Although some at FDL have disagreed, I am actually slow to embrace conspiracy theories. In the first few days of the Boston bombing case I only thought it suspicious that the entire metropolitan area was locked down just to catch one 19-year old kid. I didn’t doubt the official story that his deceased older brother and he had carried out the bombings; I only supposed that the brother’s sociopathic nature was a more important factor than the religious (Islamic) or ethnic (Chechen) setting in which the sociopathy manifested itself.

But let’s review the situation.

As Glenn Greenwald observes in the introductory paragraph to his article on the case:

News reports purporting to describe what Dzhokhar Tsarnaev told US interrogators should, for several reasons, be taken with a huge grain of salt. The sources for this information are anonymous, they work for the US government, the statements were obtained with no lawyer present and no Miranda warnings given, and Tsarnaev is “grievously wounded”, presumably quite medicated, and barely able to speak.

(Actually, at least according to a CNN report, the interrogations were conducted during intervals when the medication was suspended, but one can certainly doubt that Tsarnaev’s mental capacity was 100%.)

Greenwald himself goes on from there to discard his skepticism and make much out of the official assertion that Tsarnaev claimed motivation by the US wars is Iraq and Afghanistan. But his point here that all our so-called information comes from US government agencies is food for thought. Why, for example, would the FBI not even allow doctors to be the authority in informing the public of Tsarnaev’s changing medical condition (from “serious” to “serious but stable” to “fair,” if I remember rightly, all according to the FBI)?

And what about that claim that he said the motivation was Iraq/Afghanistan? We are also told that “the preachings of Anwar al-Awlaki were likely to have been among the videos [the Tsarnaev brothers] watched.” Were they not also motivated by what they will have believed to be his murder by the US? Were they so behind the times of what is outraging Muslims around the world these days as not to know that women and children have been killed by drones in Yemen when they attended funerals?

Ah, but the public the “officials with knowledge of the case” are addressing with such claims of what Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has said is well aware of opposition to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan; of drone strikes on funerals, not so much. One must at least suspect that this pat explanation of the brothers’ motivation is being given in order to present something believable to undiscerning eyes, without entering territory that the government does not want to talk about.

And then, the authorities had two days of a crack team (originally assembled for the purpose of interrogating Osama bin Laden) interrogating Tsarnaev, reaching the conclusion that in all probability the brothers acted alone. Yet according to the Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, “the FBI was not happy about” the in situ court hearing held on Monday, wishing to continue questioning him before Mirandization (h/t marym in Il).

Why was the FBI unhappy? Did it not trust the conclusion that the brothers acted alone, even though the interrogators surely would have known if Tsarnaev was lying? Or did it not want uncontrollable people like court personnel or public defenders anywhere near its subject?

And then there is the famous question “what did they know and when did they know it?” As is well known, the FBI has claimed that they interviewed the older brother Tamerlan Tsarnaev in 2011 after an alert by the Russians, found he had no connection to terrorism, and therefore dropped him. But will that claim stand up? A member of the Senate Intelligence Committee who had been briefed on the case said on Tuesday that Russia alerted “the US government” at least once since October 2011. (A number of secondary sources citing this or similar reports interpret the specific agency that was alerted to have been the FBI itself, but that has not been demonstrated.) This may be the source of a cryptic, widely cited claim by Sen. Saxby Chambliss that some intelligence agencies have not been communicating with one another properly, although it is difficult to tell. In any case the report shows that someone in the government had been warned that there were problems with the man, and did nothing.

Various other problems with the official account have been suggested in the threads to the FDL posts on the case. The time between a video showing Dzhokhar Tsarnaev leaving his backpack and an explosion somewhere in its vicinity seems rather short to allow someone who knew it was going to go off to get away, when slowed down by having to walk through a crowd. Why were the brothers going about their affairs as if nothing had happened for days after the bombing; were they really so dense as not to know that surveillance cameras will have caught them leaving their bags? Are we really to dismiss the Tsarnaevs’ mother’s claim that the FBI followed Tamerlan for years out of hand? And on and on.

Of course, if one if shopping for an alternative narrative to the official story, quite a few have been offered, at FDL and elsewhere. For example, Sibel Edmond proposes one in a video relayed to us by elisemattu; in the summary of it by yellowsnapdragon in the comments thread (#7):

Edmonds speculates (clearly she states it is a hypothesis) that the brothers may have been US intelligence assets who the US decided to “get rid of”, but to do it in a way that US could further another of its objectives at the same time. She speculates that US distancing itself from anti-Russian groups in the Caucuses right now may be a kind of trade off with Russia to gain leverage in Syria. To test this theory, Edmonds says that we should look for developments in Syria, specifically for a change in Russia’s level of opposition to US invasion.

I have no idea whether that is what actually happened, but neither can I rule it out. The easiest way to explain the fact that Tamerlan Tsarnaev was thought suspicious but was not tracked is to say that he was recruited.

Now, lest I be accused of coddling “Islamic radical terrorists,” as were commenters on yesterday’s FDL News Desk article on this matter, let me say that I am sorry that people were killed and wounded in the Boston explosions (as I am that people were killed and wounded due to negligence by those responsible for the explosion in West, Texas, and as I am that innocent people have been killed and wounded by murderous US policies in the Middle East).

But we speak here of the US government, the entity which gave us the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, the slam-dunk certitude that Iraq had WMD, and most recently the claim that almost no civilians have been killed by US drones. (Sometimes one hears that its leaders differ from one another, but yesterday five such people were observed communing with one another without visible disagreement at a certain event.) Although I cannot demonstrate an alternative to the official narrative of the Boston bombing, it is full of holes, and I just do not believe it.