Boston Bombing News: What About That Man Who Left a Black Bag?

On April 17, two days after the Boston marathon bombing, there was a flurry of media activity on the case. At first the most prominent report was from John King of CNN (transcripts: one, two, three). He has it that according to sources there was a breakthrough in the investigation from study of the video from a security camera attached to the Lord & Taylor department store.

Namely, says King, the video revealed a dark-skinned male leaving a black bag in the vicinity of the second explosion. A bit later he says he has heard that an arrest had been made. And he says there would be a briefing later in the day.

However, official sources denied that there was an arrest, and no briefing was ever held. When King went back to his sources to ask what the deal was, he was told that there was “significant blowback at the leaks” and that there would be no further information. (For more details, see Woody Box’s blog entry.)

Then the mantle passed to the putative heirs of Edward R. Murrow. Later that day CBS reported that investigators found a potential suspect talking on a cell phone in the same Lord & Taylor video, describing his clothing, and we immediately recognize him now as Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. The report says that he put a backpack on the ground and left the scene when the first explosion occurred. (The backpack is not further identified, although later the report will say “investigators believe the bombs were hidden in black nylon backpacks.” Dzhokhar’s backpack was in fact light colored.) Further, investigators were working on identifying the man from cell phone logs.

At this point, incidentally, Murrow’s ghost meets John Miller, an ex-FBI agent and CBS News’s “senior correspondent,” who would become its point man on the case henceforth, such as through serving as the recipient of government leaks designed to prejudice the public against Tsarnaev. In this initial location he cites the dilemma of whether or not to release a description of a suspect and thus enlisting the public’s help, but at the same time letting him know you are looking for him. For more details on the CBS report see this Woody Box blog post.

At any rate, from this point on the man who left a black bag would be forgotten, and John King would even issue an abject apology a few days later for believing unreliable sources on the reported arrest in particular. On the next day, April 18, the head of the Boston FBI office would present pictures of the Tsarnaev brothers, while claiming not to know who they were, and asking for the public’s help in finding them, while specifically admonishing us not to look at any other photos. And the case would proceed in the manner with which we are now all familiar.

Except that John King was not the only reporter to speak of the man leaving a black bag. The Associated Press also reported on April 17, as republished a few days ago by the Seattle ABC affiliate KOMO, that a suspect was seen on the Lord and Taylor video, and that the City Council President was told about it. (The text does not specifically say the bag was black, but the ABC reporter in the accompanying KOMO video does. Also, as woodybox notes @ comment #38 here, a photo of a black bag has been removed in the republished version.)

In principle, from the text of the article alone the AP suspect could be Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, as with the CBS report, not the man King reported. But that seems unlikely since it was filed in the early afternoon of Eastern time, as was King’s report and others, while the development involving Dzhokhar was later.

Now according to one of the court motions having to do with the Special Administrative Measures imposed on Tsarnaev’s incarceration the government says that it has supplied the defense with a video showing Dzhokhar Tsarnaev “planting the bomb” (i.e., leaving a backpack that the government alleges but has not proved contained a bomb), presumably the Forum Restaurant video cited in the original criminal complaint, and that is apparently all.

Why not talk about the Lord & Taylor video as well, the one that has the imprimatur of John Miller as giving more evidence that Tsarnaev left the dastardly bomb container?

Could it be because that video also shows a black bag being left by another man (whether “dark-skinned” or not, leaving room for possible embellishment by King’s sources), who may or may not have been the actual bomber (perhaps still more people left packages that day, any of whom could have been the culprit), but who is prima facie just as likely a candidate?

What is really in that Lord & Taylor video?

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