Suspect in Boston Marathon Attack Charged with Using a Weapon of Mass Destruction
Attorney General Eric Holder announced today that Dzhokhar A. Tsarnaev, 19, a U.S. citizen and resident of Cambridge, Mass., has been charged with using a weapon of mass destruction against persons and property at the Boston Marathon on April 15, 2013, resulting in the death of three people and injuries to more than 200 people.
In a criminal complaint unsealed today in U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts, Tsarnaev is specifically charged with one count of using and conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction (namely, an improvised explosive device or IED) against persons and property within the United States resulting in death, and one count of malicious destruction of property by means of an explosive device resulting in death. The statutory charges authorize a penalty, upon conviction, of death or imprisonment for life or any term of years. Tsarnaev had his initial court appearance today from his hospital room.
“Although our investigation is ongoing, today's charges bring a successful end to a tragic week for the city of Boston, and for our country,” said Attorney General Eric Holder. “Our thoughts and prayers remain with each of the bombing victims and brave law enforcement professionals who lost their lives or suffered serious injuries as a result of this week's senseless violence. Thanks to the valor of state and local police, the dedication of federal law enforcement and intelligence officials, and the vigilance of members of the public, we've once again shown that those who target innocent Americans and attempt to terrorize our cities will not escape from justice. We will hold those who are responsible for these heinous acts accountable to the fullest extent of the law.”
“The events of the past week underscore in stark terms the need for continued vigilance against terrorist threats both at home and abroad,” said John Carlin, Acting Assistant Attorney General for National Security. “Friday's arrest and today's charges demonstrate what can be achieved by a collaborative, round-the clock response involving law enforcement officers, intelligence professionals, prosecutors and the general public.”
“Today's charges are the culmination of extraordinary law enforcement coordination and the tireless efforts of so many, including ordinary citizens who became heroes as they responded to the call for help in the hours and days following the Marathon tragedy,” said Carmen Ortiz, U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts. “The impact of these crimes has been far-reaching, affecting a worldwide community that is looking for peace and justice. We hope that this prosecution will bring some small measure of comfort both to the public at large and to the victims and their families that justice will be served. While we will not be able to comment on any possible communications between the suspect and law enforcement at this time, as a general rule, the government will always seek to elicit all the actionable intelligence and information we can from terrorist suspects taken into our custody.”
“The events of this week have moved at a breakneck pace. Yet the one consistent element of this investigation has been the collective efforts of our law enforcement and intelligence partners, working side-by-side, day and night, to identify and find those responsible for this attack, while keeping the public safe,” said Rick DesLauriers, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI's Boston Division. “We are grateful to the American people for their assistance; we would not be successful without their trust and support. We will continue to investigate this matter with the greatest diligence and expediency, and we will do all that we can to protect those we serve.”
“Friday night's capture of the suspect brought immediate relief to a community from a public safety viewpoint. However, much work remains and many questions require answers. Today's charges represent another step on the long road toward justice for the victims of these crimes. On behalf of the citizens of this great Commonwealth, the Massachusetts State Police will continue to work diligently with our federal and local partners to bring this defendant to justice for his alleged acts and ensure the public's safety,” said Colonel Timothy P. Alben, Superintendent of the Massachusetts State Police.
“Finding the alleged perpetrators of this savage act of terrorism four days after the attack on the City of Boston was a herculean effort and shows the true cooperation and dedication of the law enforcement community,” said Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis. “We were relentless in our pursuit of the suspects. The arrest of Tsarnaev and today's charges should send a clear message to those who look to do us harm, the entire law enforcement community will go after you, find you and bring you to justice.”
This investigation was conducted by the FBI's Boston Division, the Boston Police Department, the Massachusetts State Police, and member agencies of the Boston Joint Terrorism Task Force, which is comprised of more than 30 federal, state and local enforcement agencies, including the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement – Homeland Security Investigations, U.S. Marshals Service, U.S. Secret Service, the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority and others. In addition, the Watertown Police Department, the Cambridge Police Department, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Police Department, the Boston Fire Department, the National Guard and police, fire and emergency responders from across Massachusetts and New England played critical roles in the investigation and response.
This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys William Weinreb and Aloke Chakravarty from the Anti-Terrorism and National Security Unit of the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Massachusetts, with assistance from the Counterterrorism Section of the Justice Department's National Security Division.
The public is reminded that charges contained in an indictment or criminal complaint are merely allegations, and that defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
Bombing suspect's uncle: Friend in Cambridge 'brainwashed him completely'
by Holly Yan and Shannon Travis
The evolution of Tamerlan Tsarnaev from aspiring Olympic boxer to apparent self-radicalized jihadist may have been influenced by a friend in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
"It started (in) 2009. And it started right there, in Cambridge," Tsarnaev's uncle Ruslan Tsarni said from his home in Maryland.
"This person just took his brain. He just brainwashed him completely."
Tsarni would not identify his nephew's friend. But he was so concerned about the acquaintance that he called a family friend in the Cambridge area to investigate.
"I said, 'Listen, do you know what is going on with that family? With my brother's family?' Then he says ... there is a person, some new convert into Islam of Armenian descent," Tsarni told CNN's Shannon Travis. "Armenians, I have no intention to say anything about Armenians. It's a neighboring region with North Caucasus," the same area where the Tsarnaev family also hails from.
Tsarnaev's mindset leading up to the bombings at the Boston Marathon may never be fully known. He was killed after a shootout with police last week.
His younger brother, Dzhokhar, remains hospitalized with an array of gunshot wounds. He has been charged with using and conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction resulting in death, as well as one count of malicious destruction of property by means of an explosive device resulting in death.
