As Tsarnaev Trial Starts, a Journey into the “Known Unknowns” Begins - WhoWhatWhy

As Tsarnaev Trial Starts, a Journey into the “Known Unknowns” Begins

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Dzhokar Tsarnaev surrenders. (Handout)

Dzhokar Tsarnaev surrenders. (Handout)

We are about to witness what may be one of the strangest trials ever. For one thing, the central narrative we’ve been provided of the Boston Marathon bombing makes little sense.

Take the defendant’s past. It provides few clues to suggest that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev might have been inclined to commit any sort of mayhem, much less on a massive scale. Even his now-dead, more aggressive older brother, Tamerlan, doesn’t exactly seem like the sort to prepare and detonate bombs to harm large numbers of innocent fellow Bostonians.

Furthermore, neither brother is known to have had the expertise to make the explosive devices unleashed at the Marathon, which experts have characterized as sophisticated. They also aren’t known to have the sort of experience or practiced skill with guns or incendiary devices of the sort they’re described as deploying—with ruthless bravado—during a protracted face-off with large numbers of experienced, heavily armed law enforcement officers, some of whom had military training.

Then there is the small matter of evidence. Here, one is struck by the huge gap between what we think we know­—based on an unremitting campaign of leaks from the government—and what actually has been seen or publicly established.

The main piece of evidence—the famed video the government claims to have of the defendant putting down his bomb-laden backpack—has not been seen by the public. Yet many people think they have watched it. Even an appellate judge involved in the Tsarnaev case was under the mistaken impression he had seen such a video.

In fact, as WhoWhatWhy has repeatedly noted, the video may not even exist, because there is no proof of its existence. This week, finally, the conventional media made the same point. (It turns out that former Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick was being less than honest when he said he had seen that video—not only had he not seen it, but neither, most likely, had those who described it to him.)


Then, too, much has been made of a “confession” Tsarnaev allegedly wrote on the wall of the boat in which he was ultimately captured. But any honest reading of what we’ve been shown so far certainly can’t be called an outright confession. It doesn’t refer to specific actions, and parts of it are rote recitation of a Muslim expression of faith that’s sometimes invoked when a Muslim is near death. Last rites? Maybe.

But the FBI also admitted that the boat was left out in the open for days, which would be violation of the strict chain-of-custody required to preserve evidence for trial.  So it’s impossible to rule out tampering.

1What else do we think we know? The indictment catalogues purported behavior that looks incriminating, and may well be good enough for an indictment, but that certainly doesn’t prove guilt, even if we can be sure it is all true, which we cannot:

• Dzhokhar read material from the Internet that discusses Jihad.

• Dzhokhar looked at bomb-making instructions on the Internet.

• Tamerlan bought fireworks in New Hampshire (not nearly enough firepower to cause the blasts seen at the finish line, according to fireworks experts).

• Tamerlan and Dzhokhar went to a firing range in New Hampshire (once) and fired handguns while there. (Does this explain their purported proficiency with firearms and explosives? Hardly.)

• About 10 days before the bombing Tamerlan used the Internet to order electronic components that could be adapted for use in making IEDs.

• Dzhokhar opened a pre-paid cell phone account the day before the bombing. While such an act could certainly be portrayed as terrorist tradecraft, it could equally be written off as typical college-kid behavior.

• Dzhokhar had a backpack in his dorm room containing broken-up fireworks.

Clearly enough for an indictment, but does it prove he’s guilty?


Then there is the small matter of…actually providing the public with meaningful and complete answers. So far, we’ve seen little indication that either the prosecution or the defense has a desire to establish the full story behind the attacks and their aftermath.

For example, evidence of links between the older brother and the FBI—and, through family and other connections, the CIA—has been swept under the rug. This cries out for investigation into whether the government is covering up something. Especially when one considers the government’s well-established practice of recruiting people—often hapless loners—to infiltrate terrorists groups and then foster and participate in terror plots.

Even the Boston Globe columnist Kevin Cullen laments the fact that we’re unlikely to get much of this critical backstory. Nonetheless Cullen’s article is mis-titled “Closing in on the truth in the tangled Tsarnaev case,” when it’s exactly the tangled parts we’re unlikely to see straightened out.

Of course, the prosecution will not “go there”—that is, honestly follow the facts wherever they may take us. But neither, it seems, will Tsarnaev’s defense. They have seemed hamstrung in their ability to investigate, and appear to have convinced their client that his only hope is to admit his guilt and hope to avoid the death penalty.

He would presumably do this by letting himself be characterized as an unfortunate under the influence of a more malign elder sibling.

