Terrorists, Boston and Online Materials

The New York Times has an article on how al-Qaeda is using its Inspire Magazine to encourage and teach lone terrorists, like the ones in Boston, how to build bombs at home. In other words, no international travel or training camps necessary.

The Spring, 2013 edition of Inspire, which I detailed at length last month, was 32 pages and did not focus on bombs left at crowded events. But there was another 32 page section called The Lone Mujahdid Pocketbook, which did exactly that. You can read it in English here. [More...]

I found it interesting that they are expanding beyond suicide attacks and promoting life in prison as an equal reward:

My Muslim brother, who wants to support the religion of Allah: do not make too many calculations and forecasting of the results and consequences. It is true that' Umar ai-FarOq and his brothers Nidal Hassan and Shahzad were imprisoned, but they have become heroes and icons that are examples to be followed. We ask Allah to grant them steadfastness.

If they were sincere and steadfast, their imprisonment would be an increased status for them. The hadith says: "If Allah loves a people, He would put them through trials." The result of these trials would be the highest levels of Paradise, the pleasure of Allah, heaven in the hearts in this world and eternal pleasure in the Afterlife.

That is followed by the pitch:

My Muslim brother: we are conveying to you our military training right into your kitchen to relieve you of the difficulty of traveling to us.

If you are sincere in your intentions to serve the religion of Allah, then all what you have to do is enter your kitchen and make an explosive device that would damage the enemy if you put your trust in Allah and then use this explosive device properly. Here are the main qualities of this bomb.....

According to Inspire,

In one or two days the bomb could be ready to kill at least ten people. ln a month you may make a bigger and more lethal bomb that could kill tens of people.

Law enforcement leakers have told the media that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev told his interrogators that they moved the date of the bombing up from July 4 because the bomb took less time to build than they expected. But if they were going by Inspire, shouldn't they have expected to be able to build it in a few days or a month, at most?

In any event, since Inspire was found on Tamerlan and his wife's home computer, it seems Tamerlan did get help from the Magazine. As to how to find and prevent the next lone wolf attack, I'm pretty sure this is a lousy strategy:

Some law enforcement officials say that the Boston case vindicates their aggressive strategy of dispatching informants posing as Qaeda operatives to meet young men who are flirting with violent jihad. Such sting operations often end when the aspiring terrorist attempts to detonate an ersatz bomb provided by the F.B.I.

A more reasonable approach:

Michael German, a former F.B.I. agent who is now at the A.C.L.U., said the problem with focusing on extremist views was that the vast majority of people who express them never turn to violence. Instead, the bureau should focus on illegal acts, he said.

The FBI should get out of the intelligence game and get back to the purpose for which it was formed: investigating crimes that have occurred.

I disagree with German though on this point:

In the 2011 Russian warning about Tamerlan Tsarnaev, Mr. German said, the key point was not that he had embraced radical Islam but that he planned to travel to Russia to join underground groups.

There is still zero evidence of that. If it were true, it's unlikely he would have returned here to launch an attack. He would have stayed there to fight alongside them. The Caucasus fighters have no interest in fighting the U.S. They want to fight Russia. Why would they waste their time training someone for a mission that didn't advance their goals? Neither of the two terrorists mentioned in unconfirmed reports as potential acquaintances were interested in attacks in the U.S. The Canadian who allegedly provided his name in December, 2010 as someone he communicated with on the Internet, did so under torture and was then released because he had committed no crime. It was later, and well after his purported internet communications with Tamerlan that the Canadian turned from a peaceful religious student into a militant. For all we know, it was the torture that caused his radicalism. From the Russian article about this:

William Plotnikov, 21, a Russian who converted to Islam in Canada, was detained in December 2010 in the town of Izberbash, suspected of ties to militants. At first the RDCCE agents “worked him over,” then the Dagestan Republic’s FSB office. They worked totally seriously, employing “a wide arsenal of special means” [hint : torture]. During the interrogations, Plotnikov told the agents that he had come to Dagestan from Toronto, where he had lived since 2005 with his parents, and had come alone – to study Islam. He also gave a list of the names of other emigres from the North Caucasus in Europe and America with whom he had been in contact over the Internet. The law-enforcers ran the names through social media networks and found among them figured a certain Tamerlan Tsarnaev “from Dagestan”. Plotnikov actively communicated with Tsarnaev at one of the popular Islamic social networks – the World Association of Muslim Youth (WAMY), which Tamerlan had joined from his page on Youtube.