Dzhokhar has been communicating with investigators in a limited fashion. He has indicated that his older brother, not any international terrorist group, masterminded the deadly attack, a U.S. government source said.
The preliminary interviews with Dzhokhar suggest the two brothers fit the classification of self-radicalized jihadists, the source said. But the official noted that information from the preliminary interviews needed to be scrutinized.
Dzhokhar has also cited the U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq as motivating factors behind last week's blasts that killed three and wounded hundreds more, a U.S. government official said.
The suspects' uncle said Tamerlan was clearly the leader between the two brothers.
"Dzhokhar is being used by his older brother. (Tamerlan) used him as his -- not even accomplice -- as some kind of instrument," Tsarni said.
At 26, Tamerlan was seven years older than Dzhokhar. Friends say Dzhokhar followed his big brother around like a puppy.
And with their father in Russia, the older brother may have become a father figure to the 19-year-old these past few months. At 6-feet-3, Tamerlan was, by many accounts, an intimidating presence with increasingly strong convictions about society and religion in recent years.
Tsarni said he was shocked by the explosions and how his nephews may be involved.
"Tamerlan is off now," the uncle said. "There is no obedience and respect to his own father. That concerns me big time."
Terrorists and Americans
It's critical to our national identity to treat Dzhokhar Tsarnaev as the U.S. citizen he is
by Steve Heitkamp
The only thing remarkable about the backstory of Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is how common it is. Its culmination, a pointless and horrific act of violence, is fortunately one that rarely happens. This is partially because of the hard work of local and federal law enforcement and partially because most people, even if they are unsuccessful, frustrated, alienated, extreme or radicalized, do not commit violence.
We must not forget this basic fact: Assuming police are correct and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is responsible for these crimes, he is not an enemy combatant from distant lands; he is an American who committed acts of terror against his fellow citizens. If he is somehow connected to Al Qaeda, then he is a traitor, but he is still an American and should be treated like one.
When I was a member of the New York Police Department Intelligence Division, there were numerous instances where the individuals we investigated were, on the surface, not dissimilar from Tamerlan and Dzhokhar. For whatever reason, these individuals would come across our radar. Maybe a neighbor would call about some odd behavior, or perhaps someone was Facebook friends with the subject of another investigation. Or perhaps our interest would stem from a combination of factors, such as foreign travel and a criminal history.
In no instance could we overlook these leads, but in many cases we would ultimately conclude that although there were concerning indicators, there was not enough information to push forward with a full investigation.
That is because, living in a free and open society — and being constrained by limited resources and necessary legal requirements — we understood that although people would often say or do things that we found alarming, there was a limit to what we, as law enforcement and intelligence officials, should and could do. At some point, we needed to decide to stop devoting resources to trying to identify whether or not an angry person was potentially violent, or if “World view: Islam” meant anything more than that a person was Muslim.
Sometimes this meant that we would close the case and move on. Closing cases was always difficult, fraught with doubt about whether or not we had made the right assessment. But so was keeping cases open when we had assessed that there probably was no real threat. Being wrong is a risk we take, and one anyone who has worked in this field has lost sleep over.
Most of the time, however, this is where the story ends.
Most people with profiles like Tamerlan and Dzhokhar go on to live full, peaceful and productive lives. The potential indicators of concern turn out to be indicators of an American working through a complex identity in a country that thrives by accepting and integrating people from everywhere in the world.
This is a challenge not just for recent immigrants but for all Americans. Living in New York City, almost every day involves a new cultural experience, and not all of those experiences are positive. The vast majority of Americans, however, decide that the benefits of a living in a free, open and multicultural society greatly outweigh the frustrations. Moreover, we come to understand that we overcome the frustrations through engagement and empathy, not through violence.
Those who decide that violence, be it to coerce and intimidate or to express hate, is the solution to their problems betray the ideals of this country. They are not enemy combatants; they are the most reviled Americans.
That's why Dzhokhar Tsarnaev should be treated as an American citizen. Not just for legal reasons (though our legal system has proved on numerous occasions that it is fully equipped to deal with this case), but because of the message it sends.
We must show the world that even when our own citizens betray us and murder innocent civilians, we do not deny them their rights. We do not let their acts of cowardice influence our values. We try them, and if found guilty, we sentence them and then we move on. We continue to accept immigrants from throughout the world, from Chechnya and beyond, and provide them with the opportunity to thrive. We continue to conduct investigations constrained by legal requirements and we continue to run marathons in open and public spaces.
By treating Dzhokhar as the American he is, we deny him what he ultimately wanted: to change our behavior through terrorist violence. In doing so, we reaffirm our core national values.
Heitkamp is a Truman National Security Fellow who previously worked on counterterrorism investigations at the NYPD and in Baghdad with the Department of Defense.
Beware of Online Fundraising Scams and Hackers Trying to Exploit the Tragedy in Boston
The outpouring of support and generosity of the American public in the aftermath of last Monday's explosions in Boston speaks to both our compassion and resilience as a country. But unfortunately, as we've seen previously, high profile news stories and tragedies can also lead to a variety of Internet scams and online risks.
Newly created websites and twitter accounts may try to take advantage of those looking to contribute to fundraising efforts. Others could target individuals interested in simply learning more details about the incident. For example, emails that appear as if they have been sent from a legitimate news or charitable organization may in fact be phishing attempts.
Here are a few ways you can protect yourself from online scams and phishing techniques:
Only donate money to known, credible fundraising charities.
Exercise caution when clicking on email links or interacting with social media accounts that claim to represent the best interests of those involved in this incident.
When searching for updates on the story, it is safest to go directly to trusted news sources rather than conducting general search engine queries.
If you suspect you have received a phishing email, please send it to the U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT) at email@example.com.
For more information on protecting yourself and your information online, visit www.dhs.gov/StopThinkConnect.