Conspiracy in Boston

Michael, George
Skeptic 19.2 (2014): 16-27,64

Disentangling Boston Marathon Bombing Conspiracy Theories

At 2:49 P.M. on April 15, 2013, two bombs fabricated from pressure cookers exploded within an interval of a few seconds near the finish line of the Boston Marathon. The attack, which killed three persons including an eight-year-old boy and wounded up to 264 others, raised the specter of renewed jihadist terrorism. After many failed plots in the years after 9/11, Islamist radicals demonstrated that they could still strike America. Just three days after the incident, the FBI identified two brothers-Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev-as the primary suspects. After photos of their faces were displayed in the media, the two brothers hastily prepared to launch another attack in Times Square in New York City, but by that time, a huge manhunt was in full swing to capture them. In a desperate crime spree, the two brothers ambushed a Massachusetts Institute of Technology campus police officer, Sean Collier, leaving the young man dead, after which they carjacked a Mercedes SUV.1 But before they could carry out their next attack, the two brothers were involved in a spectacular late-night shootout with local police in Watertown, a small city near Boston. The confrontation left Tamerlan dead after his brother inadvertently ran over him while escaping in the stolen vehicle. A few hours later, Dzhokhar was finally apprehended as he lay underneath a tarpaulin covering a boat parked in a Watertown resident’s backyard.2 The young man sustained numerous injuries including gunshot wounds to the neck, legs, and hand.3 On April 22, he was charged with, among other things, using and conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction, for which he could receive the death penalty.

In the immediate aftermath of the bombings, investigators and terrorism analysts speculated on the motivations of the perpetrators. Initially, U.S. officials announced that Tamerlan Tsarnaev had been radicalized in Russia when he visited the country the previous year.4 Other commentators insisted that the two brothers had been radicalized in America. And a small but vocal minority insisted that the brothers were part of a larger conspiracy to further a particular political agenda. To get to the bottom of the case, it is instructive to examine the background of the Tsarnaev family and the troubled region of the world from which they came.

Background on the Tsarnaev Family

The Tsarnaev brothers’ father, Anzor Tsarnaev, an ethnic Chechen originally from Kyrgyzstan, made plans to emigrate to America as political turmoil convulsed his homeland in the early 2000s. According to his account, he once worked as an investigator in the prosecutor’s office in the nation’s capital, Bishkek.5 After a new war broke out in Chechnya in 1999, Kyrgyz authorities (perhaps under pressure from the Kremlin) began purging the government’s ranks of anyone with a Chechen background. Anzor claimed that Kyrgyz authorities threw him in jail where he was subjected to severe beatings. It was these alleged abuses that served as a basis for the family’s application for refugee status in the United States.6 According to another account, Anzor had attempted to prosecute members of the Russian mob, but was abducted and tortured for a week so severely that he nearly died.7 Yet another version contends that he suffered no abuse, but just wanted to emigrate to America in order to build a better life for himself and his family.8

Around 2002, the family moved to Dagestanapparently as refugees-and settled in the city of Makhachkala. That same year, the parents and their son Dzhokar visited the United States on a 90-day tourist visa. Thanks largely to Anzor’s younger brother Ruslan-who had established a career as a successful lawyer near Washington, D.C.-the family received asylum.’1 Although they endeavored to build a new life in America, their ancestral homeland continued to loom large in their hearts and minds.

The protracted conflict with Russia has taken a devastating toll on the Chechen people.10 Historically, the Muslims in Chechnya have been secular, adhering to the Sufi branch of Islam. But as the separatist struggle against the Kremlin wore on, hundreds of Muslim volunteers from outside the region sojourned to the land to take part in the jihad.11 What at first was a nationalist struggle of self-determination morphed into an Islamist jihad with the Caucasus emerging as a critical theater. As a consequence, Chechen politics became both Islamized and internationalized, laying the groundwork for future conflict.12 The global jihadist movement sought to use the Chechen struggle for independence as a vehicle to transform the Caucasus into an Islamist stronghold. With that achieved, the Islamists could use the region as a springboard to launch terrorist strikes into Russia, Europe, and the Middle East.13 After the Russian Army crushed the second Chechen rebellion in the spring of 2009, the fulcrum of radical Islam shifted to Dagestan, which became the epicenter of a simmering insurgency in the Caucasus. What’s more, in recent years, Chechen militants have staged a comeback, carrying out a number of deadly terrorist attacks in Russia.14

In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, the Kremlin was seen as a partner in the U.S.-led war against Islamic terrorism insofar as the Russian army had been fighting a protracted campaign against Chechen separatists. The Kremlin supported the intervention in Afghanistan by allowing the U.S. military to use bases in the former Soviet Republics in Central Asia over which it still exerted a strong influence.15 Nevertheless, the U.S. government has never wholeheartedly supported the Kremlin’s campaigns to squelch the jihad in the Caucasus. In fact, in the late 1990s, the Clinton administration even provided tacit encouragement to both its Muslim allies and private security companies to assist Islamist rebels in Chechnya. Presumably, this policy intended to weaken Russia’s hold over the region so that western firms could move forward with their plans to construct the Baku-Tblisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline which runs through the Caucasus region.16 The pipeline could make Europe less dependent on Russian energy products and also provide a huge windfall for Western oil companies. Since numerous outside parties have a stake in the Caucasus, it is not unreasonable to assume that real conspiracies are and have been devised to achieve various geopolitical ends.

Conspiracy Theories Surrounding the Boston Marathon Bombing

Although mainstream commentators usually dismiss conspiracy theories as groundless, they are indeed a fact of political life. As Middle Eastern scholar Daniel Pipes once conceded, conspiracies occasionally do occur. But as he noted, the major difference between mainstream historians and conspiracy theorists is that while the former see conspiracies as sporadic and part of the context of events in which they occur, the latter see conspiracies as the driving force of history.17

Shortly after the Boston Marathon attack, a number of commentators dubbed the incident a "false flag operation"-a maneuver used to divert attention away from the responsible party.

The right leaning commentator Glenn Beck was one of the first persons to claim that Saudis were involved in the attack.18 According to this theory, the Tsarnaev brothers were double-agents hired by U.S. and Saudi intelligence to penetrate Wahhabi jihadist networks. Instead, the brothers betrayed their mission and targeted the United States. As proof of this conspiracy, it was noted that the FBI questioned a Saudi student with badly burned hands about his involvement in the incident.19 Subsequent investigations, however, undercut the plausibility of this theory.