There is no evidence that Tamerlan went to Russia for any reason other than to get his passport and see his sick father. Or that he got training there.

I think whatever motivated Tamerlan to strike in the U.S., was learned in the U.S. It was in the U.S. that he collaborated with his brother, who until recent months, had shown little interest in religion and none in any violent acts.

Tamerlan returned from Russia in July. As late as November, 2012, Jahar was still planning on going further in school. Here's one conversation he had on Twitter with his friend Junes, who was quoted about him yesterday in the New York Times portrait of the brothers. While Jahar's tweets have been available, Junes' responses have not been since he deleted his Twitter account. This cached version was still available days ago when I saved them.

(As to speculation that Junes is somehow linked to a terrorist in Chechnya because they share a last name, that's baseless gossip. It's a very common last name, and Junes and his brother Adam have already been interviewed by the FBI. While Junes and his sister Heda are among those supporting Jahar, there is zero evidence they have militant views. They think he's been framed.)

In the above tweets, Jahar certainly shows no interest in rewards from the afterlife. He's willing to go through another six years of school and clearly focused on this life. According to the New York Times in an earlier article, it received a copy of his grades and he was failing a lot of subjects. Maybe that resulted in his disillusionment and susceptibility to whatever his brother was proposing. But it sure seems like four months before the Boston attack, he was still focused on a normal life.

At the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, Dzhokhar began to struggle academically. According to a university transcript reviewed by The New York Times, he was failing many of his classes. The transcript shows him receiving seven failing grades over three semesters, including F’s in Principles of Modern Chemistry, Intro to American Politics and Chemistry and the Environment. According to the transcript, Dzhokhar received a B in Critical Writing and a D and D-plus in two other courses.

Looking for foreign links to these brothers seems likely to be as productive as chasing ghosts. It's pretty clear they don't exist. Their reasons for turning to bombs, if they did (the allegations against them have not been proven) are likely to be far more mundane and rooted in their disillusionment with their lives right here in the U.S.

There are still a lot of puzzling details about the Boston plot. Why the brothers didn't cover their faces. Why they picked a place where cameras were so plentiful (the finish line.) Why Jahar went about his life as if nothing happened and didn't try to leave Boston. Whether the bomb plot came from Inspire or not, I highly doubt either one of these brothers bought Al Qaeda's marketing of life imprisonment as a reward.

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  • Display: Sort:
    6 months in Russia (none / 0) (#1)
    by Slado on Mon May 06, 2013 at 10:19:00 AM EST
    Until we're told what he did in Russia for 6 months that would lead their authorities to warn us about him I'm not prepared to close the book on this as "Homegrown".

    It might very well have been but several authorities on bomb making say it is unlikely that someone could have pulled this off without further training or practice in making bombs.    Low odds that they'd construct two bombs on their own and successfully detonate them their first time out.

    Also where did all the money come from for the weapons they had on them?  

    Lots of unanswered questions and after Benghazi and Ft. Hood I simply don't trust this administration to be straight with us.  

    what weapons? (5.00 / 2) (#3)
    by Jeralyn on Mon May 06, 2013 at 10:44:08 AM EST
    Tamerlan had a gun and Jahar had no weapons. The bombs were cheap to make. You sound like you are reading right-wing websites. There are several accounts of his time in Russia. Russia also denies he met with any terrorists.

    Distrust of Government is not a substitute for facts. If you find some, let us know.  


    Well here you go (none / 0) (#2)
    by Slado on Mon May 06, 2013 at 10:31:22 AM EST
    Turns out his time in Russia might have been quite fruitful.

    If this is true appears he spent his time in Russia working on his Jihad ism and only left because the Russians killed his buddy.  


    "Here you go" what? (5.00 / 1) (#5)
    by Anne on Mon May 06, 2013 at 10:49:01 AM EST
    Paragraphs of speculation adding up to exactly nothing.

    Questions have been raised about the significance of a potential link between one of the Boston bombing suspects and a Canadian jihadist who was killed by police in southern Russia last year.

    Significance of a potential link is meaningless.

