
You and I have been talking about this, I’ve been hearing from my sources, you’ve heard from your sources as well, that the FBI knew that the brothers were in Watertown after the bombings, but didn’t move in on them, and you’ve talked to the FBI about that and they denied it.
Mike Beaudet answers:
I did, so yes, there has been a lot of scuttlebutt in the law enforcement community from people who are close to all this, wondering if in fact the FBI did know who these guys were and perhaps tactically decided not to release those photos, so they could follow them around and see if they lead them to other people, or who knows what.
Later in the segment, the questions are addressed to a former FBI agent. Stephanos asks: “If we’re both getting sources, saying to us, that the bombs went off and these guys went to Watertown and that the FBI knew that they were in Watertown, that they were setting up surveillance there, then why did it just end right there?” She explains the concerns people have that the life of officer Sean Collier might have been saved had the agency not waited to apprehend the suspects.
Finally, the FBI responded. They issued a statement claiming that, “no one was surveilling the Tsarnaevs, and they were not identified until after the shootout.” However they did partially admit the presence at MIT that day, but claimed it was the JTTF and that they were there for “a matter unrelated to the Tsarnaev brothers.” The FBI quickly added to their explanation, telling Beaudet that “several MIT students were being looked at as suspects.” No answers were given as to why local JTTF representatives were saying they weren’t made aware of the federal presence, nor was it explained why federal agents were reported to be operating secretly in Watertown before the carjacking allegedly led to the shootout that occurred there.
The FBI’s limited and insufficient response must not have satisfied local police officer, Sergeant Clarence Henniger, a 39 year member of MIT’s force, who was the first officer to discover Collier as he was dying that night. In a recent interview with WBUR, Henniger added to the previous claims that the FBI was already surveilling the brothers well before the death of Collier, making an argument that it provided police a false sense of security.
Henniger discussed how in the days after the bombing, they “noticed a lot of the federal agencies were in the city of Cambridge,” and they had received information indirectly that the suspects may have been residents there. When asked about how the release of the suspects’ photos effected the MIT police and campus, Henniger stated:
Well, not knowing exactly where they were, I know that their home was under watch at that point and they were trying to locate them as to see their whereabouts so that’s why the presence of the federal officers was so heavy in the city of Cambridge.
While officially, the objectives of the federal activities remained guarded from the MIT officers, the word on the street was that the suspects “may have been visiting a friend at MIT.” Henniger said: “…[the suspects] were familiar with MIT, they have been there in the past, so that’s what we were told, that they had friends there at MIT.” Further discussing the hours before Collier’s death, he told WBUR:
The word was out regarding the suspects now. We knew how they looked like, and we knew they lived in the city of Cambridge at one point, so our alert basis was not as high because we knew that his house was under surveillance and the feds were all over the city of Cambridge, to some degree, knowing that they lived there. So we were aware of that.
Independent researchers and commenters noticed the contradictions right away and soon a local privacy blog, Privacy SOS, caught the attention of Boston Magazine, who contacted the FBI to clear up the statement. The FBI representative explained to Boston Magazine that Henniger’s claims were “patently false” and that he was “absolutely uninformed.” They stuck by their claim that the brothers’ identities were not known until after Tamerlan’s dead body was fingerprinted. Henniger however, did not back down and told Boston Magazine that he still has lingering doubts about the government’s foreknowledge. He stated: “We still have questions… and to some degree I’m sure [the FBI] knew.”
The Uninformed Informant, or How to Make a Bomb and Blame It On Imam
The evidence of foreknowledge is important and could point to many things, including the chance that one or both of the brothers were working with the government as assets in some way. Reports that Tamerlan attended a CIA connected workshop during a six month stay in Russia along with other evidence of US intelligence links, raise questions of his relationship with the US government.
It is a common strategy for the government to develop informants that can be used as tools in the war on terror. Trevor Aaronson’s book, “The Terror Factory: Inside the FBI’s Manufactured War On Terrorism,” describes how the FBI has “built a network of more than 15,000 informants” who are used to “create and facilitate phony terrorist plots…” The book, a product of Aaronson’s investigative work as a reporting fellow at UC Berkeley, documents how deceptive sting operations are being used as a way to create a theater of terrorism that benefits the national security/military industrial complex.
If Tamerlan was involved with the government as an informant or an asset in some way we have to consider the possibility that he may have been manipulated by corrupt elements connected to the national security complex. Sting operations and counterterrorism exercises can be used as methods to generate and manage an actual terrorist attack against the public. Rogue operators or criminal factions could have used the concentration of counter-terrorism drills surrounding the Marathon, to plan and carry out the real thing without the knowledge of most people involved. Keep in mind the attacks were executed in a “frighteningly similar” fashion to the massive “Urban Shield” counterterrorism exercises admittedly being prepared at the time. The planned exercise scenarios mirrored the real events including terrorists fleeing in stolen cars, and backpack bombs being placed throughout Boston.