Writing for the far right website, Veterans Today, Kevin Barrett drew parallels between the attack in Boston and the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. As he pointed out, the suspects in both incidents were earmarked as enemies of the state. While Lee Harvey Oswald was once an outspoken communist, the Tsarnaev brothers were radical Islamists. And just as the FBI had once shadowed Oswald, the FBI and CIA were certainly aware of Tamerlan Tsarnaev and his extremism. In the end, Barrett averred that the Tsarnaev brothers were patsies who were railroaded in order to conceal the true perpetrators-"the U.S. National Security State and its Israeli handlers."20

Cliff Kincaid also used the Oswald analogy, but instead implicated the Russian security services in the Boston Marathon attack. Before the JFK assassination, Oswald was an outspoken pro-Castro Marxist who had defected to the Soviet Union. Yet he returned to America after just a few years, suggesting to some observers that he was controlled by Soviet handlers. Analogously, Kincaid asked, if the Russian intelligence agencies really thought Tamerlan Tsarnaev was a threat, why did they not arrest or detain him upon his trip to Russia in 2012? To Kincaid, it was a classic case of cui bono-"who benefits?" After the attack in Boston, President Barack Obama lauded the Russian government for its close cooperation in the investigation, and used the tragedy to seek closer ties between the two nations.21

Adding a veneer of credibility to Kincaid’s theory, the Russian journalist Masha Gessen has implicated Vladimir Putin in a number of false flag terrorist events as pretexts for a power grab. For instance, a crisis gripped Russia in September of 1999, as Moscow and other Russian cities were terrorized by a series of explosions. All told, nearly 200 people were killed and many more injured in the attacks. The crisis cried out for a muscular response, and later that same month, a group of 24 governors (more than a quarter of governors in the federation) wrote a letter to then Russian President Boris Yeltsin requesting that he yield more power to Prime Minister Putin so that he could better handle the crisis. To assuage the nation’s fears, Putin appeared on Russian television and announced that he would hunt down the terrorists, after which his popularity soared. Initially, nearly everyone suspected that Chechens were responsible for the attacks. However, that conclusion was called into question when a bus driver returning home to his apartment in Ryazan noticed a man and a woman unloading heavy-looking sacks into a cellar. His suspicion raised, he contacted the police who discovered three fifty-kilogram sacks marked SUGAR stacked one atop another. Closer examination through a slit in the top stack revealed wires and a clock. Chemical tests determined that the substance contained in the stacks was hexogen-a powerful explosive. The head of the FSB (the Russian Federal Security Bureau, the successor to the Soviet-era KGB) Nikolai Patrushev, Putin’s replacement, dismissed the episode as a training exercise and maintained that the bags indeed contained sugar. The whole exercise, he explained, was to test the alertness of the people of Ryazan and the preparedness of the police. Coincidentally, the terrorist bombings stopped after the incident. Over six months, journalists from the Russian television station NTV pieced together the story and pointed out its inconsistencies, suggesting that the FSB was behind the attacks as part of a false flag campaign to provide Putin with a pretext to snatch more power.22 In addition, Russian and American journalist Masha Gessen implied that Putin may have orchestrated the October 2002 siege of a Moscow theater that left 129 hostages and 39 of the captors dead. Finally, she suspected that he gave orders to assassinate political dissidents.23 Despite these previous episodes, there is no direct evidence that the Kremlin was behind the Boston Marathon bombing.

Within an hour of the Boston attack, Alex Jones, who operates the Texas-based Infowars website, described the incident as a false flag operation, presumably orchestrated by the U.S. government as a pretext to curtail civil liberties and implement more stringent homeland security measures. Lending credence to his assertions, the next day the Russian newspaper Izvestia (Russian for "delivered messages"), reported that it had obtained a report by "Colonel Gregory Chanturia" of the Georgian Ministry of Internal Affairs that said that Tamerlan Tsarnaev had attended a workshop sponsored by the Caucasus Fund-a shadowy organization which is purportedly connected to a CIA-funded think tank called the Jamestown Foundation.24 According to the story, the FSB implied that the Tsarnaev brothers were controlled by someone within the United States. Created in 1984 and funded in part by then-CIA Director William Casey, the Jamestown Foundation has often been characterized as "neo-conservative" in orientation.25 In the past, the Russian media have accused the think tank of spreading anti-Russian propaganda.

The Caucasus Fund, or the Kavkazsky Fund as it was alternatively known, was established in November 2008, just two months after the Russian military made a brief incursion into South Ossetia ostensibly to protect ethnic Russians who reside there. While a presidential candidate in 2008, Senator John McCain (R-AZ) proposed a policy to support Chechen and North Caucasus secession after Russia recognized the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. According to the investigative journalist Wayne Madsen, the Obama administration followed through with this proposal and funneled money to the secessionists through the U.S. Agency for International Development, George Soro’s Open Society Foundations, Freedom House, and the Jamestown Foundation.26 To further this putatively anti-Russian policy, in January of 2012, President Barack Obama appointed a Soros activist, Michael McFaul, to serve as the U.S. ambassador in Moscow. Allegedly, McFaul "threw open the doors" of the embassy to a variety of opposition activistsincluding secessionists-some of whom were suspected of being linked to terrorists according to the FSB. In February of 2014, McFaul announced that he was stepping down from his post. During his tenure as ambassador, he frequently clashed with the Kremlin.27

In the summer of 2012, the Caucasus Fund conducted workshops and seminars for young people from the Caucasus in the Georgian capital of Tbilisi.28 Russia Today charged that the purpose of these seminars was to recruit people to instigate instability and extremism in the southern regions of Russia.29 Indeed, this seemed to have been an objective in the past. For instance, in 2007, the Jamestown Foundation held a seminar that was attended by militants loyal to Aslan Maskhadov, a prominent Chechen separatist leader and "president" of the self-proclaimed Republic of Ichkeria.30 Adding more suspicion was the fact that the Caucasus Fund’s office was located in Boston, not far from the city of Cambridge where the Tsarnaev family lived.31 Not long after the 2012 seminars, the Caucasus Fund was shut down.32 According to the narrative, the case of Tamerlan Tsarnaev became a classic case of blowback not unlike that of Osama bin Laden who, though once allied with the United States during the Soviet-Afghan War, eventually broke with his former benefactors.33 Even the Georgian President, Bidzina Ivanishvili, expressed his concerns over the allegations, commenting that an investigation into the matter was under way. If determined to be true, he confirmed that the charges would be "shocking."34

The fact that the FBI was able to identify the suspects so quickly suggested that the two brothers were on a terrorism watch list. It is now public information that U.S. law enforcement and intelligence agencies were aware of Tamerlan Tsarnaev and his radical leanings. After the bombings, the FBI acknowledged that it had received inquiries from the Russian government about Tamerlan Tsarnaev warning about his extremist tendencies. The first Russian request came in March of 2011 via the FBI’s Legal AttachĂ© office at the U.S. embassy in Moscow.35 The FBI conceded that it had conducted a short interview with Tamerlan Tsarnaev in 2011, but concluded that he posed no threat.36 Nevertheless, his name was added to a number of terror watch lists.37 In September 2011, Russian authorities issued a second request, this time to the CIA.38 Tamerlan’s mother, Zubeidat Tsarnaev, told Russia Today that the FBI paid her regular visits and warned her that Tamerlan was an "extremist leader" who was influenced by jihadist web sites.39 She claimed that her family was under constant FBI surveillance, maintaining that the FBI controlled Tamerlan’s every step. Likewise, Anzor Tsarnaev opined that his sons may have been set up and were actually innocent.40