    What has not been independently confirmed is whether the two men actually communicated on social networks or crossed paths either in Dagestan or in Toronto, where Plotnikov had lived with his parents and where Tsarnaev had an aunt.

    Lots of speculation - very little in the way of fact.

    Did they both have brown eyes?  Maybe there's meaning in that.  Were they both right-handed?  Yikes, call 911.


    There you go and here we are (none / 0) (#7)
    by jimakaPPJ on Mon May 06, 2013 at 11:13:58 AM EST
    In a separate report, Russia's Novaya Gazeta newspaper said security officials suspected ties between Tsarnaev and Plotnikov.

    The newspaper added that two men had social networking links that brought Tsarnaev to the attention of Russian security services for the first time in late 2010.

    You got nothin', jim - (5.00 / 3) (#12)
    by Anne on Mon May 06, 2013 at 11:32:47 AM EST
    "suspected" ties and social networking links which it has not been proven these two men were using to communicate at the time in question are just more breathless speculation.

    I think this is one of those situations where, to the hammer, everything looks like a nail.


    Only if you (none / 0) (#15)
    by Slado on Mon May 06, 2013 at 11:44:09 AM EST
    start with the assumption that he was a lone wolf.

    Then you demand 100% proof.

    If you assume the opposite then these look like corroborating facts.

    I am simply saying I don't trust the current narrative because this administration constantly downplays the involvement of "others" and even "Islam" in previous events, only to be later shown to be wrong.

    We'll see.   The truth will eventually come out.  


    Slado, I'm not trying to argue that (5.00 / 2) (#16)
    by Anne on Mon May 06, 2013 at 12:05:21 PM EST
    Tamerlan was or was not connected to this Canadian guy - all I'm trying to point out to you is that these articles are long on speculation and woefully short on facts.  

    Clearly, you are willing to make something of them, but I haven't seen enough to be comfortable doing that.  Not that I necessarily believe much of what my government is telling me about any of it - I think it serves the anti-terror monolith to find connections even where they are of the most tenuous kind.

    But that, it seems to me, is a double-edged sword.  They want to scare us into accepting the wholesale collection of all our communications on the premise that that's the only way they can keep us safe - but when it isn't enough to stop even this small-scale bombing, how do they justify the unconstitutional, wholesale invasion of privacy?  The only plots they ever seem able to interrupt are the ones they had a hand in cooking up.


    Dont misinterpet my piont (none / 0) (#24)
    by Slado on Mon May 06, 2013 at 02:47:29 PM EST
    I'm very against what our government has done in our name.  I fell for the scare tactics like most back in the early 2000's but I'm tired of airport security, drones, the Patriot act etc...

    I'm also against PC government run a muck.  They can't have it both ways.  Either act like Israel or don't bother.

    We don't need to screen everyone, have my 3 year old take off her shoes at the airport and we don't need to pretend that when it comes to terrorism Islam is were it's at.

    That in my opinion is why this administration chooses to downplay the Islam/Al Qeada angle whenever they can.   Meanwhile Gitmo stays open, we drop bombs with drones adn contemplate invading Syria.

    Just doesn't make sense to me.


    Did you read the (5.00 / 1) (#33)
    by sj on Tue May 07, 2013 at 10:04:24 AM EST
    article you are linking to?  While the mouth-breathers are all "jihadist!!!" when speculating about social network connections, they ignore that both men shared a common interest in amateur boxing. Lots of speculation in that article leading up to a big nothing.

    Did you bother to read my post? (none / 0) (#4)
    by Jeralyn on Mon May 06, 2013 at 10:46:08 AM EST
    It includes a section about that and the English translation from the actual article it is taken from. I provided the links. It does not support he was involved with militant groups on his trip to Russia.

    I did not click on that link (none / 0) (#11)
    by Slado on Mon May 06, 2013 at 11:29:36 AM EST
    Did you read the article from Huffington Post?

    I admit a partisan reaction to the fact that this administration for whatever reasons always initially downplays the involvement of Al Qaeda.  In the extreme example of Benghazi those assumptions have been proven to be wildly incorrect.

    No one has explained why he went to Russia and what he did there.   It appears now that he had interactions with a known and now dead "terrorist".

    Common sense and my opinion lead me to believe he was probably trained in bomb making while in Russia.   Doesn't mean he was part of a cell or bigger movement.

