“Could Not Be Independently Confirmed”

There’s a dispute brewing between the Tsarnaev brothers’ mother, Zubeidat, and the FBI about whether or not they called Tamerlan Thursday morning and told him he was a suspect.

Their mother went so far on Sunday to claim that the FBI had contacted her elder son after the deadly bombs exploded at the marathon. If true it would be the first indication that the FBI considered him a suspect before Boston descended into violence on Thursday.

At FBI headquarters in Washington, spokesman Michael Kortan stood by the bureau’s public statement of two days ago in which the bureau described a 2011 FBI interview of Tamerlan Tsarnaev. Kortan said the 2011 interview was the only FBI contact with Tamerlan Tsarnaev. The FBI statement from two days ago says that the FBI did not learn of the identity of Tamerlan and his brother until Friday after the gun battle in which Tamerlan was killed.

The mother’s claim could not be independently confirmed, and she has made statements in the past that appeared to show a lack of full understanding of what occurred in Boston.


Tsarnaeva said her elder son told her by telephone that the FBI had called to inform him that they considered him a suspect and he should come in for questioning. [my emphasis]

I can imagine a lot of reasons for the dispute: Tsarnaeva is confused, the FBI is lying (though why they’re so keen to admit their vaunted facial recognition couldn’t find Dzhokhar, I don’t know), or Tsarnaeva is working an angle to — as many Chechens are doing — argue that this is somehow kind of a setup.

But I thought it worthwhile to point out what AP did with this report: it presented the dispute, repeated the FBI’s talking point claiming they had only contacted Tamerlan in 2011, and then said Tsarnaeva’s claim could not be independently confirmed.

As if the FBI claim could be.

Which of course it couldn’t. Even if they were willing to share Tamerlan’s file and the communications they had with the Russians, they wouldn’t do so until far later in the discovery process. And the centrality of foreign liaison communications with the Russians to this question would make the documents the most sensitive kind of classified document.

I’m not saying I believe the mother over the FBI; let’s wait to see what other evidence we get (and see whether the FBI tries to explain why it set off a manhunt rather than use the facial recognition tools we taxpayer spent billions to buy). But it’s worth noting that even in spite of this Administration’s blatant abuse of secrecy, the press is still treating their undocumented claims as verified.

18 replies
  1. BeccaM says:

    A man willing — indeed apparently eager — to detonate two powerful bombs, killing three and maiming dozens for life, is also quite likely someone perfectly willing to lie to his own mother.

    I mean, far more likely scenario: Tamerlan sees his own face on TV on Thursday evening. Realizes his mother may very well recognize him. He calls her to claim the FBI had already been in touch with him, hence there would obviously be no need for HER to turn him in.

    Tsarnaeva sadly but understandably doesn’t want to believe her sons could be such monsters — but they were.

  2. emptywheel says:

    @BeccaM: I agree with your last comment.

    But first of all, your timing is off the reported turn of events. She claims he called her THursday morning. At least 5 hours BEFORE his pics went off.

    Also, remember she’s in Dagestan, Russia, not Boston.

    I don’t doubt a Tamerlan lie could be part of this (though at first I wasn’t sure who you were talking about willing to bomb and kill and maim, because that describes a whole slew of people in the US NatSec establishment–just ask the Afghans).

    But that doesn’t change the reporting. The FBI lies. Sometimes because they are covering something up. Sometimes because they are covering covert stuff up. They lie. Just like other people.

  3. P J Evans says:

    The FBI is telling people it wants to talk to Tamerlan’s widow, and is waiting for permission. She works as a home health aide, 70 to 80 hours a week according to the news story, and didn’t notice anything unusual in his behavior (although with a schedule like that, and a small child in the family, I’d be surprised if she did notice).

  4. emptywheel says:

    @joanneleon: Dunno. But that may have been WHY she left the country.

    Remember Obama’s got to deport 400,000 people a year to keep Halliburton happy, and that may include legal resident shop lifters.

  5. der says:

    FWIW: Tamerlan may have called his mother Thursday a.m. and told her that the FBI was looking for them as just the day before news reports described what Dzhokar was wearing:

    – “The man sought as a possible suspect is a white male, wearing white baseball cap on backwards, a gray hoodie and a black jacket, according to CBS News.

    Several media outlets reported that a suspect had been identified from surveillance video taken at the Lord & Taylor store on Boylston Street.”

  6. scribe says:

    why it set off a manhunt rather than use the facial recognition tools we taxpayer spent billions to buy

    Because the guy in charge of buying facial recognition software and hardware is coming up on retirement and is angling for a new job, selling new, improved facial recognition software and hardware to his current deputy?

  7. lefty665 says:

    @scribe: All the facial recognition software failed. That included the state driver’s license shots.

    That’s a story in itself, but not a surprise. FBI doesn’t often find anyone/anything without an informant. In this case, the runner that gave the first description, the aunt who fingered them, the mercedes driver, the boat guy. Once again they’re running true to form.

  8. emptywheel says:

    @der: Nice catch. That would be the ID for Dzhokhar, not Tamerlan (he was wearing the black cap) but that might have tipped him off they were onto them.

  9. scribe says:

    The mother’s telephone call story surely could be confirmed in a few minutes or hours, if the NSA were willing to share its intercepts. One has to believe that once the FBI interviewed these folks, their names, numbers and info got moved to the “look harder here” box in the NSA’s interception programs and the government already knows the answers.

  10. lefty665 says:

    @scribe: Yeah, they’ve got real national technical means and the ability to exercise them (for better or worse, but that’s another discussion).

  11. P J Evans says:

    @der: After that video was released, a couple of photographers went through their own pictures and found better ones, which they sent to the FBI, and those were the ones that got them identified.

  12. citizen92 says:

    Who was first out with the story about Tamerlan’s FBI interview? Given the potential embarrassment factor, seems odd the FBI would admit to that. Were they reaponsing to a claim by Moscow, perhaps in the form of RT propaganda?

    Russia’s RT (Russia Today) network (oddly headquartered in part in Washington, DC) is well positioned to get out the Kremlin’s view on culpability and its own face-saving over Dagestan.

  13. yellowsnapdragon says:

    RT was (unsurprisingly) first to teport that Russia was the foreign country to notify US of Tamerlan. Considering the neocon connection to Chechen soldiers (via Coleen Rowley and Sibel Edmonds )I’d guess we’ve got two battling agendas being supported by reporting from US and Russia.

  14. yellowsnapdragon says:

    Colleen Rowley noted that the FBI is run by neocons in an interview yesterday on RT, just for the record.

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