The Kremlin-run newspaper, Izvestia has an axe to grind. To be sure, the Jamestown Foundation regularly reports on unrest in the Caucasus and is critical of the Russian government’s policy in the region. Nevertheless, the think tank categorically rejected the allegations, calling the article "entirely false and groundless" and denying that it had any contact with the Tsarnaev brothers. What is more, the think tank maintained that the alleged person who released the report-Georgian Colonel Gregory Chanturia-did not even exist.41 The Georgian Ministry of Internal Affairs concurred, declaring that it never had an employee by that name.42 Former Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili denied that the previous Georgian government ever recruited or trained Chechens with the aim of infiltrating them into the Russian Federation.43 Nevertheless, his administration had become increasingly anti-Russian in its foreign policy, which is not surprising considering the two countries fought a short war in 2008 and were adversaries before that. For his part, Gela Kmaldaze, the former vice president of the Caucasus Fund, denied that Tamerlan Tsarnaev took part in any activities related to the organization. Furthermore, he denied any covert plan to recruit separatist rebels. According to Kmaldaze, the only event the Caucasus Fund sponsored in which Chechens participated took place in April 2012, which consisted of roughly 15 journalists officially sent from the Chechen government. He maintained that Tamerlan Tsarnaev was not among them.44 Likewise, Alan Cullison, a writer for the Wall Street Journal who knew the Tsarnaev family, talked to some of the attendees and they denied seeing Tamerlan at the event.45

Despite a lack of evidence of any official complicity, conspiracy theorists focused on the fact that individuals connected to U.S. intelligence agencies did indeed have connections to the Tsarnaev family.46 For instance, the brothers’ uncle, Ruslan Tsarni (formerly known as Ruslan Tsarnaev), was once married to Samantha Fuller, the daughter of Graham Fuller, a former CIA chief who was once stationed in Kabul.47 Sometime in the early 1990s, the couple met while Ruslan was attending the law school at Duke University and Samantha was a graduate student in North Carolina.48 Ruslan once lived in Graham Fuller’s home for a year during which he established the Congress of Chechen International Organizations, a charitable front that among other things supported a radical Jordanian Islamist of Chechen extraction, Sheik Muhammad Fathi, with the purpose of aiding Chechen rebels. The U.S. Treasury Department later shut down the charity after it determined that it was a "financer of terrorism." To conspiracy theorists this is significant because it exposes a Chechen front group that was created by the son-in-law of a top CIA official who used this same official’s home address for the said organization.49

Adding another strange twist to the CIA angle, back in 2011, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was introduced by his high school English teacher, Steve Matteo, to Brian Glyn Williams, a leading expert on Chechnya and a professor of Islamic History at the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth. While still a high school student, Dzhokhar exchanged emails with Williams about the conflict in Chechnya.50 The description of Williams’ book, Predators: The CIA’s Drone War on Al Qaeda, acknowledges his connection to the CIA.51 Williams also authored articles for the Jamestown Foundation, which leads some observers to speculate that he may have introduced Tamerlan to the think tank.52 Despite the Tsarnaev family’s connections to the CIA, however, the weight of the evidence suggests that they were not directed by some outside agency. Rather, their actions seem to have followed a rather typical trajectory characteristic of Muslim radicals in the west.

Disappointment and Radicalizatlon

From surface appearances, the Tsarnaev family appeared to be well on their way to assimilation and building a better future in America. But in reality, the Tsarnaevs were a very troubled family. A long history of social dysfunction plagued them. All members of the family had experienced a series of disappointments and difficulties over the past several years, which had a cumulative effect.53 With only limited English language skills, the father Anzor earned money in America as an unlicensed auto mechanic. His wife Zubeidat attended a cosmetology school and earned money by giving facials. Together, they were just barely able to eke out a living for their family. While in Cambridge, the family lived in subsidized Section 8 housing.54 Both of the daughters married and became pregnant while still teenagers. Their marriages did not last long and the two now share an apartment in New Jersey. In August of 2011, Anzor and Zubeidat divorced, citing an irrevocable breakdown of their 25-year marriage. The brothers’ violence seems to have been rooted in the turbulent collapse of their family and their personal failures. Alan Cullison found that the Tsarnaev brothers fit the profile of numerous failed suicide bombers he interviewed in Afghan prisons. All were young men with few prospects.55

Tamerlan seems to have been the most troubled and frustrated of the family. After graduation from high school in 2006, he applied for admission at the University of Massachusetts, Boston, but was rejected because of his mediocre grades. In the fall of that year, he enrolled at Bunker Hill Community College, but dropped out after three semesters. Still, Tamerlan showed great promise as an athlete. Twice, he won the Golden Gloves boxing championship in New England in the heavyweight division, which seemed to augur well for a chance on the U.S. Olympic team. From there, he hoped to launch a successful pro boxing career, which his father encouraged. But a change in policy that excluded all non-U.S. citizens from competing for the national title precluded Tamerlan from achieving his dream.56

Both parents were worried that Tamerlan was not living up to his potential. Slipping into depression, he turned to drinking and drugs. After his boxing career faltered, Tamerlan became "rudderless," but soon thereafter, his religious convictions began to deepen.57 He eschewed late night partying and drinking with his friends, though he still smoked marijuana. His secular father rejected his son’s newfound piety, creating a source of friction between the two, but his mother spoke proudly of her son’s religious awakening.58

Despite his outward confidence, Tamerlan had a hard time fitting in. In fact, Tamerlan once remarked that he did not have any American friends. Nevertheless, he married a student at Suffolk University-Katherine Russell-who came from an upper-middle-class family in Rhode Island. After becoming pregnant, she dropped out of college in her senior year and married Tamerlan. To please her new husband, she converted to Islam and began wearing the traditional Islamic hijab. Adding more grist to the conspiracy mill, Katherine was the granddaughter of Richard Warren Russell, a member of the Skull and Bones fraternity at Yale University. The quasi-secret society has long been implicated by conspiracy theorists as part of a "New World Order" conspiracy, considering the numerous highpowered alumni that have held membership.59

With few prospects for employment, Tamerlan became a stay-at-home dad. He spent much of this time surfing websites associated with Islamic militants.60 At least part of his militancy can be traced back to Russia’s protracted struggle against radical Islam in the Caucasus. Tamerlan had an idealized notion of the Chechen jihad. On his YouTube account, he uploaded videos that valorized the jihadist fighters.61 He read articles that decried the mistreatment of Muslim inmates at Guantanamo Bay and the use of U.S. military drones and their collateral damage of civilians.62 Another important source of information for him was Inspire, an English-language online magazine that was created in 2010 by an al Qaeda-affiliated group based in Yemen. A frequent contributor to the magazine was Anwar al-Awlaki, a Yemini cleric who grew up in New Mexico and played an important operational role for al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. By skillfully combining religious doctrine with colloquial Western references, al-Awlaki appealed to disaffected Muslims in the West whom he enjoined to support al Qaeda’s jihad.63 Tamerlan once downloaded a digital copy of a book for which al-Awlaki wrote a foreword. The book directed Muslims not to give allegiance to countries such as the United States that had invaded Muslim lands.64 After he was apprehended, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev confirmed to the FBI that he was influenced by the Internet sermons of Anwar al-Awlaki. The tone of these articles and lectures was often urgent, exhorting readers to act before it is too late.

