The BBC’s top man in the US, Mark Mardell, has some questions for the FBI in the aftermath of the Boston bombing. And I have some questions for the BBC’s wrongly-titled North America editor.
Questions begin for FBI over Boston
The relief was palpable in a city where 19 April 2013 had been cancelled, paralysed, because of the manhunt for a terrorist.
When the news broke that the second suspect had been caught Boston residents who’d been cooped up under a day-long curfew poured onto the streets whooping with joy.
That raises a question before we even get to Mardell’s questions for the FBI. Why no mention that the only reason the second suspect was found is that the owner of the boat where he was hiding was able to find him only because the lockdown was lifted and he stepped outside for a smoke? Why no question from him as to why the lockdown in the first place? It clearly hindered the goal of finding the suspect, not to mention the ominous overtones of the government forcing citizens to remain indoors not because they were in danger but simply to make things easier for government officials to move around.
Mardell remarked in a previous blog post about how surprising it was to find the entire city shut down like that. But he felt it was necessary, and worried only that people wouldn’t feel safe again until the perpetrator was caught. Not that people got a bad impression from the government ordering them to remain indoors in a situation that wasn’t something immediately threatening to everyone, such as an imminent nuclear attack, but that this made them feel even more scared of the bad guy. The extreme exercise of State power didn’t bother him at all. Why not?
Back to Mardell’s “analysis”:
When President Obama spoke, the normal level of chatter returned and no-one seemed to be paying much attention. But he had something important to say.
Naturally, the President must be brought into the conversation, even if it’s just as a launchpad for the real point Mardell wants to make. Actually, it’s probably more than just his reflexive response to view everything through the prism of Him. Normalcy started to return not when news broke that one suspect had been found and killed while the other was now running scared, but because He spoke to us.
Now, about that point Mardell wants to make. The President asked the rhetorical question of “why did they do it”.
“How did they plan and carry out these attacks, and did they receive any help? The families of those killed so senselessly deserve answers. The wounded, some of whom now have to learn how to stand and walk and live again, deserve answers.”
The president might be wise to start by asking President Putin. I have no evidence that the “foreign government” asking questions about Tamerlan Tsarnaev was Russia, but that is my strong suspicion.
It’s not His fault, you see. These young men were not radicalized by the Iraq War or Afghanistan, and definitely, no way in hell, never in a million years were they radicalized to murder their neighbors by seeing all those fellow Mohammedans get killed in cold blood – innocent women and children included – by drone bombs under the President’s orders. Nope, they’re Chechens now, not home-grown US terrorists anymore. So of course Putin must bear some responsibility because of that whole Russia/Chechnya scene. I do hope this won’t make any Beeboid start to have second thoughts about the theory that these people are all radicalized by Iraq/Afghanistan/US Foreign policy. To think that there might be some sort of global, pan-Islamist connection regardless of which country is oppressing them is one of the most unapproved thoughts imaginable.
Whoever it was, they warned the FBI that Tamerlan was a strong supporter of radical Islam. The FBI say they investigated, interviewed him, and found no links with terrorism. This is quite remarkable. Let me repeat it. The FBI had been warned that the man who apparently carried out the first terrorist attack on an American city since 9/11 was a strong supporter of radical Islam.
It’s actually not at all remarkable to anyone who follows reality outside the Beltway bubble and far-Left blogosphere. I don’t remember Mardell finding it so remarkable that the US Army knew for some time that Maj. Hasan was going radical and expressing disturbing thoughts. As most people here have known for some time, the FBI purged language about Islamic terrorism from their materials. (Actually, one change to the guidelines made at the same time is right on the money: the bit about how there really is no more international functional Al Qaeda super-group any longer, and it really is a hodge-podge of gangs and cells and freelancers and inspired lone wolves and wannabes.) Aside from that, it shouldn’t be remarkable to anyone who follows reality outside the Beltway bubble and far-Left blogosphere because even the Washington Post reported that Russia told the FBI about Tamerlan.
Why is Mardell being so coy? Why pretend he doesn’t know? Is there some BBC legal eagle keeping him from saying it out loud? Or is he just that far behind the times again? He knows Tamerlan traveled to Russia last year, because his colleagues mention it on the “Chechen links” section of the special feature on the bombers. So it’s silly for him to play this game. Maybe there’s just some legal reason he can’t say it, even though he and his colleagues can speculate all day long about right-wing connections.
People will want to know how far they delved, how hard they tried, how seriously they took the information. Some of the criticism will be unfair, based on hindsight – they must get thousands of such warnings ever year. Or perhaps they are quite rare. That is another question.
No, Mark. The real question is: who gave the order over a year ago to make the FBI turn a blind eye to the specific radical Islam component to these things. And why. One suspects that Mardell won’t be asking any of either his or my questions any time soon. Nor will anyone at the BBC, because that’s not what they do.
One last question for Mardell: Will you and your colleagues finally learn the lesson and not only stop speculating that these attacks are probably from Right-wingers, but also stop speculating that it can’t be connected to radical Islamists? Speculate about everyone or no one.