Release of Tsarnaev’s Interrogation Notes Leads to More Questions

Redacted document, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev with backpack
Photo credit: FBI
Reading Time: 6 minutes

Heavily redacted notes from the hospital bed interrogation of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev were released at the end of February. Most media reports about the documents focus on portions that portray Dzhokhar as having played an active role in building and detonating the bombs that exploded on Boylston St.

But a closer read of the FBI’s summary of Tsarnaev’s statements to his interrogators raises questions about key details of the bombing and its execution.

First off, it is important to note that the interview notes are heavily redacted and therefore incomplete. But some of the things the FBI says Dzhokhar told his interrogators indicate a level of confusion or ignorance, or both, about important facts. They also raise questions about why the FBI has been selectively vague about key details of the case.

Black/Brown/White Backpack?

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According to the interrogation notes, “Jahar carried a brown backpack [emphasis added] while his brother’s backpack was black. After parking, they walked…”

Now the backpack is brown?

The indictment, which was written a month and a half after the bombing, states that both bombs were concealed in black backpacks.

In a photograph of the shredded backpack lying in Boylston Street released by the FBI, it does indeed look black.

Boston Bombing Shredded Backpack

Boston Bombing black shredded backpack
Photo credit: FBI

However, many observers have pointed out that, in surveillance photos, the backpack Dzhokhar can be seen carrying does not look black — or brown for that matter — but mostly white or light gray.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev walking with backpack

Photo credit: FBI

Why the discrepancy? Did the interviewing agent challenge him on this detail? Why is there so much ambiguity around such an important detail?

And there’s another problem: The “smoking gun” video that supposedly proves Tsarnaev placed an explosive laden backpack on Boylston Street. It actually shows very little. His actions are obscured by the crowd of people.

Shouldn’t the government be obliged to prove unequivocally that the exploded backpack found at the scene was at least the same color as the one Dzhokhar was carrying that day?

Strange Redaction Regarding Explosive Powder

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Also according to the FBI agent’s notes, Tsarnaev ”stated that he and his brother Tamerlan built two explosive devices in his brother’s home at 410 Norfolk…”

This implies that Dzhokhar took a more active role in constructing the bombs than has been previously described.

But, Dzhokhar’s lawyers showed at trial that none of his fingerprints were found on any of the bomb or bomb-making materials. Tamerlan’s fingerprints were, however.

Dzhokhar also told agents, apparently, that the powder came from $200 worth of fireworks that he and Tamerlan had purchased in New Hampshire about a year prior. But that’s when Tamerlan was in Russia — January to July 2012. Considering Tsarnaev was being interrogated April 21 and 22 , 2013, the time-line can’t be accurate.

Fireworks found in Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s room

Fireworks found in Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s dormitory room.
Photo credit: FBI

At which store, or exactly when these particular fireworks were purchased, is not clear.  But since the bombing, law-enforcement and media reports have consistently referenced a $200 purchase made by Tamerlan at Phantom Fireworks in Seabrook, New Hampshire two months before the bombing. Nothing about Dzhokhar buying fireworks was ever made public.

Most notably, that particular purchase would only constitute a small fraction of the amount of explosive powder needed to produce all the bombs the Tsarnaevs are accused of making and detonating.

According to the owner of Phantom Fireworks, the brothers would have been able to harvest, at most, 1.5 pounds of explosive powder from the $200 purchase.

On the other hand, each pressure cooker bomb that exploded on Boylston Street probably contained anywhere from 8 to 16 pounds of explosive powder, according to testimony from Special Agent Edward Knapp.

The pressure cooker that exploded in Watertown probably contained another 4 to 8 pounds. And in Watertown, three more pounds of powder were found in a Tupperware container, along with a number of pipe bombs each containing yet more powder. That means the Tsarnaevs would have had to collect between 23 and 43 pounds of explosive powder — or more.

Either they made numerous purchases of fireworks or they got explosive powder from another source.

At the very least, Tsarnaev’s statement that they got the explosive powder from $200 worth of fireworks shows his ignorance regarding what it actually took to make them. Either that or he did discuss the provenance of the rest of the explosive powder with his interrogators — was that information in a redacted part?

Why does the FBI continue to withhold information on where the explosives came from?

All of this reveals either a marked level of ignorance or confusion by Dzhokhar Tsarnaev about details of the bombs’ construction — even the color of the backpack. Or, it reveals that the government is still withholding key details about how the bombs came to be. Why is anyone’s guess.