Not Wholly Innocent Either

On the other hand, one cannot buy the line of certain critics who contend that the entire government case has been fabricated. After all, we have a photo of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev emerging from a boat in which he seems to have been hiding. If he didn’t do anything, why would he be hiding and/or on the run? Also, we know that he was at the Marathon, and like his brother, was wearing a backpack (not that that means much, in and of itself.)

We also don’t know if he was a participant in the murder of MIT Officer Sean Collier. The policeman was assassinated by hooded figures on a nearly empty night-time campus a good distance from the brothers’ likely whereabouts. Indeed, many aspects of the Collier shooting don’t make a lot of sense—for example, why would the brothers have killed him to obtain his firearm if they had one already—and then, why shoot him and leave his gun behind? So we don’t necessarily know who killed Collier, or why.

Still, the government claims to have made a ballistics match between the pistol used to kill Collier and the one found in the street after the chaotic Watertown shootout in which Tamerlan Tsarnaev purportedly died. Will the defense have the opportunity to scrutinize that evidence? Will the rest of us?

Also, a friend of Dzhokhar’s who’s facing decades in prison for his own troubles appears to be willing to testify that he gave Dzhokhar the pistol in question, in return for a lesser sentence. Will the defense get to scrutinize the details of that plea deal?


Those are but a sampling. And there is much, much more that we don’t know. Meanwhile, what we do know is next to nothing.

Which makes it all the more disturbing that the media has allowed the public to believe the opposite: that there is virtually nothing yet to be uncovered.

Let us hope, for the sake of our own national sanity, that we are in for some courtroom surprises. That we will get the clarity and the candor compulsory for a free society and a healthy democracy, rather than a hopped up, ill-informed lynch mob.

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28 responses to “As Tsarnaev Trial Starts, a Journey into the “Known Unknowns” Begins”

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  3. Avatar Boeser Wolf says:

    The court room is the last place you can expect to get to the truth.

  4. Avatar Ozziejorge says:

    And our own Bryant in Tasmania .. “Port Arthur massacre” …. he had an IQ of about 75, was left handed, the people were all shot with head/neck hits from an Armalite fired from the hip by a RIGHT HANDED gunman……. Go figure!!

  5. Avatar Ozziejorge says:

    Only the names have been changed … Tim McVeigh?????

  6. +America needs a whole new, honest government; “by the people, and for the people”. The present set-up in all sectors of Washington ‘offices’ ie; FBI, CIA, Homeland Security, Supreme Court, Congress, Senate, White House, are so corrupt and illegal as regards to the Constitution and Declaration of Independence, plus ‘Bill of Rights’ , it’s ludicrous!!!! The American people don’t have a say in who runs the country anymore, it’s the big business and corporations with their lobbyists and the very unnecessary ‘electoral college’ that needs to be made totally illegal and banned forever. Supreme court justices change with the new president by a vote through a ‘legal and honest Congress’ “by the people, for the people”. Of course, this will never happen unless the whole country stands up together and says they’ve had enough and keep standing until the scum that been running the show for years are put in jail, or run out of office on a rail. When you really look at what’s going on in America, it makes you sick. War, War, War, War, War, War, War, War, War, War, War,.Give peace a chance for a change. There’s been a war, someplace, (thanks to USA), for over 250 years, with about 20 years of peace interspersed. This is ridiculous, and so is most things the govt is doing nowadays. OUT OF CONTROL!!! RICH GET RICHER AND F**K THE REST! Great slogan for a “free country”! What a sad sad state of affairs. Makes me happy I’m getting near my 70’s. Maybe I’ll be asleep when the world ‘kills itself’, thanks to the greed! Boston Trail? A joke, but not a funny one. Lies, Lies, Lies, and more Lies from those in control.

  7. My money is on the FBI as the source of the bombs in Boston in the same way as they were the source of the bomb that was used against tower 1 of the World Trade Center in 1993, which they have admitted providing.

  8. Avatar AlwaysLookingUp says:

    Great article. Another missing piece that’s not likely to be addressed: the friend of the brothers in Miami who the FBI executed in “questioning”.

  9. Avatar musings2 says:

    Every single thing the public has seen is second-hand hearsay. Just because a picture appears in a newspaper, it is not evidence that is admissible in court. Working on the set of assumptions laid down by the press is how the public have reacted to this entangled story.
    The alternative press if you will has leaked a series of wider shots served up to the public in this press, and with those and films a far different picture emerges. It is the picture of something different than a genuine bombing. Not only that, there is evidence of later tampering with that evidence to show more damage to the structures in the area, done overnight after the event, and filmed on the day when “evidence” was gathered, to reinforce (apparently) the impression of a suitable level of destruction.

    The court case, like the confession written in the boat, looks like a sham to me. I would be a hold out on the jury so I am glad they did not impanel me. But then the trial itself is a sort of moot court, I imagine, to take the narrative further.