Tamerlan was eclectic in his reading habits. Rightist literature informed his worldview as well. He was an avid follower of Alex Jones’ Infowar website which advocates numerous conspiracy theoriesfor example, the idea that 9/11 was an inside job carried out by U.S. intelligence agencies.65 Some of Tamerlan’s reading material espoused white supremacy and was sympathetic to Adolf Hitler. His collection included copies of The First Freedom, an Alabama-based newspaper that promoted "equal rights for white people" and The Sovereign, a newspaper that once claimed that the U.S. government was building a robot army to wage war against Americans on behalf of Israel.66 Also on his reading list was the newspaper American Free Press, the most important organ of the far right.67

As he delved deeper into extremist subcultures, Tamerlan began to see Jews as the instigators of evil around the world. In his reading collection was a marked-up copy of The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion, an early 20th century tract that purports to be the minutes of a meeting of Zionist leaders who plan a fantastic plot to conquer the world and enslave Gentiles.68 The small but influential tract has long been a staple in the literature of the extreme right and more recently among anti-Zionists in the Muslim World as well, despite being repeatedly debunked as a hoax. Intrigued by its message, Tamerlan once encouraged his landlady to read the booklet.69 On the surface, these political views may seem divergent, but there is actually common ground. Extremists on the right see Jews as the principal enemy of the "Aryan" peoples. And although militant Islam generally eschews racial themes, its version of anti-Zionism in many ways parallels the version of anti-Semitism found in the extreme right subculture. Both the extreme right and militant Islam charge that a Jewish conspiracy is undermining their societies through "cultural poisoning."70

Dzhokhar maintained a bifurcated life. In one role, he was quintessentially assimilated. A diligent student, he was nominated to the National Honor Society in his sophomore year in High School. His good grades earned him a scholarship to study at the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth. While in high school, he served as the captain of the wrestling team and even won the team’s MVP award his senior year. But while in college, he struggled academically, receiving failing grades his last three semesters.71 He ran up a debt of $20,000 to the university.72 Increasingly despondent, in March 2012, he tweeted "A decade in America already. I want out."73 He lost interest in his studies, preferring to spend his time smoking marijuana.74 Soon he began selling copious amounts of the drug, earning approximately $1,000 per week.75 With his newfound income, he became bolder in his personal life and more prone to taking risks.76

Although he still partied with his friends, Dzhokhar began spending more time with his brother. He followed his older brother’s path to radical Islam despite his own seeming dearth of ideology. Nevertheless, the pull of radical Islam became stronger over time. His tweets just before and after the attacks are illustrative. On his Twitter page, he identified the prophet Mohammad as his role model.77 In one tweet, he suggested that 9/11 was a government conspiracy. In another, he tweeted that he did not argue with people who say that Islam is terrorism. He once remarked that one should never underestimate the "rebel with a cause." Two days after the attacks, he tweeted that he was a "stress free kind of guy."78

In 2012, Tamerlan visited Russia for six months. The Russian government suspected that he was preparing to join unspecified underground rebel groups.79 Adding suspicion was the fact that Tamerlan’s distant cousin Magomed Kartashov was involved in an Islamist group called the Union of the Just. Prior to his trip, Tamerlan corresponded via the Internet with a Russian-Canadian convert to Islam named William Plotnikov, who sought to volunteer for the Islamist insurgency in Dagestan, a region neighboring Chechnya.80 During his trip to Dagestan, Tamerlan’s closest militant contact was a young man named Mahmud Mansur Nidal. The two were often seen together at a Salafist mosque that was popular with Muslim rebels. Nidal eventually "went into the forest" as locals refer to joining a militant group, but there was no evidence that Tamerlan followed him. Nidal was later killed in a police raid when he returned to visit his family.81 Likewise, Plotnikov was also killed in a confrontation with Russian security forces at the same time during Tamerlan’s 2012 stay in Dagestan.82 After their deaths, Tamerlan suddenly left Dagestan and rushed to Moscow to catch a plane back to the United States, oddly enough without picking up the passport for which he originally claimed to have made the trip in the first place.83

When he returned to Cambridge in July of 2012, Tamerlan became more vociferous about the virtues of Islam.84 His acquaintances noticed that he had visibly changed. He grew a five-inch beard and eschewed the flashy sartorial style that he once preferred for more Muslim attire. Although Tamerlan identified strongly with the separatist struggles in the Caucasus, he seems to have adopted the radical Islamist worldview espoused by al Qaeda, which despite the organization’s occasional condemnations of Russian policy in the Caucasus, identifies the United States and Israel as its primary enemies. More and more, Tamerlan expressed anger over U.S. foreign policy and U.S. military intervention in Iraq and Afghanistan. Frustrations in his personal life continued to mount as well. In early February 2013, soon after losing his housing subsidy, he drove to New Hampshire and purchased 48 mortars containing approximately eight pounds of explosive powder.85 Supposedly, the brothers followed instructions in an article featured in Inspire magazine titled "How to Build a Bomb in the Kitchen of your Mom" to fabricate their bombs used in the attack. The article detailed instructions on how to make an IED using a pressure cooker, explosive powder from fireworks, and shrapnel among other commonly available ingredients.86 On April 5, Tamerlan went online to order electronic components that could be used in making IEDs.87

Previous incidents suggest that a violent streak ran deep in the Tsarnaev family. After the Boston Marathon bombings as details of Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s personal life emerged, there was renewed suspicion that he might have been involved in a triple murder that took place in nearby Waltham in September 2011. Three men-Brendan Mess, Raphael Teken, and Erik Weissman-were found with their throats slit, a method of execution characteristically used by Islamist radicals against Western hostages. All three men were believed to be Jewish. Furthermore, the date of the homicidesthe loth anniversary of 9/11-suggests a symbolic element. Their bodies were strewn with thousands of dollars’ worth of marijuana, and $5,000 in cash was recovered at the scene, suggesting that robbery was not a motive in the crime.88 At one time, the three victims were friends of Tamerlan Tsarnaev.89 On May 22, 2013, the case took a bizarre twist when FBI agents interviewed Ibragim Todashev, a 27-year-old Chechen native and former associate of Tamerlan. After approximately eight hours of questioning at his residence in Orlando, he began writing a formal statement implicating himself and Tamerlan in the murders, but suddenly attacked his interrogators after which he was shot and killed.90

Upon hearing that his two nephews were identified as the chief suspects in the Boston Marathon attack, Ruslan denounced them, characterizing them as "losers" whose minds were "stolen" by an radical Muslim cleric known to the family only as "Misha."91 The heavyset man with a long reddish beard supposedly instructed Tamerlan on the proper life for a Muslim.92 It soon transpired that the enigmatic mentor was an ethnic Armenian-Ukrainian convert to Islam by the name of Mikhail Allakhverdov, an unassuming man who lived in an apartment with his two elderly parents in a lower middle class neighborhood. Allakhverdov had become acquainted with Tamerlan sometime while living in Boston from 2008 to 2010, but had not had any contact with him after he left the city.93 Ironically, one writer suspected that Allakhverdov may have been an FBI informant who had been grooming Tamerlan for a federal sting operation before giving up.94 These controversial tactics have netted dozens of young Muslim would-be-terrorists since 9/11.95

In addition to personal failures, there is speculation that Tamerlan suffered from mental illness as well. His friend Donald Larking described Tamerlan as a man who became increasingly paranoid, believing that he heard "voices in his head" and that his "brain was telling [him] stuff to do."96 Tamerlan confided these thoughts to his family and friendssymptoms which might have been schizophrenia. To make things worse, the head trauma he incurred from his boxing career could have contributed to his mental health problems as well.97 Taken together, a variety of personal issues seems to have impelled the Tsarnaev brothers to commit their terrorist attack.