But why do any of these small details matter? Because, as we all know, the devil can be found in the details. And the outcome of a life-and-death prosecution can sometimes hinge almost entirely on such seemingly small details.

Painting Dzhokhar Tsarnaev as an equal partner in the planning, preparation and execution of the violence that erupted in Boston was critical to the government’s goal of winning the death penalty against the sole surviving brother.

But when close scrutiny has been applied to the government’s case, we continually find troubling inconsistencies that hint at a prosecution hell-bent on winning the case — damn the specifics of who did exactly what and when.

Why Details Matter: See for Yourself with One Click

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For instance: in our past reporting we showed how the government claimed Tamerlan drove as Dzhokhar was sitting menacingly behind Dun Meng, the carjacking victim, as they circled around greater Boston in Meng’s stolen Mercedes SUV. But when we see the Mercedes pull up to the gas pump where Meng ultimately gets away, Dzhokhar appears to get out of the front seat — not the back.

As we reported previously:

Officially, by the time the Mercedes SUV can be seen pulling into the Shell station on the video in question, Tamerlan was driving, Danny was in the passenger seat, and Dzhokhar was sitting in the backseat.

In the video, we see the SUV pull up to one of the gas pumps and stop. Strangely, we see Dzhokhar emerge from behind the gas pump, obscuring the front passenger door before he makes his way into the store.

Strange because we were told he was sitting in the backseat. Yet we don’t see Dzhokhar get out of the rear door. Neither do we see him walk from the other side of the SUV.

Did they edit that out? Why?

Was the “escape” story embellished? After all, what cold-blooded criminals would allow a carjacking victim to sit in the back seat to make an easy escape? Or did they let him go? In fact, the carjacking victim’s account changed significantly early on until it finally solidified into what sounded most damning.

Other Little “Details”

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And the government’s glossing over of its pre-bombing relationship with the Tsarnaevs, who hail from a geopolitical hotspot on Russia’s southern flank, strongly hints that Tamerlan in particular may have been a pawn in some tangled international intrigue with Russia.

We still don’t know why the family was granted asylum and yet freely returned to the Caucasus region — a reality that has experts scratching their heads.

Instead, what we witnessed was a theatrical effort on the part of the government to portray Dzhokhar Tsarnaev as a cartoonish fanatical monster — the enemy of you and me and our way of life. Whipped up into a vengeful frenzy, the public is far less likely to ask questions.

Notably, the caricature of Dzhokhar as a crazed Jihadi fell apart under a mild cross-examination of his twitter feed. The government’s examples of Islamic religious fanaticism turned out to be run-of-the-mill song lyrics that any 19-year-old would be familiar with.

The no-holds-barred prosecution of Tsarnaev looked more like an effort to disguise the backstory of how and why this happened, than an effort to find the truth.

For an intriguing, sinister, and even likely explanation for what that backstory was really about — please go here.


Related frontpage panorama photo credit: Dzhokhar Tsarnaev walking with backpack (FBI)

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8 responses to “Release of Tsarnaev’s Interrogation Notes Leads to More Questions”

  1. zanzibar says:

    The most important detail: Muslim terrorist brother no. 2 confessed and said both he and his brother are guilty. He apologized but did not renounce terrorism.

    The terrorist wife of no. 1 knows the answers to all these questions. She’s escaped justice.

  2. Anna says:

    I felt this way for a long time but if you truly investigate – yes the day of the explosions they showed pictures of at least one shredded bag.

    MEDIA said this bag was evidence and concluded it was used to house the explosives – but the FBI never seem to have made any statement alleging that that bag had contained the explosives – they called it evidence – that was all.

    So the necessity of matching to the image of the initial shredded bag is not a problem according to the prosecution’s own narrative. The image of a shredded bag was just that – an image.

    There are indeed many issues with the narrative – Meng’s story has changed from an innocuous joy ride with two kids to a terrifying action movie narrative. The video was not ‘smoking gun’, the bombs were not built by novices even if handled by one.

    But at the end of the day the kid got up and took responsibility – it is entirely possible that the FBI has lied and the prosecution has been corrupt and perhaps something is being hidden but that thing may not be the kid’s innocence. It may be there are no heroic figures in this case. It may be he was involved on some level, although I do seriously doubt that he was alone or that the brothers were alone. It seems clear there is more to this and more that a great number of people do not want known. I hope one day it does come to light but I do not believe if he is taking responsibility that it will include him being innocent. As chaotic as all of this was.

