The trial of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and the political issues surrounding the Boston Marathon bombing

By Nick Barrickman
July 2, 2015
World Socialist Web Site


Dzhokhar TsarnaevDzokhar Tsarnaev, one of the perpetrators of the April 2013 Boston Marathon bombings, was sentenced to death on June 25 by federal judge George A. O’Toole. The formal sentencing followed the jury’s decision in the sentencing phase of the trial, announced May 15, to support the US Justice Department’s call for Tsarnaev to be executed.

On April 15, 2013, Tsarnaev and his older brother Tamerlan carried out the most deadly terrorist attack on American soil since 9/11, detonating pressure cooker bombs near the finish line of the Boston Marathon in downtown Boston. Three people were killed and another 264 were wounded, many severely. Tamerlan Tsarnaev was killed in a shootout with police in the early morning hours of April 19.

The ten-week trial was conducted in a manner to suppress critical facts and fundamental political issues surrounding the bombings. As with previous terror attacks on US soil, from the September 11, 2001 bombings in New York and Washington DC to the abortive attempt by a Nigerian terrorist to blow up a commercial jet over Detroit on Christmas Day, 2009, the Boston Marathon bombers were well known to American intelligence, national security and police agencies, which nevertheless allowed them to come and go as they pleased and carry out their criminal conspiracy.

And as in the previous cases, the Boston attack was used to justify massive violations of civil liberties and establish new precedents for the imposition of police state conditions.

The Obama administration seized on the Boston bombings to impose a de facto state of siege in the city of Boston and its environs for most of May 19, 2013. Millions of people in one of America’s major urban centers were ordered to “shelter in place” while military-armed SWAT teams conducted warrantless searches of entire city blocks.

Machine gun-mounted armored vehicles along with thousands of troops and police occupied the streets and Blackhawk helicopters hovered overhead, all ostensibly in the search for a single 19-year-old fugitive. Public transit, air travel and businesses were shut down and individuals who stepped outdoors were surrounded by heavily-armed police and “advised” to go home.

There was no significant protest from any section of the political or media establishment, or from academia, against this flagrant violation of the US Constitution and dry run for military dictatorship. Subsequent government and academic investigations hailed the official response to the bombings.

After the younger Tsarnaev was captured, the Obama administration waived the suspect’s Miranda rights, declaring that a public safety exemption (after state and local officials had announced that the public was in no danger) warranted prolonged police interrogation without the presence of a lawyer. Much of the federal prosecutors’ case against Tsarnaev was based on statements made by the defendant during this encounter.

The decision of the federal government to seek the death penalty was calculated to uphold the “right” of the state to kill and to reinforce the so-called “war on terror.” The decision was not based on popular sentiment. According to numerous opinion polls, a majority of residents of both Boston and the state of Massachusetts, which long ago abolished the death penalty for state trials, were opposed to executing Tsarnaev.

No accounting has ever been given to explain the government’s failure to heed numerous warnings about Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s links to Islamist terrorist groups in Chechnya and Dagestan fighting against Russian rule, or the many encounters between the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Tamerlan and his family.

Facts that emerged following the Boston bombings that have since been buried by the media include:

  • In the summer of 2011, FBI officials initiated a threat assessment of Tamerlan Tsarnaev after receiving warnings from Russian intelligence officials of links between the elder Tsarnaev brother and Chechen terrorists. For several months, authorities monitored Tsarnaev’s telephone and Internet communications and conducted interviews with the suspect and his family.
  • Despite this, the security threat assessment was closed in late 2011, with FBI agents claiming no “derogatory” information could be found about Tsarnaev.
  • The FBI now alleges that during this period, Tamerlan Tsarnaev participated in a brutal triple homicide in the Boston suburb of Waltham on the ten-year anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Three Jewish men, including the suspect’s “best friend,” were murdered in the incident.
  • In November 2011, after further warnings from Russian and Saudi officials about Tsarnaev, Tamerlan was placed on a federal “no fly” list, with instructions to “Detain, [isolate] and immediately call the lookout duty officer at NTC [National Counter-Terrorism Center],” should he attempt to leave the country. Officials at the CIA have admitted receiving similar warnings.
  • Nevertheless, Tamerlan Tsarnaev was allowed to board a flight to Russia in early 2012, without being detained or questioned. He spent over six months attempting to link up with Islamic extremist and anti-Russian separatist movements in the Northern Caucasus region of Dagestan.
  • After returning to the US from his trip to Dagestan, without being stopped or questioned at the airport, Tsarnaev became more pronounced in his sympathies toward radical Islam, publicly denouncing lecturers at his local Boston mosque for being pro-US and frequenting jihadist Internet web sites.

Despite this, in the run-up to the Boston Marathon, an event that attracts tens of thousands of visitors, no efforts were made by the FBI to notify local law enforcement of the Tsarnaevs’ existence.

Attempts made last year by Tsarnaev’s defense team to obtain documents proving that the FBI sought to recruit the older Tsarnaev brother as an informer within the Muslim community, claiming such visits may have influenced the older brother to carry out an attack, were rebuffed in court. A second request made by lawyers in late 2014 to gain access to information pertaining to Tamerlan’s involvement in the triple homicide in Waltham was similarly denied.

Information pertaining to the May 22, 2013 FBI killing of key Marathon bombing witness Ibragim Todashev, an ethnic Chechen and acquaintance of Tamerlan Tsarnaev, has been suppressed. Todashev, who has been posthumously implicated along with Tsarnaev in the 2011 Waltham killings, was shot to death while being interrogated by Boston-based FBI officials and local police at his Florida residence. Several acquaintances of the Tsarnaevs and Todashev have since been deported or imprisoned.

The ties between the Boston Marathon bombers and US intelligence extend to family members of the Tsarnaevs. Ruslan Tsarni, the uncle of Dzhokhar and Tamerlan, at one time headed a group called the Congress of Chechen International Organizations, which supplied anti-Russian rebels fighting in the Caucasus with military equipment. The organization was run from the suburban Maryland home of former National Intelligence Council Vice Chairman Graham Fuller, Tsarni’s then-father-in-law. Fuller served as the CIA station chief in Kabul, Afghanistan during the 1980s, supplying anti-Russian Islamists with equipment to fight the Soviet-aligned Afghan government.


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