Conclusion: The Lone Wolf Path

Shortly after the two suspects were identified, numerous online support groups emerged, both in Russia and the United States, maintaining the Tsarnaev brothers’ innocence. In Russia, the two were depicted as victims of U.S. reprisals against Muslims. At first blush, such sentiment seems odd in Russia. After all, the Russian government has been involved in a protracted on-again-off-again insurgency in the province of Chechnya for over 20 years. Be that as it may, there is a widespread belief in the former Soviet Union that the United States is responsible for all the misfortunes and sufferings of the Islamic world.98 But despite numerous in-depth investigations, no smoking gun has been adduced to prove a CIA conspiracy. Furthermore, the conspiracy theory that implicates the Russian government seems implausible as well. After all, the FSB contacted U.S. authorities on numerous occasions, warning about Tamerlan’s extremism.

Instead, the brothers’ violence appears to have been inspired in large part by their escalating personal failures along with the dissident ideology of radical Islam, which added force to their grievances." As terrorism analyst Bruce Hoffman commented, the brothers were "jihadi autodidacts" who relied upon numerous sources to shape their thinking.100 After his arrest, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev informed investigators that he and his brother were not directed by any foreign terrorist organization. Instead, they were self-radicalized and motivated in part by the U.S.-led wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.101 He admitted his guilt, but immediately stopped cooperating after his Miranda rights were read.102 As one of his acquaintances noted, Tamerlan Tsarnaev was a "Muslim of convenience" in the sense that he used the plight of Muslims as an allegory for his own personal failures. For most of his life, he rarely prayed, but after his boxing career faltered, he increasingly latched on to Islam.103 He identified himself as part of a besieged Muslim ummah (community) under attack by the United States and Israel. Likewise, his younger brother Dzhokar from surface appearances seemed to be a well-assimilated youth. Nevertheless, he too identified with the narrative of an embattled ummah, proclaiming in a note he scrawled on the wall of the boat in which he hid shortly before his capture: "We Muslims are one body. You hurt one you hurt us all. Fuck America!"104

Their path to jihad is not unlike that of other young Muslim men who came before them. In his study Globalized Islam: The Search for a New Ummah, the noted French scholar of Islam, Olivier Roy, explained that Muslims in the West often experience a trauma of "deterritorialization" because they feel estranged from their native lands. To overcome their anomie and alienation, young Muslim men in particular look for solace in a new, purified Islam and attach themselves to a "virtual ummah," a Muslim community built on the World Wide Web.105

The conventional wisdom among terrorism analysts is that the brothers were emblematic of the lone wolf trend and were largely self-radicalized. Despite episodes of sporadic violence, some observers dismiss the notion of "leaderless resistance" as primarily a nuisance: It poses no substantial or existential threat to the nation, they say, and is more aptly consigned to the field of abnormal psychology. Nevertheless, even persons who may have psychological problems can commit acts of violence motivated in part by political ideologies. In fact, they may prove to be the most susceptible to extremist exhortations to violence. After all, people with a stake in the system who have something to lose may be less likely to risk death or a long prison sentence.106

Although Tamerlan Tsarnaev came into contact with U.S. intelligence agencies, there is no evidence to suggest that they were behind his radicalization. However, a great dealt of his personal life that has been revealed suggests that he followed a trajectory similar to that of many other self-radicalized terrorists. Despite his ambition, intelligence, and athletic talent, he experienced numerous personal setbacks. In a sense, his frustration is emblematic of many members of the millennial generation who try to find a niche in contemporary America but find few opportunities.


1. Eric Moskowitz, "Carjack victim recounts his harrowing night,", April 25, 2013, metrodesk/2013/04/25/carjack-victim-recounts-his-harrowing-night/BhQ WGzarWee8MZ6KtMHJNN/story.html.

2. Christian Caryt, "The Bomber’s World," The New York Review of Books, June 6, 2013, articles/archives/2013/jun/06/ bombers-world/?pagination=false.

3. Dylan Stableford, "Tsarnaev’s condition improves: brothers reportedly motivated by U.S. wars," Yahoo News, April 23, 2013, com/blogs/lookout/tsarnaev-condition-motive-wars-193132367.html.

4. For example, Secretary of State John Kerry opined that after Tamerlan’s trip to his native Dagestan in 2012, "he came back with a willingness to kill people." Daniel Harper, "Kerry: Boston Bomber Radicalized in Russia, Chechnya-‘Came Back With a Willingness to Kill,’" The Weekly Standard, April 24, 2013, me-back-willingness-kilL719057.html.

5. Alan Cullison, "A Family Terror: The Tsarnaevs and the Boston Bombing," The Wall Street Journal, December 13, 2013, news/articles/SB1000142405270 23044777045792544822546996 74. He claimed to have earned a law degree, but there is no record that he attended the university in Bishkek where he lived. Sally Jacobs, David Filipov, and Patricia Wen, "The Fall of the House of Tsarnaev," The Boston Globe, December 16, 2003, http:// /2011-2020/WebGraphics/Metro/ sarnaev/tsarnaev.html.

6. Caryl, "The Bomber’s World."

7. Jacobs, Filipov, and Wen, "The Fall of the House of Tsarnaev."

8. Jacobs, Filipov, and Wen, "The Fall of the House of Tsarnaev."

9. Cullison, "A Family Terror: The Tsarnaevs and the Boston Bombing."

10. An unofficial report released by the Chechen government in 2005, estimated the combined death toll of both wars reached 160,000. Man Berman, Implosion: The End of Russia and What it Means for America. (Washington, D.C.: Regnery Publishing Company, 2013), p. 50.

11. Yosseff Bodansky, Chechen Jihad: AI Qaeda’s Training Ground and the Next Wave of Terror. (New York: HarperCollins, 2007).

12. Berman, implosion: The End of Russia and What it Means for America, p. 43.

13. Bodansky, Chechen Jihad: AI Qaeda’s Training Ground and the Next Wave of Terror, p. 2.

14. Berman, Implosion: The End of Russia and What it Means for America, p. 44.

15. Barak Mendelsohn, Combating Jihadism: American Hegemony and Interstate Cooperation In the War on Terrorism. (Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 2009).

16. Bodansky, Chechen Jihad: AI Qaeda’s Training Ground and the Next Wave of Terror, p. 175.

17. Pipes cited numerous examples in the Middle East. For instance, the European powers conspired to divide up the Middle East during World War I as part of the secretive Sykes-Picot agreement. In 1954 the Israeli government operatives bombed US targets in Egypt and blamed it on Egypt in an operation that became known as the "Lavon Affair." Daniel Pipes, The Hidden Hand: Middle East Fears of Conspiracy. (New York: St. Martin’s Griffin, 1998), pp. 9-10.

18. Boston Bombings Produce Conspiracy Theories, Violence," Intelligence Report, (Fall 2013) Issue 151, http:// intelligence%20report/browse%20all %20issues/2013/fall/Boston%20 Bombings%20%20Produce%20 Conspiracy%20%20Th.

19. "Debka: Tsarnaev Brothers were Double Agents Who Decoyed US Into Terror Trap," DEBKAfile, April 24, 2013, downloaded from http://matzav. com/debka-tsarnaev-brothers-weredouble-agents-who-decoyed-us-intoterror-trap.