    How was I involved? I live in a city which was shut down. My relatives were unable to visit me. My nephew chose not to attend school in Boston because of these events. There are some consequences at MIT too. I would like this to show real Boston Strong in the face of tragedy, all pulling together. But instead it shows manipulation and lies. Maybe that wake-up call is what many of us need. That we are living in a place of the most foul corruption where the “noble lie” is the way they rule us. I think we can handle the truth, but they don’t think it would be safe for their positions if we did. That tells me that the powers that be have come there on the back of ill gotten gains, and have perhaps even killed their way to the top. House of Cards is a fiction, but so is the BMB.

  10. Avatar Docloxvio says:

    Check out some of the “defense lawyer’s” previous clients.

    • Avatar Chris Sky says:

      you weren’t kidding… she’s like THE lawyer for any trial that’s being run by the CIA. Unibomber, Jared Lee Laughner, Boston Bomber….

  11. Omission. “So it’s [not] impossible to rule out tampering.”

  12. Avatar Bloom says:

    At the anniversary of Martin Luther King’s killing a close confidant of MLK said that he was convinced the FBI killed him and James Earl Ray was set up to take the blame. Ray confessed to the crime. Sirhan Sirhan also confessed although the evidence does not support his involvement.
    This case, though not an assassination is also a set up. After 2 years of investigating and reading about this case in the msm and outside of it I’m convinced of Dzhokhar’s innocence and set up as well as his brother’s innocence and his brother’s connection to the FBI.
    Tamerlan was killed by the police, (not run over per emergency doctors where he was treated). Dzhokhar was also almost eliminated by police fire at Watertown, while he was lying in the boat, and after he was pulled out where his throat was slit from chin to collarbone and a gun put in his mouth and fired (he was unarmed). He is in danger in prison and has been gagged like his lawyers and held incommunicado under DOJ imposed SAMS.
    Todashev who we know told his father (and presumably others) that Tamerlan was set up to take the blame for the Boston bombings, was shot and killed by an FBI agent sent from Boston to Florida. Others who knew the Tsarnaev’s have been harassed, arrested, charged with crimes. All witnesses the defense tries to see in his behalf have been contacted and harassed by the FBI.
    I think the lawyers are aware Dzhokhar is in danger if they put on a defense trying to get the truth out. Also his family has been targeted. His sisters have been charged with crimes. I think it’s highly likely that his mother and father who speak from Russia about his innocence and being set up are also in danger and that Dzhokhar is taking the fall to protect his family from danger.
    I think the defense lawyers have convinced him they can’t get the truth out and that they are aware of dangers to his parents and sisters. (what happened during that trip to Russia to interview witnesses that the prosecution accused the defense of impersonating FBI agents?)
    I think Dzhokhar for all these reasons–including a farce of a show trial in lynch mob Boston–but mainly for the safety of his family–has decided to take a fall to protect his family.
    That’s my read–I feel the family has been seriously threatened.
    Those of us who have labored to learn the truth must continue to learn more and put out the full story of this Boston bombing–to put out the truth that Dzhokhar and his lawyers cannot tell. This story concerns not only Dzhokhar but the future of our democracy and judicial system and must be told.

    • Avatar Patriarch says:

      Great analysis, but that defendant is 6′ tall & JAHAR is not fidgety & 5’7″, slightly taller than his pals.
      You are correct, it is theater. I don’t believe one word, except from the BAA HUCKSTER.

    • Avatar oh_look says:

      Very smart analysis. I agree with all of it. There are plenty of people running around saying it was all a hoax, which is sad and only helps insure that people do not take the fact based analysis seriously.

    • Avatar musings2 says:

      What if some of it was a hoax?
      You don’t have to have been there to doubt it. How odd those injuries are, first. Just legs. And the demographic – a lot of women who are hard for one to imagine at the hours after the marathon was won.
      Can someone have lost a leg some other way? The rehab hospital they went to had not opened yet – it was a new version of an older one and they were the first patients.
      And why did Dzhokhar’s pursuit necessitate a 24-hour shutdown of 6 towns and every business and college when they didn’t even bother to use sniffer dogs to see if he was close by (which in fact he was). Yet when Collier was shot on campus, MIT was not put on lockdown not even in the unsecured buildings overlooking the shooting?
      The whole time I had a sinking feeling I was watching a fiction. I have not changed my mind about that.

    • Avatar oh_look says:

      It was not a hoax. People lost legs and 3 died. We don’t know who exactly did this. Elements within a govt agency? I think so, or why all the manipulations if not? There may have been a drill going on, but that does not mean the entire crime was a hoax.

    • Avatar Ken Griffith says:

      Well one thing is clear. They intended to kill the kid when they dragged him out of that boat. It’s amazing he is alive today. He must have made a deal for his life.