Shortly after the attacks last year, I found a contractor that had been selling fake pressure cooker IEDs in black backpacks for government and law enforcement training exercises prior to the bombings. The company also offered, “fully functional IEDs, IED triggers, electronic circuits, and electronic components” with a $2,899 kit that can make, “[a]ny of [their] static/mockup devices…into a functional training device.” Their list of clients includes the FBI, DHS, and Strategic Operations, a company that “provides Hyper-Realistic training environments for military, law enforcement and other organizations…” Strategic Operations is also a participant of Boston’s Urban Shield program and listed as a supporting agency.
I spoke with the president of Inert Products and he assured me that while the backpack pressure cooker training aid was available well before the bombing, their products do not contain actual explosives and the company takes extreme precautions to make sure their products are used properly and do not get into the wrong hands. Whether or not this contractor’s products were actually used (or misused) at all, the point is that it’s easy to illustrate that the conditions existed for a manipulated drill scenario.
To recap some points (a few from past articles) related to Marathon drills: Exercise scenarios of IED attacks on the Marathon were admittedly drilled a month before and then again the week before the actual events happened. A massive “Urban Shield” counterterrorism drill–involving carjacking terrorists using back pack bombs throughout Boston–was also being prepared in the months leading up to the actual bombing. A contractor that supplied equipment for the effects company working on the Urban Shield drills carried an IED training aid consisting of a pressure-cooker inside a black backpack in their inventory. The Boston Marathon has been used by government and law enforcement to secretly run counter-terrorism exercises for several years and a cross country coach from the University of Mobile who participated in the Marathon witnessed security drills taking place during the event.
If the Marathon bombing involved an exercise and or a sting operation- where fake bombs may have been switched with or turned into real bombs- it is unrealistic to expect the FBI to willingly come forward with any information revealing guilt or involvement. Consider the 1993 World Trade Center Bombing, which is often still portrayed as an unforeseen terrorist attack carried out by extremists who caught the national security complex by surprise. Were it not for an informant recording the conversations with his government handler, we may have never discovered the FBI’s involvement in the event. The informant revealed that, under the agency’s supervision, he helped build a bomb with plans to replace it with a fake explosive, (apparently as part of some kind of sting operation.) The informant stated in the recordings that before the plan was carried out, interference by a supervisor resulted in the real bomb going off.
The well documented history of the FBI’s use of informants in terror plots led many observers, including me, to consider this angle from the beginning. The mainstream media dismissed the notion as conspiracy theory or completely ignored it, but Senator Grassley and now Dzhokhar’s defense team are addressing these very concerns. Senator Grassley had brought the issue up last summer, with no response, and then again in his previously mentioned October letter to the FBI Director. The letter asked: “Did the FBI attempt to use the tactic of ‘recruitment’ or a sting operation with Tamerlan Tsarnaev?” After Grassley’s letter received coverage in the media, the FBI finally issued a denial, but the matter was soon brought up again.
In a letter made public in March, Dzhokhar’s defense attorneys stated that sometime before the Boston Marathon attacks, Tamerlan was approached to be an informant for the FBI. They say the FBI made, “more than one visit” to talk to Tamerlan and “asked him to be an informant, reporting on the Chechen and Muslim community.” The letter is part of an ongoing struggle by the defense to obtain critical information from the government, which continues to withhold evidence using dubious rationale.
When the defense sought to obtain reports on a separate shootout in Watertown that night, the government denied the request claiming: “These reports are of an unrelated shooting.” The official story makes no mention of any “unrelated shooting”, even though eyewitness statements and police scanner recordings suggest the possibility of a much larger operation including multiple and separate shootout scenes in Watertown that night.
Multiple shootouts might explain the strange case of Dennis O. Simmonds, a 28 year old officer who was reported to be one of the first people to respond to and engage the suspects in Watertown that night. His story is absent from and incompatible with the reports of the Laurel Street shootout where the Tsarnaevs allegedly were. Is it possible he was involved in a different shootout in Watertown? We may never know because he recently died during in-service training shortly after his lunch break, a month before he was scheduled to be honored by the president for his bravery in Watertown. Whatever his role may have been, it’s somewhat unbelievable that a separate shooting would occur in Watertown that night and not be related to the other events, and seems more likely that the information is being withheld because it threatens the official story.
Far from being a problem limited only to Dzhokhar’s defense, even high a ranking Senator like Grassley has had a hard time getting detailed answers from the FBI. Meanwhile the agency actively molds public opinion with leaks, TV appearances, and anonymous scoops to selected media, as they use the Tsarnaev prosecution as one of many excuses to stonewall serious inquiry.