    Maybe he just rand around in the woods with some terrorist buddies and had a great time before coming back home to learn about bombs on the internet.

    Who knows.   Just seems like another incorrect media narrative is forming prematurely.


    "Awkward moment.... (none / 0) (#6)
    by Dadler on Mon May 06, 2013 at 10:50:23 AM EST
    ...when niggas don't know what the next world is lol."

    Sadder is when children are not raised in healthy enough environments to appreciate what THIS world is, as in reality, all we got, and not the fantasy  fundamentalism of all stripes (religious and corporate and all in between) that are in the business of brainwashing for adherents.

    These kids, more than anything else, seem the product of terribly damaged parents, who passed that damage on to their offspring.

    Dadler..... Are you (none / 0) (#8)
    by jimakaPPJ on Mon May 06, 2013 at 11:16:04 AM EST
    arguing that we should dispatch HHS people to the homes of everyone we disagree with politically???

    Dadler (none / 0) (#9)
    by Ga6thDem on Mon May 06, 2013 at 11:23:35 AM EST
    sounds like he's making a case study in sociological problems. You have been the one arguing that we round up people because of their religious views.

    Blood and guts in the street (none / 0) (#14)
    by Abdul Abulbul Amir on Mon May 06, 2013 at 11:42:32 AM EST

    The FBI should get out of the intelligence game and get back to the purpose for which it was formed: investigating crimes that have occurred.

    Someone should be in the "intelligence game."  There are folks out there actively recruiting and training people to commit mass murder.  Waiting until the blood and guts are in the street rather than trying to prevent that occurrence is the only moral policy.


    I'd need about 5 separate threads (none / 0) (#17)
    by ExcitableBoy on Mon May 06, 2013 at 12:17:42 PM EST
    to handle my Benghazi questions.

    I have no questions about Fort Hood. It's very obvious that the admin bent over backwards to downplay the Islamic jihadist angle -- workplace violence, sure.

    I definitely distrust the administration when it comes to the lone-wolf vs. organized scenarios. They have a vested interest in and preference for lone-wolf actors. I'm not saying they would definitely lie to push that scenario, but I don't trust them. Or any other presidency, really.

    As for speculation, that's what a lot of commentary is here. J's original post had some speculation. We just hope for intelligent speculation, which you generally get here.

    In the military, it is multi faith (5.00 / 1) (#19)
    by Militarytracy on Mon May 06, 2013 at 01:46:38 PM EST
    What does Jihad mean?  Do you even know?  It means struggle, perhaps you can even say internally spiritually struggle.  Some extremists have interpreted to mean something different though just like all sorts of religious extremists of different faiths have changed interpretations of their faiths.

    The word Jihad though is actually a peace loving word though about reflection if majority gets to rule.  We have soldiers that argue and struggle spiritually all the time, just like everyone else.  One area that the military challenges itself to be inclusive though is the area of faith, it isn't supposed to matter because you are a soldier first and your oath and allegiance as a soldier comes first.

    As far as the military is concerned Hasan's attack is judged as a soldier first.  He is one, he still is one.  It was a blue on blue attack, along the lines of fragging which is nothing new in the military either.  Religion is not an issue in the military for anyone, and when it becomes one that is when you call the IG.  I don't know who you think you are to think it is your right to disrupt and breakdown the cohesion and group dynamic effectiveness of our military forces for your petty phobia.


    please stay on the Boston case (none / 0) (#28)
    by Jeralyn on Mon May 06, 2013 at 05:10:50 PM EST
    in this thread. I've deleted some comments that were about Benghzai. And please be civil and don't insult other commenters who share a different point of view.

    Sorry Jeralyn (none / 0) (#31)
    by Militarytracy on Mon May 06, 2013 at 05:27:47 PM EST
    It is just so annoying how Benghazi and Fort Hood even get brought up in this discussion, and the statements so laced with bull.

    One thing that I find interesting is that (none / 0) (#32)
    by Tamta on Mon May 06, 2013 at 11:14:28 PM EST
    he is already on Russia's radar before he leaves the US to travel there.


    "In early 2011, a foreign government asked the FBI for information about Tamerlan Tsarnaev. 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 the country's region to join unspecified underground groups."

    He changed since 2010?
    What did the FSB know of him before then, and why?
    He arrived in the US in 2003, age 16.