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Suspects Seemed Set for Attacks
April 21, 2013
The New York Times
By ERIC SCHMITT
and MICHAEL S. SCHMIDT
WASHINGTON — The two men suspected in the Boston Marathon
bombings were armed with a small arsenal of guns, ammunition and explosives when
they first confronted the police early Friday, and were most likely planning
more attacks, the authorities said Sunday.
United States officials said they were increasingly certain that the two
suspects had acted on their own, but were looking for any hints that someone had
trained or inspired them. The F.B.I. is broadening its global investigation in
search of a motive and pressing the Russian government for more details about a
Russian request to the F.B.I. in 2011 about one of the suspects’ possible links
to extremist groups, a senior United States official said Sunday.
New details about the suspects, their alleged plot and the widening inquiry
emerged on Sunday, including the types of weapons that were used and the bomb
design’s link to a terrorist manual. Lawmakers also accused the F.B.I. of an
intelligence failure, questioning whether the bureau had responded forcefully
enough to Russia’s warnings.
The surviving suspect, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, remained in a Boston hospital in
serious condition. The authorities said they believed that he had tried to kill
himself, because a gunshot wound to his neck “had the appearance of a
close-range, self-inflicted style,” the senior United States official said.
As investigators intensified their search for clues, the investigation’s focus
shifted in the last two days from a manhunt that relied heavily on cutting-edge
surveillance technology to help track down the suspects to more traditional
investigative methods. Those approaches include interviews with friends,
relatives and others who knew the suspects and examinations of computers,
phones, writings and their possessions.
More details of what the authorities said was the original plot were becoming
clearer. The Boston police commissioner, Edward Davis, said the authorities
believed that Mr. Tsarnaev and his older brother, Tamerlan, 26, had planned more
attacks beyond the bombings at the finish line of the Boston Marathon, which
killed three people and wounded more than 170. When the suspects seized a
Mercedes-Benz sport utility vehicle and held the driver hostage, they told him
that they planned to head to New York, the senior United States official said
It was not clear whether the suspects had told the driver what they planned to
Mr. Davis told CBS News’s “Face the Nation” on Sunday: “We have reason to
believe, based upon the evidence that was found at that scene — the explosions,
the explosive ordnance that was unexploded and the firepower that they had —
that they were going to attack other individuals.”
Along with determining that the suspects had made at least five pipe bombs, the
authorities recovered four firearms that they believe the suspects used,
according to a law enforcement official. The authorities found an M-4 carbine
rifle — a weapon similar to ones used by American forces in Afghanistan — on the
boat where the younger suspect was found Friday night in Watertown, Mass., 10
miles west of Boston.
Two handguns and a BB gun that the authorities believe the brothers used in an
earlier shootout with officers in Watertown were also recovered, said one
official briefed on the investigation. The authorities said they believe the
suspects had fired roughly 80 rounds in that shootout, in which Tamerlan
Tsarnaev was fatally wounded, the official said.
Among the unanswered questions facing investigators are where the suspects
acquired their weapons and explosives, how they got the money to pay for them,
and whether others helped plan and carry out the attack last Monday. Mayor
Thomas M. Menino of Boston said he believed the brothers were not affiliated
with a larger network. “All of the information that I have, they acted alone,
these two individuals, the brothers,” he said on ABC News’s “This Week.”
Some investigators said they believe the suspects used a design for the
pressure-cooker bombs they allegedly detonated from a manual published in the
online English-language magazine of Al Qaeda’s affiliate in Yemen. Mr. Menino
said Tamerlan had “brainwashed” his younger brother to follow him and “read
those magazines that were published on how to create bombs, how to disrupt the
general public, and things like that.”
The suspects’ uncle Ruslan Tsarni, who lives in Maryland, said in an interview
on Sunday that he had first noticed a change in the older brother in 2009. Mr.
Tsarni sought advice from a family friend, who told him that Tamerlan’s
radicalization had begun after he met a recent convert to Islam in the Boston
area. Mr. Tsarni said he had later learned from a relative that his nephew had
met the convert in 2007.
As scrutiny increased on how the brothers had been radicalized, Representative
Michael McCaul, a Texas Republican who heads the Homeland Security Committee,
and Representative Peter T. King, a New York Republican on the panel, sent a
letter to the directors of three of the nation’s leading intelligence-gathering
agencies calling the F.B.I.’s handling of the case “an intelligence failure.”
They said Tamerlan Tsarnaev was the fifth man since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks
to be suspected of committing terrorism while under investigation by the bureau.
Agents had questioned him in 2011 in response to a request from the Russian
government, a year before he traveled to Chechnya and Dagestan, predominantly
Muslim republics in the North Caucasus region of Russia. Both have been hotbeds
of militant separatists.
The request from the Russian government was directed to the F.B.I.’s legal
attaché at the American Embassy in Moscow in January 2011, a senior United
States official said. Tamerlan spent six months in Chechnya and Dagestan in
The Russians feared Tamerlan could be a risk, and said their request was “based
on information that he was a follower of radical Islam and a strong believer,
and that he had changed drastically since 2010 as he prepared to leave the
United States for travel to the country’s region to join unspecified underground
groups,” the F.B.I. said in a statement Friday.
A senior United States official said Sunday that despite requests from American
officials for more details at the time, this was all the information the
The F.B.I. responded by checking “U.S. government databases and other
information to look for such things as derogatory telephone communications,
possible use of online sites associated with the promotion of radical activity,
associations with other persons of interest, travel history and plans, and
education history,” it said in the statement.