  13. Avatar Mark says:

    What troubles me is that even though the prosecution’s case has holes big enough for a cement mixer to pass through Tsarnaev’s defense team is already capitulating by presuming their client is guilty. Hell even I could blow the prosecution’s case to smithereens. It’s pretty sad when the best thing your corner can do is hope for a life sentence. Tsarnaev needs to fire his attorneys and get someone who will actually FIGHT for him!

  14. “After all, we have a photo of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev emerging from a boat in which he seems to have been hiding. If he didn’t do anything, why would he be hiding and/or on the run?”

    Didn’t this happen after the shoot-out where his brother was killed? If I had been a witness to that I would hide too.

    • Avatar SC_Truth_Speaker says:

      Wasn’t there viedo (that was only shown once) of the police putting his un-injurded brother into the back of an SUV?

    • Avatar oh_look says:

      It sure looks like him. He was naked too. An aunt said it was definitely him.

  15. Avatar Sarastro92 says:

    BREAKING NEWS FROM NY TIMES: Dzhokhar’s (Justice Dept) lawyer starts trial by professing the kid’s GUILT. The “trial” is all about locking him up Dzhokhar in supermax until he dies.

    This is not really news… the lawyers have indicated they would not really fight charges. How should we interpret this Russ?

  16. Avatar MarkTenneyNewMathDoneRight says:

    Welcome to a Stalinist Show Trial. It doesn’t make sense because the lies couldn’t fit.

    • Avatar musings2 says:

      I always imagined a plea bargain so that the evidence would not be presented. But this show trial is the worst of both worlds.

  17. Avatar Patriarch says:

    1. Regarding why they were in WATERTOWN: they were lured there by a RUSSIAN speaking informant. All was ready to go down that night. It was posted online on Monday 4-15-13.

    2. All of aka Obama’s powerful civilian army from far & wide were ready to rumble….advanced notice..night goggles..the whole 9 yards. Captures always go down after dark,

    3. The photo of JAHAR at the shell station buying snacks certainly didn’t look like he was fleeing.

    4. You forgot informant Danny. He needs a green card badly.

    5. Some more food for thought: That defendant in the courtroom is 6′ tall. JAHAR is 5’6″-5’7″.

    6. Not one family member, not even extended? Quite unusual for an innocent defendant?

    Many small visual clues & inferences add up when you connect them.

    For example, the most INTERESTING inference:

    7. “In 2011, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev wrote an English assignment while attending UMass Dartmouth about the West Memphis Three, who many believe were wrongly accused.
    ‘In this case it would have been hard to protect or defend these young boys if the whole town exclaimed in happiness at the arrest. Also, to go against the authorities isn’t the easiest thing to do. Don’t get me wrong though, I am appalled at the situation but I think that the town was scared and desperate to blame someone. It’s because of stories like this and such occurrences that make a positive change in this world. I’m pretty sure there won’t be anymore similar tales like this. In any case, if they do, people won’t stand quiet, I hope. ‘ ”

    • Avatar Patriarch says:

      The online post:
      Spooky or not? Pretty close to what we were told on Friday…

      “Anonymous 04/15/13(Mon)18:42 No. 15795252
      WARNING: laws being written to screw you.

      I work on a security commission and I’ve just received word to start campaigning on a campaign we’ve been working on for the last two months and now it all makes sense.

      I’ll keep it as short as I can.

      They’re going to pin this even on a male late teens to early 20s and say he did it because he is unstable. They are going to find firearms and a NRA book in his home. They are going to say he used reloading powder for the explosion and that reloading powder shouldn’t be for sale to the public.

      —->”They are then going to say that because the powder in ammunition can be used for explosions that the number of rounds you can buy should be limited and taxed to help pay for these events.”<——

      I can’t do anything or I’ll lose my job and possibly face criminal charges. Please don’t let them get away with it. They won’t find the suspect till later this week and the raid is issued to occur on Friday. This was a staged event. The people hurt are real but the event was planned. Don’t let them hurt our rights.

      I’m at work so I used a copy of the picture from another thread. Also please don’t mention me. It will seriously hurt me."

    • Avatar oh_look says:

      Where did you get the info that Jahar is only 5’6″ to 5’7″?? Jahar is very tall, and I believe he is taller than his brother was.

    • Avatar guest says:

      He’s not taller than his brother. You can tell by comparing their heights on Bob Leonard’s photos of them on Boylston, and the video at the gym. His wanted poster had him at 5’9″ but an online email from his family mentioned his current height as 5’11”. Tamerlan was 6’3″ or 6’4″ and comparing them in Leonard’s photos indicates 5’11” is about right.

    • Avatar oh_look says:

      Still above average and considered “tall”. And thin people always look taller.