Boston Bombing Part 2: FBI Informants, Syria and The Russian Olympics

April 28, 2013
Chechen Fighters

Chechen Fighters

In Part 1 of our look into the intrigue behind the Boston Bombing we saw that one cell of a Russian spy ring was caught operating out of Boston. Here’s a few excerpts of an article from the L.A Times:

“One suspect wrote columns for a Spanish-language newspaper in New York. Another ran an international consulting and management firm in Boston, while his wife sold high-priced real estate near Harvard University. Yet another drove a shiny blue BMW to his investment banking job in Seattle; he regularly updated his status on LinkedIn, a social networking site.”
“Donald Howard Heathfield and Tracey Lee Ann Foley, the alleged spies in Boston, filed regular expense reports to Moscow Center, headquarters for Russia’s foreign intelligence agency, called the SVR.
“Got from Ctr. 64500 dollars, income 13940, interest 76. Expenses: rent 8500, utilities 142, tel. 160, car lease 2180, insurance 432, gas 820, education 3600,” plus medical, lawyers’ fees, meals and gifts, mailboxes, computer supplies, and so on, they wrote in one, according to an FBI affidavit.”
While other Russian cells were operating in New York, Seattle and elsewhere, we focus in on Boston in this case. What were the Russians monitoring in Boston?
Well, it appears that Boston has been a hub of organizing and fundraising for Chechen rebels that have been waging war against the Russians.
Here’s a snip of a very detailed article from “Foreign” about radical Islamists in Boston:

Boston’s Jihadist Past
Long before the marathon bombing, Islamists in Massachusetts were helping militants in Chechnya.
BY J.M. BERGER | APRIL 22, 2013

“When Boston Marathon runners rounded the bend from Beacon Street last week, they were in the home stretch of the race. As they poured through the closed intersection, they ran past a nondescript address: 510 Commonwealth Avenue.
The location was once home to an international support network that raised funds and recruited fighters for a jihadist insurgency against Russian rule over Chechnya, a region and a conflict that few of the runners had likely ever given any serious thought.
“The investigation into alleged marathon bombers Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is still in its infancy, but a press release issued by the FBI late Friday suggested that at least one of the brothers may have had some kind of connection to Chechen Islamist militant networks, a suspicion heightened by the fact that elder brother Tamerlan spent about six months in Russia in 2012. (The most important Chechen jihadist group has disavowed the attack, but has not unequivocally ruled out the possibility of some kind of contact with Tamerlan.)
It will take time to discover whether there was a militant connection and, if there was, to what extent it is pertinent to the Tsarnaevs’ decision to bomb the marathon.
But if the lead pans out, it won’t be Boston’s first brush with that faraway war. During the 1980s and into the 1990s, Islamist foreign fighters operated robust recruiting and financing networks that supported Chechen jihadists from the United States, and Boston was home to one of the most significant centers: a branch of the Al Kifah Center based in Brooklyn, which would later be rechristened CARE International.”
Ever since the CIA armed tribal warlords to fight the Russians in Afghanistan, the Russians have kept a keen interest in such support networks. It’s likely their spies were shadowing such U.S. operations.
There are two key issues that are of great concern to the Russians at this time:
The conflict in Syria, where they support the Assad regime, and the upcoming 2014 Olympics. This is the angle discussed in “Foreign Affairs“:

(Refering to the bombing)
“Republican lawmakers have labeled this episode an intelligence failure by the Obama administration, but despite the stories of advance warnings from Moscow, Russian officials are now eager to cast attention away from the brothers’ ethnicity and any links with Russia itself. In a statement that came immediately after the Tsarnaevs were announced as suspects, Kadyrov pointed out that the brothers had no connections with Chechnya other than their family background. He argued that investigators should look to the American culture to explain their behavior. A senior official with Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Vladimir Kotliar, likewise downplayed any connections with Russia. Given that one of the Tsarnaev brothers was an American citizen, the other the holder of a Kyrgyz passport, and both residents of the United States for nearly a decade, Moscow’s bemusement at the intense American interest in finding a Russian angle is understandable.
It may yet emerge that Tamerlan did, in fact, have some link to the North Caucasus jihadist scene, but even if he did, it would still do little to explain the involvement of his younger brother, Dzhokhar, who seems to have been as deeply American as Lee Boyd Malvo, the younger shooter in the Washington sniper attacks of 2002. Nor would it likely have any real impact on U.S.-Russian relations, other than convincing some American policymakers of the point that their Russian counterparts take for granted: that people from the North Caucasus, by their very presence, are somehow a security threat. That will be especially important in the run-up to the Sochi Olympics in 2014, when Moscow will be especially security-obsessed and will want to deepen its already tough surveillance of religious Muslims, especially young men, in the North Caucasus. The United States, convinced of the threat, will likely look the other way when it comes to ongoing human rights abuses in the region.
(Edit) And the article goes on to describe Russian concerns in Syria:

“In the long term, the Chechnya link will probably end up being less important than, oddly, the Syrian one. In blocking further international involvement in the Syrian crisis, Russian officials have long maintained that Syrian rebel groups are dominated by al Qaeda affiliates, whose victory in the Syrian civil war will have dire consequences for the region and beyond. Now, Russians have already begun to portray the Tsarnaevs as an unlikely link between Boston and Damascus. There are somewhere “between 600 and 6,000” Chechens from the North Caucasus fighting in Syria, said Kotliar in a recent interview with Russian media, “and from what happened in Boston, perhaps Americans will finally draw the lesson that there are no good terrorists and bad terrorists, no ‘ours’ and ‘yours.’” Keep arming the Syrian rebels, the argument goes, and sooner or later you will have to face the consequences of a Syria overtaken by Islamist radicals.”

Indeed, The U.S. is arming an Al-Qaeda linked insurgency in Syria. Take a look at this heavily-footnoted article by Tony Cartaluci in “Information Clearing House”:

“While US President Barack Obama and the Western media lied in concert to the world regarding America’s role in supporting terrorists operating in Syria, it is now revealed that the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has been shipping weapons to Syria via NATO-member Turkey and Jordan since at least early 2012. The New York Times in their article titled, “Arms Airlift to Syria Rebels Expands, With C.I.A. Aid,” admits that:
With help from the C.I.A., Arab governments and Turkey have sharply increased their military aid to Syria’s opposition fighters in recent months, expanding a secret airlift of arms and equipment for the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad, according to air traffic data, interviews with officials in several countries and the accounts of rebel commanders.”
“The CIA, Western media, and Western politicians insist that they have taken every precaution to ensure the now admitted torrent of cash and weapons that have been flowing into Syria to compound and perpetuate the bloodbath, did not end up in the hands of terrorists. However, no plausible explanation has been given as to where al-Nusra is getting its cash and weapons from, or how it has managed to eclipse the extensively Western-backed “moderates,” to become the premier front in the fight against the Syrian people.
Indeed, the New York Times’ article “Syrian Rebels Tied to Al Qaeda Play Key Role in War,” states:
The lone Syrian rebel group with an explicit stamp of approval from Al Qaeda has become one of the uprising’s most effective fighting forces, posing a stark challenge to the United States and other countries that want to support the rebels but not Islamic extremists.
Money flows to the group, the Nusra Front, from like-minded donors abroad. Its fighters, a small minority of the rebels, have the boldness and skill to storm fortified positions and lead other battalions to capture military bases and oil fields. As their successes mount, they gather more weapons and attract more fighters.
The group is a direct offshoot of Al Qaeda in Iraq, Iraqi officials and former Iraqi insurgents say, which has contributed veteran fighters and weapons.”

This is obviously a concern for The Russians, who cling to Syria and Assad as one of their few influences in the middle east.

The Tsarnaev family, Tamerlan as an infant

The Tsarnaev family, Tamerlan as an infant

Bringing us full-circle back to The Boston Bombings and the Tsarnaev family; we now know that in 2011 the Russians first alerted the FBI, and then the CIA about the radicalization of Tamerlan Tsarnaev. The FBI dutifully paid the family a visit and reportadly had Tamerlan under surveillance. But why did the Russians let Tamerlan back into the country on his 2012 half-year visit to Dagestan? This is unquestionably an unusual security breach, if it was not intentional.
In fact, the Russians had wiretapped his mother’s telephone in Dagestan:
From an AP report:

“Russia had wiretap on bomb suspect”

“WASHINGTON — U.S. officials say Russian authorities secretly recorded a conversation in 2011 in which one of the Boston bombing suspects vaguely discussed jihad with his mother.
Officials say a second call was recorded between the suspects’ mother and a man under FBI investigation living in southern Russia.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the ongoing case.
They say the Russians shared this intelligence with the U.S. in the past few days.
The conversations are significant because, had they been revealed earlier, there might have been enough evidence for the FBI to initiate a more thorough investigation of the Boston bombing suspects’ family.”

So the FBI, the CIA, and Russian security services all had Tamerlan Tsarnaev under surveillance, and were well aware of his radicalization.
Could the Russians have intentionally loosed Tamerlan as a lone wolf to draw attention to their security issues with the Chechens? In this era of multi-layered levels of intrigue, this is not out of the question. As stated in an article above, the Russians are very, very concerned that their 2014 Olympics will go off without a hitch. At the same time, they benefit by exposing the collusion between the U.S. and our presumed enemy, Al-Qaeda.