The bureau sent two counterterrorism agents from its Boston field office to
interview Tamerlan and family members, a senior United States official said
According to the F.B.I.’s statement, “The F.B.I. did not find any terrorism
activity, domestic or foreign,” and conveyed those findings to “the foreign
government” — which officials say was Russia — by the summer of 2011.
Representative Mike Rogers, a Michigan Republican and former F.B.I. agent who
heads the House Intelligence Committee, defended the bureau, saying on NBC’s
“Meet the Press” that it “did a very thorough job.” But on CNN’s “State of the
Union,” Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, said: “The fact
that we could not track him has to be fixed. It’s people like this that you
don’t want to let out of your sight, and this was a mistake. I don’t know if our
laws are insufficient or the F.B.I. failed, but we’re at war with radical
Islamists, and we need to up our game.”
The F.B.I. has pressed Russian authorities for more details about Moscow’s
original request on Tamerlan, as well as any information the Russian
intelligence services have developed since then, according to a senior United
These discussions are “sensitive,” the official said, because of the differences
in protocol and laws between the two countries, and the Russians’ reluctance to
disclose confidential intelligence to foreign governments.
Tensions also escalated Sunday over how to handle the case of the surviving
suspect. Some Republican lawmakers want President Obama to declare Dzhokhar
Tsarnaev an “enemy combatant,” putting him into military detention and
questioning him at length without a lawyer.
But the administration has said terrorism suspects arrested inside the United
States should be handled exclusively in the criminal justice system, and gave no
sign it intends to do otherwise in Mr. Tsarnaev’s case. Moreover, there is no
evidence suggesting that he is part of Al Qaeda; the United States is engaged in
an armed conflict with Al Qaeda, not all Muslim extremists.
In the days after the bombing, analysts and agents for the F.B.I. used special
video technology that allowed them to string together hours and hours of footage
and to enhance the quality.
They will now begin to employ more conventional techniques. As prosecutors
worked to complete the criminal complaint against Mr. Tsarnaev, hundreds of
police detectives and F.B.I. agents — including members of the Joint Terrorism
Task Force in Boston, plus nearly 250 agents from 24 of the F.B.I.’s 56 field
offices — continued to work on the investigation, officials said.
Their efforts included analyzing records from the brothers’ phones and
computers, to find associates and witnesses and extremist group affiliations.
The agents also scoured credit card records and other material seized from their
apartment and car for evidence of bomb components, the backpacks used or any
other evidence that could tie them to the bombings.
Reporting was contributed by Marc Santora,
William K. Rashbaum and Ethan Bronner from New York;
Brian Knowlton and Charlie Savage from Washington;
and Emmarie Huetteman from Montgomery Village, Md.
Suspects Seemed Set for Attacks Beyond
Campaigning Beyond Inspiration
May 8, 2012
The New York Times
President Obama could not single-handedly transform American
politics. Many of his young 2008 supporters learned that to their
disillusionment, and as he begins his re-election campaign, the president
himself seems a more somber candidate who learned by trial the limits to
inspirational change. In his first formal campaign speech, delivered on
Saturday, Mr. Obama’s view of what might happen with a robust use of government
power was intertwined with the shadow of a Republican Party that has fought
every attempt to use that power.
“The last few years, the Republicans who run this Congress have insisted that we
go right back to the policies that created this mess,” he said, speaking in
Columbus, Ohio. “Now their agenda is on steroids.”
There was a tiny echo of 2008 at the conclusion of his remarks when he said he
“still believes” the country is not as divided as its politics, that people were
Americans before they were Democrats or Republicans. But as Mr. Obama has reason
to know, the country is more divided than it was four years ago, the parties and
their supporters more polarized, and he will have to be far more persuasive if
he hopes to win and then to govern effectively.
The president riffled through his considerable accomplishments, and was
withering in his assessment of Mitt Romney’s plans to let prosperity sprinkle
slowly from the hands of the rich onto the heads of everyone else. It is vital
for Mr. Obama to make this contrast, to remind voters how far backward Mr.
Romney and his party would take the country.
And Mr. Obama’s general goals are the right ones: more college degrees, better
teachers, growth in manufacturing, investments in clean energy and preservation
of gains in health care and women’s rights. But it’s not enough to simply tick
through dreams that will die in a divided Congress. The public has seen plenty
of that. Mr. Obama needs to spend more time persuading dubious and disillusioned
voters that he can achieve these goals.
It’s true that he has repeatedly been burned seeking elusive “grand bargains”
with Republican leaders who proved unwilling or unable to compromise. But even
Democrats say the president has been too aloof in his first term, not bothering
to make his case in the Capitol, not interested in the L.B.J.-style
flesh-pressing or arm-twisting that can rescue a law out of the mortuary of
The president can let loose a great speech, but without follow-through Congress
can be counted on to muck up the details, as he should have learned from the
fight over the health care reform law of 2010. He never made the sale with the
public on the law, and the two or three sentences he devoted to it in his speech
were insufficient. If not struck down by the Supreme Court, the core of the law
will be fully felt in his second term; rather than shy away, it is time to
explain to the public in detail what that would mean and why it is important
that he be there to fight for it.
Similarly, the speech lacked any detail of his plans to shore up Medicare while
reducing its untenable cost growth. If he is going to counter the Republican
plans to end Medicare’s guarantee to older Americans, he will have to do better
than a quick promise to reduce wasteful spending.
Voters already know that Mr. Obama can lift their hopes with a powerful speech.
This time around, they will be seeking far more than inspiration.
Campaigning Beyond Inspiration,
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