20. Kevin Barrett, "The Brothers Tsarnaev: The Lee Harvey Oswalds of the Boston bombings?" Veterans Today, April 24, 2013, http://www.veterans

21. Cliff Kincaid, "Is Tamerlan Tsarnaev the new Lee Harvey Oswald? Renew America, May 1, 2013, http://www. /130501.

22. Masha Gessen, The Man Without a Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin. (New York: Blue Riverhead Books, 2012). pp. 36-40. Edward Lucas, a journalist who has covered Eastern Europe for over twenty-five years, also found the attack suspicious because previously Chechen operatives had not demonstrated the sophistication to use explosives so professionally. Edward Lucas, The New Cold War: Putin ‘s Russia and the Threat to the West. (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008), p. 23.

23. On its surface, Chechen terrorists appeared responsible for the attack. Subsequent investigations, however, conjectured that the Russian secret police may have orchestrated the event. In 2004 an investigative journalist who covered the story, Anna Politkovskaya, was poisoned from an undisclosed toxin. She never fully recovered, thus ending her investigation as to what was really happened in Beslan. Two years later, she was shot dead in the elevator of the apartment building where she lived. Other dissidents found the same fate. After he fled from Russia to England in 2006, Alexander Litvinenko, an FSB whistle blower who exposed misconduct in the agency, including an alleged order to kill the notorious oligarch Boris Berezovsky, rapidly died of poisoning. It later transpired that the poison was polonium, a highly radioactive substance which is lethal if ingested. Masha Gessen asserts that the authorization for the poisoning Litvinenko must have come from Putin himself. Gessen, The Man Without a Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin.

24. "Slain Boston suspect Tsarnaev may have attended seminars in Georgia-reports," RT, April 30, 2013, http://rt .com/news/attended-acts-terrorseminars-329/. Alex Jones’ site, Infowars, which first broke the story in the English language. Kurt Nimmo, "Tamerlan Tsarnaev Attended CIAsponsored Workshop,", April 24, 2013, http://www.infowars. com/tamerlan-tsarnaev-attendedcia-sponsored-workshop/.

25. The think tank employed high-ranking Eastern bloc defectors Including former Soviet Undersecretary General of the UN Akady Shevchenko and the former Romanian intelligence official Ion Pacepa. Wayne Madsen, "The Ties That Bind Washington to Chechen Terrorists," Strategic Culture Foundation, April 26, 2013,

26. Reportedly, up to $2.5 million was allocated to the fund as of January 2013. "Slain Boston suspect Tsarnaev may have attended seminars in Georgia-reports."

27. "US Ambassador to Russia to leave after two years," Yahoo News, February 4, 2014, /outspoken-us-ambassador-russialeave-two-years-131109383.html.

28. Madsen, "The Ties That Bind Washington to Chechen Terrorists."

29. "Slain Boston suspect Tsarnaev may have attended seminars in Georgia-reports," RT.

30. In 2005, Maskhadov was killed in a special operation by security services. "Slain Boston suspect Tsarnaev may have attended seminars in Georgia-reports." The Jamestown Foundation’s president, Glen Howard opined back in 2007 that the Russian government felt threatened by the think tank. "Moscow criticizes U.S. think-tank over debate." Reuters, December 7, 2007, /2007/12/07/us-russia-usa-james town-idUSL0715123120071207.

31. Google listed the address for the Caucasus Fund LLC as 31 Milk Street, Boston, MA 02109. .com/114928879405433304709 /about?gl=us&hl=en.

32. Wayne Madsen, "Washington’s "Civil Society": CIA Financing of Chechen and Caucasus Regional Terrorists," Global Research, May 6, 2013, l-terrorists/5333359.

33. Madsen, "The Ties That Bind Washington to Chechen Terrorists."

34. "Slain Boston suspect Tsarnaev may have attended seminars in Georgia-reports." Ivanishvili resigned his presidency after the 2013 presidential election and named Irakli Gharibashvili as his successor.

35. Russian authorities claimed to have eavesdropped on a telephone conversation between Tamerlan and his mother in which the topic of jihad was mentioned. This revelation supposedly prompted the FSB to tip off U.S. investigators about its suspicions regarding Tamerlan Tsarnaev who maintained ties with extremist elements in the Caucasus region. Jacobs, Filipov, and Wen, "The Fall of the House of Tsarnaev."

36. "Debka: Tsarnaev Brothers were Double Agents Who Decoyed US Into Terror Trap," DEBKAfile.

37. For instance, his name was entered into the Treasury Enforcement Communication System, or TECS, which is used to check for terrorism suspects at the border. Haroon Siddique, "Boston bombing suspect was put on terrorist database 18 months ago," Later, his name was placed on another US terrorism watch list-the Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment (TIDE)-a database estimated to hold more than 750,000 entries which was created after 9/11 and maintained by the National Counterterrorism Center in McLean, Virginia. Haroon Siddique, "Boston bombing suspect was put on terrorist database 18 months ago," The Guardian, April 25, 2013, http:// apr/25/boston-bombing-suspectterrorist-database.

38. Wayne Madsen, "Tamerlan’s Tsarnaev’s links to CIA Operations in the Caucasus," Wayne Madsen Report, April 25, 2013, 2013/04/28/tamerlan-tsarnaevslinks-to-cia-operations-in-caucasus /#.UtQ9q9JdUfX.

39. "’Tamerlan was not a religious fanatic’ -Tsarnaevs’ relative to RT," RT, April 23,2013, -tsarnaev-relative-boston-160/.

40. "’Tamerlan was not a religious fanatic’ -Tsarnaevs’ relative to RT."

41. "Jamestown Foundation Responds to False Izvestia Article About Tsarnaev Link," April 26, 2013, jamestown-foundation-responds-tofalse.html.

42. Eka Janashia, "Russia’s Izvestia Blames Georgia Of Supporting Terrorists," The Central Asia-Caucasus ANALYST, May 3, 2013, /publications/field-reports/item/ 12726-russias-izvestia-blames-georgia -of-supporting-terrorists.html.

43. "Slain Boston suspect Tsarnaev may have attended seminars in Georgia-reports." Russia Today, April 30, 2013, http://rt. com/news/attended-acts-terror-seminars-329/.

44. Moreover, Kmaldaze denied any connection to the Jamestown Foundation or receiving funding from any American source. Instead, he maintained that funding came exclusively from private donations made by Georgian businessmen. Irina Gordienko (translated by Catherine A. Fitzpatrick), "Former Caucasus Fund VP Denies Izvestia Claims," Novaya Gazeta, April 24, 2013, http:// sus-fund-vp-denies-izvestiya-claims/.

45. Furthermore, Cullison noted that there is no evidence that Tamerlan crossed the border into Georgia during his 2012 trip to Russia. His parents were not aware of any intention on the part of Tamerlan to travel to Georgia. Although his parents may have bent the truth in the past, there seems to be no reason why they would be untruthful about this particular episode. Finally, Cullison notes that in recent years, Izvestia has become a shameless promoter of the Kremlin. Email interview with Alan Cullison, December 21, 2013.

46. This author sent inquiries to the public affairs offices of both the FBI and the CIA. Both offices informed me that they would neither confirm nor deny information about the putative connection between the Jamestown Foundation and the Tsarnaev brothers. It should be noted, though, that this is standard policy for both agencies.

