The Boston Marathon Bombing: America’s Second Day of Reckoning?


Shayhan Lewis, Reporter

p6 6, pic 1 (800x450)“The Boston bombing provided the opportunity for the government to turn what should have been a police investigation into a military-style occupation of an American city. This unprecedented move should frighten us as much or more than the attack itself. Forced lockdown of a city. Militarized police riding tanks in the streets. Door-to-door armed searches without warrant. Families thrown out of their homes at gunpoint to be searched without probable cause. “

-Ron Paul

The horrific event which took place on April 15th 2013 at the Boston Marathon left many wondering: who were the perpetrators? Why would they want to commit such a violent act against innocent American civilians? Perhaps the most relevant questions in peoples’ minds should be: could this have been prevented? How will the government deal with events like these in the future? And most importantly: will my constitutional rights be protected from here on out? This is because the way in which we handle this case will speak loudly as to who we are as a nation; will we let fear once again dictate our actions, or will we stand together as society against terrorism and for justice?


After a 24-hour manhunt, the 19 year old suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was treated for gunshot wounds to the throat at Boston’s Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, the same hospital which held many of his victims. As soon as the suspect was taken into custody, debate arose as to whether the he should be charged as a criminal or enemy combatant. Being charged as a criminal meant that the perpetrator would be tried in the federal court system; while being charged as an enemy combatant would mean that the U.S. citizen, of Chechan descent, would not be entitled to Miranda warnings or the appointment of counsel, and would instead be tried in a military tribunal. Senators Lindsey Graham and John McCain quickly declared that the Obama administration should hold Dzhokhar Tsarnaev in military detention for his role in the Boston bombing, stating, “Now that the suspect is in custody, the last thing we should want is for him to remain silent. It is absolutely vital the suspect be questioned for intelligence gathering purposes. We need to know about any possible future attacks which could take additional American lives. The least of our worries is a criminal trial which will likely be held years from now. Our goal at this critical juncture should be to gather intelligence and protect our nation from further attacks.” Graham argued that the government has the right to gather intelligence, and “that while under the criminal system, [you] should not question someone without their lawyer present.” [but] “Under the law of armed conflict, when you’re trying to gather intelligence about future attacks against your nation, there is no requirement for a lawyer.”


In response, John O. Brennan, the director of the CIA, declared that U.S. citizens involved in terrorist-related activity would be prosecuted in the criminal justice system and not a military commission, as this option would, according to Brennan, “risk bringing into disrepute the one avenue realistically open to those who want answers and justice.” In the end, the FBI charged Tsarnaev with a criminal complaint for using a weapon of mass destruction and the malicious destruction of property resulting in death. The Department of Justice then invoked the use of a public safety exception, which allowed the FBI to interrogate the suspect through questions and nodded gestures for 16 hours with a delay in being read his Miranda rights and having no lawyer present by his bedside (The only time the suspect spoke was when asked whether he could afford a lawyer, to which he uttered “No.”). Several news stations reported that Tsarnaev also gave answers in written statements, but Boston Police declined to comment on those reports. According to the Washington Post, Dzhokhar told FBI agents that he and his brother were motivated out of anger at U.S. involvement in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. Once he was “Mirandized,” the suspect kept silent and was later transferred to a federal inmate medical center in Massachusetts. Authorities later found a note left by Tsarnaev in the boat he hid in, in which he confessed to his involvement in the bombing, stating that it was retribution for the wars and calling the Boston victims “collateral damage.” Dzhokhar also wrote that he did not mourn over his older brother, because he was a martyr and he soon expected to join him in paradise. A judge denied Tsarnaev’s lawyers’ request to take photos of him while he recovered at the prison hospital. The lawyer, in an attempt to avoid a possible death penalty, argued a need to document the condition he was in as he gave those statements to the FBI.  Basically, did his physical condition cause him to make the statements? The judge granted that the photos could be taken by prison officials but not by his lawyers.


What has intrigued many people who are closely following this case is that the government had knowledge of the deceased suspect, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, years prior to the Boston bombing. In 2011, FBI agents interviewed Tsarnaev at the request of the Russian government. “The request stated that it 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 Russia to join unspecified underground groups,” the FBI said in a statement. The FBI did not find Tsarnaev as a terrorist threat, domestic or foreign, and after further request did not receive more specific or additional information from the Russian government. It is now rumored that Tsarnaev visited the North Caucasus region, an area of many different motives including separatist movements (especially between Russia and the Caucaus Emirate of Chechnya and other republics), ethnic rivalries, extremist Islamic ideology, and a center of militant Islamic activity. Tsarnaev visited the region from July 2012 to April 2013, and apparently became an extremist on the side of the Northern Caucasus. Some Russian figures have argued that the U.S. should listen to Russia’s warnings about extreme Islamist terrorists, whether they hail from Chechnya, or Syria, or anywhere else.  According to Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov, “I would like to remind you that since the early 2000s, when there was a war going on in the northern Caucasus, Putin has said more than once that there can’t be domestic and foreign terrorists, and you can’t flirt with them, […] they can’t be differentiated. You can’t deal with some of them, and not others. They all equally deserve non-acceptance.”


With a long history of turmoil between Russia and the bombing suspects’ native North Caucasus, new details about their backgrounds, and affiliations emerging every day, it will take months, perhaps even years for the world to determine the true motives behind the bombing plot that brutally took three innocent lives and shook many around the world. Were the bombers influenced by radical Islamic fundamentalists, with hopes of terrorizing the West for its attacks against Muslims? Were they seeking attention for the bloody separatist movement between Russia and the Caucasus Emirate that caused them to seek refuge from their homeland for over a decade? No matter what the cause of the attack was, what matters most is how we will proceed with the case, as well as our preventative measures and responses to attacks on our soil. America and all nations must cooperate with each other to bring an end to terrorism, alliances and religious beliefs aside. We must respond to these attacks in a just and transparent manner to prove to the world that our country is indeed a democracy that stands for liberty and justice for all.