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Boston Bombing News: Certainties, Absurdities, and Watertown

The tone of Judge O’Toole’s latest ruling is one of the certainties we have come to rely on. O’T has denied the defense’s request for additional info concerning, among other things: pre-2013 communication from the Russian government, forensic computer reports, and Waltham murder documents.

The judge did make one interesting comment: that Ibragim Todashev is of no use to the defense. Some of us wonder if Todashev, alive, might have been of great use … which may be why he is dead.

Is Watertown the clincher which makes the Tsarnaevs’ guilt a certainty? To me, this crazy saga makes the whole case look even MORE suspicious. In light of recent discussions, I think it would be worthwhile to revisit this topic, with updates.

Here’s a brief review of the Official Narrative: When Agent DesLauriers televised images of his suspects, the counter-terrorism agents who had been watching and interviewing Tamerlan for two years neglected to tell him who these guys were. DesL was forced to ask the public for help, though he knew this measure might force the suspects to flee.

When they saw their pictures on TV, the brothers indeed realized they needed to flee, but they didn’t have a plan for that. So they improvised. They decided to drive to Times Square to party, er, to bomb it. But they failed to get to New York because they did everything possible to ensure that they were caught before they got out of Boston.

First, they drove their Honda to a nearby 7-11 for snacks, unfazed by the massive police presence in Cambridge. Then they killed an MIT cop and dropped his gun on the ground near the murder scene instead of taking it with them. After that (perhaps thinking they had not yet drawn enough police attention to themselves), they hijacked an SUV, confessed their crimes to the driver, and took him hostage. They drove in circles for almost two hours. At a gas station in Cambridge, they carelessly let their hostage escape.

Then they drove to Laurel and Dexter and provoked a firefight with the entire BPD, shooting guns and hurling explosive devices. They only managed to take down one policeman (who may actually have been hit by friendly fire). The hordes of cops and “self-deployed” volunteer shooters really had to struggle to defeat these two Chechen Rambos, but they finally succeeded in killing one of them.

The other was wounded, but escaped and hid in a boat. Though weak with blood loss, he wrote a manifesto on the boat’s fiberglass surface, using an appropriate writing tool which he just happened to have with him. He then attempted suicide by shooting himself in the mouth with a magically disappearing gun. He confronted police, somehow managing to stay upright in spite of this very serious head injury. (The note, when revealed to the public, was artistically decorated with bright-red blood streaks, which strongly resembled red paint.)

How did the shootout begin? Option 1, the current official version: Tamerlan got out of the SUV and began firing at a cop who was slowly following him with his lights off. Option 2: Police fired at the speeding SUV trying to make it stop, while a passenger threw bombs out the window. Police scanner transcripts and Andrew Kitzenberg back up this account. (AK reported a wild car chase with a police car crashing into a house.)

What happened next? Photos and videos of the shootout are dark and murky. Audio is clearer than video. “We give up.” “We didn’t do it.” “Bang bang, pop pop.” Some witnesses said they heard a huge “boom.” The videos I have watched do not include the boom.

AK reported that a large object was thrown as a diversion, and that it filled the street with smoke. He thought it looked like a pressure cooker bomb. The bomb squad later found what appeared to be pieces of a PC bomb in a driveway. This object did not fully explode; it “low-ordered and mechanically scattered.”

If this PC bomb was like the ones at the Marathon, it must have weighed 30 pounds. One of the brothers apparently thought he could throw a 30-pound weight far enough away so that it would not kill him when it detonated. (So macho, these guys! Remember how Dzhokhar only gave himself 10 seconds to walk away from his bomb before he set it off?)

Is it possible that this metal container held, not nails and ball bearings which would have brought its weight up to 30 pounds, but only fireworks powder, which would have created a lot of smoke?

After the shootout, the bomb squad found “a crumb-line of weapons and frag, a sort of terrorist-fetish striptease” which included a switchblade, BBs, scrap metal, an empty 9-mm magazine and two handguns. “It looked like a crime scene they laid out for us in school.” Almost too perfect?

One bomb-squad member searched the Honda and found “a malign treasure trove including a computer bag containing ball bearings and components similar to those from the initial bombings.” By the time this reached a Congressional committee, the computer bag had expanded into six fully-ready bombs. (Not sure how that happened.)

Would Dzhokhar have been hauling around bomb-making materials in his car? Not if the brothers had no hand in making the bombs – a fact which the prosecution has now more or less admitted since there was no gunpowder residue in either Tsarnaev residence. (Possibly they went somewhere else to be instructed in bomb-making? Presumably the instructors would have already had the materials on hand.)

Do I “know” that someone planted the bag of ball bearings and the line of weapons and frag? No, but it’s possible … either during the two hours that the Honda was left unattended, or while those mysterious self-deployed shooters were busy helping to create chaos during the firefight.

Those of us who have trouble swallowing dozens of impossible or highly improbable things with our morning coffee, have speculated on alternative explanations for all of this craziness.

Did the Tsarnaevs go to the Marathon to do a drill with smoke bombs? Were they lured to Watertown by their alphabet-agency contact, for a conference of some sort? Did they already have smoke bombs and other drill paraphernalia in the Honda? Or, were the smoke bombs in the SUV, which really belonged to the “contact” and not to an innocent Chinese grad student?

Did they bring along a gun (or guns?) because they knew how much trouble they were in? If innocent, they must have realized that their religion, combined with a determined government and an unfriendly media, made it highly unlikely that anyone would believe their story.

Once upon a time, I was certain about the Tsarnaevs’ guilt. But today, in order to regain that certainty, I would need something a lot more persuasive than what I’m seeing now. If Dzhokhar stands up at his trial and confesses convincingly, explaining away all these questions and inconsistencies, then yes, I will return to my original stance. Until then, I will keep asking the questions.

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