47. Fuller was believed to have been instrumental in the CIA’s covert operation to support the mujahedeen during the Soviet-Afghan War. He once opined "The policy of guiding the evolution of Islam and of helping them against our adversaries worked marvelously well in Afghanistan against the Red Army. The same doctrines can still be used to destabilize what remains of Russian power, and especially to counter Chinese influence in Central Asia." Quoted in Monica Perez, "Tsarnaev’s CIA Connections," May 14, 2013, http:// 05/14/tsarnaevs-cia-connections/.

48. The couple divorced sometime in 2004. "Tsarnaev Wife Skull and Bones, CIA Family Connections," 21st Century Wire, May 7, 2013, http://21stcenturywire. com/2013/05/04/tsarnaev-wife-skulland-bones-cia-family-connections/.

49. Joe Giambrone, "Uncle Ruslan Tsarni’s Organization May Have Funded Terrorists," Foreign Policy Journal, May 3, 2013, http://www.foreignpolicyjournal .com/2013/05/03/uncle-ruslan-tsarnis -organizatiorvm ay-have-funded-terrorists/.

50. Steve Urbon, "UMD Professor: T hope I didn’t contribute,’", April 20, 2013, http://www.southcoast AID=/20130420/NEWS/304200341.

51. According to a description on the web site: "Having traveled extensively in the Pashtun tribal areas while working for the U.S. military and the CIA, Williams explores in detail the new technology of airborne assassinations." ators-The-CIAs-Drone-Qaeda/dp/1612 346170.

52. Guillermo Jimenez, "The Tsarnaevs and the CIA-Part 2: Who is Brian Glyn Williams?" Traces of Reality, May 10, 2013, 2013/05/10/the-tsarnaevs-and-thecia-part-2-who-is-brian-glyn-williams/.

53. Jacobs, Filipov, and Wen, "The Fall of the House of Tsarnaev."

54. Cullison, "A Family Terror: The Tsarnaevs and the Boston Bombing."

55. Ibid.

56. Janet Reitman, "Jahar’s World," Rolling Stone, (August 1, 2013), Issue 1188, p. 52.

57. Jacobs, Filipov, and Wen, "The Fall of the House of Tsarnaev."

58. Caryl, "The Bomber’s World."

59. "Tsarnaev Wife Skull and Bones, CIA Family Connections." For more on the Skull and Bones Society from a conspiratorial perspective, see Anthony C. Sutton, America’s Secret Establishment: An Introduction to the Skull & Bones. (Billings, MT: Liberty House Press, 1986).

60. Jacobs, Filipov, and Wen, "The Fall of the House of Tsarnaev."

61. Among his favorite videos was one that denounced Dagestan’s traditional Sufi Muslims as heretical idol worshipers. Alissa De Carbonnel and Stephanie Simon, "Special Report: The radicalization of Tamerlan Tsarnaev," Reuter, April 23,2013, /2013/04/23/us-usaexplosions-radical isation-special-idUSBRE93M0CZ20130 423. One video featured Gadzhimurad Dolgatov (who went by the nom de guerre Abu Dujana), an obscure commander of an insurgent group in Dagestan who was killed by Russian security forces in late December 2012. Caitlin Dewey, "The obscure Russian jihadist whom Tamerlan Tsarnaev followed online," The Washington Post, April 24, 2013, http://www. /wp/2013/04/24/the-obscure-russianjihadist-whom-tamerlan-tsamaevfollowed-online/.

62. Hilary Anderson, "Tamerlan Tsarnaev had right-wing extremist literature," BBC News, August 5, 2013, http:// -23541341.

63. Al-Awlaki reached out to several American jihadists. He exerted a strong influence on Major Hasan with whom he exchanged emails several times before the attack at Fort Hood. Al-Awlaki met with Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab who was arrested for his alleged attempt to blow up a Detroit-bound flight on Christmas Day in 2009. His sermons also inspired Faisal Shahzad, who attempted to set off a car bomb in New York’s Time Square in May, 2010, and Zachary Chesser, a Fairfax, Virginia man of Somali origin who was arrested on charges of trying to join the Somali Islamic terrorist group al-Shabab. On September 30, 2011, a US military drone attack in Yemen killed al-Awlaki. Just two weeks later, another strike in Yemen killed his sixteen-year old son. Mark Mazzetti, Eric Schmitt and Robert F. Worth, "Two-Year Manhunt Led to Killing of Awlaki in Yemen," The New York Times, September 30, 2011; Associated Press, "Al-Awlaki’s Son Among AI Qaeda Militants Killed in Yemen Air Strike," October 15, 2011. For more on al-Awlaki see Catherine Herridge, The Next Wave: On the Hunt for AI Qaeda ‘s American Recruits. (New York: Crown Forum, 2012).

64. Peter Bergen and David Sterman, "Falling under the spell of a slain terrorist," June 28, 2013, http://www.cnn. com/2013/06/28/opinion/bergen-awl aki-influence/.

65. The fact that Tamerlan was an avid follower of his program was adduced by Jones as further evidence of the government’s pernicious intentions: "The federal government [is] trying to connect me to these tragedies. That’s the media and the government’s own conspiracy theories… It’s standard for them [the government] to talk to people, go through computers, and any time someone’s done something bad they connect it to us." Alex Seitz-Wald, "Tamerlan Tsarnaev was an Alex Jones fan," April 23, 2003, com/2013/04/23/tamerlan_tsarnaev _was_an_alexJones_fan/. For his part, Cliff Kincaid suggests that Alex Jones acted as a useful idiot in the sense that he implicated the U.S., rather than the Russian government. To make his case, he noted that Jones has appeared on RT television on numerous occasions and spoke out in defense of the Russian government during the conflict in South Ossetia in 2008. Furthermore, he noted that the police in Dagestan supposedly protected Anzor Tsarnaev from "excessive contacts with journalists" presumably to hide the truth surrounding the bombings. Kincaid, "Is Tamerlan Tsarnaev the new Lee Harvey Oswald?"

66. "Boston Bombing Suspect a Jihadist, But Influenced by U.S. Radical Right," Intelligence Report, (Winter 2013) Issue 152, http://www.splcenter. org/get-informed/intelligence-report /browse-all-issues/2013/winter/ boston-bombing-suspect-a-jihadist-but-influenced-by-us-radical.

67. Allan Cullison, "Boston Bombing Suspect Was Steeped in Conspiracies," The Wall Street Journal, August 6, 2013, /articles/SB1000142412788732 3420604578649830782219440.

68. The Protocols of the Elders of Zion is believed to be a revision of an 1858 French novel titled Dialogues of Hell by Maurice Jolly, which parodied a Masonic plot to take over Europe. Some historians believed that agents of the Okhrana, the Czar’s secret police, appropriated the document and switched Jews for Masons as the culprits for the purpose of fomenting ire against Russian Jews because of the role some of their members played in revolutionary activities. The principal author is thought to have been Serge Nilus. For more on the history of the Protocols, see Norman Cohn, Warrant for Genocide: The Myth of the Jewish World Conspiracy and the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. (London: Serif, 1996).