Now what about the FBI’s role in this debacle?
“This Week” magazine has an excellent article about the recent FBI sting operations that have caught a series of young Jihadists attempting to cause problems in the U.S.
Take note that nearly all have been directly funded, armed and cooerced by FBI informants. Tamerlan Tsarnaev was under the influence of a mysterious older man named “Misha”:

Finding Misha: Could the mystery man who radicalized Tamerlan Tsarnaev have been an FBI informant?
There is hardly definitive evidence. But when you break down what we do know, this idea isn’t nearly as far-fetched as other conspiracy theories circulating the web. By Walter Katz | April 25, 2013

“”Efforts over several days by the Associated Press to identify and interview Misha have been unsuccessful.” So here is a distinctive looking guy that Tamerlan may or may not have met in a Boston-area mosque. He befriends Tamerlan, fills his head with radical ideas over a period of time, and now no one knows who he is?
If the FBI was doing its job, how is it that they could learn of Tamerlan, interview him, conclude he is not a threat and place him in TIDE and the entire time have no clue about Misha? Natural questions would be: “How long have you held such strong beliefs?” “Really, that recently?” “Who gave you these ideas?”
“Since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, separating serious terrorist plotters from delusional dreamers has proved one of the FBI’s most challenging tasks. The effort is complicated by the bureau’s frequent use of informants who sometimes play active roles in the plotting. [Washington Post]”
“Trevor Aaronson wrote an excellent article in Mother Jones in 2011 in which he dug into the FBI’s counter-terrorism operation, which relies on “Domain Management” to use informants to seek out potential terrorists:
Once someone has signed on as an informant, the first assignment is often a fishing expedition. Informants have said in court testimony that FBI handlers have tasked them with infiltrating mosques without a specific target or “predicate” — the term of art for the reason why someone is investigated. They were, they say, directed to surveil law-abiding Americans with no indication of criminal intent. [Mother Jones]”
“Aaronson described how the sting is typically started with the FBI assigning an informant to approach “the target posing as a radical.” As the relationship develops, “the operative will propose a plot, provide explosives, even lead the target in a fake oath to Al Qaeda. Once enough incriminating information has been gathered, there’s an arrest — and a press conference announcing another foiled plot.” The question always remains, though, to what degree the plots come about from the target’s own mind rather than through the machinations of the informant/agent provocateur.”
“When Misha, or whatever his real name was, got nowhere did he slip back into the night without the FBI knowing that the seeds of destruction had now been planted in Tamerlan’s head? Was it only later, once Tamerlan had gone back another time to Dagestan, or began steering his little brother towards radicalism, that the plot was hatched? After all, unlike the Liberty City 7, they didn’t need $50,000 to bomb the Sears Tower. Al that was needed was a $100 for a pressure cooker and fireworks from New Hampshire.

This is not to lay claim to a certain “conspiracy” theory. I am a lawyer, so I take the facts as they are known rather than as I would like them to be. These are serious concerns, though, which merit further explanation because of what the public has recently learned:

1. The FBI did know about Tamerlan years ago thanks to Russia’s security services.
2. The FBI contacted Tamerlan and put him on the terrorism watch list.
3. Tamerlan, like the Liberty City 7, fell under the spell of a foreigner who behaved as if he had his best spiritual interests at heart.
4. The government was aware Tamerlan traveled back and forth to Dagestan.
5. Now no one seems to be able to identify or place Misha anywhere.

With all those factors, why wouldn’t the government have attempted to target Tamerlan?
In the experience I had as a criminal defense attorney, federal informants are moved around the country at will. They are like ghosts. Their names aren’t real. They are from nowhere. They aren’t very accountable for their actions as long they get their man.
It would be disturbing if Tamerlan Tsarnaev — and by extension his brother — was the product of an abandoned government sting operation, for we will never know if Tamerlan would have set on down the path of radicalism without the guiding hand of the red-bearded Misha.
On the other hand, if Tamerlan was targeted by the FBI through Misha with the belief he was already vulnerable to developing into an active terrorist and then moved on, they forgot what one FBI agent told Aaronson: “Sometimes, that step takes 10 years. Other times, it takes 10 minutes.” To have targeted and molded and then forgotten would be negligence of the highest degree.


We may never know the true story of the Tsarnaev brothers and the Boston Bombings. We may also never find out what the Russians and the FBI were up to, It’s possible that Tamerlan Tsarnaev was an unwitting pawn in a new chapter of the cold war.
With that said, this case will no doubt be a road map to compare and examine any future incidents that may occur.


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