  3. disqus_a2SRiKaB1i says:

    How exactly did authorities “know” (police tweet: “the terror has ended, justice has won”) that the public was out of danger as soon as the second brother Tsarnaev was taken into custody? Jahar was gravely injured, not communicating adequately and by LE accounts they had only learned their identities hours earlier from a portable fingerprint device at the ER where Tamerlan had died.
    That sure is incredible police work! Logic would tell you this: that the plot had been known, and that the bomb makers only knew how many bombs who/ how/where they would be set off…..those are the people that would know there was no more danger.

  4. MarkInBoston says:

    We don’t see Dzhokhar get out of the SUV at all, we only see him emerge from behind the gas pump. I contend that yes, the Shell station video was edited, and the part that was edited out was him exiting the vehicle and whatever else happened along with that.

    Nice work JH.

  5. daniel wilson says:

    It’s clearly all just a psychological operation and realistic security drill and it’s sad to see media not discussing it as such. Look at the scene of those apparently injured on Boylston street and you will agree they were not real bombs but simply explosions of hollow smoke. There is no shrapnel nor any signs of real bombs other than a bit of fake blood strewn about. sound crazy? they assumed the majority of people would never contemplate such calculated deceit. I have spent years researching this and have proven these things many ways as have those who understand the situation as it actually occured and not as it is being sold by outlets such as “whowhatwhy”. It’s all a “hoax” and I can’t stand reading about this event this way. They’re all lying about their injuries as you can literally see for yourselves. Google it and stare at the crime scene; they were NOT real bombs. @BostonPsyOp

  6. TheHotComment says:

    conspiracy NUTS…

    the guy admitted in court, it clearly shows him putting back pack down, it also shows him at ATM when running out of store because hostage got away…..Oh and he was hiding in a boat!!!! If you are innocent you don’t run.. Oh and he had a firefight with he cops!! It’s over people..HE EVEN ADMITTED TO IT

  7. (Comment by reader @iwasleah10years) I’m betting all those blacked out lines cover up absolutely nothing. They want us to think Jahar said & knows more!

  8. Mark says:

    Anyone who has followed this case seriously knows that there is much more to it than what is offered by the mainstream media. There are way too many oddities, unexplained and unanswered questions. There was a complete rush to judgment and action on the part of the FBI and the prosecution, followed immediately by the silencing and sealing which still exists to this day. Besides Mr. Tsarnaev being totally silenced by SAMS, all his friends and acquaintances that may have had any exculpatory evidence were quickly incarcerated, deported or killed. His family was originally told by the defense attorneys that he was not guilty of the charges, but suddenly, after several months, they asked relatives in Russia to encourage Mr. Tsarnaev to plead guilty so the lawyers could work solely on saving him from the death penalty. Let us never forget that Mr. Tsarnaev **never** changed his plea in this case, which remains “not guilty”. Given the climate in this country regarding Muslims and terrorism, Mr. Tsarnaev never stood a chance.

  9. 0040 says:

    The DEA, FBI, and CIA are deeply infested by people like Walter White’s brother in law, Hank, in the great US slice of life TV series called Breaking Bad. These guys are self righteous extremists in there own right believing absolutely that the ends justify the means.

    • TheHotComment says:

      Wow.. get the help you need… Breaking Bad is not a real life thing.. It’s a made up story! It’s a TV SHOW

  10. Pronounce says:

    I’ll read the link to your intriguing, and sinister explanation in a bit, but wanted to say that I’ve believed Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was an FBI patsy as soon as the details started to be revealed. Maybe he did deliver the bomb, but he could have been doing that because the FBI instructed him to. Maybe the FBI was supposed to do another one of their carefully choreographed terrorist plot breakups, but in this case the FBI blundered and didn’t “save the day” before the plan was completed.

    Every time I hear of an averted terrorist action making the news I think of Operation Northwoods. Aren’t spooks suppose to keep their exploits secret? Why do they need publicity? Is there a funding motivation behind the publicity?

    • TheHotComment says:

      WHY EXACTLY WOULD fbi WANT TO KILL A BUNCH OF PEOPLE at a marathon exactly??? Get some help

  11. Elizabeth says:

    I agree with all you say, but it should also be said that Dzhokhar was in an extremely bad way while being “interrogated”. He had recently been through multiple serious surgeries, was on heavy sedation/pain medication, he was shackled to his bed, in pain, traumatized by all he had been through. His “confession” was nothing more than additional propaganda to try to back up the “official” story. FBI cannot be believed in any way.