69. Cullison, "Boston Bombing Suspect Was Steeped in Conspiracies."

70. According to the standard extreme-right narrative, the chief aim of the Jewish conspiracy is to defile the white race through miscegenation, thus ultimately leading to its extinction as a distinct racial group. (Jews are said to see whites as their most dangerous "rivals.") Using a similar narrative, but in the framework of religion, militant Islamists argue that Jews seek first and foremost to destroy Islam because it constitutes the strongest moral challenge to perceived Jewish perfidy. Both right-wing extremists and Islamists also often invoke the status of the Palestinians as symbol of what awaits them if they do not act swiftly. George Michael, The Enemy of My Enemy: The Alarming Convergence of Militant Islam and the Extreme Right. (Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas, 2006).

71. Erica Goode and Serge F. Kovaleski, "Boy at Home in U.S., Swayed by One Who Wasn’t," The New York Times, April 19, 2013, http://www.nytimes. com/2013/04/20/us/details-oftsarnaev-brothers-boston-suspectsemerge.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0.

72. Reitman, "Jahar’s World," Rolling Stone, p. 56.

73. Reitman, "Jahar’s World," p. 56.

74. In addition, he occasionally used psychedelic drugs, including LSD and mushrooms. Jacobs, Filipov, and Wen, "The Fall of the House of Tsarnaev."

75. Jacobs, Filipov, and Wen, "The Fall of the House of Tsarnaev."

76. A friend recalled that Dzhokhar once accelerated his 1999 Honda Civic to nearly 120 miles per hour. Jacobs, Filipov, and Wen, "The Fall of the House of Tsarnaev."

77. Janet Reitman, "Jahar’s World," p. 55.

78. Lisa Tobin, "A Look At Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s Twitter Account," 90.9 wbur radio, April 23, 2013, http://www. athon-tweets.

79. "2011 Request for Information on Tamerlan Tsarnaev from Foreign Government," April 19, 2013, http:// http://www.fbi .gov/news/pressrel/pressreleases/2011-request-for-information-on-tamerlan-tsarnaev-from-foreigngovernment.

80. Caryl, "The Bomber’s World."

81. Kirit Radia, "No ‘Manifesto’ But New Clues to ‘Frustrated’ Boston Suspect: Sources," ABC News, May 24, 2013,

82. Caryl, "The Bomber’s World."

83. Ibid.

84. Reitman, "Jahar’s World," p. 55.

85. Reitman, "Jahar’s World," p. 56.

86. Cullison, "Boston Bombing Suspect Was Steeped in Conspiracies."

87. Reitman, "Jahar’s World," p. 56.

88. Larry Celona, "Boston bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev eyed in 2011 murders," New York Post, April 23, 2013, http://nypost .com/2013/04/23/boston-bomber-tam erlan-tsarnaev-eyed-in-2011-murders/.

89. Not long before Brendan Mess was killed, the victim’s relative noted that there was some animosity between him and Tamerlan over Mess’s lifestyle. Michele McPhee, "Boston Bomb Suspect Eyed in Connection to 2011 Triple Murder," ABC News, April 22, 2013, Blotter/boston-bomb-suspect-eyedconnection-2011-triple-murder/story ?id=19015628.

90. Wesley Lowery, David Filipov, and Mark Arsenault, "Slain suspect had thought about missing FBI interview," The Boston Globe, May 23, 2013, http ://www. bostonglobe .com/metro/2 013/05/23/father-man-killed-fbiagents-orlando-fla-says-his-son-was-notcapable-attacking-police/hAWCiZoteCnj T70ysmoH9L/story.html. Adding more controversy, initial reports claimed that the suspect lunged at the agents with a knife, but later reports claimed that he was unarmed. These conflicting accounts are odd considering that there should have been no confusion among a group of seasoned investigators. Conor Friedersdorf, "Why Did the FBI Kill an Unarmed Man and Clam Up?" The Atlantic, May 30, 2013, http:// 2013/05/why-did-the-fbi-kill-an-un armed-man-and-clam-up/276369/.

91. Giambrone, "Uncle Ruslan Tsarni’s Organization May Have Funded Terrorists."

92. Adam Goldman, Eric Tucker, and Matt Apuzzo, "Bomb suspect influenced by mysterious radical," Associated Press, April 23, 2013, http://nation.foxnews. com/tamerlan-tsarnaev/2013/04/ 23/ap-bomb-suspect-influencedmysterious-radical.

93. Peter Weber, "Boston bombings: Is Misha a red herring?" The Week, April 29, 2013, /index/243393/boston-bombingsis-misha-a-red-herring.

94. Walter Katz, "Finding Misha: Could the mystery man who radicalized Tamerlan Tsarnaev have been an FBI informant?" The Week, April 25, 2013, dicalized-tamerlan-tsarnaev-have-beenan-fbi-informant.

95. Trevor Aaronson, The Terror Factory: Inside the FBI’s Manufactured War on Terrorism. (Brooklyn, NY: Ig Publishing, 2013).

96. Jacobs, Filipov, and Wen, "The Fall of the House of Tsarnaev."

97. Jacobs, Filipov, and Wen, "The Fall of the House of Tsarnaev."

98. Maribek Vatchagaev, "Radicalization of Tsarnaev Brothers Likely Did Not Occur in Chechnya," Eurasia Daily Monitor. Vol. 10 Issue 88, May 2013,

99. Jacobs, Filipov, and Wen, "The Fall of the House of Tsarnaev."

100. Cullison, "Boston Bombing Suspect Was Steeped in Conspiracies."

101. Stableford, "Tsarnaev’s condition improves; brothers reportedly motivated by U.S. wars."

102. Initially, Justice Department investigators invoked a public safety exception and questioned Dzhokhar without reading him his Miranda rights. Luke Johnson, "Dzhokhar Tsarnaev Receives Miranda Rights After Delay For Public Safety Exception," The Huffington Post, April 22, 2013, http://www. dzhokhar-tsarnaev-miranda_n_3134 745.html and Rodrigue Ngowi, Lara Jakes, and Matt Apuzzo, "Officials: Suspect Described Plot Before Miranda," AP/The Big Story, April 25, 2013, /lawmakers-ask-who-knew-what-aboutbomb-suspect.

103. Anderson, "Tamerlan Tsarnaev had right-wing extremist literature."

104. Reitman, "Jahar’s World," p. 48.

105. Olivier Roy, Globalized Islam: The Search for a New Ummah. (New York: Columbia University Press, 2004).

106. George Michael, "What’s to Stop a ‘Lone Wolf Terrorist?" The Conversation, September 5, 2012, http:// /2012/09/05/whats-to-stop-a-lonewolf-terrorist/.

Author Affiliation

Dr. George Michael received his Ph.D. from George Mason University’s School of Public Policy. He is an associate professor of criminal justice at Westfield State University, MA. Previously, he was an associate professor of nuclear counter-proliferation and deterrence theory at the Air War College in Montgomery, AL. He is the author of seven books: Confronting Right-Wing Extremism and Terrorism in the USA, The Enemy of my Enemy: The Alarming Convergence of Militant Islam and the Extreme Right, Willis Carto and the American Far Right, Theology of Hate: A History of the World Church of the Creator, Lone Wolf Terror and the Rise of Leaderless Resistance, Extremism in America (editor), and Preparing for Contact: When Humans and Extraterrestrials Finally Meet (RVP Press, forthcoming 2014). In addition, his articles have been published in numerous academic journals.


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