As the aforementioned Privacy SOS article points out, the bureau is “perfectly comfortable speaking on national television about the investigation” but has avoided “[providing] detailed information to Congress and its own Department of Justice Inspector General.” They even refused to testify before the House Homeland Security committee in a closed-door session.
Like many institutions of power, the FBI can be expected to closely guard or bury self incriminating and compromising information while manipulating an event’s narrative to its favor with little regard for truth. Whatever facts it may be forced to admit will usually receive heavy spin with the intention of limiting its guilt or fault while portraying itself as highly virtuous.
This appears to be the case with their behavior relating to the Boston attacks, with much of the official account being formed by adjustments and admissions seemingly forced by information from outside sources. The investigation is filled with instances that raise the question of whether the FBI would have released certain information had other sources not already made it public. Early on, officials had maintained that the suspects robbed a 7-Eleven and let the story stand until a 7-Eleven representative- who appears to have better investigative and facial recognition skills than the FBI- spent all day reaching out to media to let them know that the bombing suspects had nothing to do with the robbery and looked nothing like the actual robber.
Apparently the bureau wasn’t even the first to release the infamous “suspects with backpacks at the Marathon” pictures we were told to exclusively rely on. In the previously mentioned FOX 25 interview, Mike Beaudet stated that he had actually shown pictures of the Tsarnaev brothers before the FBI released them at the press conference.
In addition, the first time we heard about Tamerlan’s contact with the FBI, wasn’t from the government or the US establishment media, but from his mother, in an interview on a Russian based news network. Initially when the FBI publicly identified the Tsarnaevs after the shootout, they claimed they had never before made contact with them.
Later that day, the suspects’ mother said in an interview on RT, that her sons had been “set up” and that the FBI had been all over her older son Tamerlan. She told RT that they were “controlling every step of him” and that “he was controlled by FBI like for, three, five years.” “They knew what my son was doing,” she said. Soon after the mother’s interview, the FBI amended their earlier claim of “no prior contact.” They admitted that Tamerlan had come to their attention long before the Boston attack, due to a warning by Russian intelligence “about possible extremist ties,” but they claimed that they had failed to find incriminating information about him and closed the file.
The FBI maintains that their first contact with the Tsarnaevs came after that warning in March of 2011, despite evidence that says otherwise. The FBI Director at the time, Robert Mueller, undermined the agency’s account when he acknowledged in congressional testimony, that the bureau had come across Tamerlan “in two other cases” prior to the Russian warning in March. When asked if the March warning had the effect of refocusing the FBI on Tamerlan, Mueller agreed that it did.
The FBI’s current account is also contradicted by information from “senior law enforcement officials” in a report from the New York Times, which states that, “two counterterrorism agents from the bureau’s Boston field office interviewed Tamerlan and family members,” in January 2011. The contradiction has never been officially addressed or corrected but, the new Inspectors General report summary on the Marathon bombing contains a subsection labeled JANUARY 2011 COMMUNICATIONS on page 18, under the heading “INFORMATION OBTAINED OR FIRST ACCESSED AND REVIEWED AFTER THE BOMBINGS.” This seems to add weight to the Times account, although the majority of the information in that section is of course redacted.
The FBI mostly ignores contradictions like these, but when they do address challenges to the official account, their responses are minimal, and rarely answer the questions or resolve the issues. It was clear that local JTTF were not informed of the federal activity at MIT and Watertown before Colliers death, yet when they finally responded to Grassley’s questions asking why, their answers mentioned only JTTF actions, essentially denying there was a separate federal presence.
The FBI habitually uses the JTTF in this manner, as a cover for their actions. Promoted as a coordination of federal government with state and local law enforcement, the JTTF, in many ways, works as a takeover instead. It puts local faces on operations that are effectively under federal control, often while keeping the local representatives in the dark. When the FBI dominated JTTF organization becomes involved in a case, their Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) provides them investigative exclusivity. Once in control, the JTTF’s MOA also restricts members from revealing any information to the media and requires all media releases to be “coordinated jointly.”
These restrictions may keep many of the police from coming forward but they aren’t keeping everyone silent. Many have tried to get the word out anonymously, and hopefully we will see more officers like Sergeant Henniger, who are unafraid to come forward with the truth when it defies the official account. Because of the internet and alternative media, their testimony in local reports have a greater chance than ever of reaching a national audience. Though still a small percentage overall, increasing numbers of the population are questioning the official narratives of events like the Boston Marathon attacks which, as bizarre as it was in the beginning, has only gotten worse with time. If the official story of the attacks smelled funny in the early aftermath, it has since become an olfactory nightmare, and the FBI’s prior relationship with the Tsarnaevs continues to look